‘Pulpy!’ said Dan when Pulpy walked by his office. ‘Come in here and keep me company!’
Pulpy stepped over the threshold and stood there. ‘Take a seat anywhere.’
Pulpy sat in one of the cushiony chairs. ‘Actually,’ said Dan, and pointed to the two hard-backed chairs in front of his desk, ‘I said anywhere but I’d prefer you to sit in one of these seats here.’ Pulpy moved. Dan laced his fingers together. ‘What’s going on with you, Pulpy? And by that I mean what’s going on with this potluck? You sent the email last night. How are people supposed to bring anything when they only found out about the potluck this morning?’ He shook his head. ‘I thought we discussed this.’
Pulpy pinched the crease down the front of his pants. He was wearing the black ones. ‘They could bring their lunches to share.’
‘I do not think lunches are a viable option.’
He took a breath. ‘The email was just a reminder. People have known about the potluck for a week now, since I posted the sign-up sheet.’ He saw that Dan’s big ‘Back off – it’s early’ mug was on his desk, next to the receptionist’s smaller duck mug.
‘Yes, well.’ His boss frowned. ‘What did you bring, anyway?’
‘Puff pastry with jam.’
‘That sounds pretty good.’ Dan nodded. ‘I brought Jamaican patties. Spicy ones. They need to be nuked.’
‘What did Beatrice bring?’
Dan coughed into his fist. ‘Beatrice couldn’t make it today. The Jamaican patties are from both of us. She had some appointments.’ And then he grabbed both mugs by their handles and banged them together with a crack, dislodging a small chip of red porcelain from ‘Back off – it’s early.’
Pulpy put his hand over his mouth and looked away. ‘Dammit!’ Dan shuffled some papers on his desk. ‘So. Back to work.’
‘Okay.’ Pulpy stood up. ‘Um, so when and where is the potluck, exactly?’
‘One o’clock in the boardroom. I thought I told you that already.’
‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘Well, now you know.’
‘I’ll send a follow-up email.’
‘Yeah, you do that.’
* * *
At one o’clock, Pulpy, Dan, Cheryl from Active Recovery and Roy from Customer Service sat around the boardroom table with four dishes of food between them.
Dan bit into one of his Jamaican patties. ‘The team spirit in this place is embarrassing.’
‘Good sticky rice, Cheryl,’ said Pulpy, serving himself a second helping.
His co-worker ducked her head. ‘Thank you. My husband made it.’
‘Your husband, eh?’ said Roy with a wink. ‘I think that’s cheating, Cheryl. I went and purchased my shortbread cookies all by myself!’
‘At least it’s homemade.’ Dan licked his lips at Cheryl approvingly. ‘Anything homemade is delicious.’
Roy lifted the box the Jamaican patties had been in and peered at Dan through the plastic window. ‘I guess you whipped these up and made the packaging too. Or was Beatrice the chef? Where is Beatrice, anyway?’
Dan took his eyes off Cheryl, who looked flustered, and said to Roy in a low voice, ‘My wife had some appointments to attend.’
Roy put the box down and shrugged. ‘More for us.’
‘We should’ve thought to bring drinks,’ said Pulpy. ‘We have food but no drinks.’
‘A complete lack of interest.’ Dan brushed some crumbs off his sleeve. ‘That’s what we’re dealing with here. Total employee apathy.’ He turned back to Cheryl. ‘Except for our intrepid and, might I add, quite lovely Active Recovery specialist over here.’
Cheryl squirmed under his gaze. ‘Like I said, my husband deserves all the credit.’
‘I’ll bet he does,’ said Dan.
‘Al didn’t do this sort of thing,’ said Roy. ‘He pretty much just let us go about our day. Sometimes he’d suggest a spontaneous get-together, like a bunch of us would take a longer lunch at a pub or whatever.’
‘Those were good times,’ said Cheryl.
‘Well, Al isn’t in charge anymore, is he?’ said Dan, raising his voice. ‘Isn’t that right, Pulpy?’
Pulpy ate some sticky rice and swallowed, hard. ‘Right,’ he mumbled.
Dan broke a shortbread cookie into tiny pieces and then crushed them into powder. ‘How does sitting around in a pub foster team building? You tell me, because I can’t figure it out.’
‘It was fun,’ said Roy.
‘It was,’ said Cheryl.
Pulpy nodded, but when he saw Dan glaring at him he looked around quickly at the Crock-Pot of sticky rice and the paper plates of Jamaican patties, shortbread cookies, and his flattened jam-filled puff pastry. ‘But this is fun too. Look at all this food.’ Dan shook his big head. ‘Something needs to be done about this.’ ‘Pulpy, could you pass me some more of your pastry?’ said Roy. ‘Me too,’ said Cheryl. ‘I’m glad you like it,’ he said. ‘It’s not supposed to be squashed like that.’ ‘I propose,’ said Dan, ‘that we do something about this.’ Nobody said anything. The sound of chewing filled the room. Dan brought his fist down on his plate, flattening what remained of his lunch. ‘This potluck is a piece of crap!’ Pulpy, Roy and Cheryl looked at each other, and Dan stood up and walked out of the room.
* * *