Cuthbert Sloane was on a roll.
It started the day he went into the office lunchroom to grab a cup of coffee. He always kept a carton of milk in the fridge. He was the only one in the office who took milk in his coffee, and he brought in his own. But that dreary Thursday he held the carton upside down above his cup and not a drop of milk came out. Now, if there were one thing Cuthbert could not abide, it was helping yourself to something that wasn’t yours.
He knew it had to be Betty. Petty Betty, as he called her in his mind. He had jammed the copier the Friday before—totally accidental, it was—and by the time the tech guy had finally swanned in to have a look, it was gone five and he said it would have to wait until Monday. Petty Betty was fuming and the milk was her passive aggressive revenge, no doubt.
Cuthbert handled it with dignity, aplomb, and no small amount of poetic justice. At least that’s what he told himself as he milked the last drops of brake fluid into the empty carton Friday afternoon.
So sad to hear of Betty’s passing when they all came back in Monday morning. It really cast a pall over the office. Of course Cuthbert chipped in when Grinning Ginny, the office pep squad all in one perky buck-toothed bundle, went round taking up a collection to send flowers to the family. He couldn’t help but notice, though, that the bouquet she cc’d them all a photo of was on the budget page of the flower shop website. He’d wager she pocketed the difference.
Well now, that just wasn’t right, and it sure wouldn’t happen again if Cuthbert had anything to do with it. A tissue neatly sopped up the layer of oil off his jar of peanut butter at home Wednesday morning. Not that he could bring peanut butter sandwiches to work, as someone was allergic. The tissue was the next thing that lined Grinning Ginny’s pocket.
Thursday was a dark day in the office. Soft murmurs of ‘Poor Ginny’ and ‘She was so young’ and ‘I heard they couldn’t find her epi-pen and by the time they got her to the hospital she was gone.’ There was even the occasional worried whisper: ‘Don’t these things happen in threes?’
It was all overshadowed on Monday by the breathless anticipation of the announcement of the next assistant manager. Everyone expected Cuthbert to get the promotion; he’d been working so hard and he had the most qualifications and the top sales for the last three quarters. A ripple of raised eyebrows and surprised gasps rounded the office when Barry stood up and shook the boss’s hand with his chest puffed out. Later on, Cuthbert watched as Brown-nose Barry circled the office collecting high fives and firm back-of-the-shoulder pats, accolades that should have belonged to him. Not to mention the pay raise that Cuthbert had been counting on.
Not to worry, Cuthbert had just the thing. A pay raise and greater responsibility most often came with greater stress. Brown-nose Barry was also going to need an increase in his blood pressure medication, to be sure. Cuthbert took him a congratulatory cup of coffee in his new corner office and watched him down it in three quick swallows. ‘No, don’t worry “sir” I’ll wash the cup.’