Category: Fiction

The Office Halloween Party

Never argue with the boss

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

I hate fucking Halloween office parties. Or any office party.

I will be just one more employee pretending to be having fun while Susan, the company owner, revels in false praise from her drunken underlings. Just a bunch of adults acting like six-year-olds. I take that back. Worse. At least the kids are not drunk.

I made a terrible mistake last year when I went as the Jolly Green Giant. I thought it would be perfect, but it made it impossible to be inconspicuous when you are 6’5” and all green. I had nowhere to hide.

My only goal this year was to wear a costume so that I could disappear into the crowd without anyone knowing who I was. Something easy…hmmm. I got it. Casper! Casper the Unfriendly Ghost. One white sheet. Holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Five minutes and I’m done. And if I play it right, I can hide out in her laundry room and no one will be the wiser.

Five minutes into my costume project I realized I would never be doing costume designs in Hollywood. I couldn’t even make a damn Casper costume. I didn’t realize I could feel any more worthless since my wife left me. I was wrong. Now that I look back on this it was probably the Jolly Green Giant costume that was the final straw for her. That was a lot of work.

“Hey, Charlie.” Charlie is my big sister who inherited all our mother’s homemaking skills. “Do you have time to help me with a costume?”

Now you call me? Three days before Halloween when I am making the kid’s costumes? Really Jim?” At least she didn’t say no. 

“Sorry, sis. I thought I could pull this one off by myself. I lied. But it is super simple and will take you ten minutes tops,” I implored with my whiny baby brother voice.

“Oka-a-ay. I will be home all day. Bring what you have, and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks, sis. I will be there in an hour. Love you.”

“You better. I don’t do this for just anyone,” she joked.

One hour later I pull up to Charlie’s house. I almost didn’t recognize it. It looked like something from The Adam’s Family tv show.

Where do these people find the time to do this shit?

Her husband Shannon answers the door. I know what you’re thinking. Shannon? My sister and her husband should switch names. “Hi, Shannon. You’ve been busy,” I say pointing to the Halloween decorations. “Keeping up with the Joneses?”

“You know your sister. Halloween is her thing. And Christmas. And the 4th of July. And Thanksgiving. I should be grateful I get a day of rest for Labor Day,” he says in his still lingering Irish accent.

Charlie greets me with a hug as I come in the door. “This is it?” she says looking at the sheet I am holding. “I said it was simple,” I respond.

“Let me guess. You are going to find a bed at the party and go as Rip Van Winkle?” she said half laughing.

“Wow! That’s a great idea. I wish I would have thought of that. The guests would throw their jackets over me. It would be my perfect cover to be anonymous. But I’m not that clever. Just Casper.”

“Wow,” she says with a shit-eating grin. “You must have racked your brain coming up with that plan.”

“Hey now. I had to devise the perfect costume that was so boring no one would want to talk to me. And one where they could not recognize me. Hence, Casper.” I waited for her praise for my decision.

“Oh really? Just how does a 6’5” man hide anywhere? I think you did it. I think you’ve finally gone off the deep end, dear brother.”

I hate it when she’s right. “Don’t even. You have no idea how horrible these company Halloween parties are,” I say with all the vitriol I could muster.

Her sympathetic response? Laughter. Gut-busting, tears-down-your-cheeks laughter. When she finally contains herself, she gives me a big hug and stands on her tiptoes to kiss my cheek. “Okay, my antisocial little brother. Let’s get to it.”

Shannon and I plop down with some beers to watch the Bear’s game. He still prefers soccer over American football. Even so, we have become good friends. He is everything I hoped I would be. A great husband and father. Maybe someday some poor, destitute, Hollywood starlet will see what a catch I am and take pity on me. One could hope.

The night of the dreaded party arrived. My boss Susan loves to put her beautiful multimillion-dollar home on display for us peons any chance she gets. She even had two greeters by the front entrance dressed as Elon Mush and Jeff Bezos. The gods she prays to every night.

When I walked into the three-story-tall foyer, I realize my costume choice was perfect. Not a soul turned to check me out. Of course, we all had to walk what seemed like two blocks to get to the “party” room. During the enlightening trip, we were all exposed to Susan’s wealth dripping from the walls. I would be okay with it if it weren’t for her let me rub this in-your-face attitude.

While all the attendees begin to mill around “the Ballroom” I wisely use this time to scope out the best hiding spots. I even begin to formulate my escape plan. If I could talk King Kong, Godzilla, and Puff the Magic Dragon to run interference for me I think I could make it out alive. Yeah, I know. Not very imaginative costumes. Not like mine.

Butlers were roaming the room like chess pieces on a checkerboard offering glasses of champagne to the huddled masses. I, being a huddled mass, quickly took advantage of said offering. Now where would I find a nice cubbyhole to hide in, I wondered.

I was on my trek for a hidey-hole when the queen of the ball made her entrance. I have to say I was shocked. I suspected Cinderella in her ballgown flowing down the two-story staircase. Instead, the one hundred or so people all stared at her in shock. Her costume was…wait for it…Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter. Just what this party needed. Another ghost. In truth, the costume was amazing.

As she floated down the staircase her eyes were like guided missiles looking for an unsuspecting target. One she could attack with her Moaning Myrtle malevolence. She hit the floor and floated directly at me. I was trapped, my back against the wall. Wishing I could do a Casper escape and just walk through the wall.

“You. What are you supposed to be?” And the interrogation has begun.

“Casper the Friendly Ghost.”

She looked me up and down. Charlie did what she could, but it was unquestionably one of the worse costumes at the party. “Do you work for me?”

“Yes. In accounting.”

“Did you not see the memo that stated no one was to wear a ghost costume? Now, look what you’ve done.”

“I’m sorry Myrtle, uh, I mean Susan. I didn’t see that memo.” I swear to God she was about to put a hex on me. And then a miracle happened. No. Really. An honest to God miracle. She laughed. I mean, like a real laugh.

After her giggles came to an end she looks me up and down and says, “That is one bad costume.”

“Thank you. That is what I was going for. Trying to be inconspicuous.”

“How’d that work out for you,” she said with a smile.

She was freaking me out. I knew she had no clue who I was so why was she being nice? “Too early to tell. So far you are the only one here that has noticed me.”

“Okay accounting guy. Do you have a name?”

“I’d rather not say.” I was smiling by now but I doubt she could tell through my costume.

“H-mmm. I guess I’ll just have to fire everyone in accounting,” she says in her I’m the boss voice.

“You’d do that?” I blurted out in surprise.

“In a hot minute,” was her response.

Well at this point I’m thinking I already lost my job so what the hell. “I guess everything they say about you is true.”

Her eyebrows raised nearly to her hairline. Her eyes were prepping to shower me with dragon’s flame. “And just what is it they say about me? And who are they exactly?”

I realized I had let my pending job loss get the best of me. Now she will go on a witch hunt to find all those that have ridiculed her. “I’ll be going now. It’s been nice working with you,” I lied.

She stepped in my path—a dangerous thing for a 5’8” thin woman to do. “If I could rip that costume off you right now I would. I want to meet the man that would talk to me like that.” Here’s the weird thing. There was no anger in her voice. She wasn’t even using her I’m the boss voice.

I side-stepped her and began my two-block trek to the exit. I didn’t get more than five feet from the wall when I was yanked backward. She had grabbed my sheet and was trying to disrobe me. I spun and ripped the sheet out of her hands, causing her to lose her footing and fall right on her ass. For the first time since I first met her, I noticed it was a nice ass. I reached down to give her a hand up. She took it. She was so light I threw her right into me.

“Look, Susan. I really didn’t want to be here. I hate office parties where everyone is expected to suck up to the boss. This is my third one. So, I don’t have to tell you that this is true. I will be in the office on Monday. You can make a big display of firing me in front of the entire accounting department. Will that make you happy so I can get the hell out of here?”

“Your name?” she asked.

“Jim Rogers.”

“Well take that stupid costume off so I can see you and recognize you when you come to get fired.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m in my underwear underneath this.”

The big eyes again. She was biting her lips in a poor attempt to suppress a smile. The smile won. “Your serious.”

“What can I say? I run hot. Having this sheet on is rather suffocating.” I lifted the bottom of the sheet to my bare leg above my sock.

Now she is giving me one of those this man is totally nuts looks. “How did you ever get hired here?”

“I’m really good at ensuring your company is profitable. If you got off your high horse once in a while and met some of the lowlifes, you might know that.”

She grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me.” She led me through a maze of rooms to an elevator that took us to the second floor. Not a word was spoken. Now, what the hell is she doing? Is she going to throw me to my death?

She opened a door large enough for an elephant to walk through. “You first,” she ordered.

“Is this where you bury the dead bodies?” I joked. Not really. I was beginning to believe it.

“Only when I am done torturing them. Now take off that stupid sheet so I can see your face.”

“I am rather shy. I really don’t want you to know what type of underwear I wear.”

She points. “The bathroom is through that door. Grab a towel to cover your, uh, underwear so I can FREAKING SEE YOU!”

“Look. If I am going to be nearly naked in front of you, I think it’s only fair you strip down to your undies.” It’s amazing the feeling you get when you know nothing’s on the line.

“What? I just want to see your face. And besides idiot. Can’t you tell with this costume I’m not wearing a bra?”

“Honestly, I wasn’t checking you out,” I said. “You’re my boss. That would be inappropriate.”

Her arm flies up in a near-Nazi salute and points again to the bathroom. “Just do what you have to do so I can see your face,” she screams.

“Yes, master.” I clicked my heels and headed to the bathroom. How did I get into this mess? Just minding my own business and now I’m getting fired. I will never go to another company party. EVER.

I walk out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel to an empty room. “Hello?” My life flashes before my eyes. I scan the room for security cameras thinking she is showing this to everyone at the party. Fuck it. I head back to the bathroom for my sheet but before I could get there I hear another door close.

“Hello?”

“I thought about it. You were right. I should not have asked you to strip down like that. Unless I was willing to do the same,” she said with the sexiest damn smile I have ever seen. Of course, the fact she was naked may have enhanced my opinion.

Never argue with the boss.

© Joe Merkle 2021

Originally published on Medium.com

A Lover’s Fairytale

Image from Stock Nation Royalty free

He was in no hurry. On a beautiful day such as this, every moment was one to cherish. The breeze was rustling through the palms ever so gently as the white willow wisps of clouds painted ghostly shadows on the gently rolling hills.

It had been a long time, lifetimes to Paul since he strolled through the narrow cobblestone streets of this tiny seaside fishing village. The villagers were just now beginning to start their day. The women could be heard in the houses trying to stir their families into action. Most of the men were already out to sea, hoping for a good catch to bring to market.

Paul left the road, taking his time strolling out towards the hillside that overlooked the azure waters. He stopped on the hilltop to enjoy the ocean breeze in his face and the gulls frolicking overhead that instilled a feeling of great inner peace and oneness with creation within him. He had forgotten how good it was to relax and not take the world so personally. After all, I’m just a traveler at a rest stop, not the conqueror of empires.

The laughter of the children playing on the beach that spread out below him snapped Paul from his revelry. What greater joy could be found than in a child’s laughter. And then he saw her. From this distance, it was hard to tell if she was one of the children. Round and round she raced with the kids, laughing and splashing in the surf that caressed the white sand beach. “I do believe this merits investigation,” he said to himself. Without further hesitation, he ripped off his shoes and ran down to the beach.

Paul was stunned. She was drop-dead gorgeous. She had a timeless beauty that would have been stunning in any century. Her long blonde hair and soft pastel dress lent an air of radiance about her. As she approached him her large green eyes and marvelously sculptured lips broke into an irresistible smile that could melt the polar ice cap. The web was already cast, and Paul was the contented victim.

“Hi, there. A beautiful day is it not?” said a voice that could make angels jealous. While Paul tried to find his voice all he could do is shake his head in the affirmative and grin stupidly. “Would you like to play tag with us? Oh, I’m sorry, let me introduce myself. I’m Keeri, and you are?”

“P-Paul,” he managed to stutter over a still handicapped tongue.

Keeri had a questioning look in her eyes, thinking to herself that Paul must be new around here for she could not remember seeing him before. And she would most definitely remember that event. As she studied him more closely she came to the conclusion he was attractive, h-m-m, extremely attractive, she thought. He stood about six inches taller than her, she being five foot nine. His body was, well, perfect. He had deep-set blue eyes that exuded a penetrating strength but a sense of serenity at the same time. His chin was strong with a sexy cleft, his nose slightly bigger than ideal, and his brown hair looked as if it hadn’t been cut for some time. But it was his smile and lips that caught her attention as she found herself wanting to kiss them a few thousand times at this very moment.

“Sure”, said Paul. I’d love to play with you, and, uh, the kids.”

As they played and laughed and shared their love of children their admiration for each other grew. Their glances grew longer until they could no longer keep their eyes from one another. No longer did they hear the water lapping on the shore or the gulls screeching overhead. They became a world unto themselves, living for the moment, afraid to ask questions better left unanswered.

Never had either of them felt such a powerful connection before. It was as if there was no beginning or end to this crazy love, it was simply waiting for fulfillment.

Keeri took Paul to one of her favorite secluded spots along the shore. With the sound of the water breaking on the shore, they spent what was left of the morning making love and making friends. Keeri then suggested they grab a morsel of food and some homemade wine.

As they wound their way through the mostly deserted, narrow village streets Kari asked, “Where are you from Paul?”

Paul stifled a laugh and replied, “Well to tell you the truth I’ve never lived in one place long enough to call home. If I had to pick one I guess it would be Chicago.”

“How about family, friends, or maybe a wife?” laughed Keeri with a mischievous gleam in her eye.
“No family alive. A few friends scattered all over the globe. Negative on the wife.”
“Sorry about your family. I never did catch your last name.”

“Winter, what’s yours?”

“Sorenson.”

“Have you lived here all your life?” asked Paul.

“Since I was three. We moved from Minnesota. My parents have been dead for some time now. My older brother and sister got me through my teen years. And, they have the scars to prove it. My sister married and followed her husband to St. John’s and my brother John went back to the States. It gets lonely sometimes but there are always stray sailors coming ashore to entertain me” joked Keeri. “Here’s the place I call home.”

It was a small but quaint bungalow with colorful red bricks that matched the cobblestone road that led to it. “Come on in and take a load off,” said Keeri. Paul had other ideas and swept her into his arms and carried her through the small living area into the bedroom. Several hours later as Keeri was throwing some dinner together she asked Paul, “Have you been on the island long?”

“Just got in yesterday,” was Paul’s brief customary reply.

“What do you do that requires so much traveling?” she asked.

“I’m a writer.”

“I didn’t know writers traveled so much. I know, you’re a travel writer, right?”

Trying hard to suppress a laugh Paul said, “No-oo. I was a news journalist for many years. It was a very exciting job at first, but it became limiting in the sense that the media considers all the negative aspects of life as news. It was becoming harder and harder for me to smile and laugh. So I quit, bought a sailboat, and set out looking for fairy tales to write.”

Keeri just sat staring into his deep blue eyes which reflected a certain ageless quality while trying to figure out just what she was getting herself into. “You’re a strange man Paul Winter. I’ve known you for less than a day and I love you like I’ve known you for lifetimes. I feel like a giddy school girl.”

Paul’s typical blunt response, “Hey, let’s eat and head out to catch the sunset with some of that wicked wine of yours.”

“Sounds good to me.”

They both ate in silence, consumed with the notion that something very special was happening. Paul had never known love such as this could exist for him. God, she’s beautiful. She is so alive. I’m the firewood and she’s the match.

On the other side of the table for two Keeri was bubbling over with wonder over this whole crazy affair. Nothing like this had ever remotely entered her mind. Never had she met a man with such quiet strength and at the same time such an easy laugh. He had a contagious laugh that was irresistible. And the eyes, so mysterious, as if there were so many secrets he could share if only…

“Dinner was awesome. What fish was that?”

“Mahi Mahi, with coconut rice and my homemade mango salsa,” smiled a proud Keeri while she twirled like a schoolgirl.

“Wow! That was so amazing. She can cook too!’ exclaimed Paul with a laugh. “Come on. We’re going to miss that sunset. Grab the wine and let’s head for hills.”

It was an idyllic evening. A warm tropical breeze toyed with Keeri’s hair, which seemed on fire, reflecting the crimson hues that were painting the sky with reds and oranges. Not to be outdone, the thin, wispy clouds were mirrors reflecting the beautiful colors.

“It’s as if God has painted a picture for us tonight,” said Keeri. They sat there on the hilltop in silence, awed by the spectacle surrounding them.

Paul, lying on his back, began to write something in the air with his finger. Wondering what weird thing he was up to Keeri could not hold back her curiosity. “Now what are doing?”

“I’m writing our initials in the sky,” said a very serious Paul who may have been feeling the effects of the wine.

“A little tipsy Paul?” laughed Keeri.

“No, really, come here and I’ll show you,” stated the still serious Paul. With Keeri lying next to him cheek to cheek Paul pointed to a cloud in the sky and said, “there, you see it? Plain as day, K.S. and P.W.”

“No,” said a suspicious Keeri who was beginning to wonder if she fell for a madman.

“Watch, I’ll trace it for you.” He took Keeri’s hand, pointed her finger, and began to trace their initials. Now it seemed to Keeri, lying there in total wonderment, that their initials were forming in the clouds. “Yes, yes I can see them now!” exclaimed Keeri.

Paul rolled over, giving her a big kiss, looked deeply into her eyes, and said with a snicker in his voice, “Who’s feeling a little tipsy now?” With that he slapped her fanny, leaped up, and began to run down the hill laughing, not forgetting to grab the wine on the way.

Keeri followed screaming, “I’ll get you for that!” When they were both exhausted they fell on the beach laughing in between gasps for air.

When she was finally able to squelch the giggles Keeri asked, “Please take me to your boat. I’d like to see where the famous Paul Winter, spinner of yarns, makes his home.”

They took their time getting to the pier where Paul’s boat was docked. “What’s her name?” she asked as they mounted the deck.

“The Winds of Mer Kailesh.” “Where’s Mer Kailesh?” asked Keeri. Paul responded with a glimmer in his eye, “That’s another fairytale. Come on, I’ll show you around.” After a brief tour and some moonlight skinny-dipping, they sat on the deck finishing the wine while being lulled by the gentle waves caressing the boat.

“Stargazing is lovely for a while, but let’s go to bed,” whispered Keeri seductively. “Yeah, I’m really tired,” laughed Paul.

Keeri rose along with the sun. She had not slept all night thinking about this strange and wonderful man. She found some paper and a pen and began to write.

Dearest Paul,
Never have I known love could reach such heights. My time spent with you was like heaven on earth. It is funny, but I was afraid I would fall in love with you and be crushed when you left. But I’m aglow and blushing with a radiance I’ve never felt before. My love for you will never end — I think you know that. See you when I see you.
Love Keeri
PS Write about us. It will make a great fairytale. She walked down the small pier feeling silly, laughing out loud. Besides, I get seasick. And I did see those initials.

Paul’s effort to open his eyes was like a drawbridge struggling to raise its heavy load. For someone who rarely drank alcohol, the wine had certainly taken its toll. “Hello, anybody home?” There was no response. Maybe she went for a swim. He saw the note Keeri left sitting on the deck chair and began to read it. Amazing. I’m sitting here for this great depression to descend upon me, and all I can do is sit here with this silly smile on my face.

Paul dove into the crystal blue waters for a swim, thinking all the while of the love that had blossomed in him. The perfect lady on a perfect day. He dried himself off and picked up the note and read once again. PS Write about us, it will make a great fairytale. “Yes it would,” he said to the seagull gliding overhead, sure it was Jonathan. He picked up his pen and wrote.

Lover’s Poem

When we meet
We shall touch the stars
The little children will laugh at us
And to each we shall teach love

And we’ll float on the soft summer breeze
I’ll carve our initials in the clouds
And in a fleeting moment
That which is not tangible shall succumb

And our love will become inimitable

Will explore the silver moon
And search for the silver man
And we’ll mix the colors on the palette
And paint the world

Then we’ll say our goodbyes
And no regrets will there be
Only happy memories we share
And our initials in the clouds

Dedicated to a Golden Lady with eternal love
Paul Winter

Originally published on Medium.com