"You wanted to see me Ernest?"
"Ah, David. Come on in and have a seat."
Ernest's office was quite large and beautifully furnished. He sat in a plush-looking leather chair behind a large cherry wood desk.
I sat down in a very comfortable chair directly in front of him. I quickly removed my hat and wrung it nervously.*
Ernest smiled warmly at me but his eyes betrayed his true feelings. "I hear that you had a bit of a disagreement with Michael."
A feeling of dread washed over me like a tidal wave. "Well, you see...I uh, well...What had happened was..."
Before I could continue my stammering explanation there was a light knocking at the office door.
Ernest's piercing gaze never left mine: "Come in."*
The door opened slowly and Michael walked in. The frightened look on his stupid face only served to accentuate the purplish-black shiner I gave him yesterday. I swallowed hard because I knew I was in deep shit. Ernest motioned for Michael to grab a plump cloth chair by the door and bring it next to mine. Then he made the same fake smile and said:
"Glad you could join us Michael. Please sit down."
Michael didn't hesitate to obey our boss. He sat quickly. Realizing he'd made the same faux pas I made just minutes before, he snatched the puffy hat from atop his head and smiled wanly. Ernest turned his attention back to me. "I've read the official incident report but why don't you tell me your version of what happened."
I swallowed hard again and said: "Well sir, we were in the break room and I was talking about I'd like to um... that I would er..."
"Like to what?" Ernest asked, his eyes ablaze.
"That I um...Would maybe like to erm...Take some time off."
Michael jumped up and yelled. Tiny flecks of spittle flew everywhere. "I told him he was crazy boss!"
Ernest held up his calloused hand and Michael slumped into his chair.
Ernest cleared his throat and asked:
"Why do you want to leave us David?"
"I...I don't know sir...I guess I want to see the world."
"And what will you do out there in the world?"
I was at a loss. I guess I really hadn't thought it would get this far. "Travel? Maybe become an adventurer?"
Michael clapped his hands over his mouth and made a pfft sound.
Ernest shot him an angry look and Michael shrunk back into the chair.
"Now David," Ernest said in a fatherly yet condescending voice, "you've been groomed to be a baker since the day you were born. You've been nothing more than a baker for almost 200 years now. These thoughts of going out into the world are silly and dangerous. I think perhaps a re-education course is needed here."
A chill ran through every fiber of my being. Before the true shock of what Ernest had just said faded away, two stout dwarves with large mauls stomped into the office, pulled me out of the chair and forced me to my knees.
Ernest smiled that wicked smile. "Goodbye David."