As Assigned (500Words, Round 3, Day 3, 2/14/18)
He pushed himself away from his desk in disgust. That last email had been more than he was prepared for and he needed some distance from it if he had any hope of getting today’s project off to the next group. He scratched his head mindlessly as he paced back and forth in his cube. A glance at the clock hanging above the entrance to the office told him that it was 3 pm, too early to leave and not nearly enough time to finish. Even though he was crunched for time, he walked out of his cube and headed for the break room hoping for something or someone to be in there to distract him and help him clear his head.
Doing this work wasn’t what he’d wanted to do and projects like this made it hard to fight the feelings of despair that danced around the edges of his consciousness. He’d committed to seeing this through, to himself and to his wife, and there was no way he was disappointing them both no matter how hard the work got. The break room was empty. All his coworkers were happily typing away in their cubes, doing their jobs without issue or complaint, marking time in this space until 5 pm came and opened the doors wide. He could do the same. He just needed some chocolate and some time away from the haunting images.
He went right for the third cabinet. It was the most likely to be hiding chocolate and he’d decided that was what would help the most. As he started to open it, Jackie chirped “The cupboard is bare, Michael. Remember the date?”
Michael paused, then opened the door anyway, hoping Jackie was wrong. She wasn’t. The only things in there were random packets of condiments from a variety of take-out orders from days gone by.
“You emptied the cabinets, Jackie? Seriously?” Michael kept his back to her so he could let his face show his full emotions without incident.
“Yes, and a good thing I did, too, clearly.” Michael tensed at the smugness in her voice, could almost hear her finger waggling at him. “It hasn’t been a full day yet and you’re already on the hunt for contraband.”
“You understand, Jackie,” Michael said as he slowly turned to face her after having arranged his face into a more acceptable expression, “that we’re not ALL observing Lent, right?”
She tilted her head and wagged the finger he had been sure he heard again. “Well, Michael. We all should be observing it, shouldn’t we? And so, it makes sense to remove temptation, doesn’t it? Why should I arrange this office to support…” Michael could hear what she’d wanted to say and, in spite of himself, smiled when she finished with “rule breakers” instead of heathens.
“Why, Jackie? Because some of us have deadlines and don’t have time to run downstairs to get a snack. Because sometimes, after looking at message after message from parents looking for support and protection from people who should have been a source of knowledge and safety, a man needs some chocolate.” Michael’s voice had risen to a volume loud enough to cause chair after chair to roll out into the aisle.
* This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people or events is strictly coincidental. *