“…and I think I saw some weird mangy spots. Like maybe there were bugs getting at it? The smell was strange.” Of course that’s not true–the dog’s fur was preternaturally well maintained–but you want Sharon in HR to understand why you’re tattling on Bev.

It’s legitimate tattling.

“Alright,” Sharon croaks in her hungover-frog voice. “Let me call Bev in here and see if she can explain why she has a taxidermied animal in the office.” She leans over to the phone, clicking at the keys with a long, polished fingernail. Stale Parliament smoke wafts over on the slight breeze from her leathery arm.

“That’s not really necessary, I don’t think–”

“It’s policy,” Sharon says, her voice like a rock tumbler.

A few moments later Bev shows up.

“Your coworker says you have an animal corpse in your office?”

“I didn’t say corpse,” you mumble.

“Do you mean my therapy animal?” Bev sneers at you, obviously disgusted. “Which has been approved by HR as necessary to my mental health?”

“But it’s dead.”

“Yes. Carrie Nation was certified as a therapy dog for my anxiety issues. Keeping her around now also helps with my grief over her death. Which of course is much more intense than most pet owners’, since our relationship was both one of love and of professional care.”

Sharon squints at you. “Satisfied?” she rumbles.

“I’m not,” Bev says, glaring through her large, unflattering glasses. “Carrie Nation is kept out of sight in my filing cabinet, specifically so her presence won’t disturb my coworkers, since creating a safe space for other grieving pet owners is important to me. Which means you must have been digging through my personal effects in order to find her in the first place.”

Sharon raises an eyebrow at you.

“Well yes, I was,” you say, “but only because I wanted to learn more about Bev. I’m her Secret Santa, and I wanted my next gift to–”

“Oh wonderful. So you’re a trespasser and a religious extremist. Not to mention an indirect funder of guerilla warfare in Co-lohm-bia.” She says it in an aggressive accent. “Their corrupt government is funded almost entirely by chocolate profits.”

“What? Santa isn’t even religious. And chocolate doesn’t–”

“Is that all?” Bev stares at Sharon levelly. Sharon, that dried-out husk impervious to even the most reasonable pleas, breaks eye contact first, nodding. Is she blushing?

“I’m so sorry about this, Bev. Rest assured I’ll be issuing a formal reprimand for the invasion of your privacy.”

Bev sniffs approvingly and marches off, back ramrod-straight.

“For the record,” Sharon says in a throaty stage-whisper, “I think that dog’s freaky too. But I can’t put that on your reprimand.”



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