Short Story: A Dog's World
It's A Dog's World in 3050...
The Japanese mainland, Europe, and Asia, and the North American dictatorship, America, are all that remain of the nations of the last millennium. All other land masses except the old Canadian Empire have succumbed to the wiles of the oceans and are submerged and uninhabitable.
Only dogs and their captive farm animals remain on the lands.
The Big Blackie Management Team, comprised of canine executives from the five biggest production areas of Texas, Utah, Ohio, New York, and South Carolina, holds the American canine community in check. Big Blackie feeds, employs, and controls a country gone to the dogs.
There is no industry except Big Blackie industry. The largest plant in the land is Big Blackie Biscuits and Specialty Items of Northwest Ohio, Inc. President of the Big Blackie Management Team Five Board is Russell, the Northwest Ohio plant manager. He has become dictator and lord and master of the land. The Board has elected him president by acclamation over and over again.
Corndogs, or farm dogs and their families and animal helpers, have recognized Russell for the powerful dictator he has become and are trying to unite to curb him. Corndogs must pass elaborate screening to become employed at any small Big Blackie carry-outlet, and they are regularly turned away from the major plants where benefits exist in favor of champion breeds.
***** The Plight of Goliath *****
So it was to be like this, Goliath thought. Me against the plant manager, alone, in here on his turf. No witnesses.
He entered the manager's empty office first, as Russell, the great Golden Retriever and manager of Big Blackie Biscuits and Specialty Items of Northwest Ohio, Inc., held the door and swept forward his large right paw.
Gruffly, Russell said, "A pleasure to see you, Goliath."
Yeah, Goliath thought. Right. My mixed mutt caboose. A no witness meeting. Whose pleasure?
Goliath had asked for the meeting with Russell, against the advice of several other operators in his department, the Press Machines Room. To challenge a company policy without a union representative could be risky, even job threatening, they told him. Goliath had found that interesting and did a little reading prior to the meeting.
"Have a seat, Goliath. Biscuit?"
Russell, a biscuit tipping on the edge of his outstretched paw, watched Goliath slide onto the marble-top stool. The two stools in front of the manager's desk were steeped in mucky muck history. Many highfalutin bottoms had used them, and Russell used them to seat his lowly employees to remind them they were seated at the center of Big Blackie power. So talk softly, Goliath thought. And quickly. So that Russell could return to real work, or so Russell would assert indirectly by his impatient expression. Goliath was well aware of the entire routine.
Russell slid himself into the highback leather chair behind his desk and rested both paws flat down on the desktop. "So, Goliath, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company this time?"
Eh, Gods, Goliath thought. He said, "I was certain Alex had briefed you by this time." He pushed the biscuit under his thigh.
Russell lifted his paws without comment and reached for pen and blank paper, which lay handily beside his right elbow, and placed the items squarely in front of himself. "You don't mind if I take notes, do you?"
Brother, Goliath thought. Ready for hard ball, pretending not to know the issue, throwing out the intimidating I'll-take-notes-you-know "ice-breaker". I'm supposed to cringe now, because I know he's going to take notes.
But Russell knows, Goliath thought, that I'm not afraid. Russell knows little mind games never work on me. That was why Goliath's fellow workers respected him, and it was the reason he sat today, once again, on Russell's marble-top stool, still and confident, making eye contact with the other side.
Goliath had issues. There were problems with the Company Working Handbook. Looking hard at Russell, he said, "I have notes, also." He opened the black bound notebook on his lap, careful to balance on the unaccommodating stool. Beneath the notebook lay his Big Blackie Company Working Handbook.
Wordlessly, Russell stared at him. He rustled the paper in front him, lifted the pen, and scribbled something Goliath couldn't interpret.
Goliath took Russell's silence as a chance to jump start the real conversation. He decided to dispense with his curve and throw the fastball. "There's nothing in this company handbook that suggests an employee will get suspended from work without pay for an additional day if he misses a work day due to a personal emergency. You aren't following the written progression for disciplinary action when you handle an offense like that." Goliath stared at Russell, then grinned, showing amazing white non-aggressive canines.
Russell started, but quickly jerked his gaped jowls into rigid attention. He dropped his pen with noisy affect onto the desktop and leaned back. "We can't have dogs missing work on personal whims, Goliath. You can understand that."
Goliath snorted, causing his long chest hairs to wave at Russell. "You're actively taking away wages from a working dog and his family by slapping on this extra day of suspension."
"It's company policy, Goliath."
Goliath wiggled on the hard stool. I'm losing ground too quickly, he thought. And don't wiggle. Have to hit harder.
Russell smiled a tad, releasing odorous breath that reached Goliath's nose unwelcomedly. He regripped the pen and waggled it at Goliath. "The policy was in place before you ever started working here," he triumphantly told Goliath.
But Goliath's bright thought was, Ah, an opening. "That hardly makes it right, Russell. We're not discussing how long it's been in place. I'm disputing its validity." Russell had no immediate response, so Goliath pressed on. "Your progressive disciplinary action written in this handbook is as follows." Goliath used a paw to trace along the words in the handbook. "First offense, written warning; second offense, written warning; third offense, written warning; fourth offense, three days suspension; fifth offense, dismissal." He looked up. "That progression should be applied to any offense according to this written code."
Russell's closed mouth twitched, but he remained silent.
"I should have had no more than a first written warning for this incident," Goliath said. He kept his look on Russell's face and continued, "I lost 75 pounds of feed and a day's pay as well as losing the personal day's pay, and I got a point marked against me for being absent. All this after I called in to explain why I couldn't get here that day."
"My wife was whelping. I'm sure you know that, Russell."
"Of course, yes. Again. I remember." The Russell sneer made a slight appearance.
Goliath went to rage gear inside, but he remained calm. This had to be a civil discussion if he were to come away with anything worthwhile.
"I don't think I understand why you've come to me with this, Goliath. The policy is clear to everyone."
"I'm challenging the policy, Russell. I'd like to see it changed. If this were a unionized grievance, I'd win my case, because this policy isn't provided for in writing and the punishment doesn't fall within your written disciplinary guidelines."
Goliath didn't have to wait for a response. Russell already had dropped the pen again and was flipping the pages of his own handbook with his right paw. He stopped. "Page 38," he said without looking up. "The list of violations that will prompt disciplinary action is not all inclusive. That means, Goliath, that other violations not stated may occur and require discipline."
Russell leaned back, but Goliath wasn't about to give the manager seconds to relax. "Same thing applies," he said evenly. "This violation, as you call it, was still my first offense. It should have been handled as a first offense. A written warning as stated under progressive disciplinary action, Page 39."
Russell clucked his tongue, pulled his lips tightly against his teeth, then was still. A minute passed before he said, "You're entitled to your opinion, Goliath. That's why Big Blackie has an Open Door Policy. You can freely discuss your grievances with us at any time."
"Yes," Goliath shot out. "To no avail without unionized bargaining power."
The two canines sparred with glares.
Finally, Russell asked, "Anything else?"
Knowing he was stalled in a no recourse situation, Goliath decided to get what he could. "Yes," he answered. "In my absence that day, my lunch bowl was swiped."
"Oh, dear," Russell droned, his eyes flicking a mili-second of sympathy. "I do abhor thievery. We will have a new bowl for you on your next shift. No charge."
"Great," Goliath said with no enthusiasm.
"Is that all, then?"
"One more thing."
Russel'ls throat clearing sounded impatient. "Yes?"
"I need some overtime to catch up for my losses. Will there be a need any time soon?"
"I think we might offer some at the coming holiday."
"Between Christmas and New Year's?"
Goliath nodded. Stupid, he thought. Suspend me. Punish me. Hassle me. Then offer me overtime. Control me. He closed his books and slid off the historic stool without having made history. Russell showed him the door, and he left silently.
***** Enter Dean *****
Goliath's exit was Dean's cue to enter Russell's office. Dean's three white paws were noiseless on the concrete. He had no toe nails. His well known left hind leg, pawless, hip hopped along for the ride without touching the floor.
Every dog at Big Blackie knew the Rottie mix Dean, the management's ill-tempered go-fer. Russell's little Caesar, they said. He was well named. Dean was the dean of the plant, the black dean of dogs, a cutthroat right paw dog, and an arbitratorless wonder. He was hated and feared.
Russell got to the point quickly, before Dean could even relax on a marble-top stool. "Get rid of him," Russell said.
"No! No, dog. The usual way. How many write-ups does he have now?"
"Just this one."
"Then he's due for a second, a third, and a final one, isn't he?"
Dean grinned, showing the broken fang that wordlessly invoked authority. He nodded. "Overdue, I'd say."
(Continued in A Dog's World Part II ...)