February 13, 2005

Happy Birthday Gladys

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005

Justin sat in his cubicle and stared at the ceiling. He had a headache and tried to count to ten while taking deep breaths in between. He read about doing that in an article on "Relieving workplace stress and tension." It didn't help.

He slumped in his chair and stared at the mountain of paperwork on his desk and sighed. It was only 9:17AM on a Monday and he had at least 40 to 45 more hours of a slow, hellacious week of work awaiting him. He ignored his ringing phone and let the voicemail pick up. He rubbed his temples and smashed his fists on his desk when he overheard Gladys two cubicles down complaining about the fire on the subway that screwed up all the C trains. She complained about everything. The weather. The brand of toilet paper in the women's rest room. The last episode of The Apprentice. The long line at Starbucks. If she were good looking, Justin would have put up with her nonsense, but she wasn't. She was far from average, with hair that looked like it belonged on Brett Michaels twenty years ago, and a wandering eye that freaked out small children. The worst part was that she talked in an annoying Queens accent. Justin desperately wanted to silence her with one of those ball-gags you would find in an S&M catalogue. He felt sorry for her husband and kids. She needed a mute button.

Justin thought of six ways he could kill himself before he made it home. He could break the window in the bathroom and jump 17 stories to his death onto Sixth Avenue, but he wasn't sure he could break the glass.

He could step in front of a bus racing down Fifth Avenue. That would be tough, trying to jockey for position with other pedestrians on a corner crowded with too many people and an ugly mound of grey snow.

He could always wander down to the subway and step off in front of the next Brooklyn-bound D train that zipped through the station. That was painless but he felt bad about all the people on the train who would be delayed.

He could always walk up to the biggest black guy he found and yelled, "I heard Star Jones fucked you in the ass with a cucumber." The downside was he would probably be tortured for hours instead of killed instantly.

The fifth way was to find the closest bar, drink until he was completely obliterated and couldn't see straight, stumble outside and pass out in Central Park on a bench without a coat. He would freeze to death for sure. All of those were good ideas but he always relied on his favorite way to kill himself. Sometimes he even got an erection thinking about it.

Justin inhaled a deep breath and took out a small handgun from a brown paper bag that sat on his desk. He walked over to Gladys' cubicle. She was talking to Juanita from accounting.

"Have I told you, I can't stand Paris Hilton?" she shrieked.

Justin interrupted. "Gladys, I've been meaning to do this for sometime now."

She saw him slowly place the gun to his forehead. Paralyzed with shock, Juanita froze. She wanted to run.

"I used to say, 'Every time Gladys speaks, I want to shoot myself.' Did you know that?" Justin said calmly as he looked Gladys directly in her bad eye.

Justin glanced at the screensaver on Gladys' computer. It was a picture of her daughter's fifth birthday party. The little girl in a pink pigtails was blowing out the candles on her cake. Justin inhaled another deep breath and began singing Happy Birthday to himself. Before he could get to the third line, he pulled the trigger.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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