The lunchtime line crew was excited that Mandy was paying them a visit. Everybody loved
her. The manager came out of the back, as she had predicted.
"Lunch is on me!"
The two women found a table in the corner, away from all the lunch-hour commotion.
"Here's how Larry operates. Every time a new person comes in, he does his best to
intimidate the hell out of them. The guy's an idiot. We've heard that he has some kind of
connection in the executive office. That's why he's still around. If you file a complaint, which,
based on what he was saying to you this morning, you would have good reason to do, you will
be the one who's fired. Not him."
"Why did he tell me that I had to have a coffee cup?"
"No one is allowed to speak at the staff meeting except him." Mandy almost choked on her
"The coffee cup gives us something to do other than biting our lips. He doesn't like the sight
of blood, either. He came up with the coffee cup idea after one guy bled all over himself and the
"He bled that much from biting his own lip?" Mandy couldn't believe her ears.
"The unspoken rule is you must hide behind a coffee cup, or else. He's in charge, and you are
worthless. He knows everything and you know nothing. You made him crazy today. Don't be
surprised if he does this to you again."
"You're really scaring me now, Violet."
"He did the same thing to me when I first got here. He kept asking me out and trying to hit
on me all the time. It was very annoying. He wouldn't quit. Now, I'm not a prude, but he's a
creep. Even I wouldn't stoop that low. All of the sudden he stopped. Finally got the message, I
guess. Or found someone else to torment. One or the other."
"That's plain disgusting."
"Not to worry. He's harmless when it comes to everything else. He's never going to look at
any of your work. He'll never read a single training module that you write. He's an idiot and has
no idea what you are supposed to be doing. That is totally in your hands. Just don't ever speak
in one of his meetings. And anyway, the meeting only lasts about five minutes normally. We
were only there for an hour today because you had to ask so many questions."
"I just don't understand who's running this company. This is craziness. Even Burger Boy has
it together better than that."
"You know, no one has ever seen Biglar Topler."
"Aren't we going to see him give the earning results on Friday on TV?"
"No TV, Mandy. They pipe in his speech over the PA system. We all sit at attention and
listen. You'll get a written reprimand in your personnel file if you don't." She threw her head
back and rolled her eyes.
"Will I ever stop being amazed by all this? I'm beginning to think I've entered the twilight
zone." The TV show theme song began to play again in her head.
"No, you're in the circus." She smiled slyly as she sipped on her milkshake.
When Mandy got back to her office, she was surprised to see three identically wrapped
packages on her desk. The paper was covered with bright-colored balloons. The bows were large
and fluffy in—what else—a shade of cotton candy pink. She looked at the tag on the first box.
To: Mandy
From: Albert, Welcome.
The next said: To: Mandy From: Raymond
You Are So Cute (Hee Hee).
And the last box said:
To: Mandy
From: Gary
Get out while you can.
"Well, which shall I open first?" she said to herself. "Let's start with Albert." She found a
lovely coffee mug inside in the shape of a lion. Its tail was the handle. Inside Raymond's box
was another lovely coffee mug. This one was striped with bright red, yellow, green, and blue
circus colors. And last but not least was Gary's. He had sent her—what else—a coffee mug. It
was the most unusual of the bunch. It was a black top hat with a white rabbit crawling out
creating the handle. As she took it out of the box, it began to play the circus fanfare. Da da dal
la la la la da da daa. The tag on the bottom of the cup said "Entry of the Gladiators." She set it
down and the music stopped. "Guess I won't be taking that mug to Larry's meeting."
Violet appeared at Mandy's door, also bearing gifts.
"Let me guess. A coffee mug?"
Violet laughed when she saw all the mugs lined up on Mandy's desk.
"You should know that you are loved. Usually we just let the new people fend for
themselves. It's more fun to watch them squirm. But we like you, Mandy. You really are a breath
of fresh air around here." She opened the box. Violet had selected the most beautiful coffee mug
she had ever seen. It was buttery yellow with ivy dancing across the side. Violets were dotted here
and there. A dainty white butterfly was perched on the lip. Another was sitting in the bottom of
the mug, ready to make Mandy smile each time she took a sip. "Violet, thank you so much. It's
"I'm glad you like it. Use it in good health." She winked and left. Friday came, and Mandy
was very interested to hear from Biglar Topler at three o'clock. At about five minutes before
three, a bell rang. Then a woman's voice said, "Five minute warning. Please get in your seats."
People started scrambling across the floor hurrying to their desks
A circus tune began to play. Mandy was going to have to learn the names of all these tunes.
She guessed that was what the CD was for, which was in the bag at the bottom of her closet.
"Welcome to our year-end earnings results update."
This was a man's voice that she also did not recognize.
"Hello. This is Biglar Topler, the chairman of Big Top Supplies. It is my pleasure to tell you
that our company is doing great. We had a great year. We opened some new accounts which are
all doing well. We increased sales via our Web site, which is quite an accomplishment. The
demand for circus equipment is growing. People have more free time and more money to spend
on good, clean family entertainment. In other words, Big Top is in great shape. Thank you for all
your hard work and dedication. Signing off, this is Biglar Topler."
Some more circus music, then the bell rang again. The woman's voice said, "Return to work
now." All was quiet.
This was by far the strangest earnings announcement Mandy had ever heard. "I just have to
keep telling myself that Mom and Dad are sooooooo proud of me." She went back to work as
she had been told
Mandy had been on the job for a couple weeks and now things seemed to have settled down
to normal, except for her conversation with Violet and the earnings announcement. Or maybe
she was beginning to accept the crazy circus way of doing things as normal. She was getting the
hang of the company-issued kazoo. Every meeting began with the ceremonious blowing of the
thing. By blowing it, they were showing camaraderie of some sort. Another mystery no one
seemed to understand.
The New Year's champagne glass had been mysteriously replaced with a giant cupid,
complete with bow and arrow. The entire cube was covered in pink and red hearts of varying
shapes and sizes.