A deck of cards
In front of the factory the workers gathered around two of their mates. One of them was Rafael Martinez, the other one Steven Williams. The two in the middle exchanged puzzled looks. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, thought Martinez.The autumn weather was sunny but a bit chilly. The century old ash tree in front of the factory gate danced in the light wind. The workers were all worried. They were all good friends with both Martinez and Williams. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that – some murmured to his neighbor in the crowd. The tension was almost visible among them. It was an old factory in the outskirt of Detroit, MI manufacturing metal parts for tractors and other industrial and agricultural vehicles and machines. Most of the people have been working there since they were 16 or 17. In this area of the city life standards were way beyond state limits – which to be frank was not too high either. Young kids had to start working early in their lives, for education was too high of a price for their families to afford. Many of them started working night shifts because the older, more experienced workers had the ’privilige’ to choose their shifts if it was possible. As time passed by they all grew up in the factory becoming best pals, who would get together for a beer once in a while or gather together to watch a state football game. Their lives were not easy – working for below minimal wage for 12-14 hours just to make a living is hardly easy – but they kind of got used to it and accepted their fates. Everything went just about fine until rumors started going around that the company Patterson Star is going bankrupt and will have to sell the factory. Of course there were some people who started panicing right away, others stayed more calm, stating panic is good for nothing. As it finally turned out the rumors were actually true and Patterson Star had to sell the factory. Fortunately there was a german investor who saw a chance of buniness in
the old manufactory and bought it under the company name of Gunther Inc. The workers haven’t noticed much about the change – other than the gossips that have spread around the mill all the time – until this Monday. And that is when the panic started. Mr. Gunther, the new owner issued a bulletin about the changes he intended to implement in order to increase productivity and get rid of unnecessary procedures. One of the changes he proposed was a cut in the workforce. From every department one person had to go. He told the department heads to decide who to fire until the end of the week. The head of the heavy machinery department was William Hoax. He has started off as any one of the other local guys, working mostly night shifts starting at age 16. But while others slept and watched TV during the day off work, Hoax started a vocational school and became a mechanic. Having a higher degree it was obvious that after a few years he was chosen to be the leader of the machinery squad when the former head retired. He accepted the position and stayed in his position since then. The reason all the workers liked him was that power did not get into his head. He always knew where he belonged to and tried to be friendly and helpful with everybody. The afternoon when he got the bad news, that one of his brothers had to leave, and he is the one to decide who, he became anxious. For hours he tried to decide how to tell the others what has happened, and more of that choose the one to fire. After about 3 hours he came up with the best solution he could have imagined in this desperate situation. He gathered all the workers in front of the yard and told them the sad and disturbing news. When he scanned the faces of the people he could see fear and sadness on all the faces. This factory was not only a source of living for these people, but almost like a second home, a place where all there friends worked, where they have spent most of their lives.
The crowd started murmuring. Some people shook their heads to show their disagreement. Some yelled out from the crow asking Hoax who is the one to go. Please calm down and listen to me – Hoax raised his voice when the crowd settled down and paid close attention to the words that would change everything, not only for one but for all of them. I could not decide who to fire and would not possibly be able to send anyone of you away. But I have come up with a solution. I can not say it is good, for there is no good solution in a situation like that, but if you all accept my proposal than that’s how we will decide. The people all agreed to Hoax because the solution he came up with seemed fair. Hoax got a pack of french cards out of his pocket, shuffled it thoroughly and made all the workers pick one card. There was a jolly joker in the pack – which was far from jolly that day because the one to pick that one would have to go. Everyone has picked a card and they made a big circle. The people were releived a bit when they looked at the clubs and hearts in their hands. Who will be it? – they started murmuring, when Rafael Martinez stepped out of the cirle and walked to the middle showing his joker high up. His face was staggering. As he stood in the middle of the manmade cirle he thought of his wife and the three young children he had to support. A teardrop slid down his cheek, when something interesting happened. Steve Williams stepped into the circle next to Martinez holding an other joker in his hands. How could that have happened? – the crowd sighed in unison with Hoax. I have checked the pack so there is only one joker left in it. Who will go and who will stay now? Then suddenly Williams’ voice broke the murmur. I will go. The people looked puzzled. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, thought Martinez. I was the one picking the wild card. I got a jolly joker too and anyway in half a year I am moving to Chicago with my new fiance so it is not a big deal for me – said the 28 year old Williams with a joking tone. Martinez looked a bit releaved and sad at the same time. Williams was a good friend of his. He taught him how to use the mold, and the press welding machine. He was almost like a father to the young boy when he got to the factory.
After some time the crowed started to ooze back to the factory to finish work that was still for the day. They all put their cards down on the table next to the enterance face down. The last one to go in was Williams. Can I have your card too? – asked Hoax. Williams just smiled at Hoax and walked right past him, with a deck of similar cards in his pocket.