In Which I Channel Beatrix Potter and Write a Tale of The Two Mice in My Shed

If you’d rather I read this story to you (think of it as story time for grownups) click here:

Once upon a time there was a very useful garden shed; it was made of wood and painted red. It had no windows, but it had two big doors that stuck a little in humid weather.

The shed belonged to a blogger named CJ Hartwell.

CJ was a gardener, or at least she liked to say she was a gardener. Between you and me, she kinda let things go to seed.

One afternoon on a frosty October day, CJ decided it was time to pick the last of the apples on her apple tree. She put on her coat and her Isotoner gloves and walked out to her garden shed to get a ladder. For the apples were very high on the tree and she could not reach them.

First, she unlatched the big wooden doors and pulled them all the way open. Next, she pulled out her seldom used lawn mower and her even more seldom used rake. And who do you suppose she saw hiding behind the rake?

Why, it was none other than Ethan, who made the garden shed his home.

Ethan was a mouse.

cute mouse, drawing of mouse

Ethan looked at CJ; CJ looked at Ethan.

Ethan didn’t say anything because Ethan was a quiet, unassuming little mouse. CJ did say some things, but we will not repeat them here because some of the words were naughty, and good little boys and girls ought never to use them.

Ethan didn’t know what the fuss was about, for while the garden shed was a modest home, he did his mousy best to keep it tidy and clean. So he squeaked a soft little squeak, which was to say, “I’ve seen your house, lady. You think you can do better?”

Did it do any good? No! CJ stomped her feet on the floor making a terrible racket!

This frightened poor Ethan something awful. He called out to his very special lady friend, Tiffany, who had come home with Ethan after a romantic evening together in the woods.

At this particular moment, Tiffany was on CJ’s bicycle.

small mouse on bicycle

Mid-stomp, CJ saw Tiffany scurry down the bicycle. She garbled a few more choice words for now there were two mice!

Ethan called out to Tiffany, “Hey babe, over here!” and together they raced underneath the ladder that was leaning against the wall.

Quick as a flash, or rather stumbling in her haste, CJ put the mower and rake back in the shed and shut the doors, latching them tight. She said to herself, “Screw it! The apples can rot!”

Then she went inside her house and opened a bottle of red wine that she had bought at Costco for $8.99. She had two glasses, one for each mouse.

After her second glass, she decided mice in the shed were better than mice in the house, and she was very happy she had a cat in the house.

As for Ethan and Tiffany, they were very happy CJ left. They agreed the less they saw of her the better, but Tiffany did enjoy a nice bike ride now and again.

Later that evening, Tiffany made a nice dinner of mushroom salad with a rotten apple compote. Ethan said it was the best meal he’d ever had.

Afterward they had consensual sex and fell asleep in the bed Ethan fashioned out of an empty box of Milk Duds.

drawing of mice in a bed

It was a busy day after all.

The end.

Love in the Age of Google

About a week or so ago, I said I’d be working on some unfinished stories I had. Here’s the first one completed, an odd story involving Google Calendar and a budding office romance.

*****

“Jeremy? You got a minute?” Mandy lightly tapped on his desk. It was an open office plan at the Great River Insurance Agency — no doors. Amy’s desk was at the other end, near the copier; Jeremy’s was near the water cooler.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Did you respond to Mr. Tolleson’s invite yet?”

“What invite?” He opened his laptop and tapped the space bar. “Hey, did you see what moved into the old burger place downstairs? They do street tacos.” He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a flyer, handing it to her. “Wanna try it for lunch? I think they deliver.”

She read the front: Voted Best Street Tacos in East Madison!

“How can they be voted best if they just opened?”

Jeremy shrugged. “No competition, I guess.” He tapped a few more keys. “Okay, yeah I got it: ‘Planning meeting with Tolleson, Wednesday the twenty-second at eight-thirty.'”

“Right. But it doesn’t say what we’re planning. Are you going to accept it?”

“Is there a reason I shouldn’t?”

She pointed at the screen. “Look where he has us meeting. Click on it.”

Workplace
Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

He did so. “The admin conference room in– oh.”

“Yeah, see what I mean?”

“Well, yeah but…” He peered closer. “He can’t be expecting us to… I mean, it has to be a mistake. Just go in his office and ask.”

“No way! Last time I asked a question he called me a– well, you know what he said. You were there.” She slapped his shoulder playfully. “You ask him. You’re his favorite.”

Jeremy laughed and leaned back in his seat. “Favorite? Tolleson doesn’t play favorites, he hates all of us equally. Frankly, I’d rather go to Nepal.”

“Right?” She shook her head and sighed. “Listen, why don’t you do a quick search. Maybe we can get a cheap flight.”

Meanwhile, in Nepal…

“This is most exciting,” began David Karki, addressing his staff at the Best Nepal Electronic and Export Center in Sanfebagar. “In two weeks there will be river insurance people from…” he checked his notes, “Wees-con-seen, using our Admin Conference room!”

A cheer rose from the table where his employees were gathered.

“I know that place,” said Amir Thapa. He was BNEEC’s accountant and considered an expert on all things American. He graduated from Michigan State.

“What time do they have it?” asked Alina Baral, who handled refreshments.

“Well, it’s set for 8:30 their time, so…”

“Four-thirty in the afternoon,” said Amir.

“Right. Four-thirty.”

Amir was wrong by three hours, but he said everything with such conviction they never doubted him.

Alina frowned. “Do you think they’ll want a meal? I can make rice and tarkari.”

David shook his head. “They’re Americans. Give them pastries.”

“Yes. Many pastries. And be sure to offer bottled water and very sweet coffee,” added Amir. “They like sweet coffee very much.”

Ever since the BNEEC’s conference room began autofilling in the Google calendar location box (the moment you typed in ‘a-d-m-i-n-c’), they were visited by bleary-eyed, confused workers from around the globe. Workers who had no idea why their employer was sending them to Nepal and were too insecure in their position to ask for clarification.

Priding themselves on their most excellent hospitality, the staff at BNEEC formed a Welcoming Committee. In the last month their conference room was used by three groups: a union meeting from Sacramento, two editorial assistants from Toronto, and eight bankers from Southampton.

The first time it happened was last April when they were going over their week’s numbers. Amir had a chart and the others were feigning interest in said chart.

“You’ll see here our numbers are declining in sections three and four, but in one, two, and three they are holding steady.”

David stifled a yawn. Just then three school administrators from Omaha entered the room. Each took a seat, pulled some papers from their folders — school administrators always carry folders — and looked at Amir’s chart attentively.

David cleared his throat. “Namaste,” he began. “We are very pleased to have you join us.” He smiled and held his hands out, palms up. “Please, if you would be so kind as to tell us your names?”

They introduced themselves: Fiona Owens and Vick Alteny, assistant principals at St. Timothy’s High School, and Gerald McNamara, dean of attendance.

“Yes, yes,” David said, nodding and smiling. “Ah, yes, we are most honored to have to join us. Most honored. But please, if you would be so kind, why are you joining us?”

They didn’t know.

“I got the invite last month,” said Fiona. She opened her folder and withdrew a copy of her calendar invite, handing it to David. (She always printed her emails, just in case.)

“Yeah, same here,” said Vick. “Fortunately I had my passport, but man, making the flight arrangements was a bitch, I’m telling ya. Nearly lost hope of making the meeting.”

Gerald remained silent as he looked at the view from the conference room window. They didn’t have views like this in Omaha.

Nepal
Photo by Kalle Kortelainen on Unsplash

David glanced at Fiona’s invite. “Yes, yes… I see you reserved our conference room.” He passed the sheet to Amir who studied it more closely.

“That’s right,” confirmed Fiona. “We have it for an hour.”

“We’re a little early,” admitted Vick. “There should be two others. Dr. Harrison is the one who set up the meeting and I think our bookstore manager is supposed to come.”

“No, Ursula isn’t coming” said Fiona. “She couldn’t get her passport in time.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.”

“Do you have any bottled water?” asked Gerald.

After two more such visits (a liquidation firm in London and a medical supply group from New York), something had to be done. It was not the loss of their Admin Conference room that concerned David, as they could always meet in the break room. It was their failure to provide a proper welcome to their guests.

Amir, who was also the IT man, worked on it. Soon their calendar for the Admin Conference Room showed the outside meetings as well as their own. They saw when the room was overbooked and, if they weren’t able to contact the organizer and ask if they truly intended on meeting in Nepal — “We’d love to have you, of course, but…” — then other arrangements were made. Other arrangements being refreshments, accommodations, a tour guide, and, if they intended on mountain climbing, a Sherpa.

As their brochure stated, “Offering the best meeting experience in Upper Nepal!”

Two weeks later, in Madison, Wisconsin…

“Where the hell is everyone?” demanded Mr. Tolleson, addressing an empty conference table at the Great River Insurance Agency.

His secretary entered the room carrying copies of the agenda. “Margorie called in sick and Ed is on vacation,” she explained. “I believe everyone else is in Nepal.” She pulled out a chair and sat down. It was her job to take minutes at all meetings, regardless if people showed up or were in Nepal.

Mr. Tolleson stared at her. “Nepal? What do you mean, like the country?”

“Yes sir.”

“Where is that? India?”

“No sir. It’s in Nepal.”

“Well, why in God’s name would they be in Nepal?!”

“You sent them there, sir.” She opened her tablet and wrote at the top: GRIA Planning Meeting, Present: Mr. Tolleson and Elise Hargrove, Absent: Everyone else.

“What– What do you mean I sent them there? I did nothing of the kind!” He pointed at her. “You’re the one who sets up meetings.”

She shook her head. “Don’t you remember, sir? You were angry because I set up the last annuities meeting on the day you told me, because you said I should have known what you meant–”

“Oh for God’s sake! When do we have meetings on Saturdays? You should have known–”

“And then you wanted me to set up this meeting, but then said…” she flipped her tablet and read the last entry, “Never mind, I’ll send it out myself. You’re so f… effin’ incompetent…” she glanced at him. “If you don’t mind, sir, I’d rather not read the rest out loud. In any case, you said you would send the calendar invite yourself.”

She stood and handed him a copy of the invite. (Elise printed all her emails as well.) “So you see, sir? You sent it out. You sent them to Nepal.”

He stared at the page and sputtered, “Oh… this is… how can… what kind of stupid idiot goes to Nepal?!”

“I hear it’s quite nice this time of year.”

“Why didn’t they say something? They could have asked me, the stupid $@&% idiots!”

She walked to the door. “If it’s all the same to you, sir, I’m going to take the rest of the day off. Beings how there’s no one here.”

She didn’t wait for his response. She also didn’t show him the text she received earlier from Mandy:

text from nepal

All thanks to Google Calendar…

Elise had a marvelous day off and everyone else returned to the office two days later, relaxed and bursting with interesting stories. One month later, Jeremy and Mandy moved in together.

Mr. Tolleson was transferred to a branch in Dayton, Ohio. He never called another meeting.

conference room
Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

Note: Earlier this year at my previous job, the administrator I worked for set up a meeting and accidentally located it in Nepal. We had a great laugh over it. But I got to thinking, what if there’s an office in Nepal expecting them and there’s someone right now setting up coffee and donuts? That’s how the middle portion of this story came to be written. (Feels good to have it finished at last.)
On to the next story!