Write a scene that begins: “Joe was the last person on Earth I expected to do that.”
Joe was the last person on Earth I expected to do that. It just seemed so utterly out of character. He kept to himself and didn’t talk or smile much, only when it was necessary. Apparently he was very good at his job, that’s why the boss kept him around, but life of the party he most certainly was not. He was first in the office in the morning and last to leave at night. It was common place for his email to greet you in the morning, having been sent late the night before. Very dedicated, very serious, completely committed to his work. He drove a 2001 Honda Civic and that’s about all we knew of his life outside work. He did not attend social functions and always seemed enormously uncomfortable in group meetings. It was like he felt most safe in his cubicle.
I’ll never forget that morning. It was a Wednesday, middle of the week, hump day. I got in to work and Joe wasn’t there. Odd but not overly so. As the morning progressed and we still didn’t hear from him we started to be concerned. We phoned his cell and his home number and only reached voicemail. Then we heard the receptionist down the hall start to giggle and whoop, and say, “Joe, congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”
And then the man himself walked down the hallway, yelling, “Anna, James gather everyone round! I have an announcement to make!” There Joe was, or at least someone who sounded a lot like Joe. His face was transformed by a huge smile and red blotches on his cheeks. He looked like he might explode with excitement. We quickly gathered round him and took the items he passed to us: champagne, chocolates, gourmet cupcakes, helium balloons, and cigars. When he finally had his parcels distributed he said, “I have worked here for 17 years. Every week I bought a lottery ticket. And exactly four weeks ago I won $162 million.” This was greeted with complete silence. And then as one we erupted into whoops and screams and cries of Congratulations! Way to go! Lucky duck! We shook his hand so hard it almost came off and some of the younger girls threw their arms around him and kissed his cheek. And the whole time his smile never wavered. Such a change from his usual countenance but so wonderful to see.
He went on to explain how he had spent the last four weeks hiring a financial advisor and creating a corporation, so that he could manage the fortune that was now his. With a wink he joked about how it hadn’t been so difficult to keep it to himself, as that was his natural inclination, not counting today. “And it will still be my character to keep to myself but with this money I can spend more time on causes dear to me and help those who are truly in need, all over the world. In that spirit I want to tender my resignation as of today, and give you each a little something to remember me by.”
He handed each of us a beautiful red envelope with our names written in white script. And they contained hand-written notes from Joe, thanking us for being great coworkers, and for making his days so interesting. Each note contained references to our personal struggles and triumphs, things we didn’t even realize he knew. All those years he was keeping himself apart but listening and sympathizing in silence. Attached to each note was a business card. In answer to the puzzled look on our faces Joe said, “Phone the number on the card. Each of you have an appointment with my financial advisor. She will tell you how best to invest the $100,000 I’m giving each of you.” And then we all started screaming again.
Joe was the last person on Earth I expected to do that.
Next week: The thoughts of the first man to eat an oyster.
This is the latest exercise in my 642 Things to Write About Project. Click on the link to find out more, or click on the category 642 Things to Write About Project to read past exercises. 🙂