by John Wentworth Chapin

“Something's got to give,” she croaks, slouching on the other chair in my small office. “I can't take on any more work.” She is my boss.


I glance at my computer screen as email notifications pop up. They are too small to read before they fade.


“Yeah, it's crazy,” I commiserate. I put my hand on the mouse, gently.


 “I can see you're busy. I'll go,” she sighs. She looks at the mouse and then back at me, slowly.


I keep my hand on the mouse. It feels brave. “No, no, it's fine. I'm just expecting word back from a client.”


“I'm so busy I can't even do my work,” she moans. “What am I supposed to do?”


I look as sympathetic as I can, under the circumstance, which is entirely unsympathetic. The mouse begs me to click.


See, I actually have lots of work, much of it hers. She is master of the gambit of pre-emptive complaint, a forcefield of misery that effectively shields her from all work. If my dog breaks a leg, her daughter gets cancer. If I need to leave at 5, she needs to take off a bit early.


That finger on the mouse button, threatening to click, threatening transgression… she'd be able to hear it. She catches my eye: stalemate. I haven't answered her question. I feel sweat on my cheeks.


“Is there anything I can do?” I ask, hating myself more than I hate her.