Kelly sat at her desk watching the blue sand trickle through her decorative hourglass that she was given at her company’s last pep rally. She glanced back at her phone, willing it to ring to give her something to do, but it did not ring.
She dropped her forehead onto her desk with a soft thud.
“You alright over there?” called out Terry from three cubicles over and a row up.
Kelly massaged her forehead in embarrassment. “I’m fine. I just don’t get why they keep scheduling us to come in on a Saturday afternoon when it is so slow,” she replied to the disembodied voice.
Terry’s head poked over her cubicle wall. “Because the company is all about the money and would rather waste it making us work than miss out on those sales.”
“But who is going to call in and order boating accessories in the middle of January?” Kelly tilted her head back and started spinning in her chair.
“Maybe people that live in a warmer climate and can still take their boats out or people who plan ahead for the warmer weather,” Terry suggested. “Not everyone lives in the beautiful hellscape of Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, where winter lasts for seven months and cheese is both food and currency.”
“Har har,” Kelly laughed sarcastically.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Terry said.
“We can’t. What about if we get a phone call?” Kelly protested.
“That’s why you need to get one of these.” Terry pointed at a wireless earpiece. “This thing works all the way in the warehouse.”
“What would you be doing in the warehouse? We’re not supposed to go in there.”
“As far as the company knows, I’ve never been there,” he said innocently. “I’m a good worker who sits at my desk and takes all my calls and added on the most can koozies last year.”
Kelly debated, looking between her silent phone and Terry leaning casually over her gray padded cubicle wall. “Okay. Let’s go,” she said, standing.
They headed down their respective cubicle rows and met at the door to their office. “After you,” Terry motioned gentlemanly to allow Kelly to exit first.
Kelly stepped through the heavy wooden door and out into the industrial carpeted hallway. Identical doors to other offices lined the walls, and the hall ended in a pair of white double-doors that lead to the warehouse.
While Kelly stood pondering what to do, Terry was already across the hall attempting to B&E their manager’s office.
“What are you doing?” Kelly asked. “Todd would kill us for going into his office.”
“Ah, he’s out on vacation this week, and if he even notices anything, he’ll think the cleaning crew was in there.” He jiggled the locked handle and pulled a credit card from his pocket. He slid the card into the door crack next to the handle and fished until he heard the click.
“Where did you learn that?” Kelly asked in amazement as they entered the dim office.
“I used to forget my keys and get locked out of my first apartment, so I got a bit of practice. This won’t work with all locks, but it works like a charm on some of these cheaper ones.”
Kelly drifted into the office behind Terry and crossed the room to the window. “Look at the snow coming down.” She watched quarter-sized flakes drifting down to accumulate on the ground as Terry rummaged through Todd’s desk.
“Oh yeah. It’s supposed to turn into a real blizzard today. Want a Snickers?” He held out a bag of leftover Halloween candy recovered from a drawer.
Kelly fished a Snickers and Reeses out of the bag, and Terry grabbed a handful for himself.
Kelly chewed her first bite and let her eyes travel the room. She had been in this office many times, but never on this side of the desk. An older picture of Todd and his family was mounted in a popsicle stick frame next to his monitors, and Todd looked about ten pounds lighter with less gray in his hair. One of those singing mounted fish was propped against the wall on the corner of his desk, and Kelly tried to imagine Todd in here pushing the button to make the fish sing over and over.
“Want to see something cool?” Terry asked, heading to the door.
“Sure,” Kelly said and followed him.
Terry walked down the hall and through the double doors to the warehouse. When Kelly followed him through, she saw that he was waiting for her in a little break area that had a couch, dartboard, and a popcorn cart.
“What the heck are they doing with a popcorn cart in here?” Kelly asked, admiring the red and gold chassis and white spoked wheels.
“They have Popcorn Thursdays as a cheap way to boost morale.” He was digging through the small storage cabinet of the cart and pulling out the oil, kernels, and seasonings. “Do you want salt and butter or white cheddar?”
Kelly considered the options. “Cheddar.”
“Cheddar it is.” Terry flipped the power switch and started adding the oil and corn.
Kelly grabbed the darts and started tossing them at the board. The first bounced uselessly off the board, but the second and third stuck.
Terry retrieved the darts and took his turn while they waited for the popcorn. He was obviously better than Kelly, landing all three darts either in or near the bullseye.
“How much time do you spend over here?” she asked curiously.
“I’ve got a buddy that used to work in the warehouse, so I would come over here on my breaks and hang out.”
The smell of popcorn was filling the room, and the heat from the popper was chasing out the chill that radiated from the loading dock doors. The pair took another couple of turns throwing darts until the popcorn was ready. Then, Terry returned to the cart and pulled out a large plastic bowl to dump the popcorn in and seasoned it liberally with the powdered cheese.
“And now for movie time,” he pronounced.
“Movie time?” Kelly was befuddled, but Terry was already heading back through the warehouse door with the bowl of popcorn.
Kelly trailed behind and caught up to him in a conference room.
“I come in here sometimes on break,” he explained and pulled out a high-backed imitation leather office chair, motioning for her to take a seat. She sat, and he sat in a matching chair next to her and reached for the remote for the projector. “What a lot of people don’t consider is that everything in this building is so wired together that you can stream stuff from your phone.” He tapped away on his phone, and a movie was suddenly projecting onto the presentation screen.
“I had no idea!” Kelly exclaimed.
“Poor, naive Kelly,” Terry said, patting the back of her hand. “Stick with me kid, and I’ll show you all the tricks in this joint.”
They settled back in their seats to watch an old 80s comedy starring Chevy Chase that would not have made it past the studio execs in the last 20 years.
They were laughing when Terry’s headset trilled. He casually reached for his phone to pause the movie and then tapped his headset to answer the call. “Ahoy! This is Terry with Billings Marine Accessories, where your boat is our passion. What can I fish up for you today?”
Kelly listened on as Terry uh-huhed a couple of times and said, “Okay, bud. I’ll work extra, but you owe me.”
“That was George,” he said after hanging up. “He says he’s not making it in for his afternoon shift because the roads are too bad. I know he’s lying though because he got that big 4x4 truck last winter that he takes offroading.” He unpaused the movie, and Chevy continued to flirt with a curvy blonde woman that should have been out of his league.
“I wonder if I’ll be able to get home,” Kelly said. “I drive a little Honda, and I won’t be able to make it if they haven’t plowed.”
Terry shrugged and dropped a couple more pieces of popcorn in his mouth. “You’ve got another hour. We’ll see what the parking lot looks like when the movie ends. Worst-case scenario, you’re stuck with me in this palace until the snow lets up.” He opened his arms to emphasize the majesty of the surroundings.
Filled with popcorn and the earlier Halloween candy, Kelly pulled up the hood on her sweatshirt and fell asleep. When she awoke, the credits were rolling, and she was leaning over the arm of her chair and resting her head on Terry’s shoulder. She straightened up and turned her head, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and trying to avoid eye contact. “I am so sorry about that,” she said.
“It’s alright. You kept my arm warm. I think they purposely set the temperature down to 65 degrees on the weekends to save money even though they make us work.”
“What time is it?” Kelly asked as she reached in her pocket for her cell phone.
“You’ve got about ten minutes left in your shift. I can go out with you to check out your car to see if it needs to be shoveled out.”
“That would be great,” Kelly said, standing to stretch.
They grabbed their coats from their desks and headed to the lobby. They stopped short of the glass doors as they saw the snow piled against them. The flakes were swirling furiously, and there was a knee-high drift blocking the doors. Their cars resembled two sparkling, white-domed igloos.
“I am never going to get home in this,” Kelly said in frustration.
“I’m sure it will let up soon,” Terry said optimistically. “There’s a couple of shovels and some salt in the utility closet. How about we start tunneling to your car and see if the plow comes in time for you to leave?”
They grabbed the shovels, and Terry led the way, shoveling a narrow path while Kelly followed, shoveling to widen the path and sprinkling some salt from a fast food cup. When they reached her car ten minutes later, they were cold and slightly out of breath. They looked back at the building, and their path was covered with white again, only slightly better than the shin-deep snow surrounding it.
“How about you start warming your car, and I’ll help clean it off?” Terry suggested.
Kelly agreed, and she dusted off her driver’s side door and climbed in while Terry started dusting off her passenger side with his gloved hands. When she climbed back out of her car a minute later with her ice scraper, she felt the cold splat-thud of a snowball hit her in the shoulder. She looked up at him in mild shock and then dropped the ice scraper to grab her own handful of snow to throw at him.
The volley of snowballs went back and forth over Kelly’s car until they were both winded. The snow was still falling from the ash-gray sky, and no plows had arrived to make Kelly’s way out possible. “I don’t think I’m going to be leaving here anytime soon,” she declared, reaching into her car and shutting it off.
They returned to the building and headed to the lunchroom, leaving shoe-shaped puddles in their wake. Kelly took a seat, and Terry stood on his tiptoes to reach into the depths of a cabinet. When his hand became visible, he was holding a box of hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.
Kelly clapped her freezing hands giddily when he presented it gameshow hostess style. He grabbed a pair of mugs from another cabinet, filled them with water, and popped them in the microwave.
“What am I going to do?” Kelly asked as the mugs started their microwave dance.
“Did you have other plans for tonight?” Terry asked. “A hot date?”
“Psh! I wish. No, the only plan I had was to not be here,” she scoffed.
“Well, we could always have some fun here.”
“What’s left to do? We already had a movie day and a snowball fight,” Kelly said in frustration.
“Do you doubt my genius?” Terry pulled the steaming mugs from the microwave and added the powdered cocoa, stirred, and handed her one.
They clinked mugs in cheers, and Kelly said, “I guess I should learn not to doubt you.”
Twenty minutes later, they were warmed and sitting in their office chairs in the hallway.
“I bet I can beat you to the other end of the hallway,” Terry taunted.
“Oh you’re on,” Kelly replied aggressively.
“On your marks,” Terry said as they turned to face the wall. “Get set.”
He was suddenly pushing off, and Kelly struggled to follow. “You didn’t say go!” she objected.
They kicked the floor, making their chairs roll backward, racing past doorways. They rammed into each other, laughing each time they slammed into each other or a wall. Terry smashed into the warehouse doors at the end of the hall a moment before Kelly did.
“I win!” he declared.
“No fair!” Kelly protested. “You cheated!”
“You’re on!” And Kelly was off before Terry had a chance to think.
This time, she made it to the other end of the hall with time to spare.
“Who’s cheating this time?” Terry laughed as he roared up behind her.
Terry’s headset picked that moment to beep again with an incoming call. They had to stifle their laughter as Terry answered and gave his cheesy greeting.
“Why certainly, sir. Let me put you on a brief hold while I look that up for you.” Terry tapped the mute button and strolled casually back to his desk. Once he unlocked his computer and pulled up a screen displaying a batch of sassy decals with sayings like “I’d rather be fishing” and “If you can’t see my wife, please check in my wake,” he unmuted his headset. “Okay, sir, I see the decals you mentioned. If you order two or more with me today, I can throw in free shipping for you.” Kelly leaned against his desk as Terry nodded along and rolled his eyes with the man on the phone yammering in his ear. “If you like that one, sir, we also have a matching sleeveless t-shirt.” Terry continued nodding and added items to the man’s virtual cart. By the time the transaction was done, the man spent $100. “Thanks for calling in, and I hope your day goes swimmingly.” Terry disconnected the call and tossed his headset on his desk.
“Wow, that sale almost paid your wages for the day,” Kelly said sarcastically.
“That guy calls in once a month just to chat. He buys a couple things and usually returns most of them. I pretend not to recognize his voice so that I can avoid hearing about his wife, dogs, and the kids that never call.” He rubbed at his ear that was probably sore from wearing a headset all day.
“That’s kind of sad,” Kelly frowned.
“It is, but I humored him the first few times. Unfortunately, people like that rotate through calling their utilities and favorite stores until they find someone willing to listen, and then they will tie them up all afternoon telling their life story. I’ve learned to keep it to the minimum, or I will never be able to move on. Haven’t you ever had a caller like that?”
“Oh yeah. I had a guy once that started complimenting my voice. Eventually, I had to tell him that I was going to have to start charging him by the minute if he didn’t stop.”
“Well, you do have a good phone voice,” Terry laughed.
“Thanks. I practice every morning just so I can make these pervy guys happy.”
“I guess us guys can be kind of pervy, especially when there’s a sexy mystery woman on the other end of the line. That’s why I stick to ordering over the internet; it keeps me from getting talked into spending more money.”
Kelly blushed at being called sexy, even if it was just her phone voice.
Terry cleared his throat. “You want to go watch another movie? I’ve got a bootleg of the latest Marvel movie.”
An hour and a half later, Kelly and Terry were having a dance-off to the end-credit music when they heard a banging on the front door. They ran to the lobby half expecting a sasquatch to be standing there. They weren’t too far off. A burly man in a dark snowsuit stood outside the glass door, the rotating yellow caution light of his snowplow lighting him from behind.
“You guys want to move your cars so I can plow?” he asked gruffly.
Kelly and Terry poked their head out the door like a pair of groundhogs checking for their shadows and were surprised to see that the snow had slowed to tiny, gentle flakes. The private road leading into the parking lot shone black.
“We’ll grab our coats and be right out,” Terry said.
“I had fun today,” Kelly said as she wrapped her scarf around her neck.
“I did too.” Terry pulled his stocking cap over his hair. “You make a good partner in crime. We should do it again sometime.”
“Well, I volunteered for next Saturday’s overtime.”
“I’ll be here,” Terry said, zipping his coat.