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The Stag's Head
“Is this a Black History Month thing?” the redhead inquired about the skull covering Renee’s skull.
The redhead’s ice-blue eyes cut under her woven pink pussy hat and her head quizzically dropped to the shoulder of her pink tee shirt emblazoned with the “She who dares wins” graphic.
Five minutes earlier, the woman and her gaggle of giggling girlfriends snatched the additional chair from Renee’s table without asking. Renee ignore them and worked on her laptop until the redhead leaned her chair back against Renee’s wobbly table, causing further wobbliness. Renee’s repositioning of the table only made the red head reposition the chair.
The table of pink pussy hat outfitted cohorts reminded Renee of the group of female coworkers who banded together and convinced their supervisor, Seth, that she wasn’t a team player. And at the end of their last meeting, she was inclined to agree.
“It’s the crown of liberation,” Renee responded.
“Right on, sister” the red head offered a palm to high five but Renee only slapped her eyes against her keyboard.
“They don’t think you want to be here,” Seth folded his arms across his chest.
“This is a 9-5 desk job,” Renee responded. “No one wants to be here. Is there a complaint about work not getting done?”
“Is my work late?”
“So why am I here?”
“They say your attitude and anger have a negative effect on team morale. ”
“So they couldn’t even make it past the A section in the Glossary of Racist Stereotypes. Did they mention any issues with my job performance?”
“With all due respect, sir,” Renee offered, although none was due. “How did they claim this anger and attitude manifested itself?”
“We can see it in your face.”
“Oui. Oui. So you have a problem with my face and not my performance. None of you are licensed psychologists—”
“You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand hostility.”
“And you don’t have to be an English teacher to understand how to use the word hostility, and yet here we are. Do you realize Becky, Sarah, Bethany and Lucy are insufferable to work with?”
“Well,” he said. “Insufferable is a strong word.” The squirms of Seth’s discomfort brought down Renee’s morale.
“Attitude and angry are lazy words. Hostile is violent. Are we done here does the test have a vocabulary section?”
“It’s just that, they are much happier than you appear to be.”
“Their giddiness is a psychotropic induced euphoria.”
As if being affluent, blonde, white and young didn’t heed enough Goop-inspired joy, their only disappointment in life was a failure to meet Prince Harry before Megan. A disappointment all three offset by marrying successful tech bros. When the three co-workers weren’t treating Renee like a guest in their office, they ignored her like a forgotten piece of outdated tech awaiting disposal. Every day, invitations to all-juice breakfasts and Sweetgreen lunches floated over Renee’s head and wafted out of the door cloaked in a $700 Canadian Goose Down coats.
“Look, Renee, I get it,” Seth voiced in his best “I’m relatable” tone. “Can you at least do what everyone else does? Tap into your appreciation of this opportunity and put a smile on your face?”
Renee pulled a mechanical smile across her face and left his office only to sit at her cubicle staring at her largest cabinet for twenty minutes instead of resuming her product evaluations.
When Renee walked between the partitions, no one could see anger or attitude behind the stag head skull levitating above her shoulders. Perhaps the stoic face of a skinned buck would be easier for her coworkers to understand than the disinterested, flat affect of her own face.
Renee’s game hunter father gifted the skull as she left for college. She kept it cloaked in a velvet blanket, encased it in plastic and shoved it under her bed so she didn’t scare her roommate, Kendall. Renee realized she mistook Kendall’s kindness for friendship as she overheard the roommate tell a mutual friend, “I know she’s crazy but that’s how they are so be nice so she doesn’t snap and kill everyone.”
Renee removed the velvet covered stag’s head from its box and positioned it prominently on her dresser. She hung jewelry from the antlers, inserted a small speaker behind the eye sockets and stuck incense cones behind the nostril holes. Its presence incensed Kendall’s vegan, animal rights activist sensibilities each time she returned home to music and smoke wafting from the skull’s orifices. After a month of living with a stag head skull and a non-speaking Renee, Kendall moved into an office campus apartment. Renee considered the skull her only roommate and an indispensable good luck charm.
Renee filled her paper cone at the water cooler and watched Seth’s eyes jump between his office view of her and the pages of the company code of conduct. As the clock hit 1:35, she pulled her potato chips from the belly of the vending machine and hoped Becky, Sarah, Bethany and Lucy return to the office before she finished packing her box. She crunched into a chip and awaited Seth’s response to her timed email popping in his inbox with the subject heading: I QUIT.