"Local Boy Makes Good, Dies of Trying Soon After." Fearful of this epitaph, Gary Gray seeks to avoid career pressures by working as a temp. Unfortunately, Gary repeatedly gets into trouble by being too conscientious and outperforming the permanent employees. No matter how hard Gary tries to be a meek office worker, he can't seem to stop himself from becoming a competitive threat to his co-workers and superiors. Meanwhile, Gary's girlfriend is smart and beautiful, and he just might be able to hold onto her if he can stay employed and quit accidentally mooning her mom. Gary runs afoul of a host of difficult characters in the workplace. Marge Meko is thoroughly incompetent, but she has "the goods" on the boss, so she easily gets away with blaming her errors on Gary. Marge's boss, Steve, wants all problems swept under the rug before they become an inconvenience to his cushy position. Rae is a secretary with an overblown ego, intent on consolidating power by crushing all her perceived competitors. Gary is convinced that College President Burton is a mere figurehead, pulled from the ranks of the indigent and propped up by Rae, the power behind the throne. Through his trials Gary comes to the amazing revelation that it may actually be less painful to die trying than to live the "easy" life of the temp.
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The story behind the story.
Temp was written over the course of several years, in fits and starts. In between its chapters, I would write something else until I got a good idea of what the next episode should be. Then I spent a couple of years, off and on, reworking it into the shape I wanted.
Although the crux of the story is about life as a temp, and consequently must be centered around the workplace, I wanted to be sure to mix in enough of Gary’s personal life to give the reader a better flavor for his life. I didn’t want him to be just a guy who gets up every morning and goes off to a crappy job, and then does the same thing in the next chapter without having any kind of interesting home life. Gwen was also very important to the “plot” because Gary desperately needed a stabilizing force.
Because I happen to work at an institution of higher learning, people may be tempted to read some sort of veiled commentary about the state of higher education into Gary’s adventures. This is a futile exercise. None of the characters in Temp bear the slightest resemblance to any of the people with whom I work. I feel fortunate to be able to say that there is far more professionalism around me than around Gary. I truly respect the people around me, which is something that Gary would never be privileged to do.
The real reason I chose to set Gary down in an educational institution is that I know enough about such enterprises to be able to write about them in a fairly plausible manner. I might have set him down in the investment banking industry, but nobody would have believed he really worked there. I just don’t know enough about the daily workings of such a place to make it seem like it could be real. Even though Temp is a series of farces that can scarcely be believed, they still do need to be a little bit believable if they are not to be rejected outright by good many readers.