ONE CLOWN SHORT, page-47

"Bebe from the B Trio?"
"Yes, Bebe from the B Trio. Until her, I had never met anyone that could take Dolly’s place.
But, you see, she was already taken. Bill was a fine man and a good friend. The attraction was
mutual but off- limits for both of us. So you see, Mandy, I am very unlucky in love."
They continued to talk for at least ten minutes before Mandy started to smell smoke. She
began to walk up and down the hall, sniffing as she went.
"Do you smell that? Smoke? I can’t figure out where it’s coming from."
126"
"Mandy, over there!" Biglar was pointing at a stack of cartons that hadn’t yet been moved.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. Mandy was screaming too, while
sticking her head in every nook and cranny of the place, looking for a fire extinguisher. A group
of warehouse workers ran toward them. Butane Bob brought up the rear, extinguisher in hand.
He began spraying anything and everything. Once he reached the site of the fire, he sprayed
that too. Then, thinking the fire was out, he bent over to inspect the box on the bottom. There
were still some smoldering embers, and Butane Bob’s hair came just a little too close. Next thing
anyone knew, his hair was flaming. Thinking quickly, he turned the extinguisher on his own
head.
"Wooooo! What a rush that was! What the hell started that?" "Must have been Biglar’s
cigarette. He was smoking."
"Smoking! Have you lost your mind?" With that he sprayed the white foam all over Biglar,
covering him from head to toe. "That’ll teach you. You need to get a grip, Biglar."
The two white foamy men stood there staring at each other. One was so angry that he didn’t
even notice that half of his hair was gone.
The other hung his head in shame. "I’m so sorry, Butane Bob. I don’t know what’s gotten
into me lately."
"You need to figure it out—and figure it out quick. All these people here are busting their
asses for you. And what are you giving them in return? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! You are
pathetic." He turned and shouted to the onlookers as he stormed off, "He’s so worried about
cutting costs, and look at him now. Doesn’t think twice about burning the place down!"
"Go home, Biglar," said Mandy. "I’ll call you tonight and let you know how we did in sales
today. You’re making things worse by being here, so please leave."
"Mandy, I feel like a dope. How can I make this up to him?"
"Only you can decide that, but I’ll tell you—an appointment at a top notch hairdresser
might help. As horrible as his hair is, he’s really pretty vain about it. And stop smoking! As if
things weren’t bad enough already, you’re killing yourself to boot!"
127"
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
YUM! YUM!
"No, Cassie, there’s no Christmas party this year. Money is so tight—you know that."
"We’re all stressed out. A little party would help take the edge off. Just a little party,
Mandy? We’ve been working like dogs lately." She was begging in true Cassie fashion. "It’s so
depressing around here. When what’s-her-name was here, this place sparkled like the North
Pole at Christmas time."
"You mean Gertrude?"
"Yeah, Gertrude. Now we’re stuck with the Fourth of July all year round."
"If you don’t like it, why don’t you change the decorations your- self? Gertrude isn’t around
anymore."
"I can’t do that. A long time ago, before Gertrude was fired, I went to get a box of candy
valentine hearts from the big Cupid in her cube, and the next thing I knew, she was in my face
threatening me within an inch of my life not to mess with her stuff. Everyone else had been
helping themselves. I thought that’s what it was there for. But I guess I was the only one that got
caught. I won’t go near that cube now. She put the fear of God in me."
"Maybe Gertie was afraid of you homing in on her territory."
"Me and that creep? You’ve got to be kidding! Notice, no one else will change the
decorations either. I can’t be the only one she scared the crap out of."
She thought for a minute. "How about . . . what if we all bring something? We’ll have a
potluck! That’s it—a potluck."
Mandy had a stomachache after every company potluck she’d ever attended. She cringed at
the thought. She’d rather eat at Burger Boy than suffer through a potluck. But, as usual, she was
ready to acquiesce to Cassie.
"OK, Cassie, a potluck it is. I’ll bring in the hot dogs if you make the chili for chili dogs.
Deal?" Mandy had made chili dogs for the group a few times as a treat. They loved them so
much that they asked her to make them every week or so.
"Deal! I’ll send around a sign-up sheet for everyone else."
"And let’s include Gary’s and Violet’s groups. It’ll help make it more festive, don’t you
think?"
"Ugh."
"What do you mean, ‘ugh?’"
"That’s a lot of people. I’ll have to make a lot of chili."
Money was on everyone’s mind since they no longer got those ten-percent raises they had
become used to. On top of that, they had all taken the mandatory cut in pay. With the old big fat
paychecks, they’d all gotten used to living beyond their means. They were starting to feel the
pinch. And the prospect of the unemployment line loomed heavily.
128"
"Don’t worry, Cassie. I’ll give you some money toward the chili, OK?"
A smile came back to her face—"OK!"—and off she went.
When the sign-up sheet came around, beside Mandy’s name was already written "hot
dogs". It was the typical office potluck list of spinach dip, brownies, and green bean casserole.
All were things that made Mandy’s stomach turn. Suddenly she noticed that next to Violet’s
name Cassie had typed "paper plates and napkins." How come Violet got off the hook so easily?
"Gary, how come Violet gets to bring the plates and napkins to the potluck?" She called
him on the phone as soon as she saw the list.
"Mandy, let me ask you a few questions. Do you enjoy potluck lunches at the office?"
"No, they give me a stomachache."
"And can a little Pepto-Bismol cure that stomachache for you?" "Usually. Sometimes I need
a little Imodium to go along with it."
"Good, then consider yourself lucky. If Violet brought food that he cooked in her own
kitchen, we would be transporting you to the emergency room for certain. One thing Violet is
not is Julia Child."
"Really? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Doesn’t she know that the way to a man’s heart is
through his stomach?"
"Uh, no. One time she invited me and my wife over for dinner. She had a date with some
guy she was hot and heavy with. She had asked my wife for her recipe for chicken Madeira. She
forgot to get the Madeira wine, so she decided to wing it. She substituted some Boones Farm, I
think. It was horrible."