They all nodded yes without uttering a single word. Gary and Albert were, by now, her old
pals. Raymond had popped into her office with a quick hello. Violet had asked Mandy to lunch
in the cafeteria one day. She obviously didn't have the salad connection, so Mandy was forced
to have a hot dog dripping with mustard and sauerkraut.
She and Violet had had a very nice conversation, even though the meal was disgusting.
Mandy suffered from heartburn the rest of the day but was glad she finally got to meet the
infamous Violet.
"Excuse me, Larry, but I have a question. What is that huge champagne glass filled with
balloons in one of the cubicles in my area? There is no name plate, and I've never seen anyone
sitting there."
"That cube belongs to Gertrude," he said with a huge sigh. "The last manager fired her,
unfortunately. Why, I don't know, since she has a terrific command of the English language." He
suddenly seemed deep in thought and was twirling his tongue in a very strange way. "But she
still comes in and decorates her cube for holidays. Happy New Year—hence the champagne
As these words came out of his mouth, four coffee cups were raised simultaneously.
"She still comes in and decorates her cube? Why?"
"Good. Now let's get our meeting off to a great start. On the count of three—one, two,
three." Everyone in the room reached for the company kazoo hanging from their badges.
Blllllzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzz.
Mandy didn't know the drill, so she was still blowing the kazoo long after the rest of the
team had stopped. When she realized it, she let the kazoo fall from her mouth back to her chest
along with her company badge. She had still been trying to understand why the cube was being
Larry gave her a stern look. "I feel better now, don't you?" They all smiled phony smiles,
and no one said a word.
Larry started down his laundry list of company updates.
"It's time for the annual cleaning of the employee clown costumes.
The dry cleaner will be accepting them every day next week. Please make sure that your
employees take advantage of this. We wouldn't want any stinky clowns, now would we? I can't
wait to see Mandy in her costume. I bet she'll be a very cute clown."
Again, four coffee cups were raised in unison. "Larry, when will I be expected to wear this
"One never knows. It's always a surprise. It depends on when the board of directors decides
to put on a special event. That's why it's important to keep that costume clean and fresh. These
things usually happen at a moment's notice."
The coffee cups were still raised to the four mouths, although no one appeared to be
"We want you to be a fresh little clown, Mandy. Next item on the agenda."
The cups went back down onto the table.
"On Friday the three o'clock break will be at four o'clock. This is so all the employees can
hear a message from our CEO regarding our year-end earnings release."
"Excuse me, Larry. Forgive me since I'm new here. What is the CEO's name again?"
Larry began to show his irritation at her interruptions. "Biglar Topler."
Mandy scrunched her face into an unusual expression. Violet looked over at her with her
big, Elizabeth Taylor violet eyes. Coffee cups up.
Now Larry was more than annoyed by her constant interruptions
"Really. You are so cute and so smart. Figure it out. Hence the name, Big Top. Pretty
original isn't it?" he said with a sarcastic tone in his voice
Mandy had had it with the cute comments. And why was he showing an attitude with her?
"I'm new," she thought. "Aren't I allowed to learn some things about this company that is being
so generous to me?" If she didn't need that first paycheck so badly, she would have walked over
and slapped him. She looked around the table at the others. She should have followed her hunch
when she thought he was creepy at the interview. There couldn't have been anything left in
those cups. No one had said a word during the entire meeting except her and Larry. They were
all engrossed in that morning cup of coffee.
Mandy tuned out Larry as she began to wonder what she was doing here. "These people are
all nuts. What is it with those coffee cups, anyway?"
"And that's the last thing on my list. Have a good week, you're dismissed."
Cups came down, chairs pushed back, and the mad rush to the door began.
"Mandy, can I speak with you for a moment? Where is your coffee cup?"
"I already had my morning coffee."
"Well, then have another cup and make it decaf. Or drink tea or water, or lemonade for all I
care. You must bring a coffee cup to all my meetings, whether you are going to drink out of it or
Mandy was confused again. It was difficult to understand what the expectations were
supposed to be at this company. No one had told her she had to bring coffee with her to the staff
"Because I said so. I like looking at cute girls, but I don't need to hear what your cute mouth
has to say. It makes you not so cute."
"OK, Larry, not a problem. I'll get myself a coffee cup." "Terrific! They have some nice ones
down at the gift shop." She'd be sure to stop there on her way to human resources to report this
creep for harassment. Mandy turned on her heels and bolted out the door. She caught up with
Violet in the hallway.
"Violet, can you fill me in on what that was all about?"
"He's playing with your head big time, Mandy. Can't talk here. Let me take you out for
lunch today. I'll tell you then."
"That'll be great, Violet. I really appreciate you taking me under your wing. So many things
here seem a mystery to me."
Violet was a positively stunning woman. She had soft, flowing auburn hair and violet eyes
that knocked your socks off every time you looked at them. She had the perfect figure. It was
obvious that she worked out at the gym to keep it that way. She was so unlike Mandy, who was
blessed with good skin and hair and a slender figure. Mandy rarely wore makeup and kept her
hair in an easy, wash-and-dry style. Violet worked hard at her perfect hair and makeup. She
pulled everything together with the latest fashions. And she turned men's heads—that was for
At twelve o'clock sharp, Mandy and Violet joined the mass exodus out of the building.
"Violet, I can get us a free lunch at the Burger Boy if that's OK with you."
Mandy was still pinching her pennies until that first fat pay- check made its way to her bank
account. "I worked there when I was between jobs. The manager said he would hire me back
anytime. I was the best employee he ever had."
"He probably meant the only employee he ever hired with a brain. How could you stand
"It helped pay the bills. It was still better than sitting around feeling sorry for myself."
"Then Burger Boy it is."