In order to reach my desk at the back of the office, I have to pass everyone else’s half-walled cubicle on the fifth floor of my building first. “Hello, Deborah. Hello, Mary. Hello, Marshall.” Marshall tries to hide the fact that he’s balding by always being excited when he sees you. Like, for that one instant, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more enjoyable than talking to you and giving you a high-five. Always the high-five. In my opinion, that ritualistic Neanderthal greeting is just another attempt to distract you from the glare reflecting from the ball of his head.
“Hello, Harry. Hello, Frank. Hello, Suzanne.” Not Suz-in, like your husbands are inside me when you’re at work or staying with your sick mother. But Suz-anne, like I’m an expert on processing male thoughts of fidelity through the chasm between my breasts, inviting them to stare, to guess, to undress, to watch me bend and pinch my shoulder blades as I retrieve an accidentally fallen pencil.
I hate her.
“Hello, Donnie. Hello Bonnie. Hello, Richard.” Never call him Dick. He had a bad experience in high school that only I know about. He left his computer for lunch without logging out, and Mr. Phillips told me to retrieve some papers from his desk. I couldn’t help taking a quick look. A quick peek. He practically wanted me to flip through his files. He probably did.
“Hello, Janet.” The last person on the most efficient route across the forest green carpeting, beneath the rattling air conditioning vents, and through the maze of cubicles to reach my desk. There’s nothing interesting about Janet except that when she sneezes, she sometimes tries to keep her eyes open. She likes to try to prove little facts like that wrong. I once saw her trying to lick her elbow.
However, you don’t care about them. You care about me. Barbra F. Martins. The most interesting person at work today. Interesting not because the F. in my name stands for Fiona—my grandmother’s name before she died—but for something much greater than that. Interesting for something that distinguishes me from everyone in the office, maybe even everyone on the block—why, I might even be the most interesting person in the city. Because before I left the house for work at 7:39am in my dark blue Prius that gets forty-two miles to the gallon, I placed the end of a 9mm Smith & Wesson to the front of my husband’s forehead and pulled the trigger.
And no one knows but me.
Workworkwork. I like to hum words together in my head like that. Thatthatthat. It makes the boredom of this job seem less insatiable. I wanted to be a singer when I was little. That’s why I hate American Idol, because every person on that show never knew what it was really like to be a singer. The real singers never get a chance to be on stage. They’re the ones working in ambivalent diners or massaging the carpel tunnel from their wrists. Or working as a sales representative for an off brand of Zip-loc like I do. Those people on American Idol never knew what it’s like to be a real singer! I’m the real singer! I’m the real one!
But today it’s okay. I forgive them. Today I ended the relationship with my husband. Isn’t it funny to think of it like that? I broke up with him. It’s like I took him to prom, and right as that last song starts, right as he looks deeply into my eyes, right as he leans in for that storybook kiss, I say, “Adios, amigo!” and sprint out of there, my high-heeled shoes in hand, his face hurt and confused, my feet patterpatterpattering away.
It feels good.
Janet’s staring at me again. She has this terrible habit of zoning off right as she starts to get productive. I’ve tried to help her. “Janet, you should focus. You don’t want Mr. Phillips talking to you about your sales again.” I’m sympathetic like that. I want her to be successful. She’s a nice girl. She’s just a little weird at times.
But today, as she stares at me, I’m just going to stare right back at her. And I’ll scream with my eyes: “I killed him! I blew his brains all over the pillow! I had to wash some of his sticky blood from my cheek!” And maybe, just maybe, she’ll get the hint.
Good thing to note: you should always do your makeup after you shoot someone instead of before.
“Hey, Barbra, did you get that list of sales compiled yet?” asks Richard. “Phillips is hounding me for the quarterly wrap-up.” He looks down at me with those haunting, brown eyes. We all had to take public showers in high school, Dick. We all have to forget one memory or another. Don’t keep those eyes so sad, Dick. Don’t keep curling the ends.
“Yeah, I have ‘em right here, Richard. Completed and ready to go.”
“Thanks, Barb.” He takes the papers from my hand and turns back toward his office. His shoulders seem to naturally curl toward his lungs, like the shield he used to wear on his back is lost, and now his spine is the only guard for the back of his heart.
It’s hard to forget carrying a weight like that for so long.
“Hey, Bahrb.” I would know Suzanne’s gum chewing mantra anywhere. Chew, chew, chew, chew, blow a little bubble, POP, lick the gum off the lips. Repeat. “Whatcha working on today? Still got that Meyer client lookin’ to buy a couple cases?”
“I actually made that sale a while ago. Thank you for your persistent fickle interest, though.”
“Just asking. No need to get snippy with me, Bahrb.”
“I’m not getting snippy, Suz-in. Unlike you, I just have work to do that doesn’t involve pressing my breasts together.”
“Jeeze! Who died today? No need to piss in my cereal, too. Just asking how you’s doing. Gawsh.” She storms away thinking that I will regret being rude, but she underestimates a crucial fact today: it’s difficult to feel remorse for speaking bluntly when you’ve killed a man before eight o’clock.
“Yo, Barb! Up top!” Marshall has his hand in the air with that same goofy grin on his face. At least he’s tilting his chin back a little so it’s harder for me to see the top of his head. That’s more useful than the Chuck E. Cheese mascot audition he’s constantly doing.
“Yes, Marshall? I’m somewhat busy.” I feel slightly bad as his hand slinks downward like a balloon without enough helium.
“Phillips wants to see you in his office. He said it’s urgent.”
“Thank you, Marshall. I will head over there as soon as I finish this document.”
“He told me to tell you to go now. Apparently someone else is here to see you…”
Why does he just wait there for me to do something? He’s delivered his information; he should return to his IV drip of caffeine where he exchanges MTV, monosyllabic words with his other solar panel headed friends.
“Well, then I will head over there now. Thank you, Marshall. …You may be dismissed.” And I have to shoo him like a dog that has already received one too many treats.
He nods and walks away.
I know I’m popular today, but I didn’t think anyone else knew that as well. Who could be here to see me? What need could he (or she) have? Ugh. All these thoughts seem so perpendicular to my steps. Clunk-clack. Clunk-clack. It’s like my shoes are pinning my thoughts to the ground otherwise I would float away. I would just rise up and hit the ceiling, and as soon as my body touched the vents, I would slowly dissolve into mist—like an advanced version of the villain in Terminator 2—and I would travel through the silver pipes and emerge from this grisly building into the gray sky and linty clouds above.
Thank God I’m wearing these shoes.
But who could be in Mr. Phillips’ office to make this so urgent?
Maybe they found out that I exaggerated the number of cases I sold to Meyer.
I just had to beat Janet. I want her to do well, but if I do worse than her…Well, I don’t want to be trying to lick my elbow when no one’s looking! It must be about the forged numbers. It’s probably someone from accounting that needs me to explain--
—why there are fifteen extra cases on the report sheet I filed. I’m going to be fired for this I’m sure! …Oh wait…I just handed that sheet over to, Dick. There’s no way they could know about this yet.
I wonder who could be here to see me?
Dtonk. Dtonk. Dtonk. I like to knock forcefully on doors so that when people open it, they understand that I’m not someone who can be pushed around. Nor am I one who is willing to wait long.
“Come in!” hollers the muffled Phillips. They should cut a small panel into the bottom of doors that slides out at the touch of a button. This way when someone yells from the inside, it’s easier to hear them. I’ll have to write that down in my journal to work on later.
I open the door and walk inside. “You wanted to see me, Mr. Phillips?” I use the most cordial tone my larynx will permit.
It takes him a moment to look up from his papers. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
Well what is it you incompetent buffoon?
He rubs his brow and closes his eyes. “I received an interesting call this morning.”
Really? Could you be any less specific?
“From—” he clears his throat “—the police station.”
“Yes,” he groused as if hearing me, “the police station.”
The body! I knew I forgot to do something as I left this morning. I thought it was the stove, but now I remember it was definitely the body.
“They found Robert.”
If only I had remembered…this reminds me, I can’t forget to switch that case number on the Meyer report before its made official.
“They found him still drunk from the previous night outside Louis’ Place. The only form of identification on him was your business card. And for some God-knows-reason, they brought him here. I told them to keep him downstairs until you were ready to take him home.” He looks up at me like he wants an apology.
I won’t give it.
“So it appears that you have the rest of the day off. Drive him back, fix him up, and please, for the love of God, don’t let this happen again. I know every man has his fixing for alcohol, but it’s a woman’s job to temper it. Can you handle that?”
“Yes, sir. Of course. I’m so sorry. This won’t happen again, I promise.”
“Thank you, Barbra.” I quietly turn to walk out the door. “Oh, and Barbra, Richard says you did great on the Meyer’s sale.” He pathetically attempts a grin. “There may be something extra coming your way if you keep this up.”
“Thank you, sir. I will do my best.” I close the door gently and head toward the elevator.
Maybe I was remembering tomorrow when I shoot him. Yes, that must be it. Tomorrow. I shoot him tomorrow. Sleeping on the left side of the bed, on his back, his head tilted toward the edge of the mattress, cold iron against his skin. clickBANG. First, though, I have to pick him up, take him home, change his shirt, feed him—Oh so much to do, to do.
Tomorrow, yes, tomorrow. I must have been remembering tomorrow.
Jake Teeny is currently pursuing his PhD at Ohio State University, where he studies the psychology of persuasion. Be careful. Continuing to read this may convince you to check out his website, www.jaketeeny.com, where he has more short stories and life-transformative thoughts on psychophilosophy. Or don't. You're free to do whatever you want...
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