“We can’t expect Mrs. Proctor accept what they’re offering!” David stood, resting the knuckles of both hands on the top of the conference table for emphasis. “And I’m not backing off!” He turned his attention to the window, away from his assistant, Shirley, and the partners, all three of them, Oneida, Michael and Steve, who waited in deference for their senior partner to draw his conclusions. David Bannerstrom was sixty-five today, and could announce his retirement at any moment. That seemed to be the consensus of hope, anyway.
A chair squeaked as someone shifted weight. A drinking glass tinked against the edge of a pitcher as someone else poured. Ahem. Slight cough. David waited out the small wave of impatience, looking down to the street two floors below, to the pink truck with the cupcakes painted on the side, to the man getting out with a big pink box and balloons, disappearing under the awning and into the building. David’s heart picked up pace. He sensed his timing was perfect, so he turned to face the team, “And so we will sue Northside Plumbing on behalf of Mrs. Proctor!”
This was the moment David expected the singing to start–the door would open, Tricia, Pat, Mary and Chuck would appear with the now infamous office party delivery man. This had been the year of cupcake birthdays all over the building and it was always this pink truck, always this guy, cupcakes for everyone, candles glowing. This kind gesture would confirm David’s sense that he should stay with the firm a few more years. But the door stayed shut and the partners said, respectively, “Good!” “Fine!” “Agreed!” Shirley glided her finger across the tablet to move onto the next order of business.
“The Ulster Upholsterers union reps will be bringing in their sewing workers tomorrow at 11,” Shirley said, “and we all need to do some research on the complaint. I’m sending you all links to the files now…”
David felt his stomach growl. He had skipped lunch to make room for cake in the afternoon. “What is the gist of the claim?” he asked.
Talking became nonsense; it sounded like rubber balls bouncing down empty hallways. It sounded like a Doppler effected bad guitar chord. It sounded like wind in trees. It sounded like his stomach growling.
“… and so, David, that’s why I’m asking, isn’t it better that way?” Michael said, looking to him as they all fell silent.
“Yes,” David said, not clear about what he was affirming. “Write it up and send it so I can look at all the angles.” His decision was made. He would end the meeting early. “That’s it,” he said. “I’m done.”
And he walked out of the board room, down the low pile green carpet to his office to get his coat, scarf and briefcase. Leaving the office door open, he headed for the elevator, pushed the button and waited. The doors opened. He stepped in. The doors closed. He pushed 1 and put on his coat.
On the first floor, the doors opened to the sound of somebody else’s office singing, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow!” David Bannerstrom nodded as he passed the open office doors, pushing through the revolving door, outside to the cold winter sun of late afternoon glinting off the cars in the lot.
Upstairs, Tricia, Pat, Mary and Chuck burst into the board room, “We can’t find the cupcake guy!” The partners and Shirley hovered in the moment that had just passed; they turned toward Tricia, Pat, Mary and Chuck.
Downstairs, outside, David walked past the pink cupcake truck. The roll-up door was up and an open box of cupcakes was within view. He did not look left. He did not look right. He saw a Red Velvet and he took it, sunk his teeth past the cream cheese frosting and into the cake and moaned a satisfied groan. He finished the cupcake in a few short bites as he got to his car, opened the door and got in. There was some frosting on his fingers so he licked it off, put the car in gear and backed out of his space.
At the first floor, the elevator doors opened. Tricia, Pat, Mary and Chuck burst out, rushing through the lobby as the revelers in that first floor office resolved their melody, …which nobody can denyyyy!” to laughter and applause.
Tricia, Pat, Mary and Chuck filed through the revolving door and poured out to the parking lot, scanning the horizons for David. Pink truck. No David.
Inside, the cupcake guy, ready to hand off the most exquisite cupcake and the balloon bouquet said, “So: which one of you lucky guys is David Bannerstrom?”
This was originally published as part of the Character Project, a variety of fiction pieces from writers responding sets of writing prompts and general character descriptions.