Cover Your Assets
Imogen sat at her desk with her hand on the mouse. Her finger hovered over the left mouse button. Her eyes were fixed on a green rectangular button on the screen her cursor floated over.
“Don’t do it.” the reasonable part of her brain chimed in. “It’s not worth it. It’s not worth the thrill. You were doing so well. It’s been almost two weeks. Don’t break your streak now…”
The little voice tried. It tried incessantly to convince her. Then another voice spoke. This voice was much weightier, though it didn’t plead the way the first voice had. It sounded so casual, teetering on the edge of boredom.
“Just do it. You know you’re going to eventually cave anyway.”
As if suddenly unchained, Imogen’s finger fell hard onto the mouse button. The little green button on the screen turned blue, indicating it had been pressed.
“Bet Placed - $200 - Thank you for using WayGer”
The tiny voice was silent. It had lost. Imogen closed her eyes. A euphoric rush washed over her. Goosebumps formed on her skin. It was like being gently kissed on the back of the neck by a new lover. Not only euphoric, but exhilarating. Then came the guilt, tinging and polluting the high like a fart during sex.
“Imma, did you just do what I think you did?” This voice came from behind her instead of in her head. She spun around in her chair, lip bit guiltily, and locked eyes first with the prominent belly, then the face of the individual who was standing at the entrance to her cubicle.
“H-he-hey Ken, what’s up?” Imogen sputtered, sitting up straight in her chair, hoping her head would obscure his view of her computer screen.
“We talked about this already, didn’t we?” the portly ginger asked, knowing full well that they had.
“I-uh…” she had so many defenses she practiced just in case she was ever caught gambling at work again, but none of them would shake loose under pressure.
“What did you bet on?” Ken asked.
“Um...I, uh... Schrodinger’s Cat.”
“What?” Ken was confused.
“Sorry, it’s a racehorse. They always have weird names. I mean, it’s not even a cat. How do you confuse a horse with a cat, am I right?” she offered an awkward laugh.
“Okay, okay…” she sighed. “I know I can’t do this at work, but I got a tip about this horse and I couldn’t pass it up. Please, please, please don’t tell Schmidt about this.”
“I can’t cover your ass forever.” Ken folded his arms. “You can’t keep taking advantage of our friendship like this.”
“No, no, no, I’m not trying to take advantage of you, dude. I have a problem, okay? I’m sorry, I can’t help it.”
“Im… you need to get some help.”
“If you would focus on your work, you wouldn’t even have time to waste your money with that damn WayGer site.”
“That’s the problem. I’m done with everything Schmidt gave me to do. I shot him an email an hour ago to see if there’s anything else I can get done, but as always, he didn’t respond. So I’m left to wait out the clock with half a day left. I’ve watched everything I care to on Netflix already, I gave up on level 86 of CandyCrush, and I’ve already separated out and sorted all of my colored paper clips.”
“Good for you. Most people in here have trouble just finishing their workload. Schmidt is a busy guy. He’s not going to take time out to find you a task. But get up and move around the office. See what other projects you can jump on to and get involved in. Schmidt notices stuff like that. He might even give you a raise, or a bonus or something.”
“So… are you gonna rat me out?” Imogen asked, twirling the ends of her straightened brown hair.
“No, I’m not going to rat you out, but if this keeps happening, I’m going to have to, eventually. Schmidt has the IT guy randomly track computer usage to see if anyone is slacking off. He knows we’re friends, so I’ll get the boot at the same time you do.”
“Okay, no more looking for betting advice at work.” she promised. “If I don’t even look, I can’t be tempted to bet.”
“Let’s hope not.”
“Did you come over here for a reason other than to shame my gambling habit?”
“Oh, uh… yeah, I kind of lost my train of thought. I wanted to warn you, watch your things around the cleaning crew. A lot of people are missing personal items and Schmidt thinks the cleaners are swiping things. We’ve told security about the concern and they’re going to be watching for any signs of theft.”
“Oh, wow. What’s gone missing?”
“Marion Whateley is missing a ring. She said she takes it off sometimes to lotion her hands and forgets to put it back on. Jim Hubert usually takes his iPad home after work, but he left it here on Tuesday and now its gone. David Kaplan just got a really nice new pedometer watch a few days ago, and it turned up missing this morning.”
“That sucks. Is that all?”
“Oh, no. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Marilyn Oates’ handbag, Hsu Chen’s wallet, Daniel Mendez’s jacket, Audrey Lambert’s bluetooth speaker… there’s a lot missing.”
“How long has this been going on?” Imogen furrowed her brow.
“It’s been happening on and off for a year or two really sporadically. Most people weren’t entirely sure they hadn’t just misplaced their missing property. But now it’s occurring so frequently it has to be someone swiping these things.”
“Okay. Thanks for the heads up.”
“You got it.” Ken said, turning to walk away.
“Tell Jules I said hi.”
The jiggly red head offered a chubby thumbs-up without looking back. Imogen watched his gut sway back and forth as he half-walked, half-waddled away. She’d been friends with Ken and Julie since before any of them worked at AstraScape Solutions. They’d met in college, when Ken was only 185 lbs. Imogen liked chubby boys since she was old enough to like boys at all, and she’d been drawn to Ken by his pudgy belly and big appetite. She knew he was bound to gain. Julie was her roommate, and although the two of them chatted about guys on campus they thought were attractive, Imogen never revealed to her that she was into big guys. But she kept hanging out with Ken, and he came over a lot. Imogen always had something ready to eat for him when he came over, and when they hung out around town, she always tried to get together where there would be food. Ken never disappointed, nor did he fail to impress with how much he could pack away in one sitting. She often marvelled at the mountain of food he referred to as a “snack”. She was attracted to his body, and his eating habits, but something just didn’t feel right about being in a relationship with him. There wasn’t a spark. And if Ken felt anything for her other than friendship, he kept it well hidden. Julie started hanging out with them more and more, and one night after a weekend spent with him, Julie asked if she had any feelings for him. When Imogen said that he was just a friend, Julie confessed her immense attraction to him. As it turned out, Julie had always been into larger men, too. Like Imogen, she found it difficult to admit that to others, especially to friends and family members. With Imogen’s blessing, the two dated for almost a year, when Ken proposed to her. He’d gained nearly 80 lbs in that time, and in the 6 years they’d been married, he’d put on about 200 lbs more. She felt guilty about being more attracted to him now more than ever.
Turning back to her computer screen, that text was just waiting for her gaze to return so it could punch her in the gut.
“Bet Placed - $200 - Thank you for using WayGer”
Imogen clicked the X to close the window and put her head down on her desk in shame. She had to stop this. It would end up costing her everything. She knew it would. It nearly had, many times in the past. $200 wouldn’t make or break her by any means, but this was how the cycle always began. She would bet more and more until she was gambling with rent money.
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