I didn’t punch Shaun Bradley for using me to manipulate Randy.

But I did write an angry letter. Angry for me, at least. I was polite, but firm, explaining that I didn’t appreciate how the process had worked. Toward the end, though, I dropped the gauntlet:

“I’m left with the clear indication that I don’t have any likely opportunities for advancement in the near future. Under the circumstances, I may need to seek employment elsewhere.”

I showed a printed copy to my wife.

“I don’t know about this,” she said.

“I have to let him know how I feel,” I said.

“It’ll make him mad,” she said.

“I’m mad.”

“Yes, but he’s your boss. He can fire you.”

“I can’t just take this quietly.”

“Stick it in a drawer for a couple of days and think about it. The situation’s not changing.”

I should have listened to Dina, despite all the reasons I could use to justify ignoring her warnings.

She was a sweet woman, mostly. Once, I had loved her deeply. I thought she loved me. That passed, ultimately, between her affairs with renaissance faire cosplayers and the train wreck that our personal finances had become. We had fallen so far into debt and so behind on our bills that I had to liquidate my retirement savings (with an early withdrawal penalty) to clear the decks.

I didn’t follow her advice.

What hurt me most, I think, is that I considered Shaun a sort of big brother. He always seemed to have my best interests at heart. I felt like he had my back. Ever since my days as a hotshot intern, when the former Army Ranger and fellow “Caddyshack” aficionado had claimed to see so much of himself in me.

I forgot that, in the end, your boss is never your friend. I sent the message to Shaun in an email the next morning.

My desk phone rang a few minutes later.

“Larry,” he said. “I got your email. We should talk.”

That afternoon, I sat in his office in downtown Orlando with the door closed.

“Thanks for coming,” he said, settling into his chair.

“Sure,” I said.

“Need any water? Red Bull? A Coke?”

“No, I’m good.”

He plucked a copy of the email off his desk, holding it up as he tilted his head with a faint smirk on his face. “Did you mean what you wrote here?”

“It captures how I feel pretty well,” I said.

“Huh,” he said. Laid the paper back on the desk. “Well, listen, I’d have to be one Machiavellian sonuvabitch to do what you’re suggesting. I was shocked to see you say that about me. Almost fell out of my chair. If you were anyone else, I’d fire you for writing that. But you’re one of my trusted lieutenants. I wanted to hear you out.”

“The letter speaks for itself,” I said.

“Is that right?” Shaun sighed. “Well, I wasn’t the only one floored by it. I read it to Bailey, he couldn’t believe it. Summers, her eyes about popped out of her head.”

He had, it turned out, even shared the letter with the newspaper’s executive editor, Lubbock Scofield.

“We all used to have high hopes for you, Larry. We’re all disappointed.”

I clutched the arms of my chair as the ramifications sank in. Knuckles gone white. He had used the letter to torpedo me with everyone who controlled my destiny at The Orlando Pulse.

“You shared the letter with Bailey?”

He nodded.

“And Summers?”

“Yes.”

“Scofield too? Seriously?”

Another nod.

“I didn’t write the letter to them,” I said. Pretty lame argument, I know, but it’s what I could flail for. “I wrote that to you. I wanted you to know how I was feeling. I had to get it off my chest. You burned me with everybody.”

“Christ, Larry, what did you expect? You’re a journalist. You should know better than to put anything in writing.”

And that’s when I hurled myself over the desk and socked him in the jaw.

This time, he did fall out of his chair.