One Last Donation

Jamie Eades

It wasn't clear what drove Megan to do it. Maybe it was one thing, but it was probably everything. It had all started when she walked into a government office, composed mainly of women, as an intern in the early nineties. Her first faux pas had been to wear rubbed silk when everyone else was wearing sofa-cover dresses with lace pilgrim collars. Of course, there had been the asymmetrical haircut, silver bangles, and ear cuff. She had eventually succumbed to the pressure to wear gold-tone jewelry and synthetic fabrics, but how she missed the texture of real material.

Could it have been the incessant birthday bashes, baby gifts, and bridal showers? She wanted to be generous, but each time she opened her purse to pull out a five for a farewell luncheon or a ten for a retirement ceremony, she felt as if she were being robbed (even after the three promotions - no, especially after the three promotions.)

Maybe it was the charitable contribution fund-raisers, which required 100% participation. She had to partake or she could count on being left off the invitation list for the boss's next gourmet breakfast party (conveniently scheduled for an early Saturday morning, no less) which, by the way, was designed so that the attendees felt compelled to buy a kitchen gadget. The women in her office were constantly throwing parties that required something of her. Bring a dish, buy a dish, or sell a dish. She didn't even own a dish. If only she worked in the engineering department. Every year the boss invited the staff into his home for beer and pretzels, and he didn't ask anyone for reimbursement.

Could it have been the annual Holiday Noisemakers Show? She got recruited for that innocently enough. Jackie, the former college band leader, overheard her singing along to the radio and determined that she had an inkling of a voice. Just because she knew the lyrics to a few Beatles tunes did not mean that she could sing the Hallelujah Chorus. "Just say no," her sister had told her. Yeah right!

Then, there were the children's school fund-raisers. She felt obligated (even though she was childless) to buy little Mallory's wildlife wrapping paper (suitable only for lining drawers and cabinets) and Sean's tin of caramel covered popcorn (with a shelf life of 100 years). "It'll all come back to you one day, Megan," one grateful mother told her. Unless someone decided to hold puppy and kitten showers in her honor, it most certainly would not.

It could very well have been the family that everyone insisted on adopting every year during the holidays. Thanks to the group's efforts (combined with funds from several other organizations), the mother of three was purchasing a house. Hmm, and Megan and her husband were still living in an apartment. Naturally, she had to buy a card or flowers on Secretary's Day. She could understand that one - Connie was very industrious, but then, some genius came up with Boss's Day. Now, not only did she have to kiss up on every other workday of the year, for one special day, sucking up had an official government endorsement.

It could have been the cubicle with the six-foot fabric-covered dividers that alluded to privacy, which sometimes caused her to let her guard down while she talked on the phone. She would discover later that her wall-mate, Martha, had heard every word and was broadcasting private moments, like her sister's pregnancy test results, throughout the building.

So, she started that fateful Friday in a rebellious way. When Susan asked for a five-dollar contribution towards the going-away gift for Tom, a guy from accounting whom everyone detested because he had refused to wash cars at last month's fund-raiser, she straightened her back and said that she was a little short on cash. She knew that she was taking a big risk - her lack of team spirit would be reported to the higher-ups pronto.

While the usual volunteered drivers began heading for their mini-vans to attend a farewell brunch, Megan squeezed under her desk and waited for the silence. She heard Judy's fading cry, "Has anybody seen Megan?" Then, Susan bellowed, "I think she's taking her car today. She's got P.M.S. big time." Megan winced.

Finally, all was still, except for the faint hum of the computers and fax machines. She crawled out from under her desk and filled her tote bag with a few necessities: her wedding picture, a dented radio, four dusty cassettes, and a black leather organizer (after all, she had earned that after nine years; besides, it had her cooties all over it.)

Taking a final look around the empty office, she stepped up on her ergonomically designed chair, stood on her soothing-to-the-worker-bees taupe desk, pulled down her polyester pants, positioned herself in front of the security camera, and proceeded to moon the lucky soul who was on duty. Cackling wickedly, she hopped down from her desk, grabbed her tote bag, and practically skipped away from the lifeless job she had held for nine years. She didn't know what her former co-workers would think, but she was certain of one thing - they would form a committee to determine what to do with her final donation.

© Jamie Eades

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