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The Coup

(Listen to this piece on S2E30 of the podcast.)

Roxy whipped her hair back into a ponytail and took a swig of water from her thermos before swinging open the door of her slate gray Ram 3500. All around her, the construction team rubbed sleep from their eyes and mentally prepared for a day full of excavating earth the color of Grand Canyon sunsets from the ground. Her boots landed atop the dusty earth with the kind of finality superheroes have when they arrive at the final fight scene of the movie. She didn’t care that people might one day call her the villain.

Jeff pulled up beside her in his black Ford Explorer. She walked around to his door and motioned for him to roll down the window.

“Here,” she said, dropping a wad of papers into his lap. “Deadline is Friday.” It was Thursday. Jeff flipped through the papers then cleared his throat low like a mastiff’s growl. A warning, but Roxy didn’t flinch. Another vehicle pulled up, a beat-up Toyota this time. The worker hopped out the car and whistled at Roxy’s backside.

“I see you Jeffy Jeff,” said the Millennial prick.

Roxy flipped the the boy the bird without turning around. As the only woman on the crew, she quashed their chauvinist crap the first couple of weeks. She cut them down with biting quips and chopped them in the throat if they got handsy until she got her due respect. Still, every now and again she had to put one in their place. Jeff cussed the boy out. He had a family at home and Roxy knew he didn’t like the insinuation. This thing between him and her was strictly business.

“This is my brother’s company,” Jeff said. He unbuckled his seatbelt and pushed his door open against Roxy’s solid frame. She slammed the door back shut.

“Don’t you want your own vacation house instead of building them for someone else? Make big boy money? Be your own boss?”

“My brother’s a good boss.”

“I’d be a good boss, too. You and me. A team.”

Jeff narrowed his eyes. Gestured towards his door. She stepped back. He stepped out and headed toward the congregation of bodies collecting for their morning huddle.

She knew working for his father’s construction company had been a good gig for over 10 years for Jeff. That his brother taking over the business made this most sense considering Jeff was the prodigal son. It was Jeff who spent all his inheritance. Abandoned leadership to drink and drug. That his brother gave him this one last chance and Jeff took it with humility. Jeff was just happy to have left the past behind him. Happy to have a good job. He didn’t hope for anything better. But she did. She’d enrolled in the business management classes. Studied industry trends. Secured the proper licensure. Roxy was ready. She just needed Jeff’s buy-in. The company was technically half his. She considered all her hard work as he walked away.

“What about your daughter?” Roxy called out, stopping Jeff in his tracks. Guys shuffled past him ready to clock in for the day. The darkness of inky sky tinted blue to signal daybreak. A new beginning.

“You said she wants to go to college, right? You can’t afford it keeping things the way they are.”

Jeff turned around, ruddy red face pinched with emotion. There was apprehension, yes, but she detected something shifting inside him. He folded his arms. Sighed deep.

“But no lawyers, Roxy.”

“No lawyers needed,” Roxy said. She’d already sent anonymous blackmail photos to her boss—photos of Jeff’s married brother and his mistress to swing this takeover in their favor. Jeff didn’t know about the blackmail, but then again, he didn’t have to know much for her plan to work. “You set the meeting and give him my proposal. Trust me, he’ll agree to our terms.”

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