Archives: The Office Party

Note: This very silly short story was originally published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency several years ago. They removed it after it was re-published in my collection, the Salvation of Billy Wayne Carter and Other Stories.

The Office Party


Ivan is alone, the first to arrive. He turns on the lights and walks over to the punch bowl. Empty. Green and yellow streamers hang like cobwebs from the ceiling. The garbage cans are overstuffed with paper plates and broken styrofoam cups. He bends down to feel the dark stains on the carpet–still wet. Moving closer to the floor, sniffing like a hound, he stretches his tongue out for a sample of the offending liquid. “Piss,” he says to himself. He springs to his feet yelling, “Piss! Piss!” He loosens his tie and takes off his shirt. “Piss!” The tiny gray hairs on his chest stand on end from the sudden chill. He growls. He takes off his shoes and throws them the left one at the punch bowl and the right one at the fax machine. The machine falls with a clank to the floor, and a note flies from it like the last feather of a gunned-down bird.

He puts his shirt back on and walks into the kitchen. Someone is there, waiting in the dark.


“No one is bringing any sweets,” Alda laments as she scans the volunteer list. “Everybody is bringing salties. What’s a Christmas party without sweets?” She gazes around in wonderment, ignored. She turns to Kent at the next desk. “Excuse me, Kent.”

He turns around.

“I hate to bother you, but do you think you could bring something sweet to the party instead of this?” She points on the list to an item, Dill Weed Oyster Crackers, next to Kent’s name. “I know your wife makes wonderful chocolate cake and rum balls–you brought them last year. I wondered if you could bring something like that instead, ’cause everybody’s bringing salty things, and nobody’s bringing sweets.”

Kent shrugs. “Well, I’d have to call her and ask, but I hate to do that since she’s moved out of the house and all.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’ll ask somebody else–don’t you worry about it.”

“Oh, no. Wait. I’ll ask her. Really.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that, Kent. Just don’t worry about it. I need to ask other people anyway. Dinah, are you off the phone? Good. Now tell me, just what the heck are Creamy Weenies?”


Everything he hates. Why he condemned himself to this purgatory, he can’t remember. First time he’s been around average joes since he was in high school–never had to deal with people like this in college. Forgotten how warped their values were–how susceptible to television culture they were. Disgusted, he quietly leaves the party. He can’t even bear to look at them.

As he turns the corner, he passes a newsstand where three men in suits are talking on cellular phones. “Stand firm,” one of the men says into his receiver. “Don’t let them talk you into doing anything you don’t want to do.” Ivan enters a coffee shop on the left side of the road. His head begins to itch.

Something he was supposed to do. People on park benches. A slip of paper in his pocket, which he now decides to read. “Shit,” he says, and he turns back toward the office. For a few seconds he runs, then he walks.


“Every Friday we have mahi-mahi. Grilled mahi-mahi, baked mahi-mahi, barbequed mahi-mahi, blackened mahi-mahi, broiled mahi-mahi with lemon pepper sauce. Mmmmm.”


“Rhiza, this is my roommate, Ben DaCapenschouten.” Rhiza is so butch. She’s his idol. Lord, it’s warm in here, he thinks. “Good to meet you, Ben. My, you both have such unusual last names. How funny that you would end up as roommates. What do you do?”

“I’m in the food distribution business, in management,” Ben tells her, smiling. He points to his necktie, motifed with the Taco Heaven emblem.

“That must be interesting,” Rhiza says wryly.


“I can’t stay too much longer. One of the girls on my soccer team is having a period party tonight.”

Alda says, “Is that similar to a costume party?”



Earl finds a slip of paper that has drifted onto his desk. He looks around to see who had left him the leaflet, but he can not determine the distributor. Shyly, he reads it.

Earl folds the memo and places it in the breast pocket of his corduroy jacket.


“Earl, do you have a minute?”

“Sure, Kent. What’s up?”

“Well, I need to have my name changed in the computer system. Since Ben and I got, you know, married, I had my last name legally changed to his.”

“Sure, Kent. Just fill out this form, and I’ll take care of it.”


“What are these called again?”

“Creamy Weenies,” Dinah says with a sigh.

“Gee, they’re good,” says Alda. “Before you leave, I’ll have to get the recipe from you.”

“Sure, Alda. No problem. They’re really easy.” Dinah walks toward the kitchen and waits.


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