@

In a town by a sea of great affinity,
people live to begin;
pull out all stops
in the name of origin.

Here, a boy almost seven,
his guests poised to plunge
on three. Once submerged
the party unfurls: limbs lick blue,
strokes feathery with memory;
cheers catch, bubble,
laughter mute on faces.

 

For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

 

Cakegate!

I used to work in an office where there was both a physical and emotional divide between the sales staff and administrators on the top floor and the photo research staff and IT department on the bottom floor.

I was on the bottom floor with the computer kids. Most of the time we kept to ourselves and the people upstairs kept to themselves—very segregated, very “jocks vs nerds.” The only time we really got together was when it was someone’s birthday.

Well, let me rephrase that. The only time we really got together was when it was an upstairs-someone’s birthday. The sales people liked to celebrate themselves at every opportunity, and they would come around to collect a few bucks from each of us—even the cavedwellers downstairs. But their party planning committee fell asleep at the wheel in the months in which only a downstairs-someone celebrated a birthday.

On one hand, who cares, right? I mean, it’s an ice cream cake and a forced conversation. But on the other hand, it kind of soured some of us on the “chipping in” part. So I stopped. A few of us did. We skipped the birthday parties altogether and celebrated in our own way with those coworkers we actually liked.

That did not go over so well with the party planning committee.

At first they didn’t really notice. But early one May, they came around asking for birthday party contributions. Party Lady made a bitch face at me when I declined to chip in, even when someone else informed her that my birthday had come and gone just days earlier without any fanfare or cake from the folks upstairs.

A few days later, on my way to a smoke break, I noticed the receptionist was eating ice cream cake. “We have cake?” I asked.

The receptionist was shocked. “They didn’t invite you to have cake?”

I realized this was the birthday cake I had declined to chip in on. No surprise they had not invited me to participate. “Oh, it’s the birthday cake. I didn’t chip in – forget about it.”

The receptionist would not forget about it. She thought it was rude of them not to share the cake, whether I chipped in or not. But I got it. They were really showing me! “This is what happens when you don’t pitch in for cake!” Boy, I was really learning my lesson!

And even though I didn’t really want any cake, the very sweet receptionist went upstairs to get a piece and brought it to me outside. I handed it to my friend and co-worker, Kimberly who also had not chipped in on the celebration. She joked, “I’m going to be in so much trouble if they see me holding this cake!”

We both laughed at the very idea of “getting in trouble” over cake. And then we went inside and when the very well-intentioned receptionist wasn’t looking we threw the piece of cake in the garbage.

What we didn’t know is that we had been spotted holding the cake. Party Lady had looked out the window and seen us with it. She furiously stomped over to the sales manager’s office, slammed the door, and screamed (Seriously–I am told she literally screamed):

“THEY’RE EATING THE CAAAAAAAKE!!!!!!!”

Red-faced and puffed up, Party Lady explained to the sales manager why we had no right to eat the cake and why it was absolutely imperative that he discipline us, immediately.

So within minutes of Kimberly’s joke about “getting in trouble” for the cake—within seconds of returning to our office and throwing that damn cake in the garbage—my telephone rang and the sales manager explained to me, respectfully, that if we were not going to chip in on the cake party, we should refrain from eating the cake. To which I replied:

“I KNEW IT. THAT FUCKING BITCH SAW US WITH THE CAKE. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING WITH THIS BULLSHIT? I DIDN’T EAT THE CAKE. I DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR THE CAKE. JENNY BROUGHT ME A PIECE BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T KNOW WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLY SELFISH PIECE OF SHIT CASEY CAN BE. YOU KNOW NO ONE IS GOING TO EAT ALL THAT CAKE, RIGHT? YOU KNOW IT IS GOING IN THE FRIDGE TO ROT UNTIL SOMEONE THROWS IT AWAY? I CANNOT BELIEVE SHE MADE YOU CALL ME. YOU WANT ME TO CHIP IN? I’LL CHIP IN. I’LL GIVE YOU 20 BUCKS TO LET ME TAKE ALL THE CAKE THAT IS LEFT AND MAKE THEM WATCH ME SHOVE IT IN THE FUCKING GARBAGE.”

The sales manager informed me that that wouldn’t be necessary and begged me to give him a break–he was only calling because Party Lady had come to his office in tears—IN TEARS! She cried about me getting a piece of stupid birthday cake and forced her boss to reprimand me because of it. If she had any kind of power at all, I would have been fired.

But she didn’t. And she left the company soon after. Hopefully to start her own ACT LIKE A STUPID BITCH service, because she had so much professional experience and skill at acting like a stupid bitch.

That company went out of business within two years. As web technology exploded, the stock photography market changed drastically and the company just couldn’t keep up.

But also, the cake thing.