I came into the staff lounge and there was a newsletter with 7 or 8 not-so-wonderful pictures of your Humble Narrator, all smashed together. My lanky body cut out of the shots, it was head, nose, beard, mustache, whatever.
"What the fuck?"
Meanwhile, at the end of the table, a co-worker of mine sat idly by. He glanced up at me, quickly, with a short smirk and a twinkle of evil in his eye.
I hadn't an idea as to what all the words on the paper said. I saw pictures of my face, saw his evil smile, and heard the sound of a furiously working printer. I met my coworker's gaze with a most unsavory facial expression and side-stepped from the collaboration room into the mailroom.
I heard giggles from the collaboration room as I saw, to my horror, every staff mailbox stuffed with that same piece of paper that had lots of writing and 7 or 8 not-so-wonderful pictures of your Humble Narrator crammed into the top. The letters were strategically inserted into the mailbox so that my faces were the first things you saw upon reaching in for other things that you would end up throwing away later.
There came a voice from just beyond my right shoulder.
"I'm making extras, just in case."
"Why? Why would you do this to me?" I yipped, "Don't you know what they'll do to me??"
"You haven't even read it," he said. I felt a cold chill settle on my right hand. "Here it is. Have a look."
The icy sheet that landed on my hand was, in fact, not icy at all, but hot. Rather hot. The type of paper-heat reserved for a freshly made, color-copy of a computer document pumped out of a Canon printer.
"Whatever you put, it's not too late, man. We can fix it. I can take all of these out and no one will know. Whatever you did, it's not too late." I was begging now. "Please, dude, honestly, I didn't mean to trick you during that text-chain when you and Party God and CoCo thought I was mad. Is that was this is all about?! I didn't mean it. Joking was all. I'll never do it again."
Whoever wrote it has the brain of an evil genius. As each sentence led to the next, my anxiety grew. My fingers curled until the paper crumbled. No one was safe. Not a soul, from rookie teacher to veteran administrator.
The newsletter seemed to be crafted in the vein of humor, but there was something darker lurking in between the lines. The newsletter would, as I saw it then, be the undoing of a school that had worked so hard to undo itself previously.
All the quiet jokes, the comments, the secret deals behind the library, they all came to a front, printed out on a single 8.5x11 inch paper dispersed to the staff of Super-Cooperative High School™™®®™™ with the intent of bringing the whole thing down. Maybe.
I finished the last sentence as my stomach moved into the back of my mouth.
"What have you done? What have you done?!"
"It's simple, really," he replied. "What I've done, you idiot, is craft the greatest satirical newsletter of all time. Don't you see?"
I sat, trembling. "I, I guess-"
"Think about it! People have made comments in jest before. People have made jokes before. People have been made to feel that constructive criticism is safe on this campus, but, once the comments are made, the receivers of the message claim that they feel threatened! Don't you see why this is the greatest satirical newsletter of all time?"
I had been unaware of my position and, during this time, my co-worker had backed me into the small space existing between the water cooler and the copy machine. I sat on the blue recycling bin in the corner while he towered over me, madness raging in his pupils.
"Dude, this is seriously fucked. Coal mines? They might actually go for it!"
"No, you IDIOT!"
"And what about Schwa? What happened with that? I mean, the Vivar part was hilarious because I'm pretty sure I've heard him say that before, but come on, the noob?"
"That's not it, you MEGA-IDIOT!"
"Then why? Why is it the greatest? Because it will undo the culture of this school? Because it will unravel the very fabric that we've spent the last few years stitching and weaving with our hands and sometimes our feet? Because it will jeopardize the cohesion of our plans for Olympic Curling glory? Because it will draw out the people on staff who never leave enough money to cover our tab at the 9-0-1 Bar? Because that would actually be helpful! Last summer I had to cover and extra 40 fucking dollars!"
He leaned in, closer still, as I shrank deeper into the corner, sitting on another cup of water mistakenly tossed into the recycling bin.
"No, you idiot," he whispered.
My eyes opened wider with fear.
"It's the greatest satirical newsletter of all time because I wrote all of this in like, one sitting. Like, 15 or 20 minutes tops, bro. Don't you see? People make satirical newsletters all the time, but not in 15 or 20 minutes. No one can do that. But I did, Smith, I did."
I searched for air, inhaling deeply because, during those few seconds, he had his hand locked around my throat. And it was in those moments that I realized what had happened. I walked into my room and remained silent for the rest of the day with images of MacBooks and iPads ablaze and Reading Counts scores erased in a snap.
(Written in 47 minutes. Not good enough.)