BIG BAD BIGGS
By Norris Chambers
I knew Barton Biggs. I also knew that he was a little "odd". I was one of the four that he worked with at Alston. Alston was a small assembly plant that subcontracted for a local manufacturer. Barton never said anything and the other three workers ignored him. I tried to talk with him and be friendly, and he talked a little with me. At least he communicated enough that I knew he was different. Once when Bill Summers made fun of him, holding his arm up over his face and peeping over it directly at Barton, Barton looked at him with raw hatred in his eyes. He didn't say anything, but it was obvious that he was very disturbed. Bill thought it was funny and twirled his finger around his head as if to say Barton was a little squirrely.
I was aware that our boss, Jess Archer, was watching the teasing and horse play. He didn't say anything for a while, but one day he called Barton into his office.
"Biggs," he said, "it has been brought to my attention that you don't fit in very well with the other employees here. I think I am going to have to let you go."
"You mean you're firing me?" he asked.
"I'll give you a chance to quit," he answered, "otherwise, I will be firing you."
That "I hate you" expression came quickly to Barton's face, and he said, "Tell me one thing. Who told you I didn't fit.. was it Bill?"
"I can't tell you," replied Jess. "Two of them have complained to me."
"In that case, I guess I will have to assume that all four of them are guilty. Is that right?"
"It doesn't matter, Barton," Jess explained. "Your pay will be ready in a couple of days. You can come by for it. You can leave now."
Barton didn't say a thing. He rushed back to our work room, stopped and looked around, then walked to each of the three others. He pulled them around to face him, one by one, and asked them quietly. "Was it you?" All three of them sensed that there could be trouble, and simply said "No, not me!" Barton didn't even look at me. Without saying another word, he walked briskly to the door and left.
We didn't say anything for awhile. Finally, Bill turned to me and said, "What was he talking about? I didn't say anything except what I have said to his face."
"I don't know," I answered, "but I guess someone complained to Jess."
Barton's name wasn't mentioned that day. Barton's work was missed. After all, he was a good, steady worker and no one could say he didn't do his part.
The next morning when we came to work, Bill was not there. Jess called, but no one answered. The two of us continued to work, but production was obviously lagging. Jess had placed an ad in the paper but as yet had received no replies. Just before quitting time Jess came into the room and told us that Bill had been in an accident on his way to work. Someone had thrown a big hunk of concrete off of an overpass and it had crashed through his windshield. He had crashed into a concrete pillar and was in very serious condition in the hospital. He said that if Bill survived, it would be weeks before he could return to work. Jess was obviously worried about production. I wondered if he would call Barton back.
The following morning Barton came in at the usual time. I noticed that Jess had not come in. We started to work. Barton didn't say anything at the time. He stood watching us for a few minutes, then went into Jess' office. I walked into the office. Barton was sitting behind the desk just like Jess did. I asked, "Did Jess hire you back? Where is Jess?"
"I am the new boss," he said. "Last night Jess' house caught fire and he and his wife died in the fire. Uncle John asked me to take over, and he's sending two workers over from one of his other operations."
I was shocked. "I didn't know your Uncle owned the business. Do you think you can manage it?"
"I can manage it," he answered. "I think we got rid of the bad apples, and I don't think there will be any more trouble. Do you?"
"Nope," I answered, "I don't think there will be any more trouble." I went back to the work room and explained to my co-worker what the situation was.
"Odd, isn't it." he said, "that Bill and Jess would meet such sad fate at this time?"
"Very odd." I replied.