The Cooler

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Enclosed is a short story, titled "The Cooler", (approx. 1400 words) which depicts a job interview for a Mediator, and the applicant is a bartender, attempting to transfer his interpersonal skills to the corporate world.

Submitted: April 02, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 02, 2012




The Cooler



“So, Wilhelm. Are you of German descent?”


“Nope. And my name isn’t Wilhelm. It’s William. Bill, really.”


He looked up at me. “I don’t understand.”


“Everything you see on that resume is a lie. None of it applies to me.”


He stared at me.


“And why is that?”

”I wouldn’t be sitting here otherwise.”


“And the immediate confession? What did you think would happen then?”


“Look, that resume almost perfectly aligns with the person you are looking for, right?”


He nodded, still holding it in his hand.


“If it didn’t, I would right now be getting discovered as a fraud by one of your HR bureaucrats who dot their I’s and cross their T’s, but can’t find their asses with either hand.”


From across the expansive desk, CEO Bob Bernard grinned, and finally set the resume on his blotter in front of him.




“So, I needed to bypass the whole absurd concept of Human Resources, where some $35,000 a year flunky actually makes incredibly key decisions for YOUR company, based upon their instincts, on whether or not to green light potential employees beyond the initial review point, to even be considered for employment.”


Bob grinned again. “I’ve often thought of that. Kind of hard to buck so many years of tradition.”


“Yeah, well thank god some have had the balls to do just that, or we’d still be in loin cloths.”


“So, you skirted the screening process and you’re at the owner’s desk. You’ve confessed to blatant dishonesty and even fraudulent, to use your own word, behavior. Why should I overlook all that?”


“First of all, I’m here. In your office. And all it took was a phony resume, 10 seconds schmoozing your HR lady on the phone, and bingo, I’m at the foot of the throne. I have ingenuity. I have street smarts. I have pragmatism coursing through my veins. You’re looking for a problem solver. For conflicts between people. You wouldn’t be looking for me if you didn’t have problems to solve. I solve problems.”


“Looks to me like you could also create problems.”


“Really? You just agreed with me on the stupid nature of HR being the initial portal that potential employees must squeeze through to even be considered. My simple answer to THAT problem is, double the salary of your HR position, fill it with someone who can read people, not an insurance claim spreadsheet. And don’t make the process of joining your wonderful company such a pain in the ass, jump-through-hoops, arduous slog through minutia and boring ass interviews with middle management.”


Bob chuckled.


I continued. “There. I’ve just solved your age old HR dilemma, and you could kick me out of your office right now and you’re already ahead of the game. That was a freebie. Next one will cost you.”


“Where did you get all this data on your resume?”

”I purloined it from resumes I found on the web.”



”Fancy word for ‘stealin’.”


“I know what it means.”


He cleared his throat.


“Tell me something about yourself, Bill.”


I grinned and took out a folded piece of paper from my sport coat.


“I do have an actual resume, but I’d rather tell you about it first.”


He nodded.


“I’m a high school graduate with no further education. No advanced degree, no Batchelor’s. Nada. I’ve been a bartender at ‘DOA on the Corner’ for the past fifteen years. A great job, money is surprisingly good, and the owner is an honest guy who treats me fairly.”


“Then why leave?”

”I haven’t. But I’m getting bored. I’ve got enough money put away to make my job search casual, and very picky. I ran some book on the side out of the bar, and did very well. I could probably even retire. But I’d get bored. Your ad peaked my interest.”


“And you think a bartender could work in a corporate environment as a conflict resolution expert.”


“Most definitely.”




“Do you drink, Bob?”




“Then you’ve known a bartender or two in your day.”

”I have.”


“Ever see a really good one at work? Not just mixing drinks, but subtly controlling the environment, the mood, the juke box, the conversational flow? Controlling all that and yet nobody’s the wiser? ‘Cause that’s what I do.”


Bob leaned back. He steepled his two forefingers and rested them against his lower lip.


“I’m not so sure that resolving conflicts is about control.”


“Then I understand why you need me. It’s ALL about control.”


I hesitated, making sure he was still on the line.


Sharing control. You get your people to understand the difference between being in control, and sharing control, you will eliminate 90% of workforce strife.”


“And the other 10%.”


“Fire ‘em.”


Bob leaned forward in his chair and rested his forearms on his desk, hands clasped in front of him.


“You’re a ballsy SOB, aren’t you?”


“Bob, have you seen the movie, The Cooler, with William Macy and Alec Baldwin?”


“I have. Good flick.”


I nodded. “It is. And that is what you need. Your company is not, of course, a casino, but the principles are quite similar when it comes to keeping people happy and getting along.”


“What’s your last name, Bill?”




“Can I ask you to step outside for a second, have a seat in my reception?”


I got up and walked to his door. “Think about it, Bob. It could work.” I left and sat on the sofa across from his secretary’s desk. She ignored me.


Within five minutes, a man and a woman came through the door to the sitting area, nodded at the receptionist, and continued on into Bob’s office.


This was interesting. Security? HR?


I waited.


After a couple of minutes, Bob opened his door and beckoned me back in.


The man and woman were seated to the left. Bob gestured me back into the chair I had been sitting in, on the right. There were no introductions.


Bob said to me, “Connie and Rick have started sharing a cubicle. They are having trouble getting along. Nothing major, but the energy between them is getting toxic and the cubicle reeks of tension.”


I grinned at him. “I told you the next one wouldn’t be free.”


“You solve this one, and you get the job. That payment enough?”

I thought about that. Then I nodded.


I turned and began immediately. “Rick, what seems to be the issue with Connie?”


He looked startled. “Why start with me?”


“My experience has been that male female conflicts often begin with the man.”


Connie said, “Yes.”


I ignored her for now.




He coughed nervously. “She came into my cubicle and sort of took over.”

”Define ‘took over’.”


“Just, her decorating her work space, it’s kinda loud. Flowers, pictures of her family. It’s not her den, it’s her office. She just, I don’t know.”


“Rick, don’t call her ‘she’.”


“Excuse me.?”


“Her name is Connie. Call her by her name.”


I put a little starch in my voice, and it was enough. He nodded.


“Who was there before Connie?”

”Doug, a good friend of mine.” I looked at Bob and smiled.


“Where’s Doug now?”


“He was moved to HR.”


Even bigger grin at Bob.


“Was that a promotion?”


“I think so. He got more money.” Rick looked nervously at Bob.


Everybody was now looking at Bob.


I said to him, “I could solve this in five minutes. Need me to?”


He nodded.


I rose and sat next to Rick. “Connie has only made her new work space more familiar. Are you married Rick? Kids?”

He shook his head.


“And Connie has a family, with children, is that right?”




“If you had a wife and kids, wouldn’t you put up pictures of them on your side of the cubicle?”


“Of course, but she… Connie has pictures everywhere.”


“In your work space?”


“Well, no.”


“Then what’s your beef? Honestly Rick. What bothers you about her pictures?”


He looked at her almost apologetically.


“I guess it makes me wish I had a family of my own.”


I stood up and returned to my chair. Connie had reached out and patted Rick lightly on the shoulder. He mouthed the words to her, ‘I’m sorry’, and she grinned and nodded.


I turned to Bob.


“When do I start?”




© Copyright 2017 Bill Rayburn. All rights reserved.

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