It’s a good morning so far. I arrive at the office ten minutes early, giving me time to fire up my laptop and screw around on social media before I really have to get to work. But when I let myself in through the kitchenette, I find a surprise. Someone has shown up even earlier and set up a large glass tray with thick slices of pumpkin bread. That’ll go over well, here. Everyone loves carbohydrates, and ’tis the season for all things pumpkinny, right? Free snacks find no shortage of lovers in this office.
I don’t see a note as to whom they’re from, is all. There’s a sheet of quality plastic wrap, thick and self-adhering, bunched up to one side. It’s all resting on a cut-glass server, Old World style, a touch of elegance. It’s only missing the telltale Post-It note with instructions in Sharpie to enjoy this treat, courtesy of so-and-so person for such-and-such occasion. Is it someone’s birthday? Was this left over from a baby shower or a potluck? Did someone just find an interesting recipe and want to share it with the office? There’s no indicator at all.
So I’ll just hold off until I learn more.
“Who brought the pumpkin bread?” Clifton in IT asks me, sticking his head in my cubicle. I let him know that it was sitting there before I came in. “Funny, no one announced it in email.” I check my email and see that he’s right: there are two messages of coworkers calling in sick and a weekly address from the president of the company, but no explanation for the snack.
“Hey, pumpkin bread!” Project manager Misty laughs at me. I don’t know what’s funny. She sees my desk, empty but for a keyboard and a mug for the coffee I’ve yet to make. “Who brought it?” We reenact the conversation I had with Clifton. “Well, it sure is a mystery,” she says finally, eyeing me as though I’m about to break and spill the secret.
Tomas walks by on his way back to Accounting. He’s grinning through cheeks stuffed with pumpkin bread. “Great pumpkin bread! Who brought it?” I should feel flattered that people view me as the information hub, but instead I’m getting flinty.
Sam from Marketing peeks in on me. “Free pumpkin bread in the kitchenette!” he says, eyes rolling with excitement, his belly all a-quiver. “Better get some before it’s gone!” I see he’s got two slices in one hand.
Jack and Larry need to know, “Did you eat yours already?” I force a smile and shake my head. “Any idea who brought it? It’s almost gone, pal. Everyone’s getting some but you.” I nod and half-wave, making a show of getting back to work, though I’m not working on anything. They hover, add “good stuff,” and reluctantly find their way back to the designers’ corral.
Eugene, our receptionist/intern, raps gently upon the frame of my cubicle. “Excuse me, do you know who brought the pumpkin bread in the kitchen?” Gently I inform him I do not. Gently he asks, “Do you think it’s okay if I get half a slice?” I let him know, gently, that that’s okay. “There’s still plenty for other people,” he gently amends, “but it’s going kinda quickly and I missed breakfast today.” Internally, gently, I wonder why the holy goddamn I need to know this, and I’m about to gently cram the remainder down his gentle throat, tray and all. “Thanks for the pumpkin bread,” he says, gently slipping away before I can remind him it’s not mine and I have no idea who brought it.
All I know is that whoever did bring it must hate me.
The halls and aisles are buzzing with everyone enjoying their fucking pumpkin bread. Are they purposely smacking their lips? These adults are behaving like children imitating the social behaviors they learned in cartoons. “Mmm, great pumpkin bread!” “I wonder who brought it?” “I was going to make pumpkin bread, but I don’t know how.” “Must be some kind of special occasion.” “Did you get some pumpkin bread?” “Pumpkin bread!” “I know! Pumpkin bread!”
In five minutes, the silence falls like a weighted curtain in a theater. The phone ringing at the receptionist desk is especially loud, ringing and ringing with no one to pick it up. It stops ringing when it switches to voicemail, but there’s only a seconds-long pause before the caller dials again. Someone really wants to get through, and Eugene’s not picking up for some reason. When they call back the third time, I leap from my chair and storm over to the receptionist desk.
Eugene glances up at me, his face sparkling with tears. He’s perched in his chair like he is all day for the first four hours of each day, except he’s only a few inches tall. There is a miniature Eugene sitting in the center of the chair. I stare at him, waiting for an explanation, but all he does his move his mouth without making any noise. I back away from the receptionist area and go to ask Misty what the hell happened. Her office empties into the greeting area and her door is open.
She’s not behind her desk. That’s strange, I can always see her enter or leave her office, from my cubicle. I walk around the desk to see if her computer’s still on—maybe she shut down for the day and slipped out while I was seething. Then I find her, running toward me on the gritty plastic mat that protects her industrial carpeting from her roller chair. Well, “running”: she’s making all the motions, arms swinging, legs pumping, but at three inches tall she’s moving with the speed of a rolling ball before it stops. Misty looks up at me and silently pantomimes screaming, doing little jumps and waving her arms over my head.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I tell her. She claps her hands over her ears and sinks to her knees. That’s weird.
In comes Ashley, bursting into Misty’s office as though she belonged here. Well, she technically belongs everywhere, as the office manager. Despite having been here for only three weeks, she’s awfully confident and bold, just walking in here like this. I mean, she glanced at me and said, “Shit,” but immediately recovers herself. She quickly shoves a miniature Jack under her blouse, into one bra cup and Larry into the other, then shoulders me out of the way to scoop up Misty from the floor. She slips Misty into her jacket pocket.
“What happened to Misty?” I ask, but she walks out like I haven’t said anything. I run out and don’t see her anywhere, but then she comes out from behind the partition around the receptionist desk, gently sliding Eugene down the waistband of her skirt. When I spot her bare belly, I quickly look away out of respect, but then I wonder what she’s doing with the intern and I ask her, but she ignores me again and brushes past me to rush down the hallway.
I follow her to Tomas’s office. Sam’s in the doorway, a tiny little Sam who must’ve sprinted from his office next door to find the accountant. He spins around and gapes up at the office manager, his eyes and mouth huge. Ashley doesn’t see him, though, and her toes in her open-toe sandal catch him right in his huge belly as she steps forward. He sails across the room and smacks into a row of books. Ashley notices that, and she rushes over to pluck him up by one arm. He dangles limply from her fingertips, turning slowly, backlit by the window that overlooks the corporate park.
“Shit,” Ashley says, searching left and right before finding the trash can and dumping Sam into it. He makes a loud, hollow thump, and it’s the only sound I’ve ever heard come from these tiny people. I look at him lying in the trash: the janitors empty our trash on the weekend, so it’s just a tiny Sam in the bottom of a black plastic bag, bent at a weird angle. It’s gross but fascinating, but I’m snapped out of staring by Ashley’s laughter.
She’s on her knees, under Tomas’s standing desk. Tomas is under it too, holding a pencil with both arms. Ashley is reaching for him slowly, and he slowly swings the pointy end toward her palm. He’s not very fast, but she’s moving slowly for him. Her eyes are bright and her mouth is a rictus that emits laughter occasionally, while Tomas looks furious. She teases him to the left, then feints to the right, and his movements become slower and slower, and I realize that the pencil must weigh as much as a huge tree to him.
I’m about to say something when she flicks the pencil away with one finger. Tomas turns and runs, Ashley laughs, and her hand reaches out for him. As slowly as she moves, she still catches up with him and wraps her long, slender fingers around his entire body. He struggles, fighting, pounding on her fingers and she just laughs. She carefully stands up, and I wonder where exactly Misty is under her skirt. Her eyes are fixated on Tomas and she doesn’t seem to notice me at all. Her other hand comes up and she tears Tomas’s shirt right off his body, no resistance at all, and she opens up her mouth wide with a long, soft moan and slowly inserts Tomas into her mouth. Just the upper half of him: her rosy lips close around his waist. His tiny legs, in tiny dress slacks, kick at the air frantically.
Ashley’s cheeks tighten and her lower eyelids tense, and I realize she’s smiling at me. She plants her palm in my chest and shoves me out of the way. I stumble backward as she strides out of the accountant’s office. Stammering, I follow her to IT and she finds Clifton and stuffs him into her other jacket pocket. She transfers an exhausted, semi-conscious Tomas to her fist, then walks down the hall to the stairwell. She waves at me and announces that she quits. The heavy steel door groans and creaks as she heaves it open, and I hear her sandals echo down the stairs to the building’s exit.
My body’s shaking. I can hardly breathe. It takes all my energy just to walk to the handrail of the stairs. I feel a tear itching my cheek as I croak, “Wait… this was my fantasy.”