THE STAPLER • by Frank Zubek

“Oh, man!”

Derrick Sommers placed his box of personal belongings on the trunk of his car and turned to see what was wrong and saw Laurie Jones in the snow. She must have slipped on the ice. She worked in accounting and from the few times that he had talked to her, she seemed nice. He also saw that the contents of her box had spilt out onto the cement.

“Let me help you,” Derrick said as he offered his hand.

She looked up while leaning against her car and smiled and then she laughed. “No, I’m good. Really.”

Seeing that she was okay and unhurt, he sat next to her and returned her smile. “I may as well join you. We’re both out on our butts anyway, job wise.” They both laughed at this.

As Derrick scooped up her papers, she collected several miscellaneous items and placed them back in the box.

“It’s okay. You don’t need to put them in order,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of personal emails I’ve kept over the years. They almost didn’t let me leave with them. Using company paper and ink and all that. Derrick, isn’t it?”

“Derrick, yeah,” he confirmed. “Oh, well at least let me straighten them out for you. I’ll only be a minute.”

Laurie studied him a moment and finally shrugged. “But what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter. My whole life is in disorder, not just my job. I have no idea where I’ll find work now. I didn’t expect this.” As she said this she wiped a tear from her cheek.

In quick order he was able to straighten everything out and put them all back in the folder. “Do you have a stapler? I can just clip them all together for you.”

Laurie plunged a hand into her box but found nothing. “Oh, wait,” she said with a frown. “Harry from accounting has it. Figures that he gets to keep his job.”

They both laughed and nodded at the irony. It was well known that Harry was related to the boss and most people knew that he wasn’t worth much as an employee.

“Well, on the bright side,” Derrick said, as he handed her the folder, “He now has to handle your job as well as his own. And from what I’ve heard of how hard you work, I bet he doesn’t make it to spring.”

“Thanks for the support.”

Derrick stood up and offered his hand to her and helped her up. “Listen, I think I have a stapler. Hold on.”

He hurried to his car and after a minute of searching, found his stapler. When he returned to her car he saw that she had already placed the box in her trunk and had the engine warming.

“Here you are,” he said, handing it to her.

She bent over the box and quickly stapled the corner of the emails. “Thanks, I appreciate it,” she said, handing the stapler back to him. She shook her head as she gazed at the box. “The ironic thing of it is that I’ll probably wind up just tossing the damn things. Funny the stuff we find important,” she said as she closed the trunk.

“This isn’t the end of the world, you know,” Derrick said. “It was a lousy place to work anyway. Besides, you have six months of benefits and some un-employment. You should do what I’m planning to do.”

“What’s that?” she asked, curious.

“Get drunk.”

Laurie smiled and shook her head.

“Then, I think I’ll take a month off and relax. I’m looking at it as extra vacation time that they owed me.”

“Okay,” she said. “So you get drunk and take some time off. Then what?”

“Pick myself up and look for something else,” he said, changing his tone. “I’m already well aware that I won’t find anything in my field, but I have rent to pay. I have to eat and the car needs gas and none of that happens without cash.”

Laurie nodded in agreement.

Derrick pointed the stapler at her. “The point is to land on your feet and organize your life so that it’s easier to move forward when the time comes.”

“The way you did with my paperwork.”

Derrick nodded. “Something like that. See, the point is to stay on top of your life. Be ready to take whatever punches it throws.” As he said this, he kept holding the stapler as if it were a magic wand that would take away her fears and worries.

“And a stapler can do all of that?”

“With a little help. Here. Keep it. I have one at home.”

“Belated Christmas gift?” she asked.

“Or a metaphor. You can pick.”

Laurie accepted the stapler and placed it into her purse. “Thanks for the help. And the pep talk.”

“You’re welcome.”

She took a step toward Derrick and kissed him on the cheek. Then she reached into her purse and handed him a business card.

“Call me for New Year’s if you aren’t doing anything. My cell number is on there.”

“I had heard that you weren’t throwing a party this year.”

“I’m not,” she smiled. Then she turned and climbed into the car and Derrick closed the door for her. He waved as he watched her drive off.

As he walked to his own car he touched the spot on his cheek where she had kissed him. He placed his own box in the trunk of his car and closed it. After getting behind the wheel, he started the engine and waited for it to warm up.

Then he laughed to himself and said, “Well, Harry from accounting, it looks like you were worth something after all.” Putting the car in gear, he drove home.

Frank Zubek is married and lives in Ohio. He has been published on Every Day Fiction twice before and has three e-books for sale on Kindle.

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