I knew I was in trouble as soon as the email flashed up on the screen: “My office. 2pm sharp. Bring Ellie with you.”
Chewing on my bottom lip, I peer over the top of my computer and click my fingers.
“Veronica wants to see us in her office in 15 minutes. I don’t think it’s a good sign, do you?” I gulp, pushing my half-eaten cheese roll to one side.
“Chillax, what’s the worst she can do?” said Ellie, leaning across the desk to pinch my sandwich. “What? It’s not like you’re going to finish it.”
As I elbow Ellie in the ribs to stop her snoring, I flash a weak smile at Jenny, Veronica’s PA, and ask if she’s got any exciting plans for the weekend.
The woman spins round in her chair and glares at us through her thick-rimmed glasses. Before she can reply, her desk phone rings, and she snatches up the handset.
Her scowl transforms into a wide beam: “Veronica, hellooooo! Yes, they’re here.” She turns to look at us, her eyes narrowing: “I’ll send them straight in.”
“Well go on then,” snaps Jenny, replacing the phone. “They’re waiting for you.”
Jumping up, I straighten my jacket and adjust my tie, before holding the door open for Ellie. She lumbers into the room and plonks herself down at the polished mahogany table.
I hover in the doorway, hopping from foot to foot, until Veronica glances up from her laptop and points to a chair. She’s flanked on either side by Pauline Jacques, the accounts director and Graham Davey, head of HR. I feel quite sick.
Slamming her laptop closed, Veronica flicks through the stack of paperwork next to her. “Presumably you know why you’re here Joe?” she said, fixing me with an icy stare.
Mumbling, I bow my head and look sideways at Ellie who’s munching on a chocolate hobnob. How can she eat at a time like this?
“Let me refresh your memory,” begins Veronica. I feel the words wash over me… ‘flagrant abuse… undermining company policy… subverting…”
I open my mouth to protest but close it as soon as I see Veronica’s clenched jaw.
“… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning,” she said, tracing her finger down the page. “So, for World Superhero Day, you ‘allegedly’ dressed as the Invisible Man, but not a single person saw you in the office…”
I hear Ellie scoff: “That was the point!”
“Then you stole a cartridge of printer ink from Jenny’s locked stationery cupboard and took it on your walking holiday. I don’t think she’ll ever forgive you for sending photos of you and the magenta ink cartridge from the top of Ben Nevis.”
I squirm in my seat.
“And who can forget the time you switched the labels on the coffee jars? Poor Amos from IT has only drunk decaf since 1998. We had to peel him off the ceiling at 10am after he’d consumed five regular cups.”
“Genius,” Ellie chuckles.
“And talking about switching things, Katy from graphic design is still furious. I’m guessing it was you that substituted the photograph of her newborn baby for a picture of Yoda? I must admit, the similarity is striking, but even so…”
I sneak a look at Ellie. She’s grinning from ear to ear.
“And finally,” said Veronica, “Even though you knew we had a crunch meeting with the management team from head office, you released a remote-controlled snake into the boardroom! I can’t begin to tell you…”
“Ha! I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but that was also my idea,” interrupts Ellie.
“Indeed,” said Veronica, scowling. “Which brings me round nicely to the elephant in the room…”
Ellie looks up: “Hey, you can’t pin anything on me... Oh, are you eating those?” she asks, her trunk reaching across the table to scoop up the rest of the biscuits.
I shake my head when Ellie offers me one of her chocolate digestives. Out of the corner of my eye, I watch Veronica’s face flame crimson.
“And whilst I accept it was the monthly Bring your Pet to Work Day, what made you think it was okay to have an elephant come into the office with you?” said Veronica.
Stammering, I say: “Well, it didn’t say anywhere that I couldn’t so…”
“And then, you twisted the words in the company handbook and had Ellie classified as your emotional support elephant…
“… EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ELEPHANT,” she yelled, banging her fist down on the table. “Exactly how does she help you, Joe?”
“She’s got a great memory and… helps me to remember things…” I trail off, not daring to meet Veronica's eyes.
My boss breathes in and out several times. Massaging her temples, she says: “Well I’m giving you the perfect opportunity to put your memories to the test.
“I’m making you both responsible for compiling a detailed history of our office. It’s for inclusion in the centenary edition of the company-wide yearbook.
“Now get back to the marketing department before I change my mind and sack the pair of you.”
I mumble my thanks and shove Ellie through the door as she starts to say: “Technically, I’m not an employee so…”
As the door slams shut behind us, we turn and glare at one another.
“I can’t believe we’ve been lumbered with such a boring assignment. I’d rather have been fired! I will never forgive you for this,” I hiss at Ellie.
“And I’ll definitely never forget,” said Ellie swiping an apple from Jenny’s desk and charging out into the corridor.
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