Caleb was driving Bobby insane. There were the usual reasons, such as his overwhelming pompousness and self-importance. He continued to march around the office like he was saving lives and not writing incredibly short, unimportant articles about knitting patterns for children’s mittens.
“Much like Playboy, nobody is reading this magazine about knitwear for the articles,” Bobby commented bitterly to Mo and Jemima after a meeting one Monday morning.
“At least he’s stopped literally telling us that the magazine couldn’t go on without him,” Mo offered in a clear attempt to be positive. It wasn’t effective.
“No, Mohemian Rhapsody, that’s not the point,” Bobby returned. “The point is that he’s still an insufferable, rat-faced, jackel-headed ass-weasel.”
“Gracious,” Jemima breathed, taken aback.
Worse still, Caleb had adopted other irritating habits, even beyond the bragging and the perpetual fuck-boy attitude. He had begun taking aggressively loud phone calls from the cubicle three away from Bobby’s. He had, much to her immense displeasure, gained a small smattering of fans for his articles in the knitwear magazines. All of them were elderly women. Half of them were named Betty. Caleb was pleased as punch. He could not have been more delighted to have a fan-base and Bobby could only assume he’d always thought he should have. What it meant was that she had to listen to him accept all the Bettys’ praise and proffered accolades throughout the workday because he had an excessively loud speaking voice. For the first little while, it mostly meant that she just had to listen to him ungraciously accept compliments. Latterly, when he and his multitude of Bettys had begun to bond, she found she was listening to him strike up actual, casual conversation with all the Bettys.
“He’s told the same story about his brother’s engagement four times already this morning and now I wish I was dead,” Bobby complained darkly to Mo. She had buzzed over to her desk on the office phones. She was speaking lowly, but she didn’t really care if anyone overheard her. For one thing, she didn’t actually think anybody would be able to hear her over the sound of Caleb chortling loudly into the phone. For another, she was kind of hoping in a mostly passive-aggressive way that he would overhear her complaining about him, get the hint, and shut the hell up. Thus far, it had not been successful. She was still listening to him talk about his brother’s engagement and she still wished she was dead. His brother had proposed in the meadow where he and his now fiancee had had their first date. Bobby could only assume that Caleb’s soon-to-be sister-in-law was either dumb or had a death wish because there was not a chance in hell that Bobby would ever allow herself to be lured into a field on a first date. That was how people got serial murdered by crazy people they met on the internet.
“Aren’t you at least a little concerned that he’ll hear you talking about him?” Mo asked, whispering. She was whispering because she too sat three cubicles away from Caleb, just in the opposite direction. He was sandwiched between them like an unwanted sliced pickle in a cold cuts sandwich.
“No, Moey Fatone, I am not,” Bobby answered firmly. “Partially because I’d be really surprised if he could hear anything other than the sound of his own voice, but also because I already think he thinks I don’t like him.”
“Well…,” Mo trailed off.
“He’s right,” Bobby added darkly.
“You know, it’s almost Christmas,” Mo said loftily. “Maybe you ought to embrace the spirit and be kind to him. You know, adopt patience. It could be a lovely Christmas present to yourself, a calm soul and a soothed mind.”
“Right, but what I really want for his Christmas is his death,” Bobby returned. Mo was silent for a moment.
“How about a gift card?” She asked.
“A voucher for his death?” Bobby replied.
“No,” Mo said. “I can’t be involved in his death. I would do really poorly in prison.”
“Alright, so then how can he get rid of him without going to jail for murder?” Bobby asked.
“Not sure,” Mo said slowly, presumably thinking it over in earnest now. “It really limits our options. Maybe via email scam. We could trick him into going to Uganda or something.”
“Now you’re thinking, Molivia Newton-John,” Bobby praised her. Then she hung up and listened to Caleb tell two more women named Betty about his brother’s engagement. He had bought her a platinum ring with diamonds encrusted along the band and five giant diamonds in the middle making what sounded like a weird pentagon shape. Caleb laughed and said it looked like the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Bobby wondered if Titanic analogies were a good sign for his brother’s future nuptials. She’d never been married before so she would never claim to be an expert, but it sounded like a bad omen.
One hour later, Bobby was back on the phone to Mo.
“He just ate half a roast chicken,” she announced. “It’s ten-thirty-six in the morning.”
She had smelled what she’d thought was stew so she’d gotten up to check what he was eating while he was in the bathroom. It was half a rotisserie chicken in a bowl that he appeared to be eating with a spoon like a heathen.
“That’s a weird time to eat chicken,” Mo remarked in return.
“If he had brain, he’d be dangerous,” Bobby muttered darkly.
She called back later in the afternoon, after hearing about the engagement yet another five times. It apparently was Caleb’s big talking point and the elderly Bettys just loved hearing about it. They thought it was charming, presumably because they revered him as a god amongst the knitting community.
“He ate the second half of his chicken, Little Mo Peep,” Bobby informed her friend. “It’s two-forty in the afternoon.”
“This dude does not know when to eat chicken,” was Mo’s response.
The next morning, Jemima shared some very exciting news with Bobby and Mo while the three of them were getting coffee in the break room. Bobby didn’t even drink coffee; it was just an excuse to be away from her desk and, consequently, Caleb and his near constant monologue about his brother’s engagement.
“He’s going on vacation next week,” she announced casually, as if it wasn’t the best fucking news anybody had ever given. “I overheard him telling Sue from HR.”
“The one who always wears that skanky sweater dress?” Mo asked. “Such a weird item of clothing to make provocative.”
“He told her he was going to go scuba diving,” Jemima continued, nodding at Mo’s question.
“Good,” Bobby said bluntly. “I hope he gets eaten by a shark.”
Bobby worked in blissful peace for the following week. She didn’t have to listen to anyone talk about their brother’s creepy engagement or the ring or any allusion to the Titanic, film or otherwise. She didn’t have to smell someone’s rotisserie chicken at bizarre hours of the day. She didn’t have to flee to the bathroom to escape other people’s insanely loud phone conversations. It was really nice.
And then he came back.
It was worse than before because now she had to listen to him talk about his vacation several times a day for days on end. Much to her great displeasure, he had not in fact been eaten by a shark, nor had he drowned. It was incredibly disappointing.
“I just have someone on hold,” he told Bobby, Mo, and Jemima one morning while they were waiting for him so they could start a meeting. “But I’ll tell you guys all about my vacation after.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to!” Bobby called after him as he hurried back to his desk to talk to yet another admiring Betty. By this point, she had heard about his vacation more times than she could count. In fact, she could still hear him talking about it as he was practically shouting into the phone.
“God, I so wish he had died,” Bobby grumbled.