Just Rewards

“Come, quickly,” urged Jane Simmons breathlessly. “You’ll miss the punchline. It’s riveting.”

I doubted that. Edgar’s stories were not palatable let alone riveting. Insidious little creep that he was, “Blackhead” told macabre stories, violent stories, and stories decaying with double entendre, but delicious stories? Never.

Edgar, the worm in question, lifted his weasel eyes towards me (or worm eyes, if you prefer). His gaunt face pinched with anticipation, he scrutinized my entry into the coffee corral.

“Donald,” he mewed gleefully, venom oozing from his newly capped teeth. “You’re just in time. I’ll give you a run down.” He would have happily, if he were driving.

“Never mind,” I shrugged, as rudely as I dared.

From the corner of the room, the watchful eye of Mr. Samson, the boss, induced the corners of my lips into a painful grimace.

Mr. Samson, as he insisted we call him, liked his “boys” to get on, so what could I do? It would be considered unfriendly if I gave the creep the knee in the groin he deserved.

As one of the “boys” well over 45, okay closer to 55, I was sick of this charade. Our office included the most hostile nest of vipers ever gathered in one basket and yet we had to appear like old army buddies—a great gang of guys and gals as the aging Colonel put it. Behind his ample back, we focused on out-maneuvering one another and giving sharp nips at the Achilles heel of the employee above us on the ladder in the hope of dislodging him. Or her. We were an equal opportunity organization. Zero is zero.

“And so?” Jane glowed expectantly. “Don’t leave us unsatisfied.”

Her pale eyes frozen, her moist lips pulsating, our fresh young thing remained blithe to the office sniggers.

“Shall do,” the creep said, leering toward the choice young morsel. “To sum up for the latecomer,” he nodded in my direction. “Two partners in a company hated one another. I mean really detested…”

This I understood, as did some of the more alert employees who shoved their snouts into their coffee mugs to avoid eye contact.

“So one sets the other guy up. Finds a dead body and puts it in the other guy’s trunk and hides a weapon in the guy’s house on a night when he has an alibi. The guy knows he’s been set up but has a volatile past so he’s afraid to go to the police. Crafty, eh?”

The reference to ‘volatile past’ was harsh. It was only our living room window and the game was in overtime. But the story was a hit.

“Like Hitchcock,” the woman from research ruminated.

“Who?” the spaced-out delivery boy asked, the Dormouse at our Mad Hatter’s tea party.

“Alfred Hitchcock, you twit. He was a famous film director: horror films.”

“Art films,” Ted Grover roared.

The delivery boy wiggled to pull his pinhead back through the ring-around-the-collar into his teapot.

“Did you see Jaws?” the irrepressible Miss Simmons piped up.

“He didn’t direct Jaws,” moaned the offended film critic.

“Did I say he did?”

The Colonel, anchored in a large leatherette chair, examined his watch, which meant we were to disperse to our desks. Those among the up-and-coming dispersed to offices.

The Colonel maintained that with a hard-working crew like ours, he never had to worry about time clocks. It was only coincidental that he hovered like a large beige blimp around the reception desk at 9:02 a.m. as staff straggled in, proffering feeble smiles and excuses about cars not working or foul weather. For our efforts, the blimp presented us with a rubbery smile that lay across his wide, pudgy face like an anchovy across a blob of jelly.

That day, we missed the end of the Edgar’s charming story. Unfortunately, there would be more. Edgar, or as he preferred to be called, “Ed”, was the Colonel’s cousin, a fact which I, with my renowned delicacy, seldom mentioned more than twice a day. That linkage had enabled the creep to rise to the position of vice-president in charge of field operations. I wasn’t related to anyone who mattered, so I had had to rely on hard work to slowly crawl up the ladder to the vice-presidency of central support. It had been a treacherous climb, and I had the slivers to prove it.

At the top of the triangle was the presidency, a spot tenaciously held by the Colonel. Visualize, if you will, the rotund Colonel impaled at the point of the triangle, with the creep and I attempting to unhook him. Our efforts so far had been unsuccessful and the future did not look promising.

The bunch of odd socks that made up the Board of Directors were united on only one issue: their distrust of both Edgar and I. If I had had the dough to quit, I wouldn’t have put up with it another day. As it was, I held on to the job like a limpet and dreamt of ways to do in the interloper. Or, as a poor second, ways to dislodge the little bastard so he would slide down the triangle into a deep hole.

My mother pontificates that, in the end, people get their just rewards. Now, my mother can make delicious Fig Newtons, but as a philosopher, she is on the sunny side of Pollyanna. The punishment that would be Edgar’s just reward has not been invented. A Porsche-driving member of the local snob’s club in his too-clean, tailored suit, full head of wavy hair, rich wife, and gorgeous mistress, Edgar will haunt me ‘til the day one of us dies. And, unless I take a hand in it, and soon, it will be me first to the grave.

~ Melodie Corrigall

Published in Saturday Night Reader, August 2014. http://www.saturdaynightreader.com/