“Excuse me,” you say, stopping in the entryway of ‘The Inner Eye Spiritual Paraphernalia’ shop. The smell of incense is overwhelming, and judging by the looks you’re getting from shoppers, your khakis-and-button-down getup isn’t going over well. “Could you help me find a gift?”

“Shopping for the solstice?” The man who glides over to you looks like a cross between a sophomore philosophy major and a Renaissance-faire enthusiast: a little oily, a little superior, and wearing a full-length monk’s robe.

“Um, yes. Specifically, I was hoping to find something for a dog?”

“Mmmm. Our animal companions help us connect with mother Earth.” He smiles patronizingly. “Follow me, please. Perhaps some canine quinoa pudding?”

“Do you sell dog outfits?”

“We have some earth-fibre cloaks sized to animal companions. Perhaps that and a pentacle collar?”

“Sure. That would be fine.”

You manage not to roll your eyes until you leave.

* * * * *

At the end of the week, an email goes out telling the office who had each other for Secret Santa. You should’ve known Morgan had you. Only Morgan would give someone a diet book at the holidays.

Within minutes, Bev’s at your cube.

“Oh, hi, Bev,” you say tentatively.

“I just wanted to thank you for the incredibly thoughtful gifts. I never knew you were so spiritual!” Her face is cracked in what must be a smile, though it’s very lip-curly. “Can I take you to lunch?”

“Well…” you’re not sure you’ll make it through an entire meal without accidentally offending Bev, but ‘can I take you’ does imply she’d pay. “Sure!”

That was just the beginning.

Every day now, Bev drops by your cube to say a ‘blessing’ with you, rail loudly against the breakfast choices of coworkers within hearing range, or loudly denounce the ‘Judeo-Christian fascism’ of PBS’s children’s programming. At first you worried you’d offend her somehow, but you’ve realized that’s not possible: she almost never lets you speak, and when you do, seems to relish correcting your ‘wrong thinking.’

Your social stock was already low, but hanging around with the office scold definitely isn’t helping. Even Debby–chortling, snorting, velour-wearing Debby–seems to be avoiding you.

And of course every minute with Bev is a special kind of hell.

It just goes to show: you should never, ever, try to be thoughtful of other people’s beliefs.


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