Smoke Break

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Smoke Break

Fred smiled as he shrugged of his jacket.  The warm sun rushed to his back and Fred responded by unbuttoning his shirt sleeves; rolling them up past his elbows.  The heat felt good on his balding head.  He took off his thick glasses and wiped away a few beads of sweat which had quickly appeared.  All in all, it was a rather pleasant way to spend a mid-morning work shift.

Fred looked to his coworkers.  They all seemed to be having as nice of a time at work as he was.  Cellular phones had been quickly drawn out as they clumsily ambled out of the building.  Once they glimpsed the rare autumn appearance of the sun and the green world around them, the office-dwellers soon turned off their devices and basked in the weather. 

Leaning back with his hand shading his eyes, Fred admired the sun and its glow.  The office needed the break.  Contracts had been slow to come in.  The stress of landing new clients was always in the air, but this time the impatience and helplessness was especially palpable.  When the new project finally did present itself, the office found that they were lacking in staff due to necessary cuts.  All the members of the team were scrambling to get the work done by the unrealistic deadline that loomed above them like a scythe.  Naturally, the client calling at all hours to insert their objections; only to change their mind later half the time, just perpetuated the angst and frayed nerves.

However, this unplanned break was out of the employees’ hands.  The fire alarm had gone off, the alarm had rung, and it was policy that everyone had to exit the building until the all-clear was announced.  Even if they knew the cause of the alarm, each room would have to be checked to ensure there was not some other, smaller fire waiting to burst.  The complex was vast, with many floors and even more storage rooms littering the floor plan.  It would be at least another fifteen minutes until the firemen completed their search.

Fred was one of the older men on staff.  He had been around since the company’s inception.  He had never sought out a leadership role.  Fred preferred to do his work and let that be enough.  The times when he did stand up and comment were so rare that his presence was one that commanded attention.  It wasn’t just that he was six foot three and could have passed for a rugby player.  Fred was respected; his opinions and expertise were valued.  His joints creaked when he sat for too long, and he would sometimes forget where he put his glasses.  Regardless of these minute flaws, everyone looked to Fred for cues of when to worry and when to not.  Seeing him smile and stretch in the great outdoors only made them relax that much more.

There was one quirk, or rather a desk decoration; that everyone loved to joke about.  Fred was the only resident of the office to still have his original, entirely metallic, desk stapler.  The decorative paint had long since worn off and it was horrendously ugly to all the other staff.  To Fred, it was a simple matter of practicality.  Why should he bother to switch to a new and flimsier plastic stapler when his industrial-style machine functioned just fine?  Everyone knew it was Fred’s stapler.   Even the new staff was quick to see how much it fit his personality.  When heckled about his sizable desk trinket, Fred would simply shrug and reply that the stapler had never jammed on him.

(This fact was not entirely true.  Once, many years ago, an attractive account representative had asked to borrow his stapler.  Fred, seeing no harm in helping out the pretty woman, assented.  However she attempted to staple too many sheets together and had ended with a mangled mess of staples that tried to escape through the narrow chute.  Fred had done what any man would have done.  He went at it with a letter opener.  Poking, pulling, and prodding, he eventually managed to clear the bent staples out.  Unhappily, it happened quickly, while Fred had held the stapler up for a better view.  The staples sprung free and the letter opener recoiled and jabbed him in the forehead.  Fred still had the scar to this day.  When he rubbed it out of frustration, it would change colors slightly and form a bridge between his eyebrows.  Fred was the only person to have an eyebrow-scar-eyebrow unibrow.  To those who didn’t know any different, Fred simply told them that a cat had swatted at him in panic.  The truth, in his eyes, made him look clumsy.)

With his easy-going manner and powerful presence, it was no surprise to anyone that Fred was enjoying the sunshine.  He noticed that an intern had removed a Frisbee from their trunk.  The intern and some of his office mates were headed to a nearby patch of grass to throw the disc around.  Fred hurried after them, anxious to join in the fun.  On a day like this, it was hard to feel guilty for burning the popcorn in the microwave to a charred, smoky mass.

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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