Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Prompt: What it Takes

The new regional manager had no sense of humor. Hank had never seen him smile, and he often broke up the informal morning meetings at the water cooler that Hank enjoyed with his co-workers. They would talk about their favorite television shows or sports or politics, but the new regional manager informed them, with a face that betrayed no emotion, that they had plenty of time for fun when the work day was over.
“Get to know him!” Hank’s wife urged. “Once you know what he likes, you’ll be able to talk to him about that, and then maybe he’ll loosen up a a bit.”
“We’ve invited him!” Hank whined in response. “He always makes some work-related excuse.” His wife shrugged.
“Maybe he just loves his job.”
“Yeah, but we can’t talk to him about that.”
It wasn’t that Hank didn’t like his job, he just enjoyed his day more when he was able to make the guy in the cubicle next to him grin or share a laugh with his boss’ assistant.
He was determined to make the new regional manager smile.
The first attempt was made on a casual Friday. Hank wore an oversized t-shirt that read, “WHO LET THA DOGS OUT?!” His co-workers rolled with laughter, but the new regional manager just raised his eyebrow, shaking his head as he walked away.
Hank visited an office supply website and ordered himself a new staple remover shaped like a crocodile and some novelty post it notes. Every time he removed a staple, he’d provide his own sound effects: “chomp, chomp.” It made the guy in the cubicle next to him laugh every time. He overheard someone ask the new regional manager if he’d seen Hank’s new staple remover, and the new regional manager’s reply, that he didn’t mind that kind of thing, as long as it “didn’t interfere with productivity.”
The following Wednesday when Hank woke up with some particularly spectacular bed head, he left home bathed in his wife’s giggles, and arrived at work to receive some high fives from the guys in the mailroom. The new regional manager offered him the use of a comb and suggested he go into the bathroom and splash some water on his hair. Hank laughed and explained that he was making a fashion statement. The new regional manager looked puzzled and wondered aloud if that kind of statement was necessary.
Hank decided to give up. For several weeks, he tried not to think about it. In fact, he was determined to focus on his work instead. Surely, if the new regional manager noticed, then Hank’s dedication might make him smile.
One night Hank was just finishing up as the janitor emptied trash from the cubicle across from his. As he gathered his things and began to get ready to go home for the evening, he saw the new regional manager also preparing to leave.
“Have a good night,” he called out across the office.
“You too, drive safe,” the new regional manager responded.
That was when Hank slipped on the banana peel. One moment he was waving across the office over the tops of the cubicles, and the next moment he could feel a bruise forming on his tail bone.
“Oh my God; are you okay?!” the janitor screeched, helping him to his feet.
“Fine, I’m fine,” Hank said, trying to calm her down. In the silence that followed as Hank checked himself for injuries, they heard a strange squeaking noise. “What is that?”
They followed it to its source, and found the new regional manager with his head on his desk, clutching his sides as he squeaked with laughter.
Hank was sure he wouldn’t be able to sit without pain for several weeks, but still felt relieved that he had finally found something that made the new regional manager smile. He laughed at the other man’s attempts to breathe in between fits of giggles and said, “So that’s what it takes?”

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