Team Building In Paradise

Submitted into Contest #146 in response to: Start your story during a team building exercise.... view prompt

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Fiction

CW: Swear words.

I didn’t even want to come on this stupid work trip. Yet, here I am, staring down at a one-hundred and fifty foot drop towards the ground - with what appears to be a wooden pallet shoddily attached to this tree trunk as the only thing between me and a sure death. I knew this godforsaken trip to Puerto Rico with a bunch of coworkers that I don’t even like was a terrible idea, but Karen insisted. “You should go! This will be a great chance to bond with all of your teammates!” Doesn’t she understand the main reason I work remotely is so I don’t have to bond with these godforsaken people? I can hear Betsy from accounting now, she’s shouting something - like always - so I am not quite sure if it is directed up at me or if she’s just speaking to the people around her. Either way, from a hundred and fifty feet up she’s coming through pretty crystal clear. Betsy. With her buggy eyes and tight blonde ponytail. Is she twenty-five or is she sixty-five? I really have no idea. Her perfume reminds me of my grandma but her incessant jabbering about TikTok throws it all off. I had always assumed that faced with imminent death, Karen and the kids would be enough for me to muster up some dormant courage and see myself out of any predicament. However, now my main motivation for not dying is that I just don’t want to give Betsy the satisfaction of seeing me fall to my death. She would just love to tell the story of how she just had a feeling that something was going to happen. That when I hit the ground, and exploded all over her and the rest of the team, that she just knew her life would never be the same. I would be fodder for her at dinner parties for the rest of her life. 

Not today, Betsy.

Alex works for the zip-line company. He’s a white guy - but when we arrived he insisted on greeting us with “Holá Amigos!” - Betsy just loved that, she said it over and over again, laughing just as hard every single time, during the entire hour-long hike up here. He’s also wearing a name tag that says Alejandro - I am not calling him that. He’s clipping me into a harness and telling me something about a camera towards the bottom that will take my picture, so to “make a silly face or wave.” I will be doing no such thing. All I can think about is the carabiner failing and me falling out of the sky to a horrific but merciful death. 

I have been working for Transformative for a few years at this point. We have a small team, and up until this week, most of my interactions with them have been via conference calls and emails - more than enough to get a real sense of who they were. Sure, there have been meetings at our main office in Charlotte, but those had been so formal - filled with small talk and business conversations - nothing ever like this. Randall, my boss, had come up with this amazing idea to go on a team building trip with the entire team. I had immediately told him I couldn’t make it, and yet, somehow - here I am! My job is to sell our product - which I do fantastically by the way. I don’t get paid enough, however, to have to suffer through Betsy showing me photos of her cats for three days straight. Maybe falling to my death here would be the best option after all. 


Betsy cannot stop laughing, “You look so terrified!” she sputters as she holds the photo out for everybody to see. She’s getting spit all over everybody. “Look at how scared he looks!” I snatch the photo back from her. 

“Yeah, I’m afraid of heights.” I say, trying my hardest to hide my annoyance. This, it turns out, is very hard, especially because Betsy is very annoying.  We’re back at the hotel now, the type of place that looks like it is trying way too hard to be what White people think the Caribbean should be like - taxidermy sea turtles, a mural of dolphins and a mermaid, fake coconuts all over the place- that sort of thing. 

“Lo siento, amigo!” Betsy cannot stop calling people “Amigo” now, and every single time she says it, she laughs at herself even harder. Being around her is like having a migraine, and you just keep waiting and waiting for the medicine you took to kick in, but it just never, ever does. I’m thankful that Randall has started talking, addressing the entire group of us at the bar. He’s going on about what a great time today was and his hopes for us to become a stronger team. Gag. I’m working on my fourth Mai Thai of the afternoon and hoping to be completely numb by dinnertime. Slowly, the group starts to disappear off to their rooms ahead of the team meal back here in the hotel restaurant. I am tempted to grab another drink, but now it’s just Betsy and me, so I decide to get up and head back to my room as well. 

“Need a walking buddy?” Betsy asks, followed by an extremely loud belch. 

“No thanks, Betsy. I can manage on my own.” I say turning to leave before she can interject again, but next thing I know, she’s in stride with me towards the elevator. 

“We’re neighbors, dummy! It only makes sense to head back together. Safety in numbers Amigo!” She winks as she says this and I feel my insides start to burn. The elevator smells like bleach and sweat and I try to control my breathing as the doors slide shut. This is going to be a long fifteen flights up. Betsy, to her credit, is surprisingly quiet as we get moving. The elevator creaks and shudders and I resist looking at when it was last inspected. Without any muzak to fill the empty space, that awkward elevator feeling seems to overtake us both. I’m anxiously watching the red numbers on the digital panel above the door click up, 7, 8, 9…it’s just stopped at 9. Why is it just stopped at 9?! The elevator lurches to a sudden stop, and before I can even turn to Betsy, she is on me. My brain can’t process what is happening this quickly - especially after that fourth Mai Thai, but a severe pain is shooting through my face and my eyes are watering, oh and I am on the ground now. My right cheek is being squished into the dirty elevator carpet and all I can feel is a shoe, and the entire weight of a person, a Betsy, on my face. 

“Betsthy, wha’ the fuck ah you…” 

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” 

I knew Betsy was loud, but wow, I have never heard her like this before, just a very impressive yell on her. For some reason I am thinking about that fourth Mai Thai and am feeling so very grateful that the alcohol is probably numbing a lot of the pain I should be in at this moment. The pool of blood that is developing around my face is a clear indication I should be feeling this more than I am. I still don’t understand why Betsy hit me, or why she is now zip-tying my arms behind my back. To be honest, this entire situation feels very surreal, and I am also a little bit drunk. I try to push myself up using my legs, but man Betsy is strong! She throws me to the ground and of course I hit my head on the way down. I’m still conscious, or wait, nope. I’m out. 


“...if it weren’t…the next one in line…he won’t know.” Randall’s voice is coming in and out…what the hell, Randall! I’m seated in a chair - not a very comfortable one. I’m blindfolded and my head is throbbing worse than it was when Betsy was telling me about her and her cat’s nightly routine. I got my ass kicked, and kidnapped, by a woman who brushes her cats’ teeth every night. 

“What the hell, Randall!” I’m finally able to shout what I am thinking and it really hurts to yell. My entire face region is just hurting pretty badly. “Where the hell are we?” It feels like the appropriate question to ask at the current moment, but probably not the most important question that I had in my brain. We were definitely inside, and it definitely smells like fried fish in here. Not the best of clues to go on, but I am surprisingly hungry, considering the circumstances. 

“Tony, you’re awake.” Randall sounds more like a supervillain than the nerdy CEO of my company. He also knows I hate being called Tony. “Sorry that Betsy had to rough you up a bit back there, we knew you wouldn’t comply otherwise. You see, I’ve been thinking that we need to do some downsizing; some liquidating, if you will. We know about your Aunt Penny’s trust, Tony.” Aunt Penny’s trust?! Yes, my Aunt Penny left me a sizable amount of money when she passed away, but I have no idea how Randall and Betsy know about this. As if reading my mind, Randall says “Karen and Betsy are in the same book club. They talk.” Dammit Karen! 

“All you have to do is transfer those funds and we let you walk.” Betsy’s booming voice tells me she is a lot closer than Randall. And now I am fairly certain the fried fish smell is coming from her. 

“You guys don’t have to do this.” I say. “What’s the plan? That I give you the money and never tell anyone about it? Did you guys not think this through?” A silence. “Wait, did you guys actually not think this through.” Oh my god I have been kidnapped by idiots. 

“We…we have thought it through, as a matter of fact,” says Randall. “After you transfer the funds…we’ll make sure to take care of you.”

“Are you saying you’re going to kill me Randy? You, the guy who cried at the end of Finding Dory. We took the kids to see that together man!” 

“No, I am.” Betsy’s right next to me now. I can feel her hot breath on my neck - and can now confirm, with certainty, that she is the source of the fried fish smell. I still have an appetite, surprisingly. 

“But if you kill me, how will you get the money? You guys are really blowing this.” I know I should be a little more scared, but it is really hard to take these two people seriously. Again, Betsy brushes her cats’ teeth - Every. Single. Night. And yes, the end of Finding Dory is a tear jerker, but still. This is Randall. This guy collects staplers for Christs’ sake. My two would be murderers are now talking a bit further away from me. I can’t make out what they are saying but it is clear they need to figure out a new plan. I’m doing my best to wiggle the muscles in my face around to get this blindfold off - unsurprisingly, these two jokers did not tie this thing very tightly. Finally it slips off my face and I can see now that we are in some sort of parking garage. Classic. Randall and Betsy are to my left next to a van - good luck getting the bloodstains out of a rental. To my right is a brick wall with a few bricks missing every few feet or so, allowing sunlight to stream into this otherwise dark and dusty place. I stare out through one of the holes in the brick and try to get a better sense of where I am.

“We’ve decided we are going to kill you anyways, it sounds cleaner then letting you go.” I snap my head back to see Betsy coming towards me holding a pistol. She seems very confident with it and I am starting to believe she may actually kill me. “Any last words, Anthony?” She has the gun against my forehead and the floodgates just open up. I am balling, absolutely balling like a baby. “Please, Betsy. You don’t have to do this.” I can’t believe I am begging Betsy for my life. She is just standing there, looking at me with cold, dead eyes. I can’t hold back the tears, I think of Karen and the kids, I think of all I still have to give the world. I think I am pissing myself but I don’t care, I just want to live. 

Just then, a loud CRACK whips its way through the parking garage. 

“Not today, Amigo!” It’s Alex, fucking Alejandro, from the zip-line tour and he’s on a zip-line and he is barreling straight towards Betsy. Before I can blink she’s on the ground and he’s got her in an absolutely awesome headlock. The kind of shit you’d see on WWE Raw. Randall meanwhile, is coming straight at me, like a zombie just raised from the dead, he is ignoring the commotion with his partner completely. 

“Tony. Tonnnnny. Tonnnnnny” He just keeps saying it over and over again. He’s almost to me now and his hands are out like he is going to strangle me or something. “Tonnnny.” His weak, little fingers work their way around my neck. “Tonnnny.” He’s actually doing it, this guy is going to strangle me. All I can hope is that Alex, whose arrival is still entirely inexplicable to me, is able to stop him before he kills me. As I feel my body start to weaken more and more I glance over to see Betsy and Alex struggling. My entire world goes black to one last, “Tonnnnnny.”


“Tony. Tony, can you hear me?” It’s Randall. I open my eyes, I’m outside now, trees shooting up spear tips all around me. Randall’s little hands are on my shoulder. “His eyes are open!” he exclaims. I hear a collective gasp to my right and footsteps and murmurs quickly approach.

“That was quite the fall, mi amigo.” Alex’s face appears above me. “Good thing you were wearing your helmet, and good thing you hit a few branches on your way down.” I squint my eyes hard. What the fuck just happened? 

“Where…what, what happened?” I manage to say. The metallic taste of blood is unmistakable in my mouth. I try to move but Randall pushes down just enough on my shoulders to stop me. I can still feel his little fingers around my throat, but he’s being so gentle now. 

‘Oh no you don’t mister. You’re not moving until the paramedics arrive. You could have broken your neck!” 

Alex seems pretty bummed about what has happened, he can probably smell a lawsuit coming. I am beginning to realize that I must have been stuck in some sort of coma-like fever dream.

“Oh boy! That was scary!” Betsy’s voice punches into my ears like an airhorn. “You should have seen yourself, Tony! I just had a feeling something like this was going to happen. I had a premonition last night you know. Oh man, I just feel like having seen that none of us are ever going to be the same.” 

I close my eyes again hoping to be transported back to the parking garage where I at least had a chance of mercy. 

“Lo siento Amigo!” Betsy shouts, followed by a fit of uncontrollable and relieved laughter. 

I close my eyes tightly. I’m never coming on a fucking work trip ever again. 



May 20, 2022 19:30

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1 comment

Chris Morris
21:34 May 26, 2022

Sawyer, this is hilarious! The story just got wilder, crazier and better as it went on. I thoroughly enjoyed it and laughed out loud at many points. Great job, here.

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