OUT OF OFFICE By: John Esquivel
Story by: Fuiru, Debshock, do-over, quixotekid,
Pigtailsandcombatboots, lafix & berimbauone
Stuart walked into the employee break room, his daily look of indifference instantly became a mask of revulsion. “what smells like broccoli?” A heavy set woman in her mid forties, reading a paperback romance novel in one hand, while stabbing at her lunch with the other, looked up. “That would be my lunch. I’m on a diet!”
Stuart gave a polite but forced smile and noted to himself that the broccoli she was eating was barely recognizable under all of that melted cheese. “Fat pig.” He thought to himself, sitting down at another table with his turkey sandwich.
“God, she is so gross. How can they hire someone like that?”
The woman’s name was Anna. She was hired in as one of the admins a few months ago. Although Stuart was in a different department, he had to rely on Anna to notarize documents and take care of certified mail for him on a daily basis.
Stuart who had maintained his runner’s physique since High School, was put off by her obesity. his obsession with good health and maintaining a neat appearance at all times clashed with her cluttered desk and obvious girth.
She had numerous knick-knacks, including several small statues of a particular animal. Not just any animal, mind you.
A Platypus. And they were ALL wearing hats. Baseball caps, Fedoras.
“They’re part of a series.” Anna said to Stuart, mistaking his marveling for curiosity. “They’re such a silly looking animal. It’s kinda my thing.” She laughed.
Always ending a sentence with a laugh. That braying, obnoxious laugh.
His coworkers seemed to love her though. Stuart was mystified. This was a woman who shouted across the office that she was itchy on days when the weather was cold and dry outside, instead of keeping it to herself. She was a woman who called the girls in Accounts Payable her “Sexy Android Ladies” because they were so efficient. Stuart found it very inappropriate. This was a woman who looked like she cut her hair by putting a colander on her head and snipping around it.
It didn’t help that his friend, Jameson from Legal, took a particular shine to her. They would chit chat often and for some reason or another, he would talk to her in a “Boris” accent, while she affected the “Natasha” one. It was so irritating. Their office was in South Beach! The accent made no sense!
There had also been more than one time that Stuart held his cursor over the SEND button. It was an email draft of a complaint he wrote complaining that “Anna’s repeated playing of country singer Marty Robbins on her ipod stereo thing was a distraction to the workplace.” It was addressed to Human Resources, and by God, one day he will send it.
After lunch, Stuart was called into his office by Jeff, his supervisor of eight years.
“Stuart, I’m gonna need you to do your own certified mail for awhile.” Stuart’s eye’s lit up at the idea of not having to go to that overweight…
“We’re letting Anna go today.”
Stuart blinked. “Really? Um… why?”
“Corporate wants us to thin out the budget a bit. I hate to do it, but a couple of gals in payables downstairs are getting cut too.” Jeff let out a sigh. “Hey! You want to hit up that new martini bar in midtown after work?”
Stuart didn’t answer and had to have the question repeated to him after a moment.
Later on, Stuart glanced over at Anna’s desk and watched as she gathered her things into a white box, provided by H.R. After a minute or so, he could see, even from behind, as her shoulders slumped and her body twitched with obvious signs that she was crying.
Stuart noticed out of the corner of his eye that Jameson, at first on his way to her desk, froze when he saw her breakdown, then make a beeline for the opposite side of the office.
Stuart approached her slowly and then crouched down by her. “Hey, Anna. I just wanted to say…”
Anna immediately turned and wrapped her arms around him, burying her head in his shoulder, racking sobs now.
“I know.” It was the first thing he could think of saying, and the words came slowly and softly. “I know.” Over her shoulder, he saw a framed photo of her with what must of been her family. She was standing with a man, most likely her husband and two children in front of them. A windmill in the background. A happy moment frozen in time with their toothy grins.
Later in the week, Stuart snuck a look at her personnel file. He jotted her address down quickly. A few days after that, Anna opened up an envelope that had no return address on it. Inside was a greeting card. She opened it up and gasped at the ten crisp one hundred dollar bills that slipped out of it. Inside were written the words, “I’m so sorry.”
On the front was a photo of a platypus with a cowboy hat on it’s head.