When my kids got older and didn’t need me to chauffeur 24/7, I returned to the work force. Through diligence and six month’s hard work, I was promoted. Unfortunately, my promotion came with a thorn—a difficult co-worker.

Ida (Names have been changed to protect me from Ida’s wrath) had worked there four years already. She will forever carry the distinction of the most cantankerous person with whom I’ve ever worked. If she could find something cutting to say, she said it—to your face. She often infuriated me as I learned my new duties. Her favorite line was, “Are you really that stupid or do you have to work at it?” Her barbed tongue directed that to someone every day.

When I joined Ida’s department, I wondered what made her so insufferable; but the workload was huge, and she clearly needed help. I tried to turn a deaf ear as much as possible.

One job Ida hated more than anything was destroying the financial papers. They had to be shredded and the office didn’t have a mechanical paper shredder. We did by hand and scissors. As soon as I was promoted, she pulled seniority and gleefully passed that particular duty on to me.

The company was owned by two brothers. Jerry, the Vice President, was the brother I dealt with most. We developed a good working relationship—I always see the funny side of life and he had a good sense of humor. He appreciated my hard work. In my review, he told me I applied intelligence to all I did. That was nice to hear after Ida had spent the year questioning my IQ.

A month after that review, I received the added duty of ordering all the office supplies. One of my first acquisitions was the paper shredder. It may be useful to visit an online office supplier like Office Monster when trying to find the best one for you. I had to convince Jerry with a sound intellectual argument, so I computed the time it took me to shred papers by hand, and multiplied that by my wages. By comparing that figure to the price of the machine, I convinced Jerry it was a sound investment. My approach worked and I ordered the shredder.

The day it arrived, you never saw so many people with sensitive documents to be shredded, and which no hands could touch but theirs. Of course, as happens after about a week, the novelty wore off and it was business as usual.

Until the day my intelligence truly came under suspicion.

Ida arrived at my desk, carrying a two-foot stack of computer printouts. With sadistic glee, she dumped the pile in the middle of my desk.

“Shred these. And have them done before I get back. I’m going to lunch.” She stalked off.

I glanced at the clock.

Oh, great. Noon. So much for my lunch. I glared at her departing back, wearily picked up the pile and schlepped it off to the shredder.

With the continuous-feed computer paper, I could set the pile on the floor and guide it in. While my stomach growled, I fumed at Ida. I stewed and the paper shredded.

The supply room wasn’t far from Jerry’s office and I could hear him talking on the phone. I considered telling him I was fed up with Ida’s abuse, and I wanted a transfer to another department. The sound of the shredder’s paper receptacle getting full pulled my attention back to my job. I bent to check it.

That was my first mistake.

Or perhaps, my second. My first had been to wear my new elegant blouse to the office. But I just had to show it off. It was white, soft and draping with a navy blue scarf, tied in a bow at the neck.

As I leaned over the shredder, the ends of the bow fell over the blades and—whoop! I was sucked into the machine. I grabbed the scarf, yanking it, and myself, free of the shredder.

Gasping for breath, and my whole body shaking, I looked down, thinking how close I had come to being strangled. My scarf had come out of the shredder perfectly fringed in ¼” pieces hanging midway down the front of my blouse.

I walked to Jerry’s office and stood in the doorway. He was leaning back in his chair, still talking on the phone. I waited. Finally looking up, he stared at me. Then his eyes went to my shredded scarf. They grew large as understanding dawned. He burst out laughing…and fell over backwards.

The story spread far and wide. Salesmen knew. Customers knew. My co-workers knew. Even Jerry’s family knew.

And Ida knew.

And she never let me forget it.

Funny, though. Ida never realized she finally gave me a compliment. Looking down her nose with her arms folded across her midriff, she stared at my shredded scarf, and said, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen an intelligent person do!”

About Ane

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a three-time Genesis finalist, a humor columnist for the ACFW Journal, and a multi-published playwright. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, she resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs.

Her debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, is due out in 2014. “With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.” You can find Ane at her website or on Facebook.

Ane is generously offering a choice of one of these new scarves as a prize to someone who comments on this post and also leaves their email address within the next week. Winner has one week to respond. USA and Canada!

Leave a comment on Kate’s post (next one below) & enter to win an Amish-made potholder & a novel!