SHREDDED • by KM Rockwood

“So,” Annie said as she slipped documents from her in-basket into file folders on her desk, “are you gonna come over Saturday night and meet Jim’s brother? He’s just back from Iraq, and he’s gonna move in with us as soon as he gets his discharge. Just until he gets settled.”

Sheila wasn’t paying much attention.

“Don’t look now, but that dreamy new executive intern just walked through the door,” Sheila whispered, leaning toward Annie’s desk.

Annie’s head bobbed up from her work. She adjusted her glasses. “Who? Where?”

“Shhh. The new intern I told you about. The one who I rode up in the elevator with this morning? Who said we should get together for coffee or something?”

“Huh.” Annie turned back to the papers on her desk. “That arrogant SOB? He’s supposed to be dumb, too. Only reason he got the job was because his mother is Mr. Pauling’s sister. You know how these executive types take care of their own.”

Sheila sighed and gazed dreamily toward the door. “You got to admit he’s awfully cute. And he was nice enough to me.”

“Yeah, he’s cute all right. Got smug bastard written all over him. And he was probably nice to you ‘cause he thought you were a customer or something.”

Stung, Sheila brushed her coiffed glossy black hair with her slender manicured fingers. “I told him I worked here.”

“In the clerical pool?” Annie raised her eyebrows. “He probably thought you were an intern like him. Or a lawyer. Or at least an executive secretary.”

Sheila tidied the papers on her desk and glanced up.

“Look,” she whispered. “He’s got Mr. Pauling with him. And they’re coming this way! Is my makeup okay?”

Annie peered over her glasses in amusement. “And what are you going to do if I say no, you got a big smear of mascara running down your cheek? Of course your makeup’s okay. Your makeup’s always okay.”

“Let me talk to them if they come over here.” Nervously, Sheila smoothed her tidy grey skirt.

Annie shook her head. “Forget it. He’s never gonna ask you out. Why don’t you just face the fact that none of these executive types are usually looking for a wife? Especially at work?”

Sheila had no answer.

Mr. Pauling and the new intern stopped nearby. The intern had a stack of papers in his hand. Sheila fixed a welcoming smile on her face and stood up. “May I help you?” she asked.

The older man pursed his lips and looked right through her. But the younger one turned toward her.

“That’s confidential material, Bradley,” Mr. Pauling said. “Take care of it yourself. I’ll meet you in the conference room when you’re done.”

“But Uncle Lenard…”

“Don’t call me that at work. And be quick about it; we have people waiting.” Mr. Pauling turned and strode away.

Bradley watched him go. He walked right past Sheila toward the row of office machines against the wall.

Disappointed, Sheila sat down at her desk but watched him out of the corner of her eye.

He was staring at the newly-purchased, just-delivered, guaranteed-to-permanently-obliterate-any-document-in-existence paper shredder with a puzzled look on his face.

Surprising how complicated a shredder could look to operate.

“I’m gonna go see if I can help him,” Sheila whispered to Annie.

Annie didn’t look up from her work. “Whatever floats your boat.”

Sheila checked to make sure her low-cut blouse still covered enough to be business appropriate. She picked her way through the clerical pool’s cluster of desks over to where Bradley stood by the shredder.

Once again fixing the smile on her face, she said, “Do you need help?”

Bradley looked at her, relief evident on his face.

“How does this work?” he asked.

“First you have to turn it on.” Sheila reached around the side and flipped the switch. “Then you feed your document through that opening.”

Bradley — she was pleased to know his first name — looked uncertainly at it. He glanced around.

“Could you do it for me?” he asked.

Smiling, Sheila took the papers. “You watch to make sure your uncle doesn’t see me,” she said, warming to the conspiracy.

Bradley stepped a few feet back into the center of the room, facing the door.

Sheila fed the stack of papers into the machine’s gaping maw. The wicked blades surrounding it sprang to life. Tiny bits of paper and dust filled the air. The papers were gone.

Sheila tried to think of something bright and amusing to say. “All done!” was all she came up with.

Bradley returned and looked at the shredder with great intensity.

“Where do the copies come out?” he asked.

Saturday night at Annie’s place was looking better. Maybe Sheila should take her up on it.

KM Rockwood is a fan of Every Day Fiction who reads all the stories and sometimes feels compelled to submit a story. Work has appeared in Nautilus Engine, Flash Scribe and Thema, in addition to once previously in Every Day Fiction.

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