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Kenneth Jobe's picture

Early Retirement

By Kenneth Jobe in Arrest Us

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With unlikely inspiration from a motivational speaker, a burned out office drone decides that enough is enough.


Devon Taylor's picture
Devon Taylor from Allentown, PA is reading Doctor Sleep June 7, 2014 - 12:28pm

This is a really great story. Short, sweet, and right to the point. It got down to business pretty quickly, but there was just enough embellishment to make it vivid and believable. As someone who has worked in a cube farm for a while myself, this was totally relatable. The pacing was nice, although it seemed a little rushed in the middle. And I think I would have liked to have seen the narrator get the last word in with his boss. That would have felt even more satisfying. Great read, though. Thanks for sharing!

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 7, 2014 - 5:43pm

Thank you for the kind words, I'm glad you liked it! I've also spent a fair share of time in cubicle land, I had to wring at least one story out of that. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment. 

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time June 8, 2014 - 7:54pm

I thumbed this up, but with some reservation. Your story has a lot of wit and humor inside the story. The writing and prose themselves are good and smooth and smart. But I thought the ending fell flat. I felt Richard never really got to address his individual tormentors. Too impersonal. Richard never got to really tell him how he felt and I didn't feel his motivation to go straight to distant detached murder. Or many I need to know why his actions will lead to a carefree retirement.

This is close to "really good," and I think it could be really good with a few tweaks. Hopefully my input helps. Keep up the good work!

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 9, 2014 - 4:04am

Thanks for the input, Joe! Looking at it now, I can see what you're saying. There was no 'take this job and shove it' with Ron, which could have provided much more catharsis (for Richard and the reader) than just watching the explosion from afar. I think subconsciously I was preoccupied with allowing Richard to get away clean, at least for awhile, and thought him not blowing up at anyone (no pun intended) and treating it like any other day was the way to do that.

I appreciate it, that is really helpful. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Irene Inatty's picture
Irene Inatty from Miami is reading How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy June 9, 2014 - 9:55pm

This story was a joy to read, really. It went down smoothly. The prose was streamlined, the voice entertaining yet real, the parallelism marked yet tasteful. I loved Richard as a character.

The only thing that stood out was the pacing near the end. It sped up, which was reciprocal to what Richard was supposed to be feeling. Your ending is a great place in which to develop some more tension and make the reader cringe a little before the release of the explosion. I agree with Joe P above that it seemed a bit impersonal. 

Still, a very satisfying read. Love your style.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 10, 2014 - 5:43am

I think I may have underestimated the empathy people would feel for Richard. Or maybe I've been in the cubicle-filled corporate landscape too long. :) It appears I should have planned a lilt better for a final confrontation with Ron. 

I appreciate you reading and commenting, thank you!

stevezip's picture
stevezip from New Jersey is reading Thuglit June 10, 2014 - 9:25am

Nice job, Kenneth.

I feel like you've been spying on me. Take a peek at my bio and you'll understand.

As opposed to some of the comments, I TOTALLY understand the ending. At this point Richard could care less about the others in the office and just isn't going to waste another breath on them. That said, perhaps his empathy could be stated more strongly. Also, maybe he could be more clever and bomb the place without becoming a suspect, and reap some sort of reward as the sole survivor.

All in all, I liked this.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 10, 2014 - 7:58pm

That's awesome that you relate to it. A nice 'f*** you' to your boss is (almost) every employee's dream, but I had never really considered it an option for Richard. I appreciate your comments, thanks so much!

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 13, 2014 - 11:58am

This was a good read.  Paced well and witty.  I too would have liked a litte 'last word' towards the end, but I think it might have felt forced.  Mentioning the duffel bag early may have made the end a bit obvious.  Perhaps if he packed his things in a messenger bag each day or something along those lines it would pass without question.  Just a thought to try and keep the surprise hidden as long as possible.  Either way still a good story.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 14, 2014 - 7:00am

Thanks, Grant. I think you might be right about the ending being a bit obvious. I'd worried if it was too well hidden the ending might not seem plausible, but I still wanted it to be surprising. Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading and commenting. 

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 14, 2014 - 2:26pm

Good buildup and well observed characters, but the ending just didn't surprise me. I expected it to either end the way it did, or there be an episode with a machine gun. A complete left turn would have been refreshing, however this is a very well-written and engaging piece.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 15, 2014 - 8:45am

I appreciate your feedback Seb, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 17, 2014 - 3:07am

I’m going to echo Joe on this one – thumbs up, but with some reservations.

I like your protagonist’s voice. He starts off a dullard, and I thought you did an excellent job of bringing that across to keep sympathies with him, and then increasing the speed of the flow as he comes up with his plan. It’s certainly relatable. Loyalty so often counts for nothing in the workplace, and realising that can be frustrating in the extreme. His revenge is quite satisfying, and it doesn’t bother me at all that it wasn’t personal.

What did bother me a bit was that it was so out of character. There is nothing in this to hint as to his capabilities of carrying out such an atrocity. Richard is such a steady guy, that he doesn’t come across as the kind of person who would seek revenge. There needs to be some more hints and nods to the darkness that lies within. It needs to be subtle or you risk ruining the surprise of the ending, but it does need to be there. If we can understand a little of his motivations, it strengthens the connection to this protagonist. I also want to know more of his plan. Where is he getting the cash from for his travelling? Has he extensive savings? I was wondering if he was faking his own death with the explosion, but I can’t work out where the financial gain would be in that.

The other issue is with your pacing. You approach it in the right way; slow at the start and increasing after the meeting with the boss. Others have mentioned that it then seems rushed, and I’d have to echo those comments. You need a slow increase. At the moment it seems like Richard is angry at his treatment, sees a motivational video, and immediately has a plan. Develop that section more. Let us feel Richard’s anger more, and his slow groping to an ultimate plan of getting away. Let us wonder a bit longer why he’s looking at early retirement, but not actually telling anyone that he’s leaving. You have a solid start, a solid ending (albeit one that could do with a couple of tweaks leading up to it), but a rushed act 2.

I really don’t think you are a million miles away from having a strong story. As it is, it’s good, but it could be more.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 17, 2014 - 7:18am

Wow, Adam. Everything you said really clicked for me and made total sense. I can see now the missed opportunities to make the story better. The issues with pacing are going to take some work, but now that it's been pointed out to me hopefully I can spot it myself a little easier in the future. Your critique reminds me of what I'm missing in the writers workshop, and why I need to renew my membership, stat. Thanks again. 

Amy Taylor's picture
Amy Taylor June 21, 2014 - 8:29am

Interesting read. Nice build up but the ending just didn't work for me. I thought you're writing was very, very good. I liked the characters and sympathised with the narrator, it's just the ending was predictable and I'm not sure why he would suddenly decide to commit mass murder after watching an inspirational speaker which is something that he has mentioned he doesn't normally like. Regardless, it was a good story and it kept me reading.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 24, 2014 - 4:45am

Thanks for commenting, Amy. I think I was a little hasty in submitting my story so early, but live and learn, right? I have things like motive and backstory in my head that don't come across on the page. I appreciate you reading and leaving feedback, thanks so much!

_JohnUtah's picture
_JohnUtah from Texas is reading True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa June 22, 2014 - 1:35pm


Great read. It was straight to the point and I enjoyed that. You painted your character beautify without piling on a tremendous amount of back story. The only thing that stood out to me was I didn't feel their was enough detailing the motives behind the characters actions. Sure he was fed up with his job, his coworkers, his routine uneventful life but I felt there could have been just a hair more regarding his motives. Over all though fantastic story, thanks for writing it. I enjoyed reading it!


Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods June 24, 2014 - 4:49am

Thank you sir! You're right, there's quite a leap from office burnout to office bomber. It's ironic, it started as flash fiction and I had a devil of a time getting it to 3k words. Turns out I just wasn't thinking it through, as I still need to add a little more. :) thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it. 

RhysWare's picture
RhysWare from Worcester, England is reading The Warriors June 27, 2014 - 1:22pm

Kenneth, your writing's good, but the story itself didn't quite pull me in and keep me there.

It seemed like there was no real excitement until the ending, and that was extremely short. I understand that perhaps the story wasn't meant to be exciting, maybe it is meant to mirror his position in life, but I'd rather something a little more engaging.

Really, I think the ending would have been a better place to start, with the story following the events after the attack.

In terms of the ending, I'd have to agree with the general opinions here. I felt no real impetus for Steven (Richard) to commit mass murder.

I think the best thing here is your writing, and so I'd certainly implore you to continue. It shows no amateur tropes and is direct. I like that.

All in all, I'd say it wasn't my favourite, but thanks for it regardless. Keep writing and you'll hit my mark.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 28, 2014 - 9:32pm

I think this is a pretty decent story. The only problem I had with it, oddly enough, was the part about the crime. Richard doesn't seem to be so disgusted or disgruntled that he wants his co-workers dead and his character would imply that he would take a completely non confrontational route and quit his job the way we are lead to believe at first. Other than that there's not a lot of action that takes place. I do think that this is a well written story the crime just seemed to thrown in at the end.

Kenneth Jobe's picture
Kenneth Jobe from Wichita is reading American Gods August 7, 2014 - 9:05am

Thanks for the reply! I've been trying to take in everyone's comments and figure out how to make his actions a little more believable, I think I'll have a much stronger story once I finally figure it out.