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Short story By: Philip Roberts

Humorous story about a practical joker who can't take it when the joke is on the other foot.

Submitted:Dec 31, 2010    Reads: 35    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

Melarny Sorczak and Daniel "Dano" James worked together in a Victorian Government department for more than a decade. Although they were co-workers, they could certainly never be described as friends.
Dano was the office larrikin. Having somehow survived the six-month probation period (during which he could have been sacked at any time), Dano discovered that as a permanent E-Class Officer (low level clerk) it was virtually impossible for him to be sacked. Thereby giving Dano free rein to exercise his natural ratbag tendencies, in any number of ways.
One of which was his notorious absences without leave from work. Dano had found that with his simple tastes he only needed half a week's wages to survive. As Melarny's supervisor, Lawrence "Lori" Perkins once said, "That's all he needs to pay his bed and board, travelling expenses, and keep him in drinks and smokes." So Dano only turned up for work two or three days each week. Although in the public service you are paid fortnightly, so he soon realised that he could achieve the same result by working one full week, then taking the next week off.
As annoying as Dano's long absences were to his supervisor Jayne Spelding, and to her supervisor Clarence "Clarry" Nobel, even worse were his silly practical jokes.
Usually Dano played his pranks on anyone and everyone, but heaven help anyone who made the mistake of reacting to his taunting. Then Dano would mercilessly single them out for special treatment. Which was where Melarny went wrong.
Melarny was Dano's complete physical opposite. Whereas Dano was tall and spindly, Melarny was very short and absolutely enormously fat. "She's a hundred and ten kilos, if she's a day," Dano would joke.
Unlike the mythical jolly fat person, Melarny took great offence at being called fat, insisting, "I'm only slightly plump."
Dano, would then reply, "Slightly plump? Have you had a good look at yourself lately Mel? Or have all the mirrors in your home exploded? Mel, you went beyond slightly plump ten years ago, beyond slightly fat six years ago, beyond slightly obese three years ago, and at the moment you're just nudging past slightly elephantine."
"I'll tell Fitzy on you, if you don't leave me alone!" Melarny would shriek. Fitzy being Tom Fitzpatrick, the Assistant Chief Accountant.
"I'll tell Fitzy! I'll tell Fitzy!" Dano would mimic over and over again. Until finally Melarny would get up from her desk and go not to Fitzy, but to his assistant Clarry Nobel, who had a small, glass-walled office at one side of their work area.
Then Clarry would call Dano in and give him a stern warning against harassing his fellow workers. However, since the warning could not be backed up with the threat of dismissal, it always had little effect on Dano.
Melarny and Dano worked in the Accounts Payable section, so one of Dano's favourite pranks was to ring Melarny from another office, pretending to be an angry client. "I've been waiting for payment for two months now," he'd say in a disguised voice, "and our terms are strictly cash in ten days!"
Poor Melarny would run around the section frantically looking through thick batches of paid invoices, invoices waiting to be punched onto the computer, and invoices on her desk waiting to be processed. Until finally Dano would give the game away by bursting out into fits of laughter over the telephone.
"Very funny, Dano!" Melarny would shout, slamming the receiver into its cradle.
Sometimes Dano's pranks were too obscure to make any sense at all. So Melarny was not particularly surprised when one day he telephoned her from three desks away and shouted "Surprise!"
"Surprise yourself!" she replied, slamming down the receiver. As people around the office started to laugh, she turned to Lori Perkins and explained, "It was just that idiot, Dano."
"Yes we know," said Stephen Stoller, a tall, balding C-Class Officer, who sat at the desk to Melarny's left.
Melarny looked around at her co-workers in wonder as they continued to giggle, sometimes pointing in her direction. "Whatever is wrong with Dano must be contagious," she thought, trying to ignore the light laughter that continued off-and-on for the next ninety minutes, until quitting time.
"What a pack of idiots!" thought Melarny, as the snickers continued in the lift ride down to ground level. She almost sighed her relief when finally she stepped out into Swanston Street, however, to her consternation the snickers followed her all the way to Flinders Street Station. And even during the long train ride to Oakleigh.
Melarny was on the brink of screaming by the time that she finally got home, so she was in no mood to be greeted by more snickers from her husband Sergio.
"What the hell are you laughing at, you great Jackass?" demanded Melarny.
"You've got a navy blue left ear," explained Sergio between fits of laughter.
"What?" she asked, reaching up to feel her ear. She stared at her blue fingers for a moment in wonder, until remembering Dano's seemingly pointless phone call to her a few hours earlier.
"That bastard, I'll kill him!" shrieked Melarny, as she rushed to the bathroom to scrub at her ear. A few weeks earlier a large bottle of navy blue stamp-pad ink had disappeared from the stores cupboard at work, now Melarny realised who had taken it. "That bastard's smeared blue ink onto the receiver of my phone!" she thought.
She scrubbed at her ear until it was red and raw, however, it would take a fortnight before the last traces of blue faded. In the meantime she had to put up with snickers from the other workers in the section. Until, over that period, Jayne Spelding, Lori Perkins, Stephen Stoller, Clarry Nobel, and a dozen others all ended up with navy blue ears, courtesy of Dano.
Finally Fitzy put an end to things by coming down to give them a lecture about their carryings on. "Sit up straight and pay attention boys and girls," thought Dano, as Fitzy, who was notorious for his school teacher approach, launched into one of his long-winded speeches, keeping the entire section from their work for twenty minutes.
On another occasion the substance Dano smeared around was not ink, but glue. Colourless super-glue, which could be smeared on too thin to be readily seen, yet which would stick fast in only a minute or so.
Dano used the glue to stick invoices to desks, stick desk drawers shut and numerous other silly tricks. However, he wasn't rewarded with any great success until he put glue on Melarny's chair, just after lunch time one day.
Melarny sat down without noticing anything wrong, despite Dano's giggling. Then, an hour later she stood up to go to the ladies' room. There was a loud rending of fabric as her thin dress was torn away from her gigantically fat body, leaving Melarny standing there at the back of the room, wearing only shoes, a near transparent, half bra, and micro-mini panty briefs.
For a moment Melarny stood there, too stunned to move. A nauseating, yet at the same time strangely erotic sight. Layer over layer, roll after roll of bright pink flesh, exposed for twenty-six sets of eyes to see. Her enormous breasts looking like two pink watermelons, as they sagged down over her huge, barrel-like belly, which projected above her almost elephantine thighs. And, when she finally started to run shrieking down the aisle between two rows of desks, her enormous buttocks bounced up and down like twin, pink beach balls.
As Lori Perkins said later, "It was like a series of mountains of pink, sagging jelly, bouncing around grotesquely as she ran. Man, I've always been turned-on by big women, but after seeing those twenty-kilogram breasts hanging down to her bellybutton, like two huge, pink, water-filled balloons, from now on I'm sticking strictly to the long, lean, fashion-model types!"
It took Melarny nearly six months to live down the embarrassment of being stripped almost to the buff in front of her workmates and this time Dano came within a hair's breadth of actually being sacked. He was taken upstairs by Clarry Nobel to see Fitzy, who gave Dano a stern lecture about the stupidity and cruelty of his actions.
Dano sat up straight, just as if he were back in school, nodded or shook his head on cue, and managed to lie his way out of being dismissed.
Sulking at not being able to repeat his great trick (and wishing that instead of the grotesquely fat Melarny, he had stripped the more shapely Jayne Spelding), Dano immediately returned to his old habit of long, unexplained absences from work.
Although people snickered at Melarny's expense throughout Dano's long A.W.O.L.s, it was Jayne Spelding who suffered the most. As Dano's supervisor, during his absences she was forced to do his work as well as her own.
It had reached the seventeenth of one month without Dano having put in an appearance yet. Dano's and Jayne's desks were both almost overflowing with invoices awaiting payment, and Jayne was increasingly receiving irate telephone calls from people demanding to know when they were going to get paid.
"Bloody public servants!" shouted one trader, slamming the receiver down, refusing to listen to Jayne's genuine excuse for why his account had not yet been paid.
"Bloody Dano!" shouted Jayne in retaliation. Then, looking forward to where Lori Perkins sat in front of her, she asked, "What do you think the chances are of him putting in an appearance today?"
"Don't ask me," said Lori. "You'd better ask Mel, she seems to be his favourite."
"Well, what do you say, Mel?" asked Jayne. "Is there any chance of Dano turning up to work again?"
"Do you me-an this year, or next?" asked Melarny, surprised when the comment brought laughter from the other office workers.
Looking around at the laughing people, Melarny decided that it was much nicer to have people laughing with her, instead of at her as they usually did. There and then she decided that whenever Dano did finally return to work, it would be her turn to play practical jokes on him.
To her pleasure Melarny's first prank worked perfectly. It involved leaving a note on Dano's desk saying that the minister's secretary had rung him and could he please ring her back immediately.
"What do you mean you don't even know who I am?" demanded Dano, not believing his ears. "But I've got a note here from Fitzy, saying you wanted me to call you."
"Well, I've never even heard of you," insisted the minister's secretary hanging up.
"Surprise, Dano!" said Melarny, turning round in her chair to look at him, pleased when everyone burst into laughter. For the second time at Dano's expense.
She tried the same trick on him two or three more times, with less success, until one day Dano simply threw the note into his rubbish bin, refusing to be baited.
"You'd better ring her, Dano, or you'll get into trouble!" insisted Melarny.
"I'm not dumb enough to fall for the same trick five times!" protested Dano, immediately wondering whether that was quite what he had meant to say.
"You'd better ring her!" taunted Melarny every five minutes or so. Until an hour later Fitzy stormed into the office, heading straight toward Dano's desk.
"Dano," said Fitzy, almost breathless from running, "I've just had the minister's secretary on my back, demanding to know whether you're at work today. Apparently she wanted you to ring her back about something."
"I told him she called, Mr. Fitzpatrick," said Melarny innocently, pointing toward Dano's rubbish bin. "I guess he didn't believe me."
"My God, Dano, don't do that!" said Fitzy, bending down to take the note paper out of the grey bin. "You'd better get back to her, or we'll all land in it."
Dano's ears were still burning from his belated talk with the minister's secretary, when Melarny started to unleash her next practical joke onto him. Melarny was required to help out in the typing pool on occasions, which is how she got the idea for the "Dano James Circulars".
In the Victorian public service, the middle- and upper-level executives are office circular-crazy. Hardly a day passes without circulars arriving to inform you of everything from the fact that the Chief Accountant is only going to eat oranges in his lunch in future, not apples, to the fact that the minister's favourite colour is really sky-blue, not lime green as was wrongly reported in her last inter-office circular. Since the blank circulars were kept in the typing area, it was easy enough for Melarny to help herself to a few to type up bogus circulars, such as:
In Canberra today, the Prime Minister was overheard to say, "Dano James for P.M."
He was later heard to say, "Dano James for A.M."
Earlier today, Jayne Spelding was heard to say, "Dano James puts in a good day's work....
Two or three times every week!"
Dano James says that he is thoroughly disgusted by the waste of taxpayers' money in the lead-up to the recent early election. He says, "I've heard that the Liberals spent more than $8 million, the ALP more than $10 million, and the Australian Democrats nearly $4.95¢!"
Is Dano James really the messiah? He's starting to think that he must be, because as he says, "Every time I walk down the street, people stop and point at me end offset and say, 'Jesus Christ!'"
Dano suffered through the indignity of the bogus circulars, until someone handed him a copy of Circular Number Eleven. Which he took upstairs to Fitzy, demanding to receive protection from the anonymous prankster.
"He's got to be joking," said Jayne Spelding, assuming that this was just another of Dano's excuses to get out of working.
"Yeah, what the hell can Fitzy do to stop people writing bogus circulars?" asked Lori Perkins. "He writes enough of them himself."
They were both wrong, however. A few minutes later Fitzy stormed into their working area, waving the fake circular around in front of him and demanding to know who was responsible for composing it. When no one confessed he said, "Come on, own up, you can only make things worse for yourself by keeping quiet!"
"How can they make it worse for themselves if he doesn't know who's responsible?" thought Lori Perkins, glancing back toward Jayne Spelding, who raised her eyebrows in tacit agreement.
"Look come on ... who's responsible?" demanded Fitzy. Then, as Stephen Stoller stood up and started to head toward the corridor outside the office, "Wait a minute, Steve. No one's going anywhere until we get to the bottom of this!"
"We'll get to the bottom of it fast enough, if I'm not allowed to go to the men's," insisted Stoller, continuing on his way, to the obvious embarrassment of Fitzy.
Flushing red-faced as the others laughed at his expense, Fitzy slammed a fist down onto Lori Perkins' desk and said, "It isn't bloody funny! Can't you all see the damage these circulars could do to poor Dano's reputation?"
"With a reputation like Dano's, you'd think held be glad of anything that might help to damage it," said Jayne Spelding, bringing snickers of agreement from everyone except Dano and Fitzy.
"Yeah," agreed Lori, "and considering the way Dano loves to torment everyone else, you can't expect us to be too upset if someone has decided to give him a little bit of his own back."
"That isn't the bloody point!" insisted Fitzy as the others murmured their agreement with Lori. "The issue in hand is that poor, innocent Dano is being viciously maligned behind his back."
"Poor, innocent Dano?" asked Jayne, incredulous. Then, turning to face Dano, "Fitzy doesn't know you very well, does he Dano?"
As the others burst into laughter at Dano's expense, Melarny, who had been too terrified by Fitzy's outbursts to speak until now, finally summoned up the courage to say, "Are we all having detention tonight, Fitzy?"
"Yeah, that's right," agreed Lori. "All right boys and girls ... hands on heads!"
They all put their hands on their heads, laughing riotously. Fitzy glared at them in rage for a moment, then turned and stalked out of the office, almost colliding with Stephen Stoller who was returning to the office.
After Fitzy was safely out of hearing range, Lori said, "Simple Fitzy says, 'Take your hands off you heads, boys and girls, and return to work!'"
Although she laughed with the others, Melarny's mind was already onto other things. Namely composing Dano James Circular number twelve.
It was as she was typing up the next circular a few days later, that Melarny was finally caught by Jayne Spelding.
"Are you going to turn me in to Fitzy?" asked Melarny, as Jayne leant over to read the half typed circular in the typewriter.
"Not if you let it go at this," said Jayne. "I know what a pain Dano can be with his practical jokes."
Sighing from relief, Melarny tore the circular out of the typewriter, crumpled the paper and threw it into her rubbish bin.
After that Melarny and Dano continued to play pranks on each other for a few more months, but gradually the jokes started to taper out. Fitzy had taken the fun out of the game, by his gross over-reaction to the harmless Dano James Circulars. Besides Dano had started to lose heart in things. Like all pranksters he had discovered that practical jokes aren't funny when someone else is playing them on you.
© Copyright 2010
Philip Roberts


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