Don’t Bottle It Up by Chris Talbot
Kellie strode up to the desk and, hands shaking, she handed over a twenty pound note with the words, “I stabbed him.”
Bob opened up the cash box that he’d pulled out of the bottom drawer. “I knew you’d
crack first. You had a stormy face on you when you came in this morning.”
Kellie shrugged. “You can’t control what you bring to the table and my flatmate’s
being a nightmare.” She had a feeling that metaphors were being mangled, but who cared?
She wasn’t in the mood for nit-picking. That was a speciality of The Boss…and he’d done it a little too well this morning.
Bob opened the cash box, gave her the ten pounds change and noted the amount and time in a small notebook. A red notebook. They’d all approved of that touch. Black had been another popular choice but the red ones were cheaper in Tesco, leaving more money for essentials…like cakes.
With a twitch of the head, Kellie signalled her intention to go outside. It was normal
to seek a few quiet moments after they’d stabbed The Boss.
Bob did some swift calculations; the pot was looking healthy despite such expenses as
cakes and sausage rolls. Tuesdays were definitely the busiest. He reasoned that Mondays were bearable after a restorative weekend, Wednesdays signalled they were half way to the next one. But, Tuesdays…they were hard.
The Boss had been there two weeks when they’d had quite enough of his efficiency
drives. They’d had enough of his motivational speeches too. He had this stupid idea that
people should be passionate about their job. In reality, there was no-one in the office likely to find their life purpose in this food packaging business. The wages were rubbish.
Pretending to enjoy your job was an unwelcome item on the to-do list, along with trying to find enough money for the petrol that gets you to work. This whole employment system is flawed – and stressful.
Hence the Saucy Secrets Society. Janet’s idea. (She’d been reading another one of
those supernatural thrillers.) It was a variation of the Voodoo Doll. A full length photo of their glorious leader pasted on a Monday onto a new plastic bottle of tomato ketchup and kept out of sight behind the budget brand coffee tin and economy tea bags. When it all got a bit too much, you could destress by stabbing the doll with a knitting needle that Janet had managed to sharpen to a finer point.
This pleasure was costly—and most of them were on minimum wage. You had to
balance temper with financial practicality. Ten pounds to be the first to stab the effigy, two pounds thereafter up to a maximum of seven stabs. This maximum did not reflect the number who wished to participate; it was a practical constraint. When they squeezed the bottle over their traditional Friday sausage roll, they liked to have some control over how the tomato sauce bled out. However, office morale had been getting worse and Bob noticed that the stab holes got bigger as they got to Friday.
Being pragmatic, he wondered if they should legalise this unofficial use of a previous stab wound. Call it re-cycling and charge fifty pence? The extra revenue would more than pay for an extra ‘emergency’ sauce bottle in case the integrity of the original was fatally compromised. And, come Christmas time, there should be a
significant balance to put towards the unofficial office party (invitation only).
That’s if they made it to Christmas.
Management talk of ‘New directions in food packaging’ made it an unsettled time. Too many budget cuts and too many guidelines to comply with. Perhaps it was making this new boss twitchy, as well. If he’d already clashed with Kellie over the proposed labelling changes, it might make Bob’s own meeting rather fraught. He could be the next one to pay into the pot. He gathered up some papers and manoeuvred his facial muscles to convey delight in the challenges of his job.
He managed two confident strides into the office before he skidded on the sticky red
ooze. He recovered his balance and assessed the situation. The Boss was slumped in his seat, deathly pale.
Bob checked the floor in case his initial assessment was incorrect. “Em..yes. Are you
“She stabbed me!”
“Yes, but are you alright? You’re a poor colour.”
The Boss waved a floppy finger at the bottle of tomato sauce on the floor. A knitting
needle was buried deep into the attached photo of himself, now looking like he wore
Superman’s red pants.
“She said ‘This is what I think of your Saturated Fat Percentage.’ and then she stabbed
me in the … in the tomatoes”
A touch of colour was returning to his cheeks. Bob was relieved to notice it because
HR alarm bells were clanging vigorously in his head. He didn’t need to add a 999 call to the situation. Half of his brain was encouraging him to get out of the door. He was willing the other half, the thinking half, to stay and minimise damage – for everyone, not just Kellie… who he liked…a lot.
At the moment, things looked bad. On reflection, some of the ways staff
let off steam might not be interpreted in the correct manner. There’d be enough paperwork to bury them all twice over.
Kellie walked back into the room with a cloth and a bucket. In silence, she laid the
cloth over the mess on the floor. She moved towards the desk and Bob watched in frozen horror as she gave The Boss a huge smack on the cheek.
No chance of saving her now.
“Sorry, Dad,” she said before giving The Boss another big kiss. “But, you were being
Basic survival instincts reminded Bob that he could breathe out. “Dad?” he asked in a
thin, yet hopeful voice.
Perhaps things will work out okay after all.