It all started with a general e-mail to the staff at Waldon Distillery…
This is to let everyone know that Tony Esparado will be on sick leave over the coming weeks. We wish him all the best in his recovery. Martha Walker will be handling things in Tony’s absence. If you need anything before his return, Martha will be more than happy to assist.
Wait, Tony was sick? He seemed fine at yesterday’s staff barbecue. Did he eat something that made him ill? No, then more people would be off. Plus no one takes weeks off over food poisoning. It had to be something bad for him to be off that long. Really bad. But what? There was only one way to find out: head to the water cooler for the latest gossip!
“Did you hear about Tony?” Mark from Distribution asked Reg from Marketing.
“I know he’s sick, but not much else. What have you heard?” Reg asked in return.
“Nothing really. I know his family has a history of cancer. I hope it’s not that,” Mark said before heading back to his office.
Mark had no sooner turned the corner towards his office when Clarisse from Accounting joined Reg at the water cooler.
“What were you and Mark talking about?” she asked.
“Tony,” he replied.
“Oh,” she said in the hushed tone people use when discussing things sensitive in nature or incredibly salacious. “Any idea what’s wrong?”
“Mark thinks it might be cancer.”
“How terrible!” Clarisse said. “Although I can’t say I’m surprised. He had a brother who died last year from brain cancer. And another who died a few years ago from liver cancer. I’m no expert, but you’re pretty much done when you get it in those places.”
Reg and Clarisse then went their separate ways. Reg arrived back at his office first and was inundated with questions.
“Where the hell have you been?” Debra, his office mate wanted to know. “You missed three calls to your desk in the last five minutes alone. What’s going on?”
“Sorry, some of us were just discussing the bad news about Tony. It looks like he might not have long to live.”
“But the email said he’d be back in a few weeks,” Debra said, shocked by what she had just heard.
“Well they’re not about to say Tony’s due to die a horrible death in the next few weeks, now are they?”
“No, I guess not,” Debra said.
Debra then went to the washroom to collect herself, where she ran into Anna from Public Relations.
“What’s wrong, Debra?” Anna asked when she noticed the tears in the woman’s eyes.
“It’s Tony,” Debra said in-between sniffles. “He only has weeks to live, but management’s trying to keep it quiet, so don’t say anything, okay? Stupid cancer!”
“Tony has cancer?” Anna said genuinely surprised. “I heard he caught some weird virus while was in the Caribbean last month. Likely from a hooker. He seems like the type.”
“He does seem like the type,” Debra agreed. “Men are such pigs. I hope his penis falls off!”
Soon word spread that Tony’s penis had fallen off; although some said it had likely been hacked off by his wife once she found out about the virus he caught from a hooker. “Oh no, he didn’t catch a virus from a hooker,” others said. “He was poisoned from the chemicals used to sanitize the bottles here at the distillery. He’s been complaining about that stuff for years.” “Do you think that stuff’s poisonous?” someone else then asked. “Maybe that’s why I have so many headaches.” “I have headaches, too!” someone else said, sounding a little frightened. Before the day was through, everyone had paid a visit to the plant’s nurse, complaining of headaches, sore throats and dizziness.
“We don’t want what happened to Tony to happen to us!” someone shouted during an impromptu rally in the staff parking lot.
“Yeah! I don’t want my penis to fall off!” someone else shouted.
“His penis didn’t fall off. It was bit off, by an irate emu at the children’s animal farm,” said another.
“His penis is fine!” a fourth person said.
“How would you know, Jane? Personally inspected it, have you? I always knew you were a slut,” a fifth person said.
“Yeah Jane, you’re a slut!” chimed in someone else.
Then word got around that Jane was a slut, and that she was the one who gave Tony a deadly virus. Or was she the one who had ordered the chemicals that was slowly poisoning everyone? No wait, maybe she was the one who was filling in for Tony while he was away. Or was that Martha? Why would they get Martha to fill in for Tony? Didn’t she used to be a hooker? Or was that Tony’s wife? No one could keep anything straight anymore.
Meanwhile, Tony sat in the waiting room of a therapist his family doctor had recommended to help him deal with the stress brought on by his negative workplace environment.