Manuel rolled the mop bucket to the next office, careful not to slosh soapy water. With two entire floors to clean by midnight, he had no time for sloppiness.
Mister Scott was working late, as usual. Tonight he had someone in the office, a young man in an expensive suit just like his.
Manuel tapped on the door frame. “Should I come back?”
Scott glanced over. A smile split his tanned face. “No, Manuel. Go ahead. I won’t hold you up.”
“Thank you, sir.” Manuel rolled the square yellow bucket into Mr. Scott’s office, and pulled the dust cloth from his back pocket.
“I’m sorry,” Scott said to the other man. “What can I tell you? The numbers just aren’t there. In lean times, you have to buckle down and work harder.”
“But we have a new baby,” the man said, spreading his hands.
“Your wife has a new baby,” Scott said. “You have a job.”
“I can’t believe you said that.”
“I didn’t,” Scott said. “Just be sure that you heard it. If you want to remain with this firm, you’ve got to get those sales numbers up, even if it takes eighty hour weeks, twenty hour days. That’s called the American Dream. Right, Manuel?”
“How many jobs to you have, Manuel?”
“Three. I will go from here to the WalMart at midnight.” Manuel swiped the rag across filing cabinets. Clean from the top down, was his mantra.
“And how many children?” Scott said.
The young man flinched. “But it’s not the same, Mr. Scott.” He looked morose. “This weekend’s our anniversary. Things are touchy right now with Sandra.”
“Success comes from hard work,” Scott said. “There’s no substitute.”
“Yes, sir, I’ll do better.” The young man stood.
“I’ll be watching,” Scott said. “I expect to see your car when I arrive in the morning, and see it again when I leave at night.”
The young man left. Scott yawned and packed up his briefcase. Manuel slapped the wet mop onto the floor.
“Will you lock the door when you leave?” Scott said.
“Of course, Mr. Scott.”
“Thank you, Manuel.” He smiled encouragingly. “I wish we had a hundred employees like you.”
Manuel swabbed in broad strokes until he no longer heard Mr. Scott’s footsteps. He wrung the mop, and swabbed again.
Stephen V. Ramey lives in New Castle, Pennsylvania, home to not one, but two international pyrotechnics manufacturers. His work has appeared in various places, most recently Spilling Ink Review, Pure Slush, and Every Day Fiction. He edits the annual Triangulation anthology from Parsec Ink, and the twitterzine, trapeze.