A Bad Boss
This time her boss had gone too far.
Half-gnawed donuts littered Roses desk when she came to work that morning. A piece of chocolate glazed smeared across the Bronson project, a chewed-up coconut sprinkle crumbled over the rough design of EZ Window Washers, ripped-apart maple bars and Boston crèmes oozed from her pencil jar, her top drawer and on the pink rush order forms of the Baker long-run project.
“Someone should tell his father about that boy.” Rose planted her fists on her wide hips.
“What the….” said Jeremy, walking past with his arms full of clip art, the old fashioned kind on real paper. Jeremy was merely thirty, but he like to do things the old fashioned way when he could, sticking to the artwork with rubber cement and checking placement on the lightboard.
“He thinks he’s helping with my diet,” said Rose.
Jeremy looked doubtful. “Is it working?”
Rose picked up a nugget of Old Fashioned and threw it at him.
“No offense, gee...,” Jeremy threw his hand in the air in exclamation. Artwork fluttered. He scrabbled on the ground for it, kneeling in donut.
“Everyone in this office thinks I’m too fat and they seem to think that should change,” said Rose. “But everyone here has problems just as big as me.” Her voice rose.
The other people on the floor raised their heads like gophers, sensing something more interesting than their work.
“And I don’t see anyone else changing, or even trying, or getting harassed everyday about it.”
“Well….” said Jeremy, on his knees. "But how do you know it was hi...?"
“Because he tells me every day to eat half as many donuts. As if I eat any, ever. The biggest problem with being fat is that it’s visible.”
“You all have flaws, huge flaws.” Rose fished a rubber glove from a bottom desk drawer and started picking up bakery products with two fingers and plopping them into the waste can. “You hide them more easily, is all.”
“I doubt that,” said Marguerite, entering from the darkroom.
Rose glared at her. “You would.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that you can see other people’s negatives so easily, but you don’t seem to have any darkroom solution to immerse yourself in so you can see your own.”
“I came in here to say good morning and you tell me to dunk myself in developer? You haggish blimp.”
Jeremy coughed. “I think that’s an oxymoro….,” he looked up, saw their faces, and trailed off. He looked down, wiped donut off his shirt, and tried again. “I mean, haggish implies thin and scrawniness I thi…,” he trailed off. Jeremy wasn’t very sure of anything he said, but he always started saying it anyway.
“Shut up!” Rose and Marguerite yelled together.
“I think it does, it implies being old and past ripeness, scrawny…” Jeremy muttered, backing away.
Marguerite stepped towards Rose. “You think there’s something wrong with me?”
“I said, everyone in this office has something wrong with them. Not just me.”
“So you admit there’s something wrong with you.”
Rose had half a Boston Crème in her gloved hand. She raised it and took a step. Marguerite’s face flushed, Rose could see the pore clusters beside her nose. “I should smear this in your face,” said Rose. “I wonder who took a bite and left their germs all over it.”
“Oh!” wailed Marguerite. “I can’t stand….give me those rubber gloves….I …..where are my wipes?”
“You’re germaphobic,” said Rose. “I’ve seen you wiping your pencils. You take the cellophane off a new package of wipes every morning.”
“They get dust on them if they’re open overnight.”
“You’re some kind of compulsive. You should get help for that.”
Jeremy came back into the room with a completed art board, heading for the boss’s office at the back of the small printing company.
“And you! You’re so insecure you can’t even finish a sentence,” said Rose. She looked around the printing floor.
“And Ralph is a liar.”
Ralph, his hand in the letterpress used for embossing business cards, looked up.
“He told me the other day his ancestor was Monctezuma."
“Pah!,” said Ralph.
“And Patty picks her skin.”
Patty, at the reception desk near the entrance, smoothed her hair and looked petrified.
“Have you seen her? She’s always got a hand in her hair, because she’s scratching at the scabs on her scalp.”
Marguerite, Jeremy and Ralph grimaced.
“And Harold, he goes out every lunch hour and cheats on his wife,” she said in a booming voice.
Harold walked in.
“Sometimes he’s late to work because he’s visited her in the morning.”
Harold’s face went blank. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Harold, Ralph, and Patty walking towards the screeching Rose as if drawn to a magnet.
“I’m sick of being the only one with a problem people talk about! Yes, I’m fat. God, so what. I will fix my fat problem when everyone else in this office fixes their own weird failings.”
They circled around Rose’s desk, glaring, looking bewildered or guilty or amused or blank, according to their failings. Rose hefted a waste can full of smashed donuts.
The small offset in the far corner stopped its rhythmic swish-clacking; the floor was suddenly dead quiet.
“Out of paper,” muttered Ralph, “I’d better….”
“Why didn’t you load it properly?” said Harold.
“I did, I checked it twice.”
“Liar,” whispered Patty, her hand behind her ear.
“Scalp picker,” said Harold.
“Scumbag,” said Marguerite.
“Loudmouth,” said Harold.
“Loudmouth, are you fucking kidding? She’s the one who’s been yelling her head off!”
“Shut up!” said Rose.
“Fat bi….” said Jeremy, trailing off as the boss’s office door opened.
The boss entered, his Italian shoes clicking on the scarred cement floor. He smiled. He was twenty-three and his father had given him this company to play with.
“Learn from this place, son,” his father had said. “See how they do things. It’s been in business a long time. Not flashy, but steady work. People always need flyers printed. Brochures, newspaper inserts. Nothing exciting, nothing grandly creative. Just things people need communicated.”
The boss smiled at his employees with rum on his breath. “Having a nice morning?”
The boss’ father had run this business for thirty years. He bought other small printing businesses until he owned and operated thirty-six companies in the western states. He flew in from Colorado every month and rented out the top of the Hilton, or took his son heli-skiing or to a 4 star hunting lodge in Montana for the weekend.
“A fine morning,” said Rose.
The boss adjusted his tie. “I’m going to lunch with my father. We'll be back afterwards to check over the current projects.”
When a boss has gone too far, he should lock his office when he leaves.
Without speaking, Rose, Marguerite, Patty, Jeremy, Harold, and Ralph squeezed into the boss’s office. It wasn’t a lavish space, although the boss had hired a renovation company to enlarge it and there were concrete foundation blocks laid out outside the window. It took very little time for them to find the liquor cabinet, because it wasn’t hidden. It sat against the wall across from the paperless desk.
"Maybe if he just drank half as much," whispered Rose.
They each took out a bottle, unscrewed caps, yanked out stoppers, and poured out half. They poured alcohol over the desk, on the carpet, on the strewn change of clothes and wadded pillow on the leather couch. They tossed the half-dead soldiers in corners.
They left the room, closed the door, and looked at each other.
“Group hug?” said Harold.
“Pah!” said Ralph.
“Idiot,” said Marguerite.
“Maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea under the cir….” mumbled Jeremy.
“Donuts are on me,” said Rose.