the short story project


Melodie Corrigall

Lucky 13

Lucky 13


Tania tossed and turned all night, struggling to find the words to save her job. While a good response could lead to a promotion, a poor one could result in a dismissal.


Finally, at 3 a.m. her husband roared, “Stop jumping around. Just say ‘Thanks’ and take the consequences.” He’d sing another tune if she were fired.


Less than a year ago the staff had welcomed the new boss as a breath of spring compared to her predecessor, a wintry old codger. Granted a few men mentioned her weight as if this would influence her management skills and one woman had mocked her accent. But generally, there had been smiles all around.


At the first meeting, the new boss—“Call me Sylvia”—had taken the time to point out her management style.


“I see us as a community,” she began. “We’ll work hard but we’ll also play hard.”


The first sign of the play was the introduction of birthday celebrations.  Now for every birthday, Sylvia dug into petty cash to provide cake and ice cream. After the hearty singing, the secretary served up the treats in small dishes (except for Marcus who brought his own large bowl).


And after the cake, the boss would say “Congratulations” and bring out a gift. The first time this happened, there was a surprised gasp.


“Open it now, I want to see if you like it,” the boss cajoled.


Of course, the birthday boy would like it: he liked his job. And it was already apparent Sylvia was capricious: you were on her side or out the door.


The gift was a pair of wooden salad forks, evidently purchased on the small island where Sylvia had holidayed before taking on her new position.


Six weeks later, the second birthday celebrant received an identical set of salad forks. And so indeed did the next ten.


On each occasion, it was obvious that a unique and memorable response was required.  Every birthday became more challenging.


“I’d hoped I’d get such a unique gift.”


“My wife wished we had such exotic salad forks.”


“Our family and friends will be impressed.


By number 12, ammunition was running low.  More than once the boss had said how she liked original thought. So, in turn, each person reached for something to bring a smile to Sylvia’s face.


“I’m glad the mother lode hasn’t dried up.”


“Motherlode?” Sylvia had queried, noting the speaker’s name in her notebook.


And now here was Tania, unlucky 13. She was already on thin ice with Sylvia who “didn’t need a slogger in her department.”


“For some 13 is unlucky, for me it is a happy day,” Tania began before even opening the parcel. “I’d have been disappointed if I didn’t get the cherished gift.”


She tore open the package and watched in horror as a set of chopsticks scattered to the floor. “Or something even better,” Tania said whacking her head on the table as she scooped them up.











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