"You're fired," Clyde Tarkington announced. Carrie Jamison looked up at the station manager for KUTE radio and blinked back her shock. She opened her mouth, but words refused to come. "I don't understand," she managed finally.
"Which word?" Clyde asked, shuffling his fat cigar to the other side of his mouth. "You are canned, out of a job, unemployed, terminated."
But. . ." It took her a few more moments to collect herself. "Who'll take over the morning program?"
Clyde chewed on the end of the fat cigar. "I haven't decided that yet.
Carrie noticed he didn't seem overly concerned about finding a replacement. She focused her attention on the scarred wood desk and resisted the urge to argue, to list her accomplishments, the success of her ideas.
'May I ask why?" She already knew the answer: Kyle Harris. The newscaster had been a thorn in her side from the first. But it wasn't all her fault. Kyle didn't like her either.
"You can't seem to get along with Kyle."
Naturally the good-ol'-boy network would fire her instead of the man. Carrie was surprised at Clyde. She'd always thought of him as fair. Now she knew otherwise; men stick together.
"We rub each other the wrong way," was all Carrie was willing to say.
"It's gotten much worse lately," Clyde said.
Carrie agreed. The tension between her and Kyle Harris had grown so thick in the last few weeks it could have been sliced, toasted, and served with coffee. It had came to a head when she tricked him into shaving off his beard. He'd never forgiven her, and to be fair, her tactics had been slightly underhanded. But she never would have believed she'd lose her job over it.
Clyde sat down, crossed his stubby legs, and seemed to wait for her response.
Carrie was fond of Clyde. He was the fatherly type, with a receding hairline, deep blue eyes, and a head and a heart for radio that she'd long respected. He was her boss and her friend -- or so she'd once believed.
"How long do I have? she asked, in a weak, almost unintelligible voice. "Two weeks?"
"That sounds fair," Clyde said.
He took the cigar out of his mouth and stared at the end of it. As long as Carrie could remember, she'd never seen him light one.
"Unless . . ." He paused, and his gaze met hers with the force of something physical.
"Unless what?" Carrie asked, eager now. She scooted to the edge of her seat, hoping, praying he would offer her a reprieve.
"Never mind," he said, shaking his head. "It'd never work."
"I was thinking you two might come to some sort of agreement. But" -- he released an exaggerated sigh -- "you've worked together for nearly a year and haven't been able to get along in all that time. Nothing's likely to change now."
"We started off on the wrong foot," Carrie said, remembering when they'd met. One glance had told her they were headed for trouble. Her morning show consisted of bells and whistles, jokes and pranks. The newscaster was a stuffed shirt; to him the news was a somber business. Carrie bad suspected Kyle Harris wouldn't be amused by her brand of comedy. And she was right.
From the first day, Carrie felt Kyle's mild contempt. It might have been her imagination, but she doubted it. He thought of her as silly and artificial, and she viewed him as a curmudgeon. The fact that he shared the same political views as her father hadn't endeared him to her either.
"Is this all because of Kyle's beard?"
A shadow of a smile quivered at the edges of Clyde's mouth, but he suppressed it. "In part," he said. No amusement leaked into his voice.
"It was all in fun."
Carrie wanted to shake herself for the things she'd said. She hadn't meant to insult Kyle by suggesting he had a face made for radio. It was a joke. She should have known better.
"The ratings for my show doubled that week," she reminded him.
"Are you suggesting we give you an award?" Clyde's voice rose half an octave in irritation.
"He hasn't grown it back," Carrie said, wanting to make light of the event. She found Kyle's clean shaven face to be surprisingly appealing. Her perception of him had changed. Without the beard, his jaw was lean and strongly defined, giving him a distinctly rugged appeal she would never have guessed was there. She hated to admit how curious she'd been to discover the man behind the mask.
Clyde couldn't seem to decide if he wanted to stand or sit. He got out of his chair as if he were suddenly uncomfortable, walked over to the window that overlooked downtown Kansas City, and gripped his hands behind his back.
"Have my ratings gone down?" she asked nervously.
"No," Clyde admitted. "Don't misunderstand me, Carrie, you've done a good job. That's not the problem. The reason I'm terminating you is because of what's going on between you and Kyle. The rest of us aren't blind. We all work together, and we can't be one big happy family with the two of you constantly at each other's throat."
"I'm not the only one to blame," she said, to defend herself. It wasn't as if she'd started a one woman war against Kyle Harris. He'd tossed out his own fair share of innuendoes and insults.
"It's become an issue with the staff," Clyde said. "In the beginning it was like a game; everyone got a kick out of the way you taunted each other. It isn't amusing anymore. What started out as fun has become destructive to the entire station."(Continues...)