by Seb Reilly
It all just started out as an office prank.
Where I work there’s this guy, Chris, a giant slobbering beast who thinks it’s hilarious to wind everyone up. He sees himself as the resident joker.
The first day I started he told me to never let him make me a drink. Whenever he makes a drink, for anyone, he’ll spit in it. He was telling me this as a courtesy, he said. He wasn’t lying. My cubicle is right by the kitchen, so I can hear him clear as day. He’ll suck up as much snot as can, right through the back of his throat. The noise is disgusting. He’ll spew this vile glob into the boiling water, stirring it into the coffee, then hand it over to his unaware victim with a smile.
One day Chris brought in a nail file. He waited until I’d made myself a drink, then came over to my desk and rubbed the file against his elbow. Shavings of dry skin tumbled off onto the carpet creating a mound of flakes. He told me he’d done that to my coffee. I said I’d made my own coffee. He told me it was in the jar.
Like I said, the guy’s a prick.
To get him back I messed with his computer. He’s allergic to celery, which is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard of, but there you go. I changed all the icons on his screen to pictures of celery. I changed his background picture, the one of his wife and kids, to celery. I changed his email signature to a picture of celery. I changed his homepage to a website for celery enthusiasts. I set reminders to go off every hour of the day with pictures of celery and a warning saying danger in big red letters.
Never mess with a guy that works in IT.
Then I taped a stick of celery to his door. The guy is so allergic he can’t even touch it or his skin breaks out in a rash, so that stayed there for a week until someone took it down for him.
He saw the funny side.
He told me he hadn’t actually done anything to the coffee, he just did it to make me think he had. That grated on me. Every day I’d come into work worrying about what he’d done. He always got there earlier than everyone else. I’d dread finding something. I was living in a permanent state of fear and paranoia. I hated him.
A few weeks went by.
The fire alarm goes off quite often in our building. We have to file outside, and we stand and smoke with all the other companies. Everyone does their registers, checks all employees are outside. Even if there’s no danger we still have to wait for the fire brigade to turn up, apparently.
My boss was based out of the country half the time. I turned up and he was there, yelling at me for not answering the phone for three days. I hadn’t even noticed, no one else called me except the boss, and I never used the phone. It seemed that Chris had taken the cable out of the back and hidden it in a cupboard, behind the spare printer ink. To retaliate I took the keys off his keyboard and moved them around to spell dirty words. He responded by pissing on the floor of my office.
Then I got annoyed.
There’s a pool table in one of the rooms, one of those portable types that you see in catalogues. It’s just a baby one, half size, but every lunchtime he goes and plays pool against another guy that works in the office. I took the white ball and hid it on a shelf in his cubicle, behind some old catalogues. The next day I took the black ball. I got halfway through the colours before he discovered them.
He took my laptop and put it where I’d been hiding the pool balls.
I found it straight away. The guy’s not a genius, he’s not that hard to figure out, but I decided to really get him back. He wants to play pool that much, I’ll let him.
The office that I work in is populated with small cubicles, like chicken hutches. Or prison cells. The door opens inwards, and there’s a desk running along one side with shelves above it. There’s just enough room to fit a chair. Purgatory.
After everyone left I took the legs down on the pool table, carried it through the office and slid it into the cubicle where Chris works. I had to ram his chair under the desk to make enough room but I managed to get the pool table upright. It filled the space. I laid out the balls in the triangle, put the white on its spot, and placed the cues down the side. I even put the chalk on the edge. Then I squeezed out the tiny gap in the door. There’s no way that fat bastard can get in there, he’s like two of me. I reached in and pulled the table closer until the door only opened to the width of my wrist, then left. The room was full, wall to wall with green felt.
I laughed the whole way home.
Chris was impressed, I could tell. He found the whole situation hilarious. He commended me, and told me I had won. He said that he couldn’t top that for style. It took him two hours to figure out how to get into his office.
After that the pranks died down. Chris still spat in people’s coffee, still farted in everyone’s cubicle, but he left me alone. I hoped that meant I was off the hook, but I had a feeling there was more to come.
I was right.
Every year we go to this convention and the company puts us all up in some cheap hotel. We’re in the bar and the boss has given us some cash to get some drinks. We’re all drinking, laughing, and Chris is telling the story of how I put a pool table in his office to the girl serving us. She looks at me with warmth in her eyes, a flirty smile across her lips. I make some joke about showing her my balls. She laughs.
Later that night I tell her how hot she is. I tell her all the things I’d do to her. I tell her I’m hard. Everyone else had gone to bed. She calls last orders and tells me to wait.
When she’s finished her shift we go up to my room. She’s so sexy, all curves and eyelashes, and I can’t wait to get inside her. We start foreplay in the lift. When we reach my door my trousers are round my ankles and my cock is in her hand. I almost fall over fumbling for the key in my pockets, bent over double like some ridiculous flamingo with an erection, but the key’s not there. It’s at that moment that Chris rounds the corner, walks up to me. I stand up and I’m completely to attention, pointing right at him. He just laughs. You dropped this, he says, and he gives me my key.
He walks off laughing, tells us to have a good night. I’m dreading opening the door but I have to. It doesn’t matter what he’s done, I’m still going to screw this girl.
It’s worse than I thought.
The bed is covered in gay porn magazines. Pages spread all over the place, cocks everywhere. Across them are wet stains, shooting creamy scum seeping into the glossy paper. Loads of it.
She laughs. She tells me the pool table was still better. She tells me to clear it away or I won’t get any. Then she takes her top off.
I gather up the duvet, wrap it all into a mountain of testosterone, and dump it in the corner. I go to wash my hands but there’s no soap. It’s one of those bottles where you push the top down and the soap squirts out onto your hand.
There’s no soap.
So that’s what’s on the magazines. I pray he didn’t add to it.
At breakfast Chris asked me if I got lucky. The girl had left, given me her number. She was back on that night. She told me not to leave town before we had another round.
The convention continued. I had her again that night, and the next day before we left. I kept her number for next year. I guess I won’t be needing it now.
I had to get Chris back. It’s not that it was gay porn, I’m no homophobe; it was clearing it away that was the trouble. In the end I just piled it up and left it outside Chris’s door after he’d checked out. His mess, his problem. I needed a plan, but I couldn’t think of anything. Well, that’s not strictly true. I could think of loads of things, but nothing that would beat what he did.
So I waited.
Chris joined a gym and started losing weight. He got himself down pretty quickly; apparently his doctor scared him or something. He was drinking these protein shakes to keep his energy up and started cycling to and from work. He left his drinks in the fridge during the day.
The fridge in the kitchen.
The kitchen by my office.
This was it.
At first I just spat in them. His cubicle was down the other end of the corridor so he couldn’t hear me hacking up gunge. Then I found a shop that sold dehydrated powdered anything, so I bought some lard. Full fat stuff. I added more and more each day, and he started gaining weight again. He didn’t know why. He started going to the gym more, training harder, but it didn’t work.
Every day I’d add more and more lard, and every day he’d drink it. Disgusting.
One day I’m back in the shop, buying more, and I find celery powder. This is just too tempting.
I start with just a pinch of the celery, just to see. Within an hour he’s feeling sick, but he sticks it out. The next day he’s doubled over in pain, so I scale back the pinch just in case. I get it to a fine art, just enough to make him feel ill. He doesn’t like going to the gym anymore, he can’t handle the exertion. He starts comfort eating as he’s constantly ill. That combined with the mountains of lard and he starts to balloon. I tell myself I’ll wait until he’s back to the size he was before, then I’ll stop. Then I’ll tell him.
That morning, when he gets in, he puts his shake in the fridge and goes over to his desk. He’s sweating and his face is pale. I pile in as much lard as I can, and add a pinch of celery.
I’m trying to hide what I’m doing but I slip in panic and drop a load of celery powder into the drink.
I put the bottle back in the fridge, the celery still floating on top. No time to shake or stir. I turn back to my coffee I’m brewing, start pouring in some milk. Someone walks into the kitchen.
It’s Chris, taking his drink out of the fridge.
I tell him I’ve pissed in it, expecting him to throw it away. I figure he’ll believe me.
He takes a swig.
I told him not too, but he did it anyway.
A whole mouthful of dried celery.
It takes fifteen seconds for him to vomit. It takes another twenty before he falls over and only a further four before he starts to fit. His face goes red, blistered, his skin boiling before my eyes. He bites down on his tongue so hard that the end is hanging off, dangling and spraying blood.
Now he’s stopped moving.
No one else has come down this way, so I’ve dragged him into my cubicle. I’ve put him into the recovery position and I’m mopping up the blood in the kitchen. I’ve poured the shake down the sink and washed out the bottle. I’ve destroyed all the evidence and I just hope the fat prick is still alive.
I check his pulse on his wrist.
He’s fat, maybe I should check his neck.
I put my hand on his chest to feel for a heartbeat.
I put my phone under his nose, hope the screen will steam up, show he’s still alive.
Like I said, it all just started out as an office prank.
I try mouth to mouth. I punch his chest and count to five. I do the stuff they tell you to in movies.
There’s no way I can drag him back to his desk without anyone seeing. I need a distraction.
If I leave Chris just inside my door no one will be able to see him from the kitchen. No one looks in my office anyway. I leave, go out to the communal staircase, find a fire alarm point. Hit it.
The alarm blares, screaming in my ears. I hold open the door to our office and everyone files out, coffee mugs in hand, rolling their eyes at me. Another fire alarm. Again. I wait for the last one to leave, then go in. I go to my cubicle. I drag Chris out and into his. I put him in his chair, lean him back. I rest his head against the window sill. Blood drips from his tongue onto the carpet. I go back and clean up the smears from the corridor. Thank god for linoleum. I take the stack of paper he was resting on from my office, protecting my carpet, and bring it with me. I cover over the blood. I drop it in the main bin out the back, the one for food waste. I walk around the front of the building and light a cigarette. I wait for them to spot me.
Someone finds me, asks me if I’ve seen Chris. I tell them I haven’t. They ask if I’ve checked his office. No, I say.
Then the fire brigade turns up.
They go in, turn off the alarm, and find the cause. They come out and ask who pressed it. No one speaks. They ask if anyone’s seen a fire and everyone says no. They go check the building.
I light another cigarette.
After far too long one of them comes out, asks the building manager some questions. He calls over my boss. The three of them talk. My boss looks worried.
An ambulance arrives.
Now everyone is starting to panic. I join in; ask the person next to me if they know what’s going on. Someone asks me again if I’ve seen Chris.
The paramedics are wheeling out the body now. It’s covered in black plastic. Rubbish for landfill.
The police arrive.
This is getting out of control very quickly.
I light another cigarette. I mean, Chris was a prick, but did he deserve to die? So now I’m waiting to be interviewed by Sergeant something and Officer whoever. I’m out of cigarettes. They ask me where I was, I tell them I was first to the office door, I held it open for everyone, then went outside and stood over in the shade. Everyone saw me, they verify my story. They found me in the corner, in the shade. I’m covered.
My boss sends us all home for the day. He’s usually a cold, heartless man only interested in profit, but even he shows some humanity.
More than me.
The next day it’s business as usual, but everyone is on edge. No one knows what happened, and we all act concerned. We send his wife flowers.
The results of the investigation showed that Chris had died from an allergic reaction to celery which caused a heart attack due to the high levels of cholesterol in his heart. The police say his diet must have been awful. They say they think the shake had celery in it. They don’t blame me.
I tell my boss I can’t work in that office anymore, not after someone died there. I tell him I’m going to move on. He shakes my hand and wishes me well.
At Chris’s funeral his wife is crying. I tell her I’m sorry for her loss, that Chris was a great guy, that I liked him a lot. People walk around talking like he was some kind of martyr.
There’s a buffet laid out for the mourners. No one’s eating. I take the bag of chopped celery out of my pocket and empty it into the salad, covering everything with the lethal vegetable that killed him.
Now who’s the joker?
***Seb Reilly is an author, fiction writer and occasional musician. He lives by the
sea in Kent with his family and two cats, and when he is not writing he enjoys
music and film. sebreilly.com