Last Day
A Short Story by Tim Josephs
Written using the suggestion "Cleaning"
Originally featured on 03-21-2007
As part of our series "Springset"

The first thought that went through my head when Mr. Crawford told me I was being laid off was “I wonder how many office supplies I can fit in the trunk of my car.” It wasn’t that I really needed anything but it was never too early to think about Christmas presents. I thought I remembered my mom saying something about needing a new stapler.

The layoff really wasn’t that surprising; the company had just lost a big account and there had been rumblings for weeks that layoffs were imminent.

On Thursday afternoon I was called to the conference room. Mr. Crawford was sitting at one end of the long table and he smiled when he saw me. That’s when I knew I was doomed: Mr. Crawford never smiled at anyone.

“Greg, this is the hardest part of my job…” he started after I had sat down.

That’s when I tuned out and began thinking about moving my emergency road-side kit. I did hear him say “asset to the company” and “thanks for your hard work” and I think he called me “champ” at one point. All I knew was that at the end of the next day, I’d be out of a job.

I wasn’t really that upset; when I had started it was supposed to be an entry-level job. Three years later I was still in the exact same position with little chance for advancement. Still, losing a job wasn’t the most pleasant experience.

On my way home that night I picked up a case of beer to “celebrate” my impending unemployment. My roommate Steve, always looking for an excuse to inebriate, decided to join me.

“It’s actually pretty cool,” he said after taking a hit from his Sponge Bob bong.

“Yeah, not having any money or insurance is cool,” I said.

“No, man, not that. Think about it. It’s like if the doctor told you you had six months to live, you could do stuff you’d always wanted to but never did. It’s the same thing for you at your job. Piss in the coffee pot, blow up the mailroom. What are they gonna do, fire you?”

I was skeptical at first, mostly because Steve hadn’t held a steady job for as long as I’d known him, but after about eight beers I began to see what he meant. He suggested I write a list of things I should do on my last day.

“Like you could make a copy of your ass, man,” he said and started giggling.

That got me laughing. “Yeah. Oh, wait. Mitch Jeffries did that at last year’s office party.”

Steve looked confused. “What? How did Mitch Jeffries make a copy of your ass?”

Although I tried for sometime, it was a question I couldn’t answer. After a few more beers I passed out. When I woke up the next morning, with quite a headache, the list, and most of the evening, had been forgotten.

As I poured myself some cereal, I thought about just not going in to work. But then I realized I needed to clear out my desk and collect my last paycheck. That’s when I remembered the list. I wasn’t even sure I’d managed to write anything but when I went back into the living room there it was, stuck to Steve’s forehead. He didn’t budge as I peeled it off.

My handwriting was surprisingly legible; apparently I had to be drunk to write neatly. The first item was “make a copy of Mitch Jeffries’ ass.” Suddenly the evening started coming back to me. I had forgotten that Mitch had left the company a couple months earlier so there wasn’t much chance of accomplishing that one.

The second item on the list was much more interesting and I grinned when I read it: have sex on the table in the conference room. I currently wasn’t dating anyone so I wasn’t sure this one was doable (pun intended) either. As I stepped into the shower, I wondered who I could call. Unfortunately the best candidate, Clarissa, was on vacation in Thailand. If ever there was someone I could call for kinky, spiteful sex, it was her.

As I got dressed, I finally decided to just do it myself. It was sex, pretty much; sex with someone I loved, to paraphrase Woody Allen.

I arrived at the office early, hoping not too many people would be there yet. After stopping at my desk for a moment, I walked upstairs and crept into the conference room. I closed the door and tried to lock it. The only problem was there wasn’t a lock. For a second I thought about skipping this one but Steve’s words echoed through my head: “What are they gonna do, fire you?”

I quickly dropped trough and hopped up onto the shiny, surprisingly cold table, right in front of where Mr. Crawford had given me the great news the day before. I was a little paranoid that someone would walk in at any moment so I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. But after a few minutes and more than a few thoughts about Salma Hayek, I was able to complete the job.

I hurriedly cleaned up and just as I was buttoning my pants, I heard the door open. I turned around to see an older woman I didn’t know. I panicked for a second and then noticed a pen on the table.

“Found it,” I said loudly, grabbing the pen. Trying to restrain my laughter, I walked past her and back up to my cubicle.

After a few hours of finishing up some paperwork, I glanced at the list again. Item number three was “Kiss Irene Mathis.” Irene was a tall goddess of a woman I had had a crush on practically since my first day. She and I had worked in the same department for a while and I always wanted to ask her out but never got up the nerve. When I came in to work one day I found out that she had gotten promoted and was now working in Marketing. I rarely saw her after that but still pined.

I went upstairs and through the doors of the Marketing Department. After a moment I saw her standing at a copier with her back to me. I took a deep breath and walked towards her.

In my mind it was all going to play out like a scene in a movie: I’d spin her around and before she could say anything I’d plant one on her. She’d melt in my arms and we’d live happily ever after.

As I got closer, I noticed that she had gained some weight but even from this angle she still looked amazing. I gently grabbed her arm, spun her around, and leaned in for the kiss. Suddenly I felt something impeding my progress. I glanced down and realized it was her stomach, her immensely pregnant stomach. All of a sudden I remembered the baby shower from a couple months earlier. Irene looked as shocked as I felt and I quickly backed up.

“Uh, hey, Irene. How’s it going?” I said, trying and failing to act nonchalant.

“Um, hello, Greg. What brings you up here?”

I stammered my way through an explanation about it being my last day and wanting to say goodbye. She didn’t seem too interested and after an uncomfortably quiet moment I told her I should probably get back to work. She kind of awkwardly leaned towards me and kissed me on the cheek. “Good luck with everything.”

“Thanks.” I hurriedly headed for the door. It wasn’t exactly as I pictured it but I did get a kiss.

The last item on my list was “Find out once and for all about Chris Harris.” Chris started as a temp a couple months earlier and had just been hired on permanently. The thing was no one was quite sure if Chris was a man or a woman. He/she had short brown hair, an athletic physique, and a nice if androgynous face.

For months various people would try to get Chris to reveal what he/she was and more than one Pat joke had been told. No one really knew anything about Chris’ personal life and the office was pretty much spilt.

I found Chris alone in the break room. “Hey, Chris,” I said, grabbing a cup and pouring myself some coffee.

“Hi, Greg.”

I decided to forego any small talk and just jump right in. “Chris, let me ask you something. I don’t want you to be offended but are you a man or a woman?”

I expected him/her to be outraged and perhaps start crying or maybe hit me. But instead he/she just laughed.

“You know, you’re the first person to ever ask me that. Everyone else just tries to get me to say something about my personal life or snoop around my cubicle. I caught Bob Morris from Accounting rummaging through my desk the other day. Do you believe that? He said he was looking for a piece of gum.”

I chuckled.

“Do you really want to know?”

I nodded.

 

I couldn’t stop smiling as I made my way back to my cubicle; the mystery was finally solved. I sat down and began cleaning out my desk. There wasn’t much — just some papers and a couple granola bars — so it didn’t take me very long.

I took the list out of my pocket and was just about to throw it away when I noticed something on the back. I turned it over and there was item number five. This one was barely readable and I wondered how many beers I had had when I wrote it. There were just three scrawled words: Kill Carl Reevis.

Carl Reevis and I had at one time been pretty close. We had started in the company at the same time and frequently worked together on projects. About a year earlier, while working with a tight deadline, he had forgotten to pick up some crucial documents and consequently we couldn’t finish in time. When I was passed over for a promotion — that Carl ended up getting — I found out that he had blamed the foul up on me. We had barely spoken since then and tried to avoid each other as much as possible.

I gazed at the yellow piece of paper. I couldn’t kill Carl. I had certainly thought about it several times, but there was no way I could really go through with it. But this being my last day, I felt I needed to do something.

I went downstairs and opened his office door without knocking. Carl was standing in front of a small mirror on a side table looking down at the side of his khaki pants.

“Hello, Carl,” I said and shut the door behind me.

“Hey.” He glanced up and looked very surprised. “Oh, hey, Greg. How’s it going?”

“Not bad.” I stared down at his pants and he followed my gaze.

“Oh, I was just in a meeting and I think I sat in some mayonnaise.” He said irately, wiping a spot on his pants. “People aren’t supposed to eat in the conference room.”

I grinned. He sat down behind his desk. “So, what can I do for you?”

“Well, as you may know, this is my last day.”

He leaned forward and tried to put on a sad face. “Yes, I heard. That’s too bad.”

“Yes it is. So I’ve come down here to kill you.”

He straightened up quickly. “What?”

I stared at him for a second and then laughed. “Just kidding.”

He laughed uneasily.

“I just wanted to come down here and say goodbye. I know we’ve had our differences but I think it’s time we buried the hatchet.”

Carl looked relieved. “Wow, Greg, I think that’s a really nice thing to-”

“After all, if you had gotten the blame for your screw up, things might be different right now.”

Suddenly he looked uneasy again.

“And if I had rightfully gotten that promotion, right now you’d probably be coming into my office to say goodbye.”

“Well, I’m not sure about that-“

“And who knows, it might have been my wife at last year’s Christmas party who drank like a fish — an alcoholic fish — and was seen leaving the men’s room followed by Rick Hernandez and Todd Stevens.”

Carl’s face, right up to his receding hair line, had gone a bright scarlet. He opened his mouth but then quickly closed it.

“But we’ll never know, will we?” I got up and headed for the door. “By the way,” I said without turning around. “That’s not mayonnaise.”

As I made my way back upstairs, I couldn’t help but think that this had been one of the most enjoyable and productive days I’d had at work in quite a long time. Back at my desk I gathered my things together. After a quick stop to get my check and to say goodbye to a few more people, I headed out to the parking lot.

I had to get home and get ready for my date; I was picking Chris up at six. Plus I needed to get all those staplers out of my trunk.

Read More By Tim Josephs

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