I Swear This Job is Killing Me!

Man collapsed at a desk of paperwork

Death is the boss of you.

By Jeffrey Bishop

Tell Time:5 minutes
Scare Rating:  1/5 Ghosts

Bob shuffled into the cubicle he shared with Ralph and sat down.  He slowly grabbed the top report off a tall stack of similar reports to be reviewed that day, looked at the lines of grey text on grey paper, then with a heavy sigh, muttered to himself, “I swear this job is killing me!”

It was 8:02 on a Monday morning.  Bob had already worked many Mondays doing the same thing every day.  And for as long as anyone who worked with Bob could remember, he muttered the same thing two or three times each day.  That’s because it seemed to him that there were even more such Mondays ahead of him than behind him.

“Why d’ya expect more out of work, Bob?” Ralph had asked him one day at lunch.  “Sure, it’s mindless drone work, but this ain’t all I’ve got going on, y’see?  Get a hobby or a second career or somethin’.” Ralph’s second career was crooning at the Bacana Lounge on 157th Street near the airport.  He certainly had good reason to appreciate the security and livelihood of his first job, no matter how boring it was.

Bob had had dreams of a better career, too.  In his youth, he’d wanted to be a fighter pilot, “but you have to know math,” he reasoned — and Bob didn’t care much for math.  Later in life, he thought he’d be a fireman, “but for that, you have to be brave,” and Bob certainly wasn’t that.  So while he worked his life away, he didn’t have a clue as to what else to do that might make him more happy.  All he knew was that “I swear this job is killing me.”

So Monday came, and for Ralph, Monday went.

“See ya later, Bob,” he called as he dashed out of the cubicle.  Bob was left with a smaller stack of unfinished reports.

The next morning, Ralph was surprised to find Bob already at work, but as he approached the cubicle, he saw that his co-worker was face-down on top of Monday’s last report.  It seemed that the job had indeed, finally, killed Bob.

With all the efficiency of a large corporate operation,an ambulance was called to take Bob away, and by noon, the company president had issued a memo:

Today, Bob Lewis was found dead in his cubicle.  A career employee of more than 22 years, Bob was instrumental to quality control in our Reports Department.  Our condolences to his friends and co-workers at Emgee Chemicals; Bob will surely be missed.

~

The next morning, Ralph heard the familiar shuffling he’d grown accustomed to hearing for so many years of working with Bob.  Looking up from his reports, he was shocked to see Bob approaching his old desk.

As Ralph stared — jaw hanging wide open but silent — the dead man set down, grabbed a stack of reports and got to work.  Aside from appearing only slightly more pale and drawn than he normally did, to Ralph Bob looked like, well, Bob.

“Ugh.  I swear this job is killing me!” Bob groaned.

Ralph blinked, then snapped shut his jaw; it had hung open the entire time.  He swallowed hard, then said to the corpse, “um, Bob?  I think this job … did kill you?!”

“Ridiculous,” replied Bob.  “It might someday, but it hasn’t yet.”

Ralph was understandably creeped out, as were all of their co-workers, as word spread fast about Bob’s return.  But no one knew what to do.

“He’s starting to turn,” Ralph commented to the others at the end of the day as he pinched his nose closed.  “He’s going bad.”

“Take my mirror and set it on his desk,” said Sally from accounting. “If he shows up tomorrow, he’ll see in the mirror that he’s dead and he’ll have to accept it.”  The others agreed it was the best idea among them, and Ralph took the mirror from Sally.

The next morning, Bob indeed showed up at work again, and immediately noticed the mirror.

“Thanks for the mirror, Ralph,” he commented, then after examining himself in its reflection added. “Wow, I look horrible! I could use a vacation!”

“I’d say you could,” said Ralph.  “I’d say you could use a long vacation!”

“For sure,” replied Bob.  “Because I swear this job is killing me!”

~

At a loss, Ralph and a few others decided to seek help from the Human Resources Department.

“I see,” said Janet, the HR officer, after hearing about the situation.  “Let me ask you a few questions:  is Bob showing up to work on time?  Is his work of adequate quality?  Does he get along well with his co-workers?”

“Yes, yes and yes,” replied Ralph, “but … ”

“Then what’s the problem?” asked Janet.

Exasperated, the group left HR, still at a loss for what to do about Bob.

Overnight, Ralph came up with his own idea.  He headed to the office early to prepare.

Just as everyone had feared he would, Bob arrived again the next day, promptly at 8 a.m. He shuffled into the cubicle, and a heavy sigh escaped his lips as he sat down to his work.  The smell of this emission — of Bob’s rotting innards carried on his exhaled breath — nearly took Ralph out.

“Mornin’, Bob,” he called out to his non-departed colleague.

“Not much good about it,” commented Bob.  “I swear this job is killing me!”

With another sigh of futility, Bob grabbed the first sheet of paper from the tall stack at his desk — a stack that Ralph had prepared for him.  It wasn’t a report, but instead was a copy of the recent company memo about Bob’s passing.

“Is this true?” Bob asked as he finished the letter.  “Am I really dead?”

“Yes, you are.  I found you myself Tuesday,” Ralph replied.  That’s what we’ve tried to tell you all week.  Why wouldn’t you believe us?”

“I guess I never got the memo!” Bob replied, standing up on two incredibly wobbly legs.  Despite his poor physical state, Ralph had never seen him more cheerful in life.

“Well, TGIF, my friend!” Bob called out.  “Catch you on the flip side!”

With that, Bob shuffled out of the cubicle and on to an eternity of rest on his permanent vacation.

THE END

Copyright 2013

~ by The Ghost Writer on January 9, 2013.

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