My wife told me I had to go to work today. I've been calling in sick for a few days, trying to make a go of a home business which mainly consists of buying and selling paper towel. Long story short, I spent all of our savings but now have enough paper towel to soak up the Red Sea so that Moses and his people can safely cross to the promise land.
I'm a photocopy guy at a small accounting firm. It felt weird walking back into my day job this morning. Everyone was busily bustling about so I walked straight to my cubicle and kept my head down. I didn't want to answer any questions as to why I haven't been coming in to work lately. I picked up my phone and dialed up Charisse, an accountant who works in a cubicle across the room from me.
ME: Charisse, it's me, Eric. I'm hiding in my cubicle.
CHARISSE: Eric, where have you been?
ME: I'm just checking in to catch up on what's been happening here.
CHARISSE: No one's seen you in five weeks.
ME: I've had the sniffles.
CHARISSE: You better have a doctor's note.
ME: My doctor kind of fired me as a patient 'cause I never make it to the appointments.
I turned around in my seat to look up behind me, and was immediately faced with Sheila, my boss, who stood over me.
SHEILA (stone cold): Where have you been?
ME (nonchalantly): I've been here all morning, working away, like a dog.
SHEILA: How about yesterday? And the day before that?
ME (incredulous): I was here, working away, like a dog.
Sheila turned to Charlie who is this skinny twentysomething dweeb who works in the cubicle next to mine and never says anything.
SHEILA (indulging me): Charlie, was Eric here yesterday?
I leaned back in my chair so that I could easily stare into Charlie's cubicle and give him a hard, intense look.
ME: Yeah Charlie, was I here yesterday? You remember me here, right, and also how you want to stay alive after work today, so that you can get to go home to your mommy, safely, in one piece.
Looking at Charlie just then, it dawned on me that I never noticed just how imposingly tall Charlie is, and overtly muscular. Charlie stared back into my eyes, his own eyes dead, and slightly annoyed, like I wasn't even worth the effort to look at.
CHARLIE: No. He wasn't here yesterday.
I was steamed.
ME: Hey pardner! I was here! I remember! Because I was working away! Like a dog!
SHEILA: Eric, calm down.
ME (still hot under the collar): It's just that I hate liars! I hate big fat liars like Charlie!
Charlie's bulging biceps were twitching then, as he appeared to be struggling to remain seated, and not to lunge at me.
ME: The garbage that spills from Charlie's mouth is so foul. Everything that comes out of his mouth is trash.
Charlie starting cracking his knuckles with his Incredible-Hulk-like, tree trunk fingers. If I said anything else, this guy was surely going to rip my entire body into wedding confetti.
I shook my head.
ME: What a liar.
SHEILA: I stared at your cubicle all day yesterday. You were never here. So Eric, you stop lying.
Sheila stared intently into my eyes. I blushed from being so intimidated.
ME: Well maybe it was the day before yesterday that I was here...
This is when Sheila really lost it.
SHEILA: I've been staring at your cubicle for five weeks now! And it's been empty for five weeks!
Many in the office shuddered then. The place turned deathly still.
ME (meekly): Well, maybe it was five weeks ago that I was here, come to think of it. It just felt like it was yesterday. It's just all so fresh in my head. Probably because on that day I was working away, like a dog.
SHEILA: You never called to let us know what happened to you.
ME: I didn't want to be a bother. I was fine everybody, trust me.
SHEILA: Do you have a doctor's note?
ME: I'm kind of in between doctors right now.
I reached down into my backpack which was under my desk.
ME: But my wife did write a note from home. I just need to have her sign it tonight.
SHEILA: Don't bother. You're fired.
My jaw dropped. I looked back up at Sheila.
ME: I missed five weeks of work. I never called to explain my whereabouts. I don't have a doctor's note or even a valid reason as to why I've been missing for so long. And now... I'm fired. I have to be honest with you Sheila; I never saw that one coming.
SHEILA: Well, what I'd like to see is you leaving.
I paused for a moment, not saying anything. I couldn't afford to lose my job. I needed a plan, or a disguise, but not necessarily both.