The following post is a submission from our July 2013 monthly writing prompt, “I’m not trying to be difficult, but this is unacceptable.”
“I’m not trying to be difficult, but this is unacceptable!” I shouted to Vanessa over a pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof of our office and a whap-ping of low-caliber handgun ammunition slapping into our heavy, overturned desks.
Vanessa turned to me from across the office with a look that seemed to say, “I know that this isn’t the kind of situation either of us wants to be in, least of all at three minutes after five on a Friday, and yes, we did get married, and no, not to each other, but dammit, we both got divorced too, and life is short, and cruel, and so are these Ukrainians who are shooting at us, so how about we fake our deaths and start over in Barbados?”
The only two things stopping me from running into her arms then and there were a) the hail of gunfire that was indiscriminately ruining both corporate and personal property throughout the office, and b) the way she shouted, “What? I can’t hear you over all this shooting!” It was a sobering moment; one that I would think of frequently in times of alcoholic reflection, when I would wonder if I’d misread her expression entirely.
For one thing, she’d never mentioned getting a divorce. For another, the security camera footage of that evening clearly showed a ring on the outstretched hand of my dear, left-handed Vanessa as she returned fire. She always shot to wound in situations like these, with a grace that never failed to hit me center-mass.
When I noticed Vanessa standing and doing harm to our assailants with both firearms and cruel language, I quickly rose to do the same. I’ve never been as precise as Vanessa with either of those weapons; I don’t even speak Ukrainian. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a “claims adjuster,” it is that you do not want the bosses noting a “routine reluctance to return fire” on your quarterly review.
I got warmed up with a few shots at the vases on the desk of our receptionist, Becky. I liked Becky well enough, but her collection of “rare” and “expensive” vases bothered the daylights out of me. Plus, unlike the Ukrainians, the vases were smaller than a breadbox and protected by thick plexiglass covers, so it would take a series of well-placed rounds to do any real harm to any of them.
Once they were all destroyed, I had the confidence I needed to help fight for our lives. I ducked down to reload, then popped back up and targeted the enormous chandelier in our lobby. Becky’s husband Bob had made it himself, out of dozens of antique swords and modern lighting fixtures. Luckily, he’d skimped on welding materials so after smashing into the floor, the clattering of worthless antique swords distracted the Ukrainians while Vanessa shot them.
Next I shouted out, “Hey, Ukrainians!” and fired on the lobby’s numerous plate glass windows. A deadly rain of glass shards fell upon the Ukrainians and Becky, followed by a warm summer rain no longer kept out by our sturdy, waterproof, plate glass windows. I took a moment to gaze through the lobby’s new wall-holes. I would hate to have to sit at the front of the office. Bad enough to be the first line of defense in the event of an emergency, but now it would be drafty.
“Colin, you bastard!” said Becky. She sure had a lot of glass and swords sticking out of her body armor. That lady was a real trooper. And a real class act. After Operation: Desert Shield, she taught combat tactics at the military academy. I would have thought that one of the first lessons would be not to spend half your day standing around under a dangling pile of swords. I’m sure Becky must know what she’s doing though, or she would have never been made Employee-of-the-Month, with all the rights and privileges that come with the title, including and limited to the parking space nearest the front of the office.
I wasn’t sure what to say to Becky. That was when Vanessa chimed in with, “Grenade!” Now, I wouldn’t expect the layman to know this, but in my line of work we have a certain shorthand, a mix of code words and jargon like any other profession really. In this case, Vanessa was communicating to Becky that she should stop glaring at me because a Ukrainian had just thrown a hand grenade into Guest Services. Vanessa is a wonderful communicator, so Becky caught her meaning and the grenade that had just bounced on her desk.
“Good for her, getting it on the first bounce,” I thought to myself. She’d have plenty of time to dispose of it. She tossed it back at the last of the Ukrainians, who panicked. He dropped his rifle to catch the grenade, and then his eyes kind of bulged a little, and then he threw it through one of our new wall-holes. After that, Vanessa shot him.
We all froze for a moment, waiting for the grenade to go off. The explosion didn’t happen, and I was just about to say it must have been a dud when the explosion happened. Hand grenades are a funny thing that way. Luckily, nobody we knew or cared about was in the parking lot, on account of us being attacked right before quitting time. In fact, due to the Ukrainian’s hasty throw, only one car was damaged. Everyone except Becky felt relieved about that, and didn’t let out a low, unhappy moan.
Vanessa helped me flip my desk back upright, and honestly, a little excitement was just the thing to kick off the weekend. I was going to have some fun Monday morning digging those slugs out of that reinforced work surface.
Read Part 2 here.
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