by Glenn Bresciani
Linda and I sit together in the lunch room. Our cubicles are opposite to each other so we may as well sit on opposite sides of the same table.
Tony, our team leader, swaggers between the tables, his winner’s grin switched onto a high beam. He speaks to each member of his team. I can’t hear what’s being said but I’m guessing, by the vigorous shake of my co-worker’s head, Tony must be asking that dreaded question again. Why can’t Tony go be a team leader somewhere else?
“Well, keep thinking fun,” I hear Tony say to a member of his team. “We need fresh ideas for Fun Day.” Tony moves onto the next table.
When will Tony ever learn: Fun Day is no fun. If burnt toast was an office job, it would be data entry. Tony can spread all the fun he wants over data entry, spread it on thick, sprinkle it with Rainbow sprinkles, and he will never make our job taste delicious.
I know, I know. A happy worker is a productive worker. How can I ever forget it? The quote is written on the wall above the photocopier in bold Parisienne Font.
Yet, still we’re being oppressed by Fun Day. Under Tony’s dictatorship, we have only two options: obey Fun Day or lose our jobs.
If I had the courage to lead an uprising against Fun Day, I would as it has never made us happy or productive as the propaganda would have you believe. All Fun Day will ever be is just more hours we have to dedicate to our job outside of work hours. Where’s the fun in that?
Why haven’t we been liberated? Why won’t anyone in the western world take pity on us and invade our office with missiles and warplanes, to rid us of the tyranny of Tony, the crackpot despot, and his weapons of mass fun.
Linda removes the lid from her Tupperware container filled with something leafy green.
“I’ve got salad too,” I say, reaching into my handbag for my lunch.
The Monster High lunch box I just placed on the table has disrupted my thoughts.
Right now, my daughter will also be on her lunch break at school, wondering what to do with a tub of pre-made Greek salad. (only $4.95 at Seven/Eleven.)
Linda stops breathing, her wide-eyed stare at the lunch box interrupted by her sideways glance at Tony, who is now making himself a coffee.
“Put it away.”
“But it’s all I have.”
Opening the lunch box, I glance over at Tony. He’s still at the kitchen bench, stirring his coffee with a teaspoon. Surely I could grab my daughter’s lunch and stash the Monster High lunch box back into my handbag without Tony noticing.
“Stacey. Put it away now.”
“No, I’m really hungry.”
“I’m looking at what’s in that lunch box, and all I see is fun. What do you think Tony will see when he looks at it?”
Shit! Linda is right. I have to make this edible fun disappear.
“Ooh, that looks like fun,” says Tony, hurrying over to the table I’m sitting at.
Does fun have a smell? How else would have Tony distinguished the lunch box from all the lunch time commotion.
“It’s just my daughter’s school lunch.” I try to make it sound as boring as it is. “I packed it into my handbag by mistake.”
Tony isn’t even listening to me. He is mesmerized by what’s going on inside the lunch box.
“Did you use a star-shaped loaf of bread?”
Maybe Tony really did have a brain injury when he was a baby. Why else would he ask me such an obvious question? I check the right side of Tony’s head- just above the ear –to see if I can see the scar where a fork was lodged into his brain.
“Um . . . yes-no,” I can’t concentrate on Tony’s absurd question, not while Linda’s frown is burning into me.
“The sandwich,” Tony explains. “It’s shaped like a star. Was the whole loaf of bread star-shaped?”
I look into my daughter’s lunchbox at the Nutella sandwich I have cut into the shape of a starfish. “My daughter refuses to eat her crust, so I cut it off the bread.”
“Wow,” Tony gasps, as a joyful daze drifts through him. “I wish my mom did that for me when I was a boy.”
Tony claps his hands, as loud as he can. “Attention! Can I please have your attention?”
He already has everyone’s attention, plus- judging by the silence -he has everyone concerned as well.
“Fun Day is back. We have a new theme: Kid’s meal Fun Day. The more childish the lunch you bring to work, the more fun we will have.”
“What do you mean by childish?” asks Judy, sitting at a table near the fridge.
“Oh, you know. Something wacky. Something bright-colored. Lots of fun. Whatever makes a child laugh, I want to bring that into the office so we can all have a laugh.”
No one is laughing. No one is even smiling. I can sense the rising hostility in the room, why can’t Tony?
The doctors must’ve removed the part of the brain that regulates empathy when they removed the fork from baby Tony’s head. How does a fork get lodged into a baby’s brain in the first place? It must’ve been a high chair incident, that’s the only explanation.
“So you want something whimsical, like Willy Wonka,” asks Adam.
Tony blinks rapidly; his grin shrinks down to the tightness of pursed lips. “Willy Wonka? I don’t know who that is.”
“He’s talking about fairy floss, gummy bears and toffee apples,” says Linda, scowling at Tony, “you know, party food, as in a kid’s birthday party.”
Linda has earned herself a finger snap from Tony. “You’re going to nail this Fun Day, Linda.”
Tony places his hands on my shoulders. Of course, I flinch. “Kid’s meal Fun Day is Stacey’s idea. What an impressive idea it is too. I’m impressed because with food there are more creative options, more possibilities. We will get even more Fun Days out of Stacey ideas than we ever did out of Crazy Hat Fun Day or Hawaiian Shirt Fun Day.”
Everyone is looking at me, their hatred towards me synchronized.
Yeah, that’s awesome Tony. Now all my co-workers despise me. I flee for the safety of my cubicle, but what I should have done was hide myself in the women’s toilets. Being the first one to return to my computer after lunch, gives my co-workers an opportunity to pass my cubicle on the way to their own cubicles, so they can share with me their feelings for my proposal for Fun Day.
“Thanks a lot, Stacey. I can’t go play indoor soccer after work because now I’ve got to go shopping for a kid’s meal.”
“I was meant to be going to the gym after work. I can’t do that now, can I, Stacey?”
“Don’t be bothered meeting us Friday night after work for drinks, Stacey. You’re not welcome.”
Why couldn’t our office have been built on top of an oil well? Coalition forces would have invaded by now if we had oil under our feet. Tony would be captured and charged for crimes against humanity. We would all be celebrating our freedom with dancing and laughter between our rows of cubicles.
I’ve had enough. I’m done waiting to be liberated. I will liberate us from Fun Day. I will invade this office with so much fun; it will blast Fun Day off the surface of the Earth and into the sun.
Friday is Fun Day, bloody Fun Day. Tony is convinced that Fun Day is as good as Sunday. To everyone in his team, Fun Day feels like another Monday.
A table from the lunch room had been moved into the office to display our contributions to Fun Day. Tony stands beside the table, hands on his hips, shaking his head at the bowls already on the table.
Michelle places her Fun Day contribution on the table, glares at me as if I’m to blame.
“Thank you, Michelle,” Tony says, frowning on a Fun Day, “for, yet another bowl of M&Ms.”
The bowls of M&Ms keep on coming as my co-workers offer something fun to Fun Day. Each bowl filled with hundreds of colored candy more colorful than an autopsy on a rainbow.
Kid’s meal Fun Day was supposed to be about infinite creative options and unlimited fun. So how funny is it, that in defiance of Fun Day, everyone in Tony’s team came to the same logical conclusion. Except for Linda, she is innovation incarnate as she slams a bowl onto the table, tearing open a packet of Skittles with her teeth.
“Is this fun enough for your Tony?” Linda says, dumping the entire packet of Skittles into the bowl. Next to the other bowls, the Skittles are identical to the M&Ms. Yeah, Tony’s looking disappointed. His Fun Day is producing about as much fun as a broken light bulb produces light.
I check on the time displayed on my iPhone’s screen. It is 9:15am. Our liberation was to begin at 9:10am. The invasion is running late and I’m starting to worry.
A burst of color invades the office. Every color of the rainbow, the color of war declared on Tony’s Fun Day. The sight of the invaders gives me the giggles. I can’t help it; the joy I’m feeling is tickling me.
Nineteen helium balloons float above a Balloon Lagoon employee, who is named Simon according to his Name Badge. He spins around, gawking at his surroundings from every angle.
“Is this thirty-nine Hunter Street?” Simon asks me as I approach him.
I look down at his Vans slip on shoes, “um . . . I ordered the balloons.”
Simon hands over the nineteen balloon strings to me. “I’d never expect a place like this to have a kid’s birthday party. I thought I had the wrong address.”
“Could you say that again, but louder please?”
“What you just said about the kids.”
“There are kids here? Where? I don’t see ‘em.”
Losing patients, I take the balloons off Simon who leaves the office more confused than when he arrived.
All my co-workers, including Tony- especially Tony -gape at my invasion force in shock and awe. The balloons, they’re so intense, their fun so thunderous, it’s like watching surgical missile strikes exploding around Baghdad, live on CNN.
Over the table with the bowls of colored candy, I release the strings. The balloons rise to the ceiling, each one shaped like a unicorn, a panda bear, a pink bunny, a laughing dolphin and so much more. The helium filled animals glide over us, B-2 stealth bombers dropping bombs on Tony’s Fun Day.
“That’s Fun Day, Tony,” I say, pointing at a floating Rex from Toy Story, “right there in those childish balloons. Can you see how childish it is? Do we look like children to you?”
Tony stares at one balloon, than another- he can’t stop staring. Usually I wouldn’t know this as I would be looking at Tony’s shoes when I speak. But right now, the way I’m feeling, I’m surprised my glowering at Tony’s face hasn’t singed his eye brows.
“Childish shit like this doesn’t amuse us. It doesn’t even make us happy. It will never boost our productivity. Or get you your end of year bonus- Yeah, we all know about that, Tony.”
Timid and tiny, that’s me. My co-workers have never seen me this angry. I’ve never seen myself this angry.
“Data entry is dull, repetitive, and it probably kills brain-cells. No amount of fun is going to change that. Not ever! All your Fun Day does, Tony, is more work for us outside of work hours. So for fuck sake, Tony! Enough with the Fun Day bullshit. Stop treating us like children!”
All my co-workers wait for a reaction from Tony, for him to raise his voice, raise his fists, raise his eyebrows- anything.
Tony won’t give them a reaction to my outburst as he’s still reacting to the helium balloons. The more he gazes at them, the more they adjust the brightness level of his smile.
“I never knew party balloons came in the shape of animals.”
Neither did I until I looked at the online catalogue- wait! What’s happening? Tony is supposed to be embarrassed, he’s supposed to be feeling stupid. That was the whole point of this helium balloon invasion.
“They’re wonderful. Thank you, Stacey. You’re a Fun Day expert.”
My body temperature spikes. My skin prickles. Oh shit! I can’t breathe. All of my co-workers hate me at once. Thank God! My brain’s survival instincts have kicked in. Flight mode is getting me out of here, getting me to safety.
Everyone is glaring at me, even those who are behind me, I can feel it. If hatred was a solarium tanning bed, my body would be covered in blisters.
What I wanted was a liberator. What I needed was an invasion. But all I got was the supercarrier USS Ronald Reagan docking in the capital city of Tony’s tyranny, so all the personnel could take shore leave and have fun.
Next morning, I awake in bed with a spiked headache lodged into the front lobe of my brain.
Stress, it has to be. After the balloons arrived, what was supposed to be a brighter day took a sharp right turn into a stressful day.
All day, my co-workers glanced at me with contempt during their many whispered conversations. They ignored me every time I offered small talk.
I’m glad everyone removed themselves from the lunchroom when I sat at a table, as it allowed me some alone time to cry. Someone had even dumped all the M&Ms into my handbag; or maybe everyone wanted revenge, launching a sneak attack against my handbag with a handful of candy.
A fluffy unicorn is tossed next to my pillow, followed by my daughter climbing onto my bed.
“Mommy, why are you still sleeping in bed?”
“Sweetie, Mommy’s sick. Can you pass me my iPhone, pretty please? I have to call work.”
Jumping off the bed, my daughter scurries into the walk-in-wardrobe, thrusts her hand into my handbag.
“Mommy! There’s Skittles in your bag.”
“They’re not Skittles sweetie, they’re M&Ms. Can you, please, just get me my iPhone.”
My daughter slips my iPhone into my hand. I select Tony’s work number.
While I’m waiting for the call to connect, my daughter shoves a handful of M&Ms into her mouth.
“Hello. Safety Net insurance, Linda speaking.”
“. . . is that you, Stacey?”
“Why are you using Tony’s phone?”
“Are you calling in sick? No Stacey, you can’t be sick, not today. Everyone wants to thank you.”
“Everyone stuffed candy into my handbag yesterday. Why would anyone want to thank me?”
“Look, I know you were being bullied by everyone yesterday. I did it, too. And I’m sorry. We didn’t know the helium balloons were a part of your plan.”
That plan failed. So what’s Linda talking about? Unless . . .
“Tony’s gone?” These two words were all my brain could slip past my confusion.
“Yes,” says Linda. “He resigned. He phoned last night, said something about a career move into selling helium balloons.”
I could never plan that outcome, even if I wanted to.
“C’mon, Stacey, don’t call in sick. You’ve made a difference. You got rid of Tony. We all want you to celebrate with us after work.”
“Okay, Linda, see you soon."
I hug my daughter. Joy needs to spread and I’m feeling joyous. The distant sound of a bronze monument to a dictator being toppled by newly liberated civilians is the sweetest sound I’ll ever hear.
It’s over. It’s done. No more fun.
About the author
Glenn works as a support worker in community aged care. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are his favourite genres that he enjoys reading and wants to write about. Yet, whenever Glenn write a story, he always ends up writing ‘Slice-of-Life’ fiction.
Glenn has a Facebook author page.