I am losing yet another Free Cell game when I hear muffled laughter. Expecting trouble, I close the game without saving and turn around slowly, checking for booby traps. You know, trip wires, a bucket hanging over my head. I even make sure there's no shaving cream in my hands. But the laughter is coming from farther away.
I follow the sound of Old Abe's unmistakable dry wheeze of mirth to Olivia's office. It is outside her door that I can hear other muffled sounds: Beth's low, malicious giggle, some very loud open-mouthed snoring, and the sound of something scratching or digging. Courtney and Old Abe are standing outside her door, watching intently inside. They notice my presence and beckon me to come see.
I have to cover my mouth to stop a giggle from escaping.
The snoring is coming from Olivia, sitting in her chair with her head back and her mouth wide open. On her forehead is a drawing of a smiley face. On one cheek, it says "Janice was here" and on the other there is a big black dot. Over her wide open, lipstick-smudged mouth, is a badly coloured handlebar mustache, while a small, triangular goatee marks her puffy round chin. It seems like Janice and Beth got tired of drawing on her (or at least ran out of canvas), though, because the scratching sound I heard was Beth digging for a paper clip, which she is now gingerly trying to stick up Olivia's left nostril.
I catch Courtney's eye. "Permanent marker?" I whisper. She nods and grins.
Olivia gives a violent snort, which makes Beth jump, and sends the rest of us into fits of silent giggles.
Beth manages to get the paper clip far enough up and hands the box to Janice.
"It's a game." Abe explains to me. "They take turns doing a prank, which the opponent then has to replicate or do something better, and the person who is taking her turn when the boss wakes up, loses."
"You've played this before?" I whisper.
"We made 2 bosses cry, and one even quit." Old Abe tugs on his cap proudly.
Courtney giggles through her fingers: Janice has taken some scissors to Olivia's hair.
"Don't you think you're going a bit far?" I ask, but I can't keep a straight face.
"Hey, she treats us like children, the least we can do is humour her" Beth says with a smirk. "Does anyone have any hair dye? Hydrogen peroxide, maybe?"
Old Abe says he might have some hydrogen peroxide in the janitor's closet.
Janice dusts some of the hair clippings off Olivia's neck and comes to stand outside with us while Beth dilutes the peroxide in a mop bucket.
"What, no shaving cream in her hands?" I ask.
"We would never stoop to something so juvenile." Janice whispers with a twinkle in her eye. "Why? Did you bring some? Because I'm thinking of shaving off what's left of her eyebrows."
Arnold shuffles by, muttering under his breath.
I don't even have to look questioningly at Janice anymore. She just explains things automatically. "He is trying out a new incantation to keep her asleep... And also praying that he won't get fired for this."
Courtney, in the spirit of the prank, is putting smilie-face stickers over all the black dots on the star chart.
"Hey, I was proud of those dots!" I tell her.
She grins and points at my line, which is actually speckled with stars. "I know, I've been off my game," I admit, which makes her chuckle. "I just don't have the talent for trouble that those two possess." I look back in to see Beth still spiking the tips of Olivia's hair, which is beginning to turn a pinkish-blonde.
Arnold shuffles past again, still muttering. He stops in front of the door, holds his hands out, zombie-like in front of him, and suddenly gives a loud shout which makes everybody jump.
Olivia sits up with a snort, her chemical-dipped hair flopping around. Beth jumps up with a swear and glares at Arnold, who has already raced back to his cubicle. Janice grabs my arm and pulls me back to my own cubicle.
"Pay him? Yep." Janice looks around and winks, then dashes off to her desk.
I pick up my phone and pretend to be talking to someone.
I can hear Beth giggling from her cubicle. She sends an IM to everyone: She must have sucked the paper clip up pretty far when she snorted. She was having trouble getting it out.
Old Abe snorts in reply, Courtney laughs out loud - she has a loud laugh for someone who never talks - and I dissolve helplessly into giggles.
This is when Olivia storms into the room, still rubbing her nose. Everyone shuts up. Except me. I can't help it. She's still rubbing her nose, and her hair is turning a garish orange. And her mustache is smearing from the rubbing, and her chubby face is turning so red.
She looks at right at me, her little worm-eyebrows come together in a hilarious - I mean, malignant - scowl. I am still holding my phone to my ear. And laughing. I try to talk. "Yes, that's a good one, Mrs. Watson" I choke out between gasps for air. "I will have to tell that joke to my-"
The phone rings, and I give a sort of yelp and drop it on my desk.
Olivia's frown deepens.
"Woah, that was weird," I say, referring to my phone ringing while I was using it to talk to a client. I pick it up and ask the person to hold.
Olivia, who apparently does not know what colour her hair or face is, and only knows that her hair is wet and there was a paper clip up her nose, is pretty merciful.
"Black dots for you, Jason. Black dots for the WHOLE MONTH." She spits a little when she talks and a paper clip comes flying out and hits the floor.
My attempt at suppressing my laughter only means that it comes out as a loud choke-snort.
Olivia loses her patience with me. "You all know better than this, and I'm sorry to make an example of you, Jason, but it had to be done. Black dots for all of you today, and I am moving that deadline for your reports up to tomorrow."
Olivia turns to go back to her office. I notice a toilet paper tail hanging out of her pants.
The room is quiet for a bit when a shriek comes from her office.
We get an IM from Courtney: She just saw her star chart ;)
Beth gives Janice a couple bills. "Well played. I liked the toilet paper, that was a nice touch."
Janice divides up the cash and gives half of it to Arnold. "Next time, we dye her hair green. Does anyone know the cheapest place to get a tarantula?"
I grin and pick up my phone. "Thank you for holding. Your call is important to us. Can you tell me your name? Thank you, Ms Peauchamp. Do you know a good place to by a tarantula?... Ooh, you have a python for sale? That could work..."