“Damn those three cups of tea” she muttered.
She drove her red, two door 2000 model, Toyota Avalon through the gates and into the parking lot of the small, one story building that was her office. The entire grounds were littered with dead leaves, giving the building an appearance of extreme neglect.
She jumped out of the car, almost forgetting to pull the hand break in her haste. At the reception, she waved a cheery good morning to Edmund, the ancient, balding security guard who had been there since the beginning of time. Wondering where Becky, the new receptionist was, she made a beeline for the ladies room.
She had discovered from experience that the best time to use the toilets in her office building was early in the morning, when the janitor was just done cleaning them. After that, they stank horribly and he usually just sat outside at the back of the building and smoked pot till closing hours.
He claimed cleaning was too strenuous for his weak heart and that the weed helped his condition. Her boss, Philip Kachia father of three and husband to an obese, nagging wife, was of course too cheap to hire more janitors. She’d ended up dusting both his desk and hers on several occasions. But Edmund did chip in from time to time, when his arthritis wasn’t bothering him.
It came as a bit of a surprise to her, when she yanked open the door to the ladies room and saw Clifford, the janitor, slowly dragging his mop across the floor. He was usually out back and high as a kite on a windy day by this time. She noticed that the Fluorescent tubes needed replacing again. They kept flickering on and off.
“Morning Cliff” she called, as she made her way to an empty stall. He didn’t answer her greeting and barely registered her presence.
He’s just moody she thought and sighed in relief as her bladder emptied itself. She’d hung her purse around her neck and urinated while standing. She didn’t trust Cliff’s cleaning prowess enough to sit on the bowls. Besides, strange smudges and unidentifiable stains, painted the insides of the toilet bowl. Later while she was washing her hands at the sink, she dared to steal a glance at the apparently now hard working Clifford, through the badly cracked and smudged mirror. His head was bowed and he seemed to be cleaning the exact same spot as he had been when she’d first walked in.
“Clifford are you sure you’re alright?” she asked and like before, he was silent. Then, realization finally downed on her “oh my lord he’s high!” she thought, and stifled a giggle as she walked pass him and out the door.
Back at her desk, she shed her blazer and dropped her purse on the carpeted floor beside her chair. She took a deep breath and pulled open the door to the adjoining office.
“Good morning Mr. Kachia” she said, pasting on an artificial smile, which was in her opinion, the trademark of every good secretary.
“Morning” he grunted, without raising his head. He was busy going through a huge stack of papers on his desk.
“Can I get you anything sir? Coffee? Biscuits?” He made no reply, just waved her away. “Hold my calls” he said, as she retreated.
She went back to her desk and powered up her computer. It was ancient, still ran windows Xp and took a while to boot.
“It’s 2014. You’d think he’d upgrade these machines but oh no.” she muttered to herself as she watched the tiny hourglass on the monitor tumble once, twice three times and it seemed to go on forever before the “Windows Xp” logo appeared, followed by her very cluttered desk top. She logged on to the internet and began to sort through the company’s mail.
Shortly after that, Mr. K as she mentally referred to her boss, left for a meeting with an important client. At twelve noon, the young new intern, Caleb walked into her office with hot, fragrant, fish rolls, Cokes and a crooked smile.
“Madam Secretary its break time don’t you ever stop working?”
Tessie looked up with a laugh. She was always glad to see Caleb because unlike the other interns; he was friendly and respectful at the same time. He displayed just the right amount of propriety to keep her relaxed.
“Of course I do” she replied.
“Good, cause I brought lunch” he said, placing his offering on the desk. Her stomach growled loudly in appreciation and they both laughed. After they’d eaten, he went back to his office while she went back to work.
At around three thirty, she was straightening out the kinks in her neck, when she heard a loud scream. She ignored it and sat calmly cracking her knuckles. When she didn’t hear it again she shrugged, chalked it off to rambunctiousness, and then went back to typing on her computer.
Fifteen minutes later, Becky the receptionist burst into her office crying. She was wearing a too short, too tight, low cut, blue sequined dress that in Tessie’s opinion was inappropriate for office work.
“Did you hear? Oh it’s just terrible!” she wailed
“What happened? Sit down and stop shouting.” Tessie snapped at the younger woman.
Seeing that her hysterics were not being reciprocated, Becky sat down and wrung her hands nervously.
“It’s Clifford” she sobbed
“What happened to him?” Tessie asked suddenly on alert. Her first thought was that smoking all that marijuana had finally done something nasty to him.
“His body was found out back. The ambulance already came and EMT’s say he’s been dead at least three days.”
Tessie’s jaw dropped open of its own free will, she hardly even noticed it.
“T…t.tthree days?” she stuttered “are you sure? Because I spoke with him this morning”
Becky gave her an odd look. “Don’t be silly he was reported missing five days ago. And to think, that he might have been dead, all this time.” Tessie just kept staring at her, utterly confused.
“Come they are wheeling out the corpse now let’s go and watch” Becky said gleefully. Her grief at the Janitor’s tragedy apparently short lived; she grabbed Tessie’s hand and eagerly led her out of the office. Through the glass doors to the main entrance of the building, Tessie could see the EMT’s loading a body covered by a large sheet, onto an ambulance.
Becky, suddenly impatient, let go of her hand and ran on ahead, her heels clacking loudly behind her on the tiled floors. Tessie felt cold and clammy. She turned to stare at the door to the female toilets which had been left ajar. The flickering florescent lights added a gloomy air to the rest room. She was about to turn away when she noticed the dark outline of a man. Clifford! Her mind screamed. He was mopping the floor like before and for a few seconds the lights became steady. He stopped what he was doing, looked up and stared directly at her. The place where his eyes should have been, were empty socket holes filled with a lingering darkness that seemed to go on for eternity. He held up one bony finger and pointed it in her direction. Then the lights flickered again and he was gone.
Tessie felt warm liquid run down her thighs and soak through her favorite pair of office pants as she passed out.