There is No “I” in Team (fiction)

“There is no ‘I’ in team,” he huffed. His meaty fist thumped the table between them to emphasize his words. It wasn’t much of a sound really. A soft swack of flesh that dispersed into the large conference room as if embarrassed to be coming from this man.

Missy rolled her head around, her neck popping with cricks and cracks. She stared at the frosted glass window behind him where vague shapes passed by like ghosts teasing the senses.

“And do you dare tell me there’s a ‘me’ in it either because I don’t think you’re funny, Missy.”

He hadn’t reached his point yet and Missy figured she had another four to six minutes before he did. She already knew why he was pissed, but he wouldn’t address that. She had been polite about it after all. She always was. The rest of the team knew her gentle corrections to his misspelled emails sent with the Reply All button were anything but well-intentioned, but he couldn’t prove that.

“There’s ‘ate’,” she said with a faux helpful tone. “And ‘meat’ and ‘mat’ too, but ‘mat’ is kind of boring, unless we’re talking about that guy in IT, but I’m fairly certain he spells it with two T’s.”

“Excuse me, Miss Stanfield?”

“Meat,” she said. “I have these great steaks waiting at home. Which reminds me, this weekend is the first day of spring and I’m having a barbeque. You should drop by. I’ve been craving a big, juicy, red steak since my grill got snowed in last October. If I don’t get a good steak this weekend, I’ll go crazy.”

You know those old cartoons where steam comes out of someone’s ears when they’re angry…

“I will not fall for your games today, Miss Stanfield!”

He thumped his fist on the table again and stood up. He moved to the door, his hand on the handle, leaning on it as if the effort exhausted him.

“You’re on warning as of today. I will add a note to your personnel file tonight. If you do not make efforts to work with the team, you will be removed from it.”

He froze and his flabby body tensed. His eyes glazed over and then rolled back in his head. He opened his mouth but no words arrived, only a drop of drool creept slowly over his lower lip. Without ceremony, he dropped to the floor like a… forget the cliché potatoes, he dropped like a fat man.

“Shit…”  Missy muttered. “I do not want to spend my Friday evening with the paramedics.” She pushed herself up and called his name. When he didn’t answer, she sighed at the inconvenience and crouched beside him. She shook his shoulder. Nothing. She felt for a pulse. More nothing. His neck might have been too big to find a pulse. She checked his wrist. Nothing. “Shit…”

Missy tugged at his shoulder, trying to move him from the door. He wouldn’t budge. After patting down her pockets, she remembered plugging her cell phone into the charger on her desk. She grabbed handfuls of his age-yellowed shirt and threw her weight back as she pulled. He rolled a fraction of an inch, but then her fingers slipped and he slammed back against the door.

“You bastard,” she hissed.

She jumped up and pressed her face to the glass. She could see nothing beyond the frosted panes and the ghosts had ceased. She banged a fist on it and screamed. “Hey! Anyone out there! Hey, I’m stuck in here.”

Silence returned. She’d have snuck out too, had it not be her dragged in for a “sit-down”.

Scowling at her surroundings, scowling at the situation, she sighed and picked up a chair. It was heavy and unwieldy but what choice did she have? She swung it at the glass. It bounced off sending a painful shock through her shoulders and back. With a frustrated cry, she sunk to the floor and buried her face in her hands trying not to think about the dinner that would have to wait until Monday.

Damn it. Monday. Even the cleaning crews had Friday night off.

#

“Do you smell that?” Bobby asked.

Beth wrinkled her nose and nodded. “I just cleaned the coffee pot,” she said.

Bobby drifted through the office, trying to track down the smell. “Something’s burning.”

Following behind him, Beth said nothing.

“The conference room.” Bobby hurried forward and pushed at the door. “It’s stuck. Help me.”

Together they shoved the door open a few inches. Beth peeked in, spun away, and retched on the carpet. Bobby frowned at her and then poked his head through the doorway.

“Missy?” he asked. He barely recognized his co-worker smudged with blood and soot. He wished he didn’t recognize what she was chewing on, but what he saw roasting over a small fire of printer paper wedged in a metal wastebasket made her first spring meal quite clear.

“Who’d have thought?” she mused. “That the lazy fart would be so tender?”

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