"Black Coffee"

My boss asks me for some staples. So, like my job entails, I give him what he wants. Staples. Two in the temple, and three in the cheek. Hard and fast, like a tennis racquet. He screams "What the hell" and "What are you doing" before I have his lips stapled shut and gushing-and that's when I wake up.

My computer screen is rippling. My coffee is still. A hurricane is bouncing off windows and swirling icons around my desktop. My pages of work are being scrambled around in a screen saver, staring at me. Unfinished. In progress. Always, in progress.

Always, in overtime.

A couple of cubicles down, Dan is humming. Always working, and humming. Humming little tunes to remind me how happy he is, and how far along with his papers he is, and how far behind I'll always be. Always, behind. In progress, unfinished, asleep. Always.

I can hear the copier copying. Copy after copy. Heavy duty. And I can imagine Cindy standing by. Fat. Tacky. Heavy. Duty. Doing her job, copy after copy.

"We're almost out of toner."

Her voice is fat too. Big and fat.

The intercom lets Mr. Becker know who's on line one.

I can see him with staples dangling loosely from his flesh. Like a hooked fish. Big helpless eyes and all. Flopping around for the phone.

A fish out of water.

Shit out of luck.

I can pretend he's bleeding out from holes I might've punched through his face. Blood pooling in his office. In his lap. His Dockers.

I can pretend whoever it is for him on line three is just going to have to wait, and eventually hang up. Maybe his wife. His all-American trophy wife. Or his mistress.

Whoever the case, I can pretend like they won't be speaking to Becker.

Your hubby is dead. Your affair is dead. My work is dead. Gone.

I can see my papers in front of me. Incomplete. My coffee, a little less.

My boss's designer tie a little more... red.

That's what I pretend, with my work imperfect on my desktop.

I hear the copier. I see Cindy. Fat.

The intercom chirps: her voice as pretty as I remember her legs are slender. She says something about line two. Becker must be still flopping. I pretend.

Dan hums and types away.

The copier stops.

"Yeah, we're out." Cindy's fat voice is yelling. "No more toner."

I hear her holler my name in a slur of obesity.

I'm closest to fresh toner cartridges. A whole box of them just a cubicle down. The copy room is on the next floor, and Cindy's fat voice is booming through the stairwell.

I leave my work and my coffee and figure my papers will be done by the time I'm through with Cindy.

With her toner, I mean.

So I grab a cartridge, and I leave my coffee. I promise it I'll be back.

And there she is. Her body pouring from the low-cut neck of the fabric groping her torso. An abyss of spongy cleavage. Words like "cottage cheese" and "swamp ass" flash in my head, and I say:

"Here's the toner."

And whatever she yells, I don't understand.

I take it as a thank you. A big fat thank you.

She waddles to the copier, and, with a brutish groan, strains over the piece of machinery to try and jam the cartridge into place.

And I smash it shut.

I smash it shut over her fat head, her fat voice wailing, every ounce of cellulite undulating to her little squashed feet.

And I slam it again and again, opening and closing, faster, and faster.

And the lights start flashing, and the scanner begins scanning, and, before the glass breaks through and her head is smashed, stabbed, and fried altogether, I have myself an infinite collection of ghastly portraits with Cindy's fat smashed face spitting out on paper from the other side of the copier.

Copy after copy.

And I wake up. And my coffee is a little less. And my work laughs in my face.

And the pretty voice on the intercom lets Becker know he's got three calls on hold now.

His skin must be flaking. Scales and staples falling to the floor. His flopping must be slowing.

That's what I keep pretending.

Dan hums. And types.

And I hear the copier copying, and I wish Cindy's face was coming out the other end of it.

So I drink some more coffee. And I pretend Becker is dead. I imagine Cindy is no longer with us.

And the intercom calls for Becker. A calming tone.

Then for Dan. Says Becker wanted to see him before, but she forgot. Says she's sorry, and Dan calls and says he'll be right up.

Then she calls for Becker again. A sweet voice.

Line two is clear. They hung up, she says.

She says line three is getting impatient. I figure that one must be his wife.

Your husband is dead, I pretend. And I need more coffee.

I walk into the lounge to pour a new cup. Black.

I can see the front desk and the voice behind the intercom. Tracy. Pretty Tracy.

I wave and she smiles. And calls for Dan again. And then Becker.

I walk over and blow on my coffee and ask her what the deal is with Dan.

She asks me what it is I'm talking about, and I tell her I want to know why Becker wanted to see him so badly.

Tracy says something but I don't hear her. Her skin is smooth and white. Pretty and frail. Black hair, red lips.

Her nails are done and her voice is charming. Pleasant. Delightful.

She says the word: "promotion." Dan's name is in the same sentence.

And I wake up in my cubicle. My coffee cup is full. Hot. Somewhere, Dan is screaming.

Dan comes running, panting. Throwing up.

"She's blue, dude!"

That's what Dan screams. "She's blue!" And he pukes. I ask him what the hell it is he's freaking about.

And then I can just see pretty Tracy with her pretty face, strangled. In my head I see this. I hear her telling me Becker's going to promote Dan. And I can see her twitching, blue. Purple. Green. Her white face flashing colors. The front desk's phone cord cutting off blood, air, whatever from her pretty head. I can hear her wonderful voice, yelping.

And then I can see Dan taking off, screaming, slipping in vomit.

"Shit, dude! Shit! She's bl-" I can hear his skull thud and his ass splash in chunks of yellow.

I bring a paper cutter down on his chest when he looks up. Lumberjack style. It feels more like a bat than a machete. More bone-crushing than splitting. A loud crack. He shoots blood and gasps.

I hear the copier copying. Copy after copy.

I imagine Becker flopping around. Hooks dangling.

I see Dan below me. I can smell him.

I want to wake up.