The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

An offer you can’t refuse

After eight hours straight, my rock, my friend from school and I have composed a list with thirty-two members. They are neatly written on two large whiteboards, along with their position and possible influences. I feel like it’s an army of backstabbing rats, too powerful for me. “There’s… there’s too many,” I say looking in horror. I feel the world spinning and have to lie down on the couch.

My rock is drinking freedom vodka. I take the glass from her and take a long gulp. It tastes like rat poison but I take another, and another one, … “I’m doomed,” I say after a while. “I’m—” My friend from school slaps my face and takes the glass from me. “No!” she says. “You’re not giving up. You’re not going to destroy yourself like she did.” Not having eaten in a long time, I feel the effects of alcohol kicking in, warming my belly. “Well,” I reply. “You know, she had like, you know, help—”

“Stop it,” she says. “Wh-what any of it matters anyway?” I ask. She helps me get up, walks me to her car and drives me home. There she makes me drink water to avoid a hangover and puts me to bed. I wake up and for a moment don’t remember the s-wordstorm we’re in. Then it all haunts me. I wake up and go to the kitchen. There I find my friend from school, who apparently stayed in last night. She’s working on her laptop. “Good morning,” she greets me. “Are you ok?” she asks.

I hesitate to say “Yes.” I’m not sure I can handle the pressure. Then I think about what would happen if I gave up like mother, like my dead girlfriend. “Yes,” I say more convinced. “I’ll fight them with all my strength. And even if it kills me, I’ll take as many with me as I can.” She smiles. “Just what I wanted to hear,” she says. “Now sit down, I have some ideas.”

I sit by her side. As she discusses what people I should go to first, uncle comes in and greets us. He called me yesterday to offer his support, but we hadn’t really spoken yet. “Listen dear, if there’s anything you can do for me, let me know,” he says, taking my hand. “Thanks, I say.” Then my friend and I go on talking. “Ok, the first thing I’ll do is meet with trade union heads. Luckily I can avoid this crisis partially or completely.”

My secretary sets up my first meeting today: a lunch with the police union head for the state. Right from the moment I sit down to speak, I can feel his contempt. He deliberately uses the word “sweetheart” to trigger me, like I’m that easy. I calmly offer to match the demands of the trade union. He laughs at me. “Look, sweetie, the strike’s going down. Now, if you want to get down on your knees and—” “Disgusting prick!” I say standing up. “I’ll have your balls for this, you’re lucky I didn’t tape this.” F-word! I dropped the ball hard there. He smiles as I leave his office.

Next meeting is the fire department’s union head. With a lot of words, and more politely, he says “f-word you.” I’m meeting the garbage collector’s trade union head during dinner. As my driver takes me there, I realize the state postal workers have not yet declared if they’re taking part in the strike. “Call the piece of trash and cancel dinner,” I say to my secretary. Then I speak to my driver. “Please, turn around, we’re going somewhere else.”

The driver smiles and says “Yes, ma’am,” showing he’s on my side. I give him instructions to get to the state’s postal workers union headquarters, which is on my city. Once there I talk to the union head’s secretary. “But, you have no appointment?” she says like a confused deer. “Oh dear,” I say before entering the president’s office, who was about to leave for the day. The secretary follows me. “You can’t go in there,” she says after I’ve gone in there.

“It’s ok, you can go on playing games on your phone,” says the president and she obeys. I have the feeling he knows why I’m here. “Please, do come in,” he says tiredly. He walks slowly up to the bar and starts pouring two glasses of bourbon. I watch him from a chair in front of his desk. He’s so old it seems he’s about to crumble into a pile of dust once the spell keeping him alive breaks. “Eight percent pay increase… on top of the four percent you took from us.” He says, cutting straight to the chase. I like that.

“What do I get in return?” I ask. “Hmmm,” he says as he brings me a glass and toasts. We both take a gulp. “I’ll tell you who tried roping me into this sham strike.” I think about it for a few seconds. “Eight percent total increase and you back me publicly.” “Woah, easy there,” he says, putting his hands up. “Look, I’m just looking out for my union. If I tie myself to your wagon, how do I know I won’t end up on the bottom of the cliff?”

Without drinking, I stand up. “You know, you’re right. It was silly of me to come, you don’t need me at all. I can take on you too, what’s one more of you trade unions to me anyway? I’m sure after the post office workers know you turned down an 8% pay raise and set them on strike for months only to get me fired, yeah, I’m sure they will back your clever decision. Thanks for making me see things clearer.”

I step out of his office. “Do you want to book another meeting…” his secretary asks me. “Miss?” She asks from her desk as I keep walking away. My secretary follows me like a lap dog. As I’m walking to my car, once at the parking, the union’s president rushes to me. “Please, don’t leave, I want to discuss your proposal.”