“Get it right.”
Ethan is well known for saying those lines with the same pause between them. Every time a project is just slightly underdeveloped or a detail missed, his phrase emerges. We have never brought it up to him. We kind of assume he knows.
Ethan Kath is the managing director of Mock Your Sins, the online guide to mockery and hilarity. When the site was in it’s contemplative stages, we discovered that we all wear moccasins, thus the name. His signature line is the only constant in the MYS environment. It hurts a little more each time he says it. I think it’s because we’ve known each other so long and his disappointment has grown proportionally.
It had been two weeks since his last uttering and work was going fine. My stories and essays each passed his desk with nods of approval. Life was good. The site even seemed to be getting more hits than usual.
Then, of course, shit hit the fan. Ethan walked in this morning ten minutes late. It wasn’t necessarily weird, but it sure wasn’t normal. The Beatles on his tie stared at us in their post-1967 way, the same as the day before. His bedhead was definitely not intentional, as opposed to his usual Joaquin Phoenix style. He was usually the epitome of trendy professionalism, aside from the moccasins. We were all taking our first of many coffee breaks, standing around the ole water cooler. Silence took our work-related gossip by the throat.
“What’s up Ethan?” my bravest coworker asked after half a minute of silence.
Ethan dropped his briefcase. His gaze left the floor to scan each of our faces.
“I called all of you last night.”
We dared not check our phones. We knew we ignored his calls. There was no point faking it.
“The biggest story of our generation and you guys can’t answer your damn phones?” He didn’t sound angry, just exhausted.
“I’ve been up all night trying to get a hold of you all. I needed help.”
We all wanted to ask what had happened. Each of us had a work iPhone and were notorious for searching the web at inappropriate times. How did we miss it?
“You have all let me down.”
I knew it was coming and braced myself for the signature Phrase of Ethan.
Ethan picked up his briefcase. The disappointed pause was longer this time.
But he didn’t finish it. He just turned and left.
I never thought that not hearing that line would be worse than actually hearing it. Guilt ran through me. It hurt. It still hurts.