Never argue with the boss
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.
“Well take that stupid costume off so I can see you and recognize you when you come to get fired.”
“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.
“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.
© Joe Merkle 2021
Originally published on Medium.com