by R. O. Weber
Illustration by Nadine Noko
My mission in life is to make people laugh. Don’t take things too seriously, I like to say. I was the class clown all through school and I like to think the jokes I told the recruiter was the reason I have my job. The sign on my office wall reads “Smile and the World Smiles with You”. The words just came to me one day while I was driving to work and I quickly wrote them on the back of my hand and ordered the sign that very day. I have a lapel flower that squirts water, a hand buzzer, a whoopee cushion, and all manner of joke books and magic tricks. My desk has more of my goodies in it than it does company business. Yes, I am the life of the office and I believe I am the reason that we have the lowest turnover than any of the company’s branches. People stop talking when I arrive at the office in the morning because they can’t wait to hear my joke of the day. They are my adoring audience.
Everything was going great. Then it happened.
We were in the break room and the gang was rummaging through day old pastries while I juggled coffee cups. I had just told my joke of the day. Bill was first to say something, then Teresa, then Minnie, and finally my biggest fan, darling little Serafina. I was crushed when she said, “You’re right, Bill, that one stunk for sure. It bombed.” Later, I heard them talking about me and the joke that bombed and they all agreed my joke of the day about epicurean termites was not funny. I could only shudder at their words that were ripping me apart. My rosy world turned grey.
I actually cried myself to sleep that night. The next morning, as I stared down at my Cheerios, I could only think of Serafina and her deep cutting insult. Something I’d never felt before had erupted within me. It was hate and I was sated. “Bombed?” I repeated the word over and over and over. “Bombed, I’ll show them bombed.” I decided to build a bomb and it would be a doozy.
My education in bomb building began at the library in a small, neighboring town where I was sure there were no security cameras or tracking software on the computers. The internet was full of recipes for explosives and designs for bombs for all occasions. When I was confident the design and recipe were within my ability to build, I began obtaining the parts.
I was careful to not buy more than one component at a time and I spread my purchases over several towns. I paid with cash, disguised my appearance, and stayed away from the chain stores that track inventory and have cameras monitoring every sale. The hardest part was to not bring attention to myself. More than once I had to refrain from pulling a quarter from the cashier’s ear or wearing my clown nose. With my shopping completed, I began the assembly on my kitchen table. It had only been a week since I’d heard their distasteful comments that had been eating at me like an aggressive and painful cancer.
At work, I continued to tell my joke of the day as I managed to hide my intentions from those ingrates. Nobody guessed I was planning my greatest gag because they were too busy enjoying my daily comedic displays. I hid their wastebaskets which was priceless. I replaced the sugar with salt and hid the coffeepot filters and caused delightful chaos. My favorite was when I modified the valve on the water cooler so it would not shut off. That whole giant bottle drained out all over the office floor. It was sidesplitting to watch them try to stop the flow by filling the little cups and running to the sink. I watched them go back and forth and I laughed until it hurt. They blamed me, but I denied having anything to do with the water cooler. They acted like they were mad, but I knew they loved my antics no matter what they said. Watching them was hilarious and I did a great job of misdirection. They would never guess what the future had in store for them.
I finished the bomb, christened it Revenger, and began to scout the best location at work where it would do the most damage. The recipe for the explosive had a very delicate equilibrium and if all factors such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, and proximity to any heavy vibrations were not met, there would be a chance of a premature detonation and the joke would be on me. I needed to find Revenger a home without delay.
The underground parking garage was the obvious choice because it should bring down the whole building if Revenger was placed correctly. At first, I dismissed the garage because not all people that worked in the building were employees of our firm and I didn’t want to injure or destroy those I did not hold in contempt. But, a clearer mind prevailed and decided it was a case of the means justifying the end. I found a perfect place behind a large support column. Revenger would be inside a large metal trash can like those used by our cleaning crew. How funny, I thought, Revenge-In-A-Can. My clown car could hold a dozen people, so there was ample room for my titillating passenger. I worried about the bumps we would encounter on the drive so I devised a hammock to suspend and comfort my sweet Revenger when we commute to the office.
The date of Revenger’s performance would be on a Tuesday because that Serafina scum never missed a day of work that wasn’t a Monday or a Friday. I made an appointment with my doctor for the chosen day so I would be ten miles away when Revenger took center stage. I started taking home my books and tricks a little at a time. I would sacrifice the sign and some magic paraphernalia to make sure I was insulated from suspicion.
The explosion was loud enough to be heard in the next county. I was leaving Dumplin’s Diner, where I always lunched on a Velveeta with Miracle Whip on white and entertained the customers with my three minute stand-up routine, when Revenger lost equilibrium and exploded. The ground shook and windows rattled all over town. I hurried to the roof of my office to confirm it was my house. There was no mistake about it. The plume of smoke was right where it should be. The joke did turn out to be on me and I was doubled over with laughter even after I realized that I’d just lost my Three Stooges collection.
The crater was estimated to be four feet deep and thirty feet across. The house was gone and my property was littered with debris. The fire investigator determined that an underground natural gas pocket had worked its way to the surface and exploded in my house. It had happened in the area before with similar results. I was laughing so hard that I cried. “Don’t cry,” he told me, “You can rebuild.” The fire chief said the chance of it happening again in the same place was one in a million so I said, in that case, I would rebuild on the exact spot. He roared with laughter, naturally.
The next day at the office the lucky dogs came to me with store bought words of sympathy and a McDonald’s gift card. It was hard to be gracious, but I managed.
I told the worthless bottom feeders that I would rebuild and I appreciated their concerns but inside I wondered why no one offered me a place to stay or a sympathetic hug. That cur, the wretched Serafina, stayed behind when the others dispersed. I wanted to throttle her for saying those hurtful words about my joke of the day.
“I’m praying for you,” she said.
I wondered how someone that had been so hateful could sound so sincere. My interest was piqued.
“Preying on me like an eagle on a rabbit?” I probed.
“No, pray as in church. What caused your house to blow up?”
I leaned in close and whispered, “They say it was a gas leak. It must have been the beans and cabbage from supper the night before.”
She stared at me with her big brown eyes as her little mind digested my words. Her serious face melted into her usual wide and gapped tooth grin.
“Oh, Miss Evelyn,” she giggled, “You’re the bomb. And the best boss ever.”
I was shocked but elated at her sincerity. Color returned to my world and all was beautiful again.
“Well, thank you, sweetie pie,” I managed to stammer. “Have you heard the one about the religious nut that quit Dairy Queen because of having to work on sundaes?”
R. O. Weber is an employee of a medium size southern city and writes when time allows. He has had several stories published and once was an award winning photojournalist. He works in an office but swears that no one there was the inspiration for “Joke of the Day”. Maybe.
Nadine Noko is an Art Director and illustrator based in Malta producing work for a wide range of clients across the fashion, art, culture, publishing and advertising field. Her work combines illustration, typography and animation with a keen eye for detail. Noko enjoys working on projects inspired by all things charming and strange. nadinenoko.tumblr.com