It was two and one quarter hours into Hawaiian Shirt Day when it became clear that Margaret needed to die.
I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this. I’m no savage; I’m a data entry clerk, for fuck’s sake. If I had wanted bloodshed I would’ve followed my buddy Jimmy to play Rambo in the Army, not sucked up the first entry level ass-sitting job that deemed my urine specimen clean enough. Jimmy took shrapnel to the face in Afghanistan; I share a cubicle with Margaret. I’d call it a draw.
I had stomached her incessant small talk… her need to discuss the current weather conditions as though each day’s outlook presented a scientific anomaly. “Can you believe this weather we’re having?” she’d say, with an air of sincerity only betrayed by the fact that she uttered this phrase at least three times every goddamn day. I’d clench my fists and bite my lip, and inside my brain would scream Really, Margaret? Is it really so surprising that it’s as hot as the devil’s butthole in July? Can you really just not fucking believe it? But instead I’d nod and mumble my agreement at Mother Nature’s zany, unpredictable ways, and continue typing.
Her unwarranted enthusiasm over our meaningless work had been a thorn in my side since we started here. I say we, because the two of us were hired on the same goddamn day. I sat next to her on interview day; while we waited to be called she showed me every picture in her wallet. Most of them were of pets. Then we went through six weeks of training together; you’d think with that kind of teaching regimen we’d be dismantling bombs, not keying in insurance figures. And then we were given a cubicle with both the size and charm of an outhouse to share, and nearly five years later there we still fucking were.
She referred to me as her “work twin,” bringing me stupid presents on our “work-iversary” each year, the past four years of which comprised the only ridiculous cat-themed knickknacks adorning my side of our purgatory cell. Her side, meanwhile, was overflowing with them; little figurines of cats with teacups, cats reading books, cats hugging cats while little cats snuggled against their little cat feet, all interspersed between framed photos of her pets, which are all dogs, because nothing about this awful woman made a lick of fucking sense.
Margaret’s considerable girth and her heaps of pet paraphernalia were constant invaders of my personal space, and I’d always sat silent about it, shoving myself further into the corner crevice of our cubicle hell, while she literally whistled while she worked, adding prolonged auditory assault to her list of offenses against me.
Every year I got a nickel increase, and she pounced about like a giddy kitten on meth over her fifty cent raise. Our supervisor called her indefatigable glee “infectious”, and in terms of inducing sickness in others I’d say she was right on the money.
I endured all of this abuse nobly, aside from the one formal complaint I filed with HR a couple of years ago. My request was denied, however, as I was informed that the company’s “cleanly trimmed facial hair” policy applied to men only. I sulked back to my desk after this gender biased interpretation of the employee handbook, and returned to my spreadsheets and agreeable grunting regarding the utter insanity of the day’s seasonally-consistent weather.
But then Hawaiian Shirt Day happened.
I wore my standard Polo shirt. As a nickel-raise employee, I wasn’t about to scour the local Goodwill for the world’s ugliest fashion trend in some futile effort to engage in workplace camaraderie. Margaret, however, special-ordered genuine orchid leis for everyone on our floor for the occasion, because I guess she needed to do something with that extra cash she took home just to make my life hell.
Did I mention that Margaret was allergic to orchids?
Two hours after adorning her neck (as well as everyone else’s) with her sinus system’s kryptonite, strange noises began emanating from Margaret’s three quarters of our crowded cubicle.
Much like Mauna Loa, I could hear Maui Margaret’s nasal pressure building.
“Ahh-Ahh-AHH,” she gasped, and I assumed the air raid position under my corner of our bench-style desk; I was not about to be pelted with the mucousy lava that was threatening to burst from her overactive nasal core.
“-choo,” she finished in a high-pitched, sing-song, Mickey Mouse fucking let down of a sneeze that wasn’t even powerful enough to sway her protruding nasal hairs.
And with that sorry ass, bullshit excuse for a sneeze, my mission became crystal clear: I had to kill Margaret.
“Well bless me!” Margaret said as she pulled a wad of tissue from her purse, because she’s the type of germ-laden simpleton that must snot all over every last crevice of a Kleenex before throwing it out. “Must be this whacky weather!”
And I had to act soon.
I’m not a violent man. I’m also not very handy. I had been trying to strike Margaret dead with my thoughts for nearly five years. But when I thought about how to go about actually purging the life from her probably clogged veins, I realized I probably don’t have it in me to kill. Don’t get me wrong… I wanted nothing more than to feel her throat collapse under the weight of my thumbs. I wanted to see her eyes bulge, and smell the blood as it trickled from her mouth. But, let’s be realistic; I can’t even change my car’s oil. For some things, you just need a professional.
For some things, you call Jimmy.
Although Jimmy survived his tour in Afghanistan, he never really came home, if you know what I mean. He left pieces of his skull (and most of his goddamn mind) in that desert wasteland. Admittedly I don’t spend as much time with him as I probably should, being his best friend and all, but he’s hard to tolerate these days. I can get past his poorly reconstructed face (plastic surgery at the VA is an abstract artform, at best), but, well… let’s just say the last time I stopped by he was waterboarding a rat over the toilet bowl, demanding the furry rodent surrender its WMDs immediately.
But one thing that didn’t sustain any damage over there was Jimmy’s loyalty, and I knew he’d help out his best pal, no questions asked.
I called from my desk phone while Margaret was taking her like-clockwork afternoon shit. Call me a stupid criminal if you’d like, but i knew for a fact that the phone lines we always advised were recorded and monitored were never actually subjected to either of those precautions; it’s a hollow warning, and it works like a fucking charm to keep callers in line.
Jimmy answered before the first ring concluded, warning me that bin Laden had the line tapped so I’d better talk in pig latin. I obliged, telling him in schoolyard slang that I had a very serious mission for him; there was an non-patriot among us that needed to eye-day. I awaited his bat shit response.
“Dude,” Jimmy said, after a long pause. “You really need to learn how to get along with people, man.”
“Do you accept the mission or not?” My pig latin fell by the wayside, but Jimmy had dropped the verbal disguise first so I figured I was safe.
“I got choo. Consider me the long pig in your soup sandwich, Sir. Ten four.” Jimmy hung up.
Thirty seconds later he messaged me from his Myspace account, asking that I send Margaret’s details there, stating it was the one place no intelligence source would ever bother to look.
Jimmy assured me Operation Ill-kay Argaret-May would be completed quickly and quietly, so I’ll admit I was a little surprised to see the mission’s target waddle giddily into the office the following morning.
“Good morning!” she gushed as she shoved her giant purse into our overhead cubby, slamming the lid down with such force that I was then pelted with plummeting kitty effigies. “Can you believe how sunny it is today? Crazy!”
I plucked the feline figurines from my lap and mumbled agreement.
She leapt toward me, the obnoxious cheetah to my cowering gazelle. Before I could protest she pulled my head against her meaty bosom in a bear hug. She smelled like a wet dog that had rolled in mildewy potpourri. Just as I was sure I was going to suffocate in her grasp, she released me, her face alight with the level of glee that has no business being brought into the workplace.
“Happy Workiversary, Twin!”
Margaret then pulled two large cake dishes out of her garbage bag sized lunch tote, like the world’s greatest diabetic magician.
Our five-year work anniversary. I had mercifully forgotten.
“I know you don’t like to share, so I made you your own. Chocolate frosting over yellow cake, your favorite!”
I couldn’t stop my mouth from watering as I pulled the cover off the cake, and I do hate to share my sweets, but my drool froze mid-stream when I read the sloppily frosted inscription: Besties 4 Life. Feeling nauseous all of a sudden, I shoved the ghastly dessert aside, mumbled my thanks, and turned back to my keyboard.
Margaret bumbled about a bit more, fluttering from cubicle to cubicle to spread the news of the cake she was placing in the breakroom, the workplace equivalent of Oprah’s “You get a car!” surprise celebration. She had just finally plopped her ass in her chair and switched on her computer when she was summoned to the boss’s office for her annual review. I had been working steadily while she fucked around, but of course her raise would be more than mine. Why the fuck was she still breathing?
As soon as she got up I dialed Jimmy; no answer. I pounded out a quick Myspace message: What the uck-fay? Call me NOW.
I hastily typed in some numbers while sneaking glances back at the phone, as though I could will it to ring with my mind. But it didn’t, and soon Margaret was galloping like a gluttonous clydesdale back to our work station.
“Aren’t you going to ask how it went?” She had a little bit of spittle on her chin, and a crazed look in her eyes. Situation: normal.
“Sure,” I mumbled, knowing full well I was going to hear about her big raise whether I wanted to or not.
“ I’m probably not supposed to tell you this… but how I can keep secrets from my twin? Your twintuition would see right through me anyway!”
“I don’t think that’s really a thing,” I said, returning to my keyboard.
“Well, they are putting new private cubicles up on the fifth floor, and there’s one still open, and…”
I turned back toward her, suddenly more interested in what she had to say than I ever had been before.
“…and I recommended you for it!” She beamed at me, the chin spittle swaying in the central air’s breeze.
What? She had a chance to be out of here, to move up, and she recommended me?
“But,” I cleared my throat so I could speak clearly, “Why wouldn’t you take it yourself?”
“Oh, I’d be lonely up there. But I think the solitude suits you. Goodness knows I’ve been driving you crazy long enough!”
I looked at Margaret for the first time, really looked at her. She was annoying and kind of gross, no question about it, but she was kind, and all she had been trying to do for the past five years was to bring me some of the joy she somehow wakes up with every morning.
“Have you had a piece of cake? Better eat it before this crazy humidity gets to it!”
“Thanks, Twin. I will.”
I cut myself a giant piece of cake, but before I could dig in I got called for my review.
I sauntered into the boss’s office, feeling good about myself, Margaret, and my work for the first time in… well, ever.
“You’ve probably heard about the opening on the fifth floor,” Ms. Garcia said, after we exchanged the standard niceties.
“Indeed I have.” I shot her a smile. I hoped it looked more natural than it felt.
“We’re giving the spot to Simmons.”
My smile dropped. Admittedly, the scowl felt much more comfortable; complete and utter disdain was my warm blanket.
“You and Margaret just work so well together, we’ve decided to keep the dream team together. Also, I’m sorry, but we can’t afford to give any cost of living increases this year; the economy, you know.”
I returned to the third floor in a haze of bitterness. Everyone was chowing down on Margaret’s cake, making idle chit chat with one another, even smiling.
What is wrong with them, I wondered. And then, on that thought’s heels, what is wrong with me?
I didn’t say anything to Margaret, just grabbed my mammoth piece of cake. I was lifting that first mouthwatering fork full to my face when the phone rang. It was Jimmy. I pulled the receiver to my ear, saying nothing.
“Yo, no need to squirm, yo. The ission-may is omplete-cay.”
“My eyes tell me otherwise, you fucking dolt.” I had turned away and kept my snarl low, but I still heard Margaret exclaim something about ‘such language!’ from behind me.
“Yeah, man. I snuck into her house yesterday and spiked her dinner with enough arsenic to take out ISIS and their camels, dude. If she hasn’t croaked yet she will soon. Just wait it out.”
“Well you’d better get your money back on the poison, it didn’t work. But I’m calling the mission off anyway. I’m just going to try to find a new job.” I hoped Jimmy’s twintuition would pick up the last couple of words, because I spoke them too softly to be overheard.
“Shit. Better tell her not to eat the frosting then.”
“Frosting?” I was still holding my fork full of deliciously (and heavily) frosted cake.
“Yeah, she had two big tubs of it on the counter. I was going to spike both of them, but then I spilled all the poison into the first one. Fucking depth perception, man. I figured she’d probably gobble ‘em both down anyway. So you should probably say something about that. Ater-lay!” Jimmy hung up.
I stared at my plate. I gazed around the office. Everyone was blindly eating Margaret’s death pie, completely oblivious to the fact that they’d drop dead soon. Unless… unless the poisoned batch was mine.
My attention turned to Margaret, the only one without a plate of cake in front of her. She was staring at the weather forecast on the internet.
“Another fifty cent raise! Not bad, right twin?” She pointed to the screen. “Look, we might get a thunderstorm this afternoon. Isn’t that crazy?”
I shoveled a giant bite of cake into my facehole, and gulped it down.
“That is crazy,” I said, taking another heaping bite. “That Mother Nature is one zany bitch.”
Kimmy Dee is a lazy blogger, hot mom, and sarcastic Internet personality who dreams of one day becoming a shut-in cat lady. Her new book, PUSSY PLANET AND OTHER ENDEARING TALES, is a collection of essays about life, death, and masturbation. It’s available in paperback and e-book through Amazon.