There it is. ‘My name’, unceremoniously shrieked across the cold office room. For the fourth time in 10 minutes, it’s been catapulted at me to grab my attention.
“Thomas,” I correct the deep, unnecessarily furious voice. “My name’s Thomas, sir.”
“Listen,” my manager begins his rant, I see him drag in a breath of air before continuing. “Did you get the call from Wallace?”
I assume that this question is rhetorical, since he cuts me off and gives me no time to respond. He brushes the stray brown hairs from in front of his bloodshot eyes as he continues. We are now the cynosure of the office room, as curious heads peek out to witness the latest argument.
“If you never got the call, I can only say that you’re to blame here. You’re always slacking off and you never listen.”
He is right about that. I block out the words coming from his mouth, he’s just scolding me in the same way, but wording it all differently. I wish I could plug my nose too, as his heavy cologne whirled around me again. Why’s he so angry at me all the time? This question rolls around in my tired mind before I finally recall the answer.
I accidentally ruined his marriage.
It sounds terrible, but let me explain. I met his wife a few days after I started working as an accountant for the company. A day after that, he brought another lady, Kimberly, over to the company. I was confused; Kimberly said that he never had a wife and she planned to be his first. I explained to her that he had been married for years, Kimberly subsequently told his wife about the affair her husband had been having. I really didn’t mean anything bad by it, I was genuinely confused, not interested in ruining both his relationships.
That simple mistake caused a ripple effect which led to me, bleary eyed, pretending to listen to his disgruntled rant. It was no secret that I was tired, and if it was a secret to be kept; my jaded eyes and constant yawning didn’t do a good job at keeping hushed about it. As I tuned back in to Mr. Price’s monologue (I know, Price is a really suitable name for accountants) he concluded by reminding me about the package.
Wait, what package? I had certainly missed that part of the conversation. As he stormed off in his tight, blue suit, I couldn’t help but feel a pair of familiar eyes watching me.
My eyes darted to the left of my cubicle and met with my co-worker, May’s eyes.
“May,” I let out a sigh that signalled my body to fall to my desk and rest. “Why are you staring at me again?”
“Oh, sorry Allison. I just realised that we’ll both be working late!” May cheerfully replied, untroubled by extra work load.
I surveyed May’s colourful cubicle before spotting her computer screen. The Looney Tunes, ‘Devil May Hare’ episode was paused on a scene with Taz attacking Bugs. May was about to switch tabs so she could return to the façade of productivity. She gave up on switching tabs and gave a defeated sigh once she read my expression. I’d never tell anyone about that though, because May is genuinely a hard worker. She loved her job and just like me, she did accounting.
A few hours had elapsed, and the office room gradually lost its pulse of life as everyone left. I had gone out for a brief walk and when I returned, May was not in her cubicle. A brown package rested on my desk, beside my computer. The box had no markings on it, excluding a few stains. I ignored it for quite some time, whatever the contents were, it never piqued my interest.
Then it started shaking. Now it had my attention, in addition to my fear. The box shook to the left of my desk, as I shifted further from it. It could have been anything – a bomb, poison, a weapon, which is why I silently cursed myself as my curiosity overtook me. I carefully tore the box open as my heart raced faster than the negative scenarios going through my head. The beating of my heart drowned out the part of my brain that screamed, “Don’t open the box!”
Just a little more to open up…
“What are you doing, Allison?”
With May’s stealthy arrival and sudden question, I spat out a series of unintelligible words in rapid succession as I tried to calm down my frightened body.
“May,” I began, “Not cool, this is a serious moment!”
“Oh sorry, what?” May tore her gaze from my frustrated face and to the package that was half way open.
“The box was shaking earlier,” I gestured to the mysterious box and back to May as her smile grew.
“Silly, it’s nothing to worry about. Mr. Price always orders toy robots and things of that sort, they shake sometimes. His son is a collector!” May’s words trailed off as she tried to contain her laughter.
Finally, she was overcome by the joke and began giggling as she pat my back, “You looked so frantic too,” she struggled to keep her composure. She watched keenly as I tore the box open completely.
“Yeah, yeah, you don’t need to rub it in. The box has no stamp or name on it, so I didn’t know for sure that it belonged to Pri-“
What? Wait. This isn’t a robot.
May’s shocked expression mirrored mine as we peered into the dark box.
“Is that a bear cub?!” My shaking hands recoiled from the box as my chair rolled back.
“No, no, wait! Wait a second. Look closer. I think it’s a Devil? A Tasmanian Devil, I think,” May stepped back beside me as she shot me a look that said, ‘are you taking it out?’
I retorted with a look that was the epitome of the word, ‘no.’ May sighed and strolled towards the box. She feigned bravery as she reached forward and plucked the small animal from the box.
“It’s not that bad, Allison. We’re acting like scared little children right now!”
“May, you’re trembling,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
We had our eyes fixated on the small black coated animal. I calmed myself down and sat around my desk, booting up my computer.
“It’s just a Tasmanian Devil joey. I feel so stupid now,” May said, as she knelt down to face the animal. “I’ve never seen one in real life before. I just know that one of them is in that Looney Tunes cartoon.”
“The resemblance isn’t really there…” I leaned back in my chair as May started petting the animal, who seemed quite disinterested in its surroundings. I decided to do a quick search on more about them. I googled ‘tasmanian devil’ and waited for the results to pop up.
“So, why is it even here? What about the toy robot, May?” I scratched my head and pondered as May continued to tickle the Devil. “What did Mr. Price say about the package?”
“Oh!” May discontinued her petting as she tried to recall what Price had said. After delving in to deep thought, she simply shrugged. “I really wasn’t listening at that point. Do you really think this is Mr. Price’s package?”
“I don’t know but this is strange, very strange,” I skimmed over the results for Tasmanian Devil on Google. “They’re endangered.”
May gave me an addled look, “Why would Price have an endangered animal? Sounds suspicious,” May narrowed her eyes before adding,” It sounds illegal too.”
“You’re right,” I continued reading the info that I could find on the Tasmanian Devil. ”Devil Facial Tumour Disease, it’s a contagious cancer, apparently. That’s what’s killing the poor guys. They’re carnivorous. Actually pretty cute too…”
“I know – I’ll call him Tazz!” May picked up the wriggling animal and tried scratching behind its ear. “Aww, I don’t ever want to stop playing with him.”
“May,” I read the next piece of Tasmanian Devil information, “They have a bite force strong enough to crush bones.”
May pulled back her hand from Tazz’s head and quickly replied, “Okay Tazz, that’s enough playing for today.”
“It’ll probably be enough playing for forever if you watch this video,” I chuckled and motioned for May to come over. She grimaced as she heard the Tasmanian Devils on screen screeching and biting at each other. As if on cue, Tazz let out a short-lived screech before May glared at him like a protective mother.
“What now, May? It was on my desk and I opened it, so I have to take responsibility.”
“Give me a minute, all this mystery is making me hungry,” May gently placed Tazz back in the box, he seemed undisturbed. “It’s amazing how gentle they can be. I thought they were angry all the time,” she remarked as she smiled at Tazz dozing off.
“They must be protected!” proclaimed May, with a triumphant smile, after admiring the tiny animal nuzzled into the corner of the box.
“That’s a bit too much excitement for the day, don’t be so cheesy,” I appreciated May’s happy-go-lucky attitude though, even though I often refuted her positive opinions with realistic ones. She was like a ray of sunlight that shone even at night. I tiredly yawned as May told me she would be heading out to get a snack.
I watched videos about the Tasmanian Devil as sleep crept up on me. I had tax related work to do, but the problem at hand seemed more imminent. I just needed some more time before I found a solution. I soon heard approaching footsteps, so I instinctively asked if May had gotten her snack. There was no reply, but I didn’t bother raising my head. In a few seconds, my brain then registered that it wasn’t May. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have bothered looking up, under the assumption that May was too distracted to answer. However, pungent cologne wafted into the room. I knew this smell. I looked up quickly as Price’s gloved hand reached around my mouth, muffling my screams.
“You messed up again, Thompson,” he gritted his teeth and spoke softly. “Don’t struggle, I can hurt you.”
I stopped struggling, well aware that he was right. After seeing me comply he let go of me and began another rant. This one was different. It was terribly sinister. Sweat rolled down his face, which was now contorted with anger. He looked dishevelled, as though he’d been in a fight.
“You, where did I tell you to have the package delivered? This isn’t your first blunder, kid. But it will be your last.”
Price looked conflicted as he pulled a silver pocket knife from his pocket. He looked into the box and observed the sleeping Tazz.
“Don’t worry; this knife was for cutting the box open… was,” Price stifled a smile as he looked back to me. “The Tasmanian Devil is cute, huh? They can have quite the temper though. Just like me. This Tasmanian Devil is tamed though and he’s fairly young.”
I was thinking of how I could reply without angering him. I needed to escape before Price resorted to doing something worse.
“Only about 25,000 of them are left, I believe. Do you understand? They’d fetch a high price.”
I decided to speak up. Price had money, I was sure of it. For him to have an endangered animal taken from a safe place so he could sell it – that was just beyond wrong.
“I hope you’re satisfied. Your greed is going to ruin you, Price. This is the last time you’ll be doing this-“
“And whose fault is it that we’re at this point? I told you, two times today, the package should be delivered to my house! Were you even in here when I told you to call the delivery guy and tell him where to bring it?” Price slammed his fist on desk and tried to regain his composure immediately after. ”I’ll save you the details, but getting an endangered animal without being caught isn’t easy. I use pawns like you. Everyone so far did a good job. But you…”
Price gripped his knife as he stared directly into my widened eyes, ” You had the easiest job: ensuring that it got home. You cost me everything, Thompson. I’m getting rid of you. Either you die or I go to prison.”
Tazz began whining, possibly from being awoken from the desk slamming. Price still kept his voce low.
My words couldn’t have fixed this. Price was adamant in everything he did. I was prepared to fight; I didn’t plan on losing my life like this. My eyes met with his and he knew that I was serious. Tazz’s whining got louder.
Price edged closer to me before anti-climatically being struck down by a hardened piece of steak, by May, of course. She repeatedly hit him until she was sure he was down.
“Allison’s name is Thomas, not Thompson!” May dropped the frozen steak as she looked at me with intense concern. I stumbled over to her and hugged her for what seemed like forever.
“Thank you, May!” My voice broke as I looked down at Price, sprawled out on the tiled floor.
“You’re okay? I’m so sorry. I heard Tazz making a bunch of noise so I came back and-“ May let go of me and eyed Price’s still body. “Allison, he’s just unconscious, right?”
May watched as I knelt down and felt for Price’s pulse. The worry was expelled from her features as I informed her that he had a pulse. She let out the longest sigh of relief that I’d ever heard. I spotted the steak on the ground and sensing my confusion, May told me that it was meant for Tazz, since he was carnivorous.
“I’m not sure if he could eat that but okay, May.”
“Did Mr. Price hurt Tazz?” she asked as her look of worry returned.
“He just startled him,” I replied, as May made her way over to the box. I explained everything to her after I called the police. Price had said that I would either die, or he would go to prison. I was still alive, so I guess scenario two was about to play out.
By Tiffany Thomas from Jamaica