Everyone now thought that it was I who stole the sole remaining 3-hole punch in our office. In the lunch room, no one sat with me. Howard finally placed his lunch bag down on my table, and while sitting, slammed down a black spray can. Everyone turned to look. Howard is an ex-army drill Sargent in his sixties and extremely intimidating.
HOWARD: When you walked out of Sheila’s office, right after she discovered the 3-hole punch missing from her desk, this fell out of your pocket.
ME: What is it?
HOWARD: Come on. You know what it is.
HOWARD: What the hell were you up to in there?
I looked over at everyone. They were still all staring at us. I turned back nervously toward Howard.
ME: How do you know that spray can’s mine? You can’t prove it.
HOWARD: Everyone saw it fall from your pocket and then roll out onto the floor. You were just shouting like you always do. You never heard it.
ME (whispering): Okay, you’re on my team, so I can tell you this.
HOWARD: There are no teams anymore, Eric. Not after what you did.
ME: What did I do?
HOWARD: You tried to take matters into your own hands.
ME (whispering): Howard, I don’t want anyone else to know what I was going to do, so I’m going to whisper it to you now.
Everyone started to move their chairs and tables closer to us.
ME (whispering): I was going take the punch, and then use this can of Mace on Sheila.
Everyone gasped. I picked up the spray can.
ME: That’s what this is. It’s Mace.
HOWARD: Eric, you crossed the line.
ME: What’s everyone got against Mace?
Howard stood from the table, looking down at me in disgust.
HOWARD: Your name is dirt around here.
I swallowed, shameful.
ME: Dirt? What about Coco? You can all call me Coco and laugh, and point at me while you ridicule me. But dirt, that’s low.
HOWARD: Well, if the shoe fits.
ME: Howard, no!
HOWARD: Come on guys, let’s get out of here. I’ve lost my appetite.
ME: Well, maybe not everyone else lost their appetite. You’re being presumptuous.
HOWARD: You took the 3-hole punch. Admit it.
ME: I didn’t. And by the way, I was just going to use this to threaten Sheila.
I lifted the can of Mace.
ME: I don’t even know how to use this. See.
I pressed the cap, and accidentally sprayed Charisse who was walking past. She screamed, grasping at her eyes.
All the men tackled me to the floor then, removing the Mace from my hand.
I clawed at them.
ME: Give me that! I need that!
Everyone moved away, helping a hysterical Charisse out of the lunch room. I stayed on the floor.
ME: Isn’t anyone going to help me back up. You didn’t just find me like this?
When I finally returned to work from lunch, I was late, and completely wasted, stumbling through the office with three cans of Mace, spraying everywhere.
ME: I didn’t do it!
All the men rushed toward me.
ME: So we’re doing this again.
The men slammed me to the floor.
ME: I had it all! I had it all! Just a few hours ago, I walked into this place on top of the world. I was the captain of my own team. And we had such a cause! We had a cause! You were my brothers and sisters. I would have gone to the wall for you! And you for me! Now look at us!
Sheila, our boss, stepped close, looking down at me, shaking her head.
SHEILA: Go home. We’ll talk tomorrow.
I cried then.
ME: I had it all… Just this morning… I had it all… My very own 3-hole punch…
Diary, believe me as I write this: I didn’t lift the 3-hole punch from Sheila’s desk. But someone had. I had to clear my name. Someone was going down.