The stories in Working Stiffs are crafted with crisp language and buoyant dark humor that beautifully reveal unique and intense situations. George Dila shows us what it’s like out there, making our way, every day, against power-tripping bosses, dehumanizing military duties, the inexorable advance of old age. All of the characters in George Dila’s stories compel us to believe and invest in their lives; although they may be at the mercy of uncompromising bosses and impossible situations, they still stand up and wage their own battles. These working stiffs grunt and sing, dodge and kill, betray and grant mercy. The impact of Dila’s work is undeniable, and we’re left imprinted by the generous raw emotion in every scene.
The sounds of Harry being murdered in the office at the end of the hall are the only sounds. The grunts, the thumps. The muffled expletives. No mercy. Harry being murdered, surrounded by a violent hush, breaths held, paper shuffling stopped, conversations ended in mid-word, typewriters stilled. I, like the others who hear the murder being committed, am helpless to save poor Harry, so I withdraw to the black space behind my eyes, my own private terror hole, a cold hand taking hold of my heart. Even the telephones seem to understand. Don’t ring ‘til old Harry’s dead. Show some respect. James Francis Bigelow, Director of Marketing, a.k.a. The Singing Assassin, a.k.a. The Prince of Fucking Darkness, murdering poor Harry for some fuck-up or other, most likely an honest mistake, maybe Harry’s or somebody else’s, it doesn’t matter, Harry’s intestines torn out, his testicles ripped off, his head battered to jelly, no problem, Harry will bounce back, be here tomorrow, resurrected with his famous grin on, and that’s how it really is here at the office, and nobody who ever described it got it right.
This is one of our favorite pranks. You stick your head into somebody’s office, let’s say Pringle’s, and you say, “Hey, Pringle, Bigelow wants to see you,” and you watch Pringle’s face go white, Pringle’s shoulders slump, and then you say, “Just kidding, Pringle." “Bastard,” he says, turning back to his computer screen. Harmless fun among the lads, kid’s stuff, but look out, you may be next.
George Dila’s short story collection, Nothing More to Tell, was published by Mayapple Press in 2011. His short stories and personal essays have appeared in numerous journals and earned several literary awards and prizes. A native Detroiter, he now lives and writes from the Lake Michigan shore town of Ludington.