‘So, what we need are ideas that show our blue sky thinking – what we’re doing to get out of our wheelwright.’ Bob Dury was standing in front of the whiteboard, arms akimbo as his eyes searched the room.

‘Wheelhouse.’ As soon as the word was out of her mouth, Amy regretted that she’d spoken up.

‘Wheelhouse?’ Bob stepped closer to her, the whiteboard marker wielding hand bobbing into her line of vision.

‘The phrase is ‘out of our wheelhouse’. Not wheelwright.’

Bob grinned that wide, toothy grin that meant more work for someone other than himself. ‘Sounds like you’re volunteering to gather those ideas and present them at next week’s meeting. Great work, Amy. Let’s have a round of applause for Amy!’

Amy turned and glared at Tim, who was clapping slowly. Bob turned on his heel and left the room, the whiteboard as devoid of ideas as when he’d started the meeting.

‘You could have said something, Tim.’

Tim grinned at Amy, shaking his head. ‘No way. I got sucked into that the last time. Any sign of active listening and suddenly you’re the project lead.’

Amy made a point of looking around the large, empty room. ‘It’s getting harder to be silent now there’s only two of us.’

Tim stood up and stretched. ‘I know. Promise I’ll take the lead next time.’

Amy sighed. ‘Remember when it was more than just us in the department?’

Tim gave a sad smile. ‘Little did we know how good we had it then. I used to be able to sit up the back and sleep with my eyes open during Bob’s spiels.’

‘It was even better when Bob had just been one of us, and not the person in charge.’

It was a still somewhat of a mystery, how Bob had gone from a casual employee with a sketchy work history and attendance record to being the head of their department. A spate of downsizing and staff despondency had thinned the ranks considerably, and from more than a dozen people they were down to the three of them. And Bob’s ability to deflect any actual work onto others nearby had been honed to an art form. If it wasn’t so irritating, Amy could nearly admire Bob’s ability to promote other people’s work and ideas as his own.

In tandem, Amy and Tim’s phones dinged. Tim was faster on the draw. He swiped at the notification then rocked back on his heels. ‘Looks like Bob has nominated you to present our non-existent ideas to the working group on Monday. He’s on leave, remember?’

‘I’ve been counting the days.’ Amy flicked through to the bottom of the email. It wasn’t long: that wasn’t Bob’s style. He was clear about never reading more than a paragraph on an email, which Amy had learnt that the hard way. ‘Don’t relax too soon. He’s got you down as his delegate, so you’ll be there too.’

The vast space echoed with their sighs.

This piece was written to a prompt on the Writer’s Digest website. Management Style: write a short biographical sketch of the following character – Bob Dury, manipulative manager.

Photo: blue sky with a white cloud