It’s been a while since anything made it to here. There was a little bit of November in the way. In case you aren’t familiar, that is National Novel Writing Month, better known as “don’t disturb the writers month unless you have caffeine”.
Breaking out of that shell, though, there’s another flash fiction contest from the ladies at Ink After Dark. This time the theme involves the icons of Winter Celebrations combined with too much celebrating.
Here’s my submission, but first a pause. As the nights lengthen in the northern half of this world, many cultures have midwinter festivals. No matter how it’s called wherever you happen to be, I truly hope it’s a good one for you, and that the next year treats you well, wherever you might be.
“…And the profits of the 3rd quarter barely covered the downturn from the global market in the 4th…” droned the middle manager tasked with giving the state of the company address. No doubt, some transparent excuse for a lack of bonuses for the staff again this year. I stopped listening and made my way to the table festooned with tacky decorations and pot-luck dishes.
In through the conference room door came a late arrival in a red sweater. His white beard immediately ruled him out of the sales team, and as he stepped into the room, he blinked at the faces turned his way, and let out a bellowing belch that seemed to vibrate the air. Unashamed, he drew a flask from behind his back and raised it in a salute to the astonished crowd before raising it to his lips. His upturned face turned crestfallen when it turned out to be empty, and he shook it over his mouth in the vain hope for more.
“I seem to be out of sugar plum brandy. How’s the punch?” he staggered toward the feasting table, and to my horror, closer to me.
The manager whose speech had been so memorably interrupted bellowed over the crowd, anger turning his face crimson and making him shake so hard that his jowls seemed made of jelly. “Of all the impropriety! You’re fired!”
“Impropriety, Nathaniel? You of all people? Shove it, or I’ll tell all these nice people or your wife about how your secretary takes your…” he hiccupped loudly before finishing “…dictation. Hmm, I suppose I just did. Oh well, now what have we here?”
The onlookers froze in shock and horror, before a wave of angry amusement swept through the room. Furtive glances darted back and forth between a pair of people who looked like they wished they could melt away. The executive assistant was the first to react, and left the room without looking anyone in the eye. Due to the speech, the discount holiday music had been turned off, so there was no noise to cover up the different reactions to the internal scandal of the year.
One ambitious man started to approach the sloshed snacker, arms extended in supplication. One twinkling eye turned his way, and he stopped cold. The bearded man started filling a pair of cups with punch. “I wouldn’t, little Francis Walter. After all, you wouldn’t want your bogus expense reports or your tattling to make the Vice Presidents look bad coming to light.” Frank paled and stepped back, but not fast enough to save his path up the corporate ladder.
After taking a drink, he frowned mightily. “Bah, this is kid’s stuff. I’m out of here. But you all, I’m watching you. Not at all in the spirit of the season, let me tell you.”
He leaned closer to me and gave me a wink. Whispering conspiratorially, he nudged me with his elbow. “You, though, should definitely go talk to Natalie. She’s on the right kind of naughty list, if you know what I mean.”
With that, he staggered back out the door the way he had come, leaving a scene of frigid shock and memorable chaos in his wake.
There seemed no saving the company party after his departure. Though some tried, there was no drawing attention back to any speeches or team building activities. I left shortly after, but not before looking at Natalie in a new light. As I was leaving, I heard one voice cut through the din that I don’t believe was quite right. “I guess those IT guys really do know everything that happens on the network.”