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Rated: E · Short Story · Business · #2181420
There's always someone we love to hate
"Hey, do you want to grab lunch sometime?"

I looked up to see Harold giving me that godawful grin. Forcing an unconvincing smile, I declined his invitation with the patience of a saint.

But my good nature was wearing thin.

Harold was one of those people that liked to be part of every conversation. You know the type, always butting in with a poorly timed joke. I would be willing to look over his awkward mannerisms if it wasn't for the sheer persistence of them.

Mother Theresa herself would have been cursing like a sailor after a day with Harold. He had a way of effortlessly grinding your spirits down.

Whatever the topic, he just won't quit talking.

Every morning I desperately wished he would get fired.

Today he greeted me excitedly, waving a red disposable canister. "Did you see that they bought different coffee cups today?"

The smallest changes around the office would fuel endless conversation about the mundane.

"I'm so glad they switched to Solo," Harold continued. "You know they were rated least likely to deteriorate over a day's use? A little more expensive but you can get more than one use out of them! I might refill this one later and save the company a few pennies."

I closed my eyes as the torrent of tedium continued.

Naturally, my cubicle happened to be directly across from Harold's. Whenever something happened, he would sit up and lock eyes with me, a dreaded sign.

Stalling, I would pretend that I was on the phone or deep in some nonexistent task. Harold would patiently wait until my pretend call was over to interrupt with his irritating nonsense.

Once, I created a fictional conversation with a big company just to see what he'd do. Eye bugging out of his head, he proceeded to inform the entire office that I was on the verge of closing a deal with one of the most prestigious corporations we ever encountered.

Don't ask me how I managed to weasel out of that one.

Today, I felt the acidic bubbles of revenge boiling inside my guts as he chattered on about the new coffee cups.

"I'll give you something to talk about." I muttered quietly as I began my evil machinations. Punching in his extension on my phone, I set all of my incoming calls to forward.

Harold was about to go on his lunch. Little did he know, there would be a huge influx of angry callers waiting on hold once he returned.

I grinned wickedly, hoping Harold would take his sweet time eating.

Passing by the break room, I casually peered in to see him babbling on the phone. Perfect, I thought. This was easier than I'd ever imagined.

Peering at spreadsheets, I heard his handset beep as yet another line transferred in.

I lost count after ten.

When my victim walked in with crumbs all over his collared shirt, I looked up and smiled sweetly. "Good lunch?" I asked innocently.

He shrugged and began to talk about the dryness of sandwich bread. Then his eyes widened as he caught sight of his phone screen.

"Seventeen in queue?!" He exclaimed loud enough for heads to turn.

Snatching the handset, he apologized profusely to the caller as they unleased a tirade of fury before hanging up. I secretly turned off call forwarding and answered my phone.

The next day, Sarah from compliance called Harold into her office. I could only imagine what they were talking about but his crestfallen expression left no room for doubt.

My plan had worked without a single hitch.

Customer satisfaction was a very serious issue, a few bad scores could be forgotten but too many of them affected the company image. Losing seventeen potential buyers was something they simply couldn't gloss over.

The best part?

There was no way to trace it back to me; the new system didn't keep track of call forwarding since nobody used it.

I watched Harold tearfully clean out his cubicle. If he wasn't such a pain in the ass, I would have felt sorry for him.

"Poor thing." Rashida sighed next to me, watching him walk away.

"What makes you say that?" I asked my neighbor curiously.

She turned in her chair and lowered her voice. "His wife divorced him a few years ago, taking his baby daughter. I think it might have been grounds on his mental health, but Harold's just so harmless. He managed to keep himself happy with this job but now that's gone too."

My gleeful victory soured into horror as I realized what I'd done.

I never considered asking him what his home life was like; I'd been so focused on tuning Harold out that I forgot he was a person too.

"Where are you going?" Rashida asked me as I grabbed my jacket.

"Just helping out a friend in need." I shot back as I rushed after Harold.


Listening with arms crossed, Sarah grimaced as I revealed the reason for Harold's mystery callers. "I'm grateful that you spoke up and brought our attention to this flaw in our system. But this sort of behavior is unacceptable."

I agreed, hanging my head shamefully.

Harold listened to the conversation, still holding his box of possessions. Eyes bulging from his head, he stood in slack-jawed astonishment at the story of my betrayal.

"We will give you until the end of today to clear out your desk. Because of your good standing, I won't speak of this to your next employer." Sarah motioned for me to leave.

After thanking her for being so understanding, I returned to my desk and sighed.

Harold stood across from me, replacing his things. "Why did you change your mind and 'fess up?" A mixture of emotions played across his face.

I shrugged and took the empty box from him.

"It's a long story... Hey, any chance you'd want to grab lunch?"

A familiar grin crept across his honest face.

"I'd like that very much."

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