Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peter and Kimberly

“Is something wrong? You don’t seem like yourself today.”

Peter had been unusually quiet this morning, and his office mate, Kimberly wondered if she had done something wrong. At first she enjoyed the peace.

“No. It’s nothing.”

Satisfied with Peter’s response, Kimberly took a sip of her coffee and studied the proposal on her computer screen. She was in the middle of editing the second paragraph when Peter began.

“Well, Kimmie. You know me too well. I don’t get much past you, do I?” Peter took a deep breath. “It’s Bill.”

Bill. Bill. Who was Bill again? She definitely had heard of Bill, but couldn’t put him into context. Was he the boyfriend or one of the pets?

“Bill? Really? What’s wrong with Bill?”

“He’s not acting right. I put him in his roller ball last night, like normal, and he just stood there looking at me with his cute little beady eyes.”

Of course. The hamster. Bill was Peter’s hamster.

“Oh, well, maybe Bill was too tired last night.” Kimberly tried to appear concerned.

“Too tired! No way, not my Billy. Ever since I got him two years ago, he’s never been too tired for a roller ball ride. There’s definitely something wrong.”

“Is he eating?” Kimberly sometimes was amazed at their conversations. Peter was an engineering genius. She relied on him so much for his quick ability to solve the most difficult engineering challenges. But the poor guy’s personal life was pathetic.

“He never did eat very much, so I can’t tell.”

“Maybe you should take him to the vet.”

“Last time I went to the vet, they took my pet away. Remember Becky?”

It wasn’t Becky that she remembered so much. But she remembered the grieving period. Peter wore black for a month. Kimberly had thought all along that Becky was at least a dog or a cat the way her office mate spoke of the animal. He took Becky on trips with him. He’d curl up with a good book and Becky sleeping in his arms. He even made Becky a winter sweater. Kimberly was amused when she saw the scrapbook of Becky, the guinea pig.

“But Peter, if Bill’s suffering, you have to put him out of his misery.”

Peter was quiet and Becky felt sorry for him, despite her indifference to hamsters.

“I need a break.” Peter stood up quickly and Becky couldn’t help but notice that his pants were completely unzipped. Again. She really wished she hadn’t noticed the candy cane striped underwear. There’s no way she could tell him.

Peter briskly walked out of the double cubicle space with his head down. Unaware of his surroundings, he ran into a tall, large woman in a purple pinstriped suit. It was their boss, Dina Moore. Kimberly watched the interaction, wishing she could hear the details of the conversation.

Dina brushed Peter’s bangs out of his face, probably asking him if he was okay. She nodded as Peter talked, with a genuine look of concern. Then she furrowed her eyebrow and spoke slowly. Then Peter started to walk away. Dina quickly stopped him and said one more thing before moving on. Peter looked at his pants and immediately zipped them up.

Kimberly went back to work. Peter returned after thirty minutes. To Kimberly, his absence seemed like thirty seconds.

“Here you go, Matey.” Peter set a cappuccino next to Kimberly. He then plopped into his chair, sipping a mango banana fruit smoothy with a pile of whipped cream topping. Peter would never notice the dried whipped cream on his upper lip. “Nothing like a fruit smoothie to cheer you up!”

“Thanks for the cappuccino, Peter.”

“Anytime.”

Even though Peter was incredibly annoying, he always made the work day interesting. Just when she thought she couldn’t stand another minute with Peter, he would do something like buy her a cappuccino.

“Hey, you want to come out dancing with me tomorrow night? You promised you’d try it one of these weeks! You know, when I offered you that idea in the Misek Proposal.

Now she was obligated. She absolutely hated country music, Peter’s favorite genre.

With a sigh, she agreed.

“Hey, if you’re busy, you don’t have to.”

“No, I’ll go. I want to. It’ll be fun.”

“That’s the spirit! I worry about you sometimes, all cooped up in your apartment. Never doing anything cool.”

Kimberly smiled to herself and tried to focus on her work. “Okay, Peter. Let’s get to work. I can’t let you distract me anymore.”

Then it happened. Without any warning, flatulence overcame Kimberly’s petite body. Not only was it loud, but it was long – as if she couldn’t quit. With utter dismay, she shot a glance at Peter. Peter studied Kimberly. When the passing of the gas had passed, he asked, “Are you okay?”

As if she didn’t understand what she had just done, Kimberly responded, “Yes?”

Then Peter laughed. And so did Kimberly. They laughed until tears rolled down their faces.

“Kimberly? You never fail to surprise me! Wait ‘til Mom hears this one!”

Then Kimberly quit laughing.

But only for a split-second.

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