Monday, January 25, 2016

It Was Just An Accident

This is a short story I concocted based around an actual incident that I instigated years ago when I was a bit of a prankster. The hot sauce and juice switch was my idea of a funny joke to play on my friends. Of course, the circumstances did not play out like this, but they could have...

How many times have I heard that phrase, It was just an accident, from people trying to excuse themselves for their actions. Of course, it was; do you think that we think you did it on purpose? I suppose there are varying degrees of accidents. If someone flings a burning marshmallow in an attempt to put out the flame and it hits you in the eye - well, that is not too terrible of an accident. On the other hand, if you get drunk at a party, have an affair with a guy at the bar, and get pregnant - that is a completely different level of accident.

Most of us have experienced or caused many accidents in our lifetimes and mine started off so simple - like so many do.

Monday was a normal day as the majority of them usually are. I went in to work, got there on time, answered the phones and did paperwork, just like normal. Around lunchtime, I was getting bored with my normal-as-usual Monday and decided to visit the lunchroom. It was still early in the day and so no one was around except for a lady behind the counter getting some lunch items ready. This was a small business and lunch was a simple cafeteria-style setup - pick your own foods from some warming trays, a glass of milk or juice and so on. I’m not sure what came over me but I suddenly thought that it would be funny to exchange hot sauce for one of the fruit juices. I thought it might bring a laugh or two, so I gulped down the juice when the lady working the lunch wasn’t looking and grabbed the bottle of Tabasco sauce. Trying to pretend that I was just looking out the window, I shook the large bottle until the juice glass was about as full as the other glasses - maybe three ounces. I wiped the edge of the glass to make sure there were no marks and slipped it back in place between the other glasses. It was fun! I couldn’t wait for someone to come in and grab a juice - but to my consternation, no one did. Finally, after about thirty minutes, I left the lunchroom and went back to my office. I actually forgot about the prank until one of the other girls in my office came up to my desk and asked me if I heard about Brian.

“No, why?” I asked.

“Someone put hot sauce in one of the juice glasses in the lunchroom,” she said.

“No, way,” I replied, giggling a little and pretending innocence.

“He went crazy. Marci said he drank it in one gulp and then started coughing and shouting,” she said in a loud whisper. “He thought he was poisoned.”

I covered my mouth in amazement and concern. I hadn’t counted on my prank going bad.

She went on, “So then, Kevin sees Brian acting crazy and decides to take him to the doctor’s office to make sure his stomach is okay. They figured out it was hot sauce but they don’t know who did it yet,” she explained as she looked over her shoulder. “Got to go. Talk to you later.”

I was uncomfortable and wondered if I should go and confess. I never used hot sauce and had no idea that it would cause such a reaction. Being somewhat cowardly, I decided to wait and see if it all blew over; the doctor was sure to give him some antacid or something similar.

Tuesday rolled around and I got back into the swing of work. Around ten o’clock, Marci came over to my desk, as she liked to do to exchange a little gossip. Normally, I resented her interruption, but today, I was hoping she had some fresh news for me.

"How’s Brian?” I asked, assuming to hear that he was back at work.

“Oh my God, get this,” she said between chewing her gum. “He went to the doctor yesterday afternoon, right? But as he was walking into the doorway to the office, he tripped over the mat and sliced his leg open on a piece of metal trim sticking off the door.”

“Oh, man. Is he alright?” I asked. This was no longer humorous. I was so guilty but there was no way I could tell him about my prank. Besides, it wasn’t my fault that he tripped.

“Since he was at the doctor’s office, they stitched him up and gave him a prescription for antibiotics in case of an infection,” she went on. “I think he is pretty mad, at least I would be. Just wait until they find out who messed with the juice…”

I had nothing to say, and just stared at her.

“See ya later,” she said as she left to use the restroom.

Wednesday morning, I didn’t feel like going to work. I was so full of guilt and shame, but because of my sense of obligation, I forced myself to drive into the parking lot. I saw Marci leaning over the trunk of her car so I went over to pretend friendliness in hopes of getting fresh news.

“Hey, Marci. Did you hear anything else about Brian since yesterday?” I asked.

“Don’t you read Facebook? He posted yesterday evening from the hospital.” She was grinning as if this was some sort of soap opera and she had the dirt. “He didn’t fill his prescription until after work yesterday and then he had a reaction to the penicillin the doctor gave him for his cut.” She was already chewing her gum. “I think we should assume that Brian is cursed.”

“You are right, that is just crazy. I have never heard of anyone with so many bad things happen just by accident. Didn’t the doctor ask him if he was allergic to penicillin? I thought that was just standard,” I responded.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought, but apparently he’s never had to use it before and he didn’t know he was allergic,” she said. “Anyhow, I’ve got to get in before I’m late again.”

“Is he still in the hospital?” I asked as I started to turn away.

"No, I’m sure they just gave him a shot in the Emergency Room and sent him home.”

“Well, thanks for the update. Keep me in the loop,” I said, heading for the building. I determined then and there that I would go up to Brian and admit to my stupid prank. I had to confess.

Thursday morning, I felt a little better and the events of the week didn’t seem so terrible. I was actually feeling better about myself and even had a small box of chocolates to give to Brian. I reasoned with myself that we all made mistakes, accidents happened and that he would understand me.

I unlocked my office and went to check the voicemail from the evening. There were only a couple, but the second one was from my boss. Good morning, this is Craig. I just wanted to let you know that I am going to be a few minutes late this morning. I just got a phone call from Brian asking for a ride, so get things started without me.

I was curious as to why Brian would have asked my boss for a ride. I knew they were friends, but what happened to Brian’s car? Normally, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it but since Brian had been in the forefront of my thoughts all week, I was a little suspicious and paranoid.

I opened the window blinds and then went around telling the other employees that the boss was coming in a little late. I saw Marci in the hall and stopped her.

“Hey, why did Brian need a ride in to work today? Did something happen?” I asked after greeting her.
“Girl, I told you - you need to get online more. His wife rear-ended another car coming home from the Emergency Room yesterday morning. That’s why he never made it in.”

“Are you serious?” I couldn’t believe her. This was just too weird. How could so many bad things happen to one person in such a short time? “I don’t think I should believe you anymore,” I said with a laugh.

“Sister, you can believe what you want. Ask him yourself when he gets in,” she said as she laughed and walked on past me.

How could I face him? He would blame all the events of the week on me. I had to keep it a secret. Besides, I didn’t think anyone was thinking all the way back to Monday any more. But what if he never drank the hot sauce in the first place? None of this would ever have happened.

My boss came in just about half an hour late. He seemed cheerful enough when he asked me if I got his message. I told him I had and thanked him. As he was leaving my office, he turned to me and said, “Oh, by the way, send an email out to everyone, that I want to have a thirty minute meeting at ten o’clock in the lunchroom.”

“Yes, sir,” I answered with a smile, but I knew I was doomed. He must know or if he didn’t, he was probably going to ask us if we knew who had switched the juice glasses. I was sick to my stomach with worry. Somehow, I had to get out of that meeting. I could not face everyone now that I had waited so long to confess. They would all think that I was a jerk and I would probably lose my job.

Over the next hour, I fussed around at my desk wondering what kind of excuse I could use. Nothing seemed viable until I remembered that I had a bank deposit in the safety deposit box waiting to go to the bank. That was it! I could take it to the bank during the meeting time. The only hurdle I had to overcome was facing my boss. He might tell me to wait until after the meeting.

“Excuse me, sir?” I said as I entered his office around nine forty-five, standing just inside the doorway.

“Yes?” He turned away from his computer screen to look at me.

“I just wanted to check with you. I have a bank deposit to make before noon, but you called the meeting at ten o’clock. Should I wait until afterwards?” I asked.

“No, you go ahead and make the deposit. We need to get it in before the weekend. The meeting really shouldn’t concern you that much and the others can fill you in later, if you like.” He said it so nonchalantly, as if I were never guilty of wrong doings.

I guess he didn’t suspect me after all. I was so relieved to be able to step out of the office and into the sunshine of the day. The guilt and shame of my deed seemed to slip away as I focused on the beauty of the blue sky and the amazing clouds. I was free. I could take my time driving to the bank and miss the whole meeting. No one would be able to force me into confessing. There would be no public humiliation. If he were going to ask for someone to admit to being the culprit of Brian’s misfortune, then I wouldn’t be there to be guilty. No one else knew. I might be able to get out of this mess, after all.

After taking the deposit in to the bank to my favorite clerk, I chit chatted with her for a few minutes and then took my time once I got back into my car. I played with my radio stations, looking for a good song to listen to, and then took the longest route back to the office. Once I got back, I walked down the hallway to my desk. I passed Brian’s office where he was talking on the phone. No one else was in the room so I decided to quickly make my confession. I ran to my desk and pulled out the little gift bag of Ghirardelli chocolates and walked as fast as I could without running back to his door.

“Hey, Brian,” I said when I entered his doorway. I tried to act simply friendly but suddenly I was very nervous. For a fleeting second I considered just saying hello and then getting out of there as quickly as I had come in. Just run. The words were floating around in my head, as I looked at his face for any signs that he knew I was guilty.

“What’s up?” he said. He probably was wondering why the hell I was in his office - I never came down here unless my boss asked me to.

“Do you have a minute?” I asked.

“Sure. Have a seat,” he said as he motioned to a chair by his desk.

“No, I am fine. I had to come and apologize to you in person.” I was looking down at my hands. “I was the person who put the Tabasco in the juice glass on Monday.” I still felt terrible and was disappointed that I didn’t have a big sense of relief.

I looked at him to see him look up at me with a short laugh and a smile.

“You? I would never have suspected you,” he said with a quizzical look on his face.

“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean it to hurt you. I had no idea that the hot sauce was so spicy because I never use it. I only meant it to be a funny prank. I really didn’t mean to cause all this trouble for you.” I paused. “I brought you some Ghirardelli chocolates as a peace offering.”

He waved his hand as if to dismiss my words. “No worries. It was just an accident. I am just fine.” He stood up and extended his hand to me in a gesture of friendship.

“Thank you so much for your understanding. I have felt so awful all week for not apologizing to you. Thanks a lot,” I said and then walked back to my office.

Wait! I ran back to Brian’s office. He looked at me quizzically.

“Are you allergic to nuts?” I asked.

“Yes, why?” he asked.

I grabbed the gift bag off his desk. “These have nuts in them. I am so sorry, but I can’t afford to have any more accidents happen to you.”