General Fiction posted January 22, 2023

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Love + Stress = ???


by Jerome Goldberg

Short(ish) Story Contest Contest Winner 


My name is Thomas Allister MacAulay. Most of my friends or associates call me Tom or Tommy. And some, from my old neighborhood use "Scotty" because of my Scottish heritage. Now my great grandfather came over from Scotland more than eighty years ago and I have not worn a kilt since I was seven; but, some old habits die hard.

I am in my mid-forties and relatively successful. I went to college, served four years as a Navy Intelligence Officer and now I am a middle level manager in a small, but very successful, investment banking firm. I live on a high floor, in a nice apartment with a sensational view of the East River. I have a BMW Series Seven convertible which I only drive on the weekend. Because of traffic and parking I generally take cabs during the week.

I've got so much that I should be dancing in the street and saying thank you every minute.


I can't eat! I can't sleep and I can't concentrate.

And I know why!

I have had about three long term meaningful relationships in my life. And the last one, which I really believed was going to be IT, ended at the start of this week end.

It did not just end, it EXPLODED! Harsh words were shouted and the collateral damage was irreparable. There will be no makeup. There will be no makeup sex. There will just be emptiness.

I feel like four years of my life have been wasted and I really do NOT want to go back to work tomorrow.

I decided that I would go in tomorrow basically clean off my desk, delegate some tasks, get backup coverage for my clients and then take two weeks of vacation.

Perhaps a Caribbean cruise would help get me out of this deep black hole. It won't solve anything; however, it might help me come to terms with reality.

Sleep did not come!

But, never the less, at seven o'clock, I shaved and showered and put on one of my best gray flannel suits and went to work.

As I walked into my office at 9:15 AM, my personal assistant, Gloria said, "Good Morning Mr. MacAulay, Mr. Johnstone would like to see you at your convenience."

Keith Johnstone is one of the founding partners of our firm. His office is on the thirty sixth floor. Mine is on the eighth. While my annual bonus sometimes brakes a hundred thousand, his always exceeds a cool million. When he says, "at your convenience" that really means "get your ass up here right now."

I stopped in the men's room for a brief moment and then took the elevator up to thirty six. The Thirty-six floor's receptionist waved me through saying, "Mr. Johnstone is expecting you."

Since I have seldom spoken to him, except for some holiday receptions, I had no idea what was coming. If I was getting fired, I assumed that some low level H/R flunky would do the honors; but, I had no idea why the exhaled senior partner wanted to talk to me and actually I was so depressed that I really did not care.

His secretary, Portia, did not even offer me a seat but said," Please follow me"
I was ushered into an immense, lavishly furnished conference room. There was The Founding Senior Partner Keith Johnstone, his personal assistant and his chief of staff. I was offered coffee or tea and a pastry and invited to sit.
In a bit of a daze, I sat.

Keith Johnstone spoke, "Hi Tom. We think that you are very capable and could add a fresh view to our thinking."

I said, "Yes sir, thank you." But I thought I am too tired and upset for this and please do not screw up my vacation plans with some shitty little job that you want to dump on an underling.

"Tom, we our considering a major investment that has the potential of opening vast new revenue sources to us in the future; however, there is risk that if everything does not go as planned, we could experience significant losses for several years and severely impact the Firm's reputation, decrease our shareholders' equity and of course put a hold on raises and bonuses."

"Wow that is a serious decision!"

"Tommy, you are right on and the Board is planning to vote on it on Thursday, the twentieth."

"That is less than ten business days from now!"

"Right again. Now here is what we want you to do. We want you to form a high powered team and study the proposal in microscopic detail, have the forensic accountants put it under their microscope, have the forecasters run exhaustive scenarios and have our researchers investigate everyone on the target company's board and all their key executives. And then based on all that, give me your personal recommendations at 2:00 PM on Tuesdays the eighteenth.


"Right! We know that is a big order. But it is essential that we do this and that we do it right. We have confidence in you. You have an open budget for this project. Draft whoever you need. Bring in meals, authorize overtime, setup car services & hotel rooms, do whatever it takes! Just get it done! My secretary and my personal assistant are available to clear any obstacles or red tape that gets in your way.

Tommy, you're the man!

Don't let another Scotsman down. See you on Tuesday. Now get busy!"

So much for vacation! I had enough adrenalin flowing that I could easily hold off my depression for a week.

First, I had to do a quick review of the proposal and draft my team. By mid- afternoon, I had recruited three forensic accountants, two researchers, two market analysts, two administrative assistants and two I.T. Gurus. All were top notch and excited to be on the team! Plus I added Mildred Silverberg, who although not the brightest lightbulb on the marque, was an excellent judge of character with the ability to explain complex situations in simple terms.

We worked from 9:00 AM till 10:00 PM for seven days including a Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday, we pulled everything together, dotted the "I's" crossed the "T's" and by 3:00 AM Tuesday morning had a full presentation ready for Founding Senior Partner Keith Johnstone. The time had flown by like one giant, exciting blur.

At 1:00 PM on Tuesday, I walked into the magic conference room on the 36th floor with two thumb drives. One had my presentation and the other all sorts of back up data to help answer questions. I loaded them in the computers. Tested the IT equipment and waited.

At 2:00 PM the big three walked in. Coffee was served, greetings were exchange and I made the presentation.

"Tommy, my lad, that was excellent! I want you to personally present it to The Board on Thursday. Don't change anything. One never knows for sure what the Board will do; however, please set up a meeting with your team for tomorrow at 11:00 AM.

I will congratulate them on an excellent job, give them each a special bonus check for $10,000 and tell them to go home, have a great long weekend and not come back until Monday morning. Portia will work with you on the logistics."

And after some hand shaking, I was alone. I knew that I was exhausted, that the adrenalin was losing its power but I had to hold myself together until after the Board meeting. Then I could crawl into my black hole and nurse my wounds.

The Board presentation on Thursday went smoothly. There were a few very pointed questions but at the end The Board accepted nine of my ten recommendations and Mr. Johnstone spoke glowingly of how well my team and I had done.

I knew that today, was a turning point in my career and I also knew that I was totally exhausted. Mr. Johnstone had asked me to see him after the meeting, so I retreated to my office and took a semi-nap. About two hours later, the call came and I went up to floor thirty-six.

"Tommy, my lad, congratulations. You did an excellent job. We have been watching you for a while and you just exceeded our expectations."

"Thank you, sir."

"Tommy this not just flattery. First of all here is a special bonus check for $20,000. But more importantly you are being promoted to Partner (level 1) and your new office will be right below on floor thirty-five. You have a bright future here."

"I am stunned, thank you sir."

"One more thing, just between us two Scotsmen, you look like shit! I know that you have worked hard and I have heard some talk of some personal misfortune. Take Friday and Monday off, get some rest and try to start the healing process. "

He turned and looked out the window at the New York City landscape and I think he said, "Now here is an offer that you should not refuse. I know of a wonderful resort in the mountains, about two hours from here. It is where I go when I need to clear my head. They have everything and anticipate your every need. It is called Kilmarnock Castle. And, of course, the firm will pick up the tab for everything. Room, food, drinks, golf, and all other activities. Portia will make your reservations, just tell her what time you plan to arrive. See you Tuesday and I will show you your new office."

"I am overwhelmed with all this. It sounds wonderful. Thank you, Sir."

I decided that I would go back to my apartment, pack a bag and leave immediately. If it is only two hours, I should get there between seven and eight. I found driving instructions on Portia's desk.

By five thirty, I had cleared my desk at the office, gone home, packed a bag and hit the road. Unfortunately it was rush hour; but, I convinced myself to not get aggravated and slow down and go with the flow. Eventually, I was heading North on the Thruway and traffic was thinning out.

After I left the Thruway and started driving my BMW on the twisty mountain roads, I could feel the tension easing out of my body. Although I trusted Portia's direction, I Goggled Kilmarnock Castle. Nothing came up?! I tried MapQuest and when I put in the street address, direction came up; but, no Castle. Strange!
At about eight, I drove up a long curvy driveway to a large black wrought iron gate.

A uniformed gate keeper came out and said, "Good evening Mr. MacAulay. Welcome. We have been expecting you. Please drive up to the Castle and Keith will arrange for your car and check in."

He opened the gate and I drove for approximately a mile through a light mist, when I saw this elegant, stately castle. How did he know my name? Am I the only guest?

Then in another quarter mile, I stopped by the magnificent entrance. Three Scottish uniformed men in kilts greeted me.

"Good evening and welcome Mr. MacAulay. Keith will take your luggage and Erin will take your car."

"Thank you. Am I in time for dinner?"

"Of course! No guest has ever gone to bed hungry."

Keith escorted me and my bag into the lobby. It took a moment to adjust to the grandeur of the place. Then this beautiful woman in a tartan kilt approached, curtsied and said, "Welcome, since this is your first visit we have made some guesses about what you would like. We hope it meets your satisfaction. Please tell us immediately if there is anything we can do to enhance your stay. Keith will show you to your room."

"Thank you." This was a bit overwhelming; but, go with the flow.

Keith brought me to an elegant suite that included a bedroom, a bath and a living room. The bedroom had a king bed and a king TV. The bath included both a Jacuzzi and a TV. The living room had a large screen TV, a fully stocked bar, a sofa and a large chair lounger. It was almost exactly like home, except that everything was bigger and better quality.

Then he said, "Can I unpack for you?"

"No thank you, I'll do that myself."

"Very good sir. May I fix you a drink? Perhaps a Tanqueray Martini, straight up with green olives and a glass of ice on the side?"

"Yes please."

How did he know that I was desperate for a drink and that his choice was exactly my favorite?

I settled back in the reclining lounge chair and sipped my martini.

"The TV has all the major networks and most of the premium channels. It is a bit late for the dining room; however, The Tartan Lounge is open till two AM. Everything on each menu is available from room service until midnight. I hope you enjoy your evening."

He then handed me the remote and the menus. I started to reach for my wallet; but, he said. "Thank you but oh no Sir. All tips are included. If I can, may I recommend an old movie, a Scottish favorite, Brigadoon."

I started to tune to one of the financial news channels but reconsidered and turned on Turner Classic Movies. I don't remember what was on. I savored my martini, sank into the chair and fell fast asleep.

At about three AM, I awoke. I was relaxed and very hungry. It was past room service time. Then I looked around.

On a table near my chair was a large silver domed serving tray. Inside was a turkey sandwich with Russian dressing, lettuce, and tomato on seeded rye and a plate of cookies. There was also a note that said that there was milk and beer in the refrigerator.

WOW! Exactly what I wanted.

How did they know? When did they bring it? And who pulled back my comforter and laid out my P.J.s?

I was too exhausted and to mellow to ask. I ate, brushed my teeth and went to bed.

I slept soundly till ten Friday morning. I wondered into the living room and there was a pot of coffee, a carafe of OJ and a basket of rolls and muffins. I was beginning to understand why the Senior Founding Partner liked this place.

Eventually I went down to the lobby. One of the receptionists said that the golf pro was looking for singles to build some foursomes. Since I had no idea of what I wanted to do, I said, "Great."

The next thing I knew, someone was handing me the correct size golf shoes and leading me to the Pro Shop to select what clubs I wanted to use.

Then I was in a lounge with a group of singles who were being set up as foursomes. My foursome included: Ben, a nuclear engineer, Alice, a CPA and Fiona, a physical therapist. Ben and Alice took one cart and Fiona and I the other.

We all hit it off and by the third hole we were like old friends. Fiona and I found that despite our different professions, we had a lot in common. Especially an empty hole in our hearts from a broken relationship.

At the Nineteenth Hole Bar, we all had a couple of beers and decided to meet for dinner.

I was really getting to like this place. On my way back to my room, I stopped at the gift shop and bought a MacAulay Clan plaid blazer and matching tie for me a matching scarf for Fiona.

Dinner was exceptional. It started out with a big laugh because I was not the only one who had gone to the gift shop and the four of us looked more Scottish than the staff. What a hoot! Glenmorangie Highland Single Malt Scotch and Chimay Grande Reserve beer flowed like water, and the food was excellent.

Afterwards we moved to the Tartan Lounge and danced until closing. Fiona and I said good night and agreed to go horseback riding on Saturday.

Saturday flew by like a warm Summer's breeze. We road along winding mountain trails basking in the red, yellow and orange of Fall leaves and then picnicked at a small lake with a waterfall at the far end. After we returned our horses to the stable, we went to an outdoor bagpipe concert. This was followed by another night of eating, drinking and dancing. Only thing different was tonight, Fiona spent the night in my room.

We spent most of Sunday in my room. I will not go into detail; but, if I was a poet or a writer, even if I wrote a thousand page sonnet, I could not describe how wonderful it was. Not just the love making. But the conversations, the honesty and the planning what we will do together.

On Monday we said a tearful goodbye.

"I love you Tommy and can't wait to see you next time," she yelled as I drove off.

That night after I got home and unpacked, I dialed her number.

"I am sorry the number you dialed is not in service."

Perhaps I had dialed wrong. I dialed again.

"I am sorry the number you dialed is not in service."

I tried to find Fiona Anderson on Facebook and LinkedIn but none of the descriptions seemed right.

OK, I'll give it a day. I must have written it down wrong. If she doesn't call me by tomorrow, I'll get the phone number for Kilmarnock Castle from Portia and get Fiona's number from the front desk. I did not want to wait, but I did not have a receipt and I already knew that I could not find the Castle on Google.

Tuesday morning I got to work bright and early. I felt like a new man and I was ready to slay dragons!

"Good morning Tommy, welcome to your new office."

"Wow this is fantastic! Thank you! And, also thank you for the wonderful four day weekend. I feel much better. The Kilmarnock Castle was everything that you said it would be."

"Kilmarnock Castle. Not sure what you mean; but, glad that you like your new office. Gloria and Portia will help you get settled in and about 2:00 come to my office to discuss your next project. I am sure that you will be excited about it."

The Senior Founding Partner left. I immediately picked up the phone and dialed Portia.

"Hi Portia, could you please give me the phone number for Kilmarnock Castle."

"Of course Mr. MacAulay. What city is it?"

"You would know better than me. You made a reservation for me there last Thursday."

"I don't remember doing that. Perhaps Gloria did it.

But it is funny that you mentioned Kilmarnock Castle. It reminds me of when I was a little girl and my grandfather used to tell me wonderful stories about The Kilmarnock Castle in the Scottish Highlands. It was supposed to have been a wonderful magic place until a wicked witch burned it down in 1622. The story is that it took four days to burn down and that once every hundred years it reappears somewhere for just four days and helps a few select Scotsmen from many different parts of the world rejuvenate their lives.

You know, just like the show, Brigadoon.

My grandfather was a good man, always believed that things work out for the best.

Sorry, to rattle on and on. Just, you brought back so many happy memories.
Is there anything else sir?"

"No and thank you"

Suddenly I realized that when I unpacked that I had left my new blazer and tie at the Castle. No blazer, no tie, no receipt, no castle and apparently no Fiona.

Almost like Brigadoon!

Had I dreamed it?

And then suddenly, I knew what I had to do!

Short(ish) Story Contest
Contest Winner

Thanks for reading and hoped you enjoyed it.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.

© Copyright 2024. Jerome Goldberg All rights reserved.
Jerome Goldberg has granted, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.