Chapter 1: Coffee Cup
Herman had been working this job for 8 years now. He was still the most junior person in the office. He was waiting for the day that Randle would finally croak and quit. He'd been there 37 years, seven more than he needed to get the highest pension. What was he waiting for? Then the could finally hire someone new and Herman could quit being the new guy.
The office was only 14 people. It had a water cooler, but there was no water cooler talk. What would anyone have to talk about? Who would want to talk with anyone anyways? Neither music nor headphones were allowed. The work was not difficult, not terribly meaningful, but as they say - it paid the bills. So Herman showed up, day in and day out, sat there in silence, and played math games in his head determining how long till his next break, or that glorious 5 p.m.
Everyone was polite. There we people who arguably could be interesting folks. But what was the point? His breaks were thirty minutes of pure bliss, and really he spent each and every weekday counting down the hours until he got to go home.
So what made this day different? Delores. Delores made today different.
Delores was maybe early forties, not in shape, but not overweight. She, like everyone else in the office, was quiet, did her work, and went home at the end of the day. She was 4 years Herman's senior. And really, Herman had come to realize, that's all he knew about her.
Delores walked in on this infamous day with a coffee mug. Herman assumed there was coffee in the mug, but really it didn't matter. The mug itself was mostly nondescript. But of course, the word mostly implies an awful lot. The mug was some kind of dull color, not really important. The important bit was the simple cursive writing scrawled across the mug. One simple word - Dad
Now what would a woman be doing bringing a Dad's mug to work? That just makes no logical sense. And in a place that worked like clockwork, almost in the literal sense, something as counterintuitive as this was ground breaking. No one missed it. Many a nervous glance was passed. People who hadn't mentioned more than a passing greeting were suddenly exchanging moment long, silent conversations across cubicles.
Herman was more than tempted to confront Delores about this breach of normalcy. On his way to the restroom, his mid morning trip, he almost said something out loud. Fortunately, he thought better of disturbing the peace like that. He was the new guy after all.
Lunch passed with a bit
more tension than normal, but as usual the small circular table was dominated by newspaper reading and excusal requests to get back to work. Delores left the mug on her desk during lunch, which also helped avoid confrontation.
Before he knew it, Herman saw the clock was nearly at 3 p.m. He'd been calculating how many seconds left in his day, but the math had taken him a bit longer today. He kept falling back to wondering why Delores would be carrying around a 'Dad' mug. There wasn't anything wrong with it, but it certainly wasn't right.
Herman was not used to this sort of distraction. It was affecting his concentration. Not on his work of course, that was of no concern, but rather his focus in getting home. This was terribly troubling.
Just like that, Herman saw Randle leave. He had the fortuity to be allowed to leave 30 minutes earlier than everyone else. Some sort of deal based on family difficulties, but the reasoning was not relevant, just the resulting leniency. The question of fairness came to mind, but Herman pushed it out. It wasn't his place to question.
With that thought process completed, Herman had 10 minutes in his day left. He took his time shutting down his workspace, his well calculated methodology. And with that, it was time to leave.
On his way out, he was forced to pass Delores' desk. On it, lie the nearly empty mug, with the word 'Dad' staring right back at him. He shook his head in frustration. He hadn't left work in this much imbalance since his early days at the company. If this continued to happen, he wasn't sure what he'd do.