You Asked For It – Sort of

September 21, 2010

A couple of you reminded me of my novel recently, so I thought I might as well write a random chapter of it.

*******

Wednesday – 9:20 am

Carol died.

Not in front of me. It didn’t just happen at work. We all received an email about it this morning. Apparently, Carol died last night. Heart attack. It was one of those “massive” heart attacks you hear about. The one’s that sound like there was premeditation involved. The email that awaited us containing this morbid news was light on details. The gossips in HR were not. They somehow knew everything as if they planned it.

In all honesty, Carol dying of a heart attack was not a shock. It was a shock it happened yesterday and I’m hearing about it this morning, but it was not a shock that her heart seizing and calling it quits was the way she went. Carol looked like she got addicted to cookie dough early in life and never missed an opportunity for a fix for the next 30 – 40 years. I guess it is mean to judge a person strictly on their weight, but this is Carol I’m talking about. I knew Carol best as a bi-pedal grazing cow. Plus she’s dead, so I’m not hurting her feelings any.

Before the terrorist attack, Carol worked as a secretary for someone who did something in the patent department. I think I only saw her once at her desk. Her desk was covered in over grown potted plants that looked on the verge of mutiny. She was sitting at her desk, sweating. Sweating from answering the phones. I just was never in that building much. That building that is now a hole in the Earth smelling of burnt offerings. Why blow up office drones in the patent department? Why kill them? Probably because the “terrorists” didn’t know, which building was which and just chose one. That’s my guess. Why construct a bomb to kill Carol?

I never saw Carol at her desk; I saw Carol by my desk. Before the attack, when everyone was cheery and skipped down the halls as some would lead you to believe, if someone from legal brought in donuts or brownies or baked goods of any kind then they would stick them by me. At the end of the row, my desk has a series of about belly button high shelves and that became the official food for the plebeians area. If you decided for no apparent reason to buy a box of danishes on your way to work then you left that box open to the salivating masses 6 feet from my desk. It got to the point between birthdays, unofficial holidays like secretary’s day, boss’ day, even it just being Friday that there was always food open to the public sitting by my desk.

On several occasions this generosity in baked goods lined up and a few people brought in cakes and cookies. This perfect storm of free food turned into a shark feeding frenzy once everyone within walking distance heard about it. This is when I saw Carol and this is how I know Carol. She was one of my all-stars. It’s hard not to take note of faces you see more than once, especially if that face is jamming a whole slice of cheesecake down its throat at 9am. Why did someone buy cheesecake at 8am to then give away at 9am on a Tuesday? That did not matter to Carol nor a few others who wolfed it down moments after its arrival.

It became a ritual. People were buying food every morning to leave by my desk. Some purchases were elaborate like two dozen black & white cookies or cupcakes decorated in the company’s trademark colors. I stopped buying breakfast for a month because the shelves next to my desk would transform into my own Dunkin’ Donuts franchise by 10am. That mixture of a near endless supply of bakery icing and a lack of will power in Carol was just too much for her. Everyday she would be at those shelves eating.

What was shocking about Carol’s death was she died in the gym. At her local Bally’s or New York Sports Club or Health & Fitness. Of all places. I could not picture Carol at gym in spandex or sweats. But there she spent her final moments. It must have been like dying in a foreign land. Imagine dying surrounded by strangers at a cock fight in Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish nor do I know anything about cock fighting, so it would be like dying on the footsteps of an alien culture. That was what I’m guessing the free weights section of Carol’s local gym was to her.

One of the bitchy HR boys, said that Carol collapsed while doing squats during her first personal training session. After seeing the flames engulf her desk and building and some of her co-workers, Carol thought about that idea of getting a new lease on life. She joined a gym. And the gym killed her. It’s not real irony. It’s more like Alanis Morisette’s “Irony”. Only finding spoons when you need a knife or rain on your wedding day. It’s not really ironic, but I get it. It’s “ironic” that her newly employed personal trainer who was put to the task of helping Carol shed multiple dozens of pounds to help her live a longer and better life instead pushed her too hard in the name of exercise and killed her.

I should have been her personal trainer. I saw Carol at her worst. I saw her daily practices that needed to be curbed. I saw what Carol was capable of. That personal trainer knew nothing of Carol’s “plate”. Carol carried a plate. It didn’t start off that way, but that eventually became a fixture of hers. Tucked under her right arm, Carol would bring her own plate with her to the food buffet. She made sure to have a date planner or some office props in her hands to make it look like she was working or coming from some meeting. But who goes to a meeting with a daily planner, a stack of pens and a dinner plate?

Carol would waddle to the shelves and peruse the chocolatey items like this was an Italian market and not the legal department of a major pharmaceutical company. Once she found what she liked, which was most things, she would begin to pile them onto the plate forming a leaning tower of Pisa of brownies and cookies. The word “foraging” always came to mind when I saw her. It was like watching a chipmunk gathering nuts for the winter and storing them away. Carol in her suit size infinity putting together a back catalog of snicker doodle cookies to feed a wealth of people throughout the cold winter.

And some days, very few days, there wasn’t any food. There were days that no one thought to go to a bakery or donut shop or a Starbucks and pick up $30 worth of food no one should be eating. Those days Carol would still stop by. Whether or not someone had told Carol there was no food on the shelves, she would still stop by just to make sure they weren’t lying to her. People lie. There could have been food. Carol needed to see with her own two eyes. On those occasions, her walk back to her desk was a sad one. Her plate still tucked under her arm.

And now, I sit at my desk and there is no food. No one feels merry enough to buy a dozen donuts after surviving an epic bomb explosion. I had not seen Carol since the day of the attack. She was on her way to see what food was sitting next to my desk when the C4 and gasoline barrels blew up the building she worked in. If she was not addicted to chocolate chunk cookies at the start of her workday then she probably would have been sitting at her desk when it was destroyed by a fireball.

It’s lonely here without the food and without Carol. I can’t believe I’m tearing up thinking about Carol. They say yawning is infectious. You see some yawn and you yawn like an idiot whether you are tired or not. Same goes for smiles. Carol’s fat face would be lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning when she would approach my desk. She knew just around the corner was some sugary goodness that would brighten up her dull morning. And whether I was happy or not, I had to smile back.

The email this morning was simple and had a purpose – Carol’s dead, there will be a card passed around for people to sign if they want and there’s a charity we can donate to. Nothing against Carol, but, realistically, I can’t see many cutting checks for her dying when we all broke our piggy banks giving money for the “fund”. The “fund” was set up for the 119 families that lost someone in the terrorist attack on Carol’s old patent department. It has only been 2 weeks since the attack; it’s just bad timing and all for Carol.

Fucking Carol. I need a cookie to cheer me up.

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8 Responses to “You Asked For It – Sort of”

  1. susanelle said

    I love this novel. Finish it, finish it, finish it.

    The ironies are all so intriguingly subtle.

    It’s cute that you say “woof down” for “wolf down.”

    You think it really is “woof,” don’t you? Because people who wolf their food do make a kind of huffing noise.

    Oh, what the hell, go with it!

  2. MLF said

    omg. cool, now I’m starving and I want baked goods nd I have no food. and no potential of having food for a long ass time.

    nice chapter though

  3. MLF said

    so the way carol died is suprisingly common. very scary. that’s one of my fears- that I will drop dead when working out. I mean it’s not like I work out THAT hard because I don’t but sometimes in overweight people your brain will heat up from all the strain and like, explode. that is not the medical term they use but the first sympton of pending brain exploditude is headaches and I get headaches all the time when I work out because I get hot and I have poor circulation.

    anyways, this is a real fear people should worry about.

  4. I have to agree with Susanelle — I really like this. You’d think that, given the fact that I spend my days in an office just like this, that the last thing I’d want to do would be to read about it. It’s good because it’s relate-able, but with a touch of the absurd. Same formula that made The Office so popular…

    One of the stranger things I’ve seen brought into the office here for everyone was a loaf of Italian bread and some sort of tofu bruschetta. This woman went out of her way to get it on her lunch break and bring it back for everyone. A massive loaf of bread. Elaborate. There there’s one guy — the guy who wears clogs and a bright yellow backpack with his initials embroidered on it (he’s married… there’s someone for everyone, I guess) — who loves to bake and brings in homemade fruit tarts and cobblers pretty regularly. Today? Bagels. I managed to resist for about 15 mins before going all Carol on them. But I could smell the warm everything bagels from 25 feet away. Also, I live like a college bachelor, and I know better than to turn down free food.

    Anyway. Nice work. Now you just have to finish it… no biggie.

  5. Lala said

    This novel is really cool, I love it. And now I need to eat something. And you have to finish writing it.

    Also I kinda have a confession to make, I forgot to read your post yesterday, Jordan. I’m sorry, I feel so guilty.

  6. cledbo said

    I second everyone else’s thoughts on novel = awesome and me = hungry, despite having just had breakfast and a coffee.

    I asked a medical friend of mine how you could tell if you were having a heart attack, and he said the most common symptom apart from a tingly left arm was a sense of impending doom. So if you’ve got pins and needles on one side but are feeling pretty chipper, you’re probably not having a heart attack.

    Also I must apologise for being totally slack in my commetatoring duties – I feel like my real work is getting in the way of my fake work here.

    Write the book and I will buy it. If you do it soon, I will make my Book Club read it too, and you will be famous in the Adelaide office of an Australian Federal Government agency – just what you always wanted I’m sure.

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