Corporate Gag Gift


by Marybeth Niederkorn, Poet Extraordinaire

"LISTEN, FRANK, I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS." He dropped the papers.

Frank's lips thinned. "You were hired for a job, here, fella," he said, and got a glare as intense as his own.

"You didn't hire me, Frank."

He tried a smile. Patience, he reminded himself. He was in a leadership capacity here.

"I brought you on board because there are certain parts of this job I don't like," Frank said.

 "You think I do?"

Frank paused.

"Yeah, you have a point there."

The door opened.

"Mr. Gascar, your eleven o'clock is here."

The door closed.

"That was close."

"I won't argue with me. Uh, you."

"Well . . ." He paused. "Can we agree here -- step one, don't kill each other?"

"Yeah." Frank closed his eyes. He never thought this would be so complicated. "Maybe the rest will sort itself out."


Frank turned his back and walked toward the plate-glass window. He shook his head, not even sure what he was denying, and went back to the conversation without turning around.

"I guess you're right. But  . . .  someone's bound to catch on."

"Your secretary there didn't seem to notice anything."

Frank huffed out a short laugh. "She doesn't."

"Didn't she give you the kit?"

Frank stopped, nodded. "Yeah, Boss' Day, last year. 'Clone-a-Drone.' Double my work output, oh ha-ha, then I put it up and didn't think anything more about it … until, well, you know."

"The Winkerman account."

Frank grimaced. "Yeah, that one." He still had nightmares. That night, after seven hours staring at the same seven pages, drinking the same seven cups of coffee, he'd spied it. Some stupid corporate gag gift, he thought. A corporate gag … but he had a break coming, and at this point he was more than ready to believe anything. Or something, anyway.

And the direct result was now staring him in the face, a problem on top of a problem, whose presence was supposed to be a solution but had wound up as a serious complication.

"I don't even know what to call you," Frank said.

Frank grinned back.

"I don't know what to do with you. Everything I can do, want to do, I already do. So what good are you?"

He continued to smile, but Frank thought it started to falter.

"You're the one wanted a clone, Frank," he said.

He waited. Frank didn't answer.

Frank's hand moved.

He froze. His throat wouldn't work to push words out. But his mind knew exactly what Frank was going to say. To the syllable.

"Frank," he said. "Now, Frank. Don't do anything . . . hasty . . . bloodstains can be hard to . . . get out of carpet . . . Frank . . . Frank!"

Frank wasn't listening, but was advancing—and holding the award for his first fifteen years in business. It caught fluorescent light and sparkled, just enough to match the glitter of malice in Frank's eye.

He was cringing back, pressing himself into the wall as though hoping Frank would forget he was there. But no, not tonight.

"Bloodstains," Frank said, and his voice sounded very far away.

His panic broke. He snapped out of his position and went running across the room, making a break, Frank realized, for the window.

Frank ran forward only to see him strike, full-force, but instead of leaving a Frank-shaped hole, he left a Frank-sized skid mark.

"Thud," went his body.

"Thwack," went the trophy.

"Thud," went his skull.

 And the thing was done.

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