It was a season of “lasts:” the last budget preparation at year-end; the last 1.1 with each of her direct reports; the last meeting of each of the many groups and committees of which she had been part for so many years--the last this—the last that. She had loved her job these many years, and she had wanted to finish well, had worked hard at leaving everything in perfect shape for her successor. She was dutiful, committed, loyal and hardworking, no one could say otherwise, but now, as she sat at her desk one morning when the finish line was in sight, suddenly she felt an unfamiliar stirring within her, a sort of reckless abandonment that was as intriguing as it was terrifying.
She glanced at the clock hanging above her desk and realized that she had completely lost track of time while working to finish a project before leaving for another of those “last” meetings. With a gasped, “Oh my goodness!” she quickly reigned in her thoughts, shut her laptop with a bang, and gathered her coat and briefcase.
It was her turn to bring the refreshments for the meeting with a group of her peers--agency executive directors. She had planned to stop on the way to pick these up. What happened next surprised her, but she seemed to be guided by a force outside herself. She found herself stopping at the corner 7-11 store instead of the fancy little patisserie where she had planned on choosing a tasteful selection of elegant pastries. Inside the store she avidly surveyed the candy counter, sniffing the air fragrant with the scent of chocolate and other sugary concoctions. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the giant neon-coloured gumballs and Tootsie Rolls and she grabbed a large bag of each of these, leaving the store with a smile on her lips and a skip in her step.
At the meeting she arranged her loot on several elegant platters, if pouring out the clattering riot of garish gumballs and Tootsie Rolls could be called “arranging.” She placed the platters around the meeting table and enjoyed the gasps of surprise and titters of laughter as her colleagues arrived and sat down. As they helped themselves, she herself smothered the urge to giggle at the normally super-professional crowd struggling to hold the giant gumballs in their mouths as they attempted to chew them. A few dribbles escaped from mouths, while teeth and lips absorbed the cheap dye of the gumballs. Meanwhile those who had chosen the Tootsie Rolls fared no better as they tried hard to separate their jaws without losing expensive crowns or fillings. All dignity had fled the room.
“This is so--CHUMMY!” She cried, smiling brightly at the sea of dismayed faces, but of course there were no verbal responses, only mute nods, because everyone’s mouths were quite busy enough without trying to speak. And if only everyone had kept their eyes on her, things might not have devolved further, but inevitably they looked around at one another, and that’s when the resulting explosive laughter projected gumballs and Tootsie Rolls—and of course, colourful drool, into the air at high velocity. There were sputtered apologies between dabbing at mouths and unsuccessful attempts at smothering the laughter, which exploded again the moment it died down. Tears ran down faces along with mascara, while some ran from the room doubled over, with a posture that indicated their urgent destination.
She yawned, her brain waking up, but not yet able to piece together threads such as time, or day, or place. She lifted her head from her desk, realizing where and when she had fallen asleep. As she gathered her thoughts, the article she had been reading on her laptop reminded her--it had been lunchtime. The article had interested her, “A Short-timer,” she had read, “is a term for a person nearing the end of their military service or that period before retirement or when a contract or project is almost at an end and productivity decreases or is overwhelming.” Interesting, she mused, just before her eyes became irresistibly heavy and she succumbed to the compulsion to lay her head on the desk for just a few moments...
And this entire story is a piece of nonsense, in other words;
(Inspired by a writing prompt in Monica Wood's book: Pocket Muse 2: Endless Inspiration for Writers, which said: Work a little magic with the following words: gumballs flimflammery tootsie short-timer chummy )