His secretary poked her head into his office and whispered, “He’s here, Boss. Do you want me to show him in?”
The Boss nodded and quickly tried to put the papers on his desk into some semblance of order before she returned. He didn’t want to give this important visitor the wrong impression. As he managed to push the last clump of papers into one of his desk drawers, his office door opened and his secretary announced, “This is James Michaels, Boss. I’ll get you both some coffee.”
The Boss stood, held out his hand, and chuckled, “My, my, James Michaels. It’s about time we met, isn’t it?” Michaels had been a contributing writer to TrickEndings.com for several years but no one at the company had ever met him and no picture of him existed. And now here he was in the Boss’s office. “You’re not quite what I expected, James,” the Boss added.
“Neither are you, Boss. May I call you Boss?” Michaels retorted.
“Touché, and sure, sure, everybody does,” the Boss continued. “Have a seat, will ya? I know you’re probably pretty busy these days, but I’d like to ask you the question that everybody who reads your stories is asking. You don’t mind, do you?”
Just then the secretary returned with a coffee serving, which she placed on the desk. As she poured out two cups, she stole a glance at Michaels and then shot a look at the Boss as if to say, ‘Not exactly what I expected, Boss!’ As she finished with the coffee, she served Michaels and then with a smile left the room.
Michaels leaned forward, his arms on the desk and replied, “You want to know why my stories have such disquieting trick endings, don’t you, Boss? That’s really what your readership wants to know. Why are my trick endings so different from the run-of-the-mill trick endings that you typically traffic in, right?”
The Boss nodded, took a sip of his coffee, and waited for Michaels to continue. “We’ve all seen the ‘Halloween’ series of movies and we all know that Michael is Death. And that everybody except the star is going to die gruesomely at his hands in each movie. But we want to see how each of them dies. Each one must suffer a separate and distinct fate. That’s what draws people back to each new sequel. You with me so far, Boss?”
The Boss now leaned in himself and replied, “So, what you’re saying is that we all know what’s in store for each of us. It’s just that there might be a trick ending in it for each of us? Am I getting your drift here, James?”
Michaels agreed, “That’s it. Life ends, but nobody knows how or what happens next. They are all looking for the answer. It’s the human condition.”
The Boss leaned back and asked, “Okay, but I’m getting the idea that you think there’s something in your stories in particular that suggests to the readers that you may know the answer.”
Michaels smiled cryptically and said, “Isn’t that what you think, too, Boss?”
“Maybe,” the Boss added. He prided himself on not letting others know what he was thinking, but this Michaels fellow and his stories really intrigued him. “What about the ending in your story ‘Webster Finds His Calling’? That was the story that got the most responses. It was really overwhelming. The readers were fascinated by the specter you created around Webster’s last moments on Earth. Most said it left them feeling empty and hopeless. But regardless, everyone who read it had a strong opinion.”
“And you, Boss, what did you think when you read it?” Michaels wondered.
“Me?” the Boss replied. “Well, to tell you the truth, I called in my secretary, had her read it, and asked her what she thought of it. She’s sort of my ‘Guardian Angel’, James. So she told me and that’s when I reached out to you so we could have this little discussion.”
Michaels shifted in his seat, looked over his shoulder at the slightly open office door, and uttered, “Guardian Angel, huh? Interesting.”
“Yes, and after meeting with you, James, I’ve decided that it’s in the best interest of our readers that we discontinue publishing your stories. And I’m deleting all your stories that we have published so far. Am I getting through to you, Michaels?” the Boss declared, scowling.
Michaels smiled, put his bony hands together in his lap, and replied, “I guess we have to go through this same charade each century, don’t we, Boss? I gain a toehold and you try desperately to crush it. So predictable. Well, I have other offers, so I guess our little discussion is over. See you online, Boss.”
“Not if I can help it, Michaels,” the Boss shot back. "And by the way, nice try on the election. Close, but no cigar, Michaels," he added, but by that time his visitor had vanished.