Sally read the email. There was no sender on the header. Just a “To” line. “To Sally Phillips.” No subject line. She hit the X in the corner of the box to close it. Then she hit the delete button on the message.
Sally bowed her head and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer. When she finished, she recited it a second time. Then she recited the Hail Mary. She closed her email application, turned off her computer monitor and started her morning routine to get ready for work.
When she reached the office, she dropped her briefcase on her desk and headed for the break room. Meg and Amanda were already there filling their coffee cups from the Keurig machine. Sally grabbed her cup from the shelf and it slipped from her hand. It dropped onto the tile floor and the handle broke off. “F*ck,” she said, “Now what? I can’t face that staff meeting with Jake without caffeine.” Meg and Amanda gave sympathetic glances. “Unfortunately, there are no more Styrofoam cups, thanks to Mr. Ecology,” said Amanda. “Mr. Cheap is more like it,” said Sally. Oh crap, she had already cursed. She could feel the migraine starting as she walked back to her desk.
When she returned to her office, the voicemail light on her phone was lit. She dialed the access number and listened. What sounded like a computer-generated voice on the other end of the line said,
“Hello Sally. Two Our Fathers. One Hail Mary. Be kind to others.”
Sally hit the options button on the phone. There was no option to return the call. She hit the delete message button, hung up the phone and the light went off. She sat at her desk and silently recited the prayers.
Starting the day without coffee put Sally in a bad mood. Jake’s meeting would be ten times more irritating than usual. Jake was Sally’s boss and, besides the fact that he usually didn’t know what he was talking about, he had some very annoying personal habits. He was constantly brushing his hair back from his sweaty forehead, which may not have been so bad if he wasn’t bald. His glasses slipped from their perch on his nose every few minutes requiring him to push them back up the bridge. Once Sally asked him why he didn’t get them adjusted. He said they were twenty years old and he was afraid the optometrist would try to sell him a new pair. But probably the most irritating habit of all was the way Jake drank coffee. He slurped it – loudly. Every sip caused the meeting attendees to cringe. Today, not only would Sally cringe at the sound, she would remember she didn’t have any. “What a waste of space, “she thought of Jake.
Every time Jake brushed or pushed or slurped, Sally rolled her eyes and made gestures at Amanda and Meg to pantomime suicide: a gun at her temple, a rope around her neck, a knife in her chest. What was she doing? She felt like a real bitch.
When she got back to her office, the interoffice mail had been delivered so Sally started opening the big brown envelopes with the black string closures. She always liked the way the strings wrapped around the cardboard circles to hold the flaps in place. Mostly, they contained documentation related to her projects she had requested from other branches of the company. The last envelope was light and contained only one piece of paper. There was no routing information on the outside of the envelope, just her name, Sally Phillips. Inside, the paper consisted of the one typed, line:
“Hello Sally. Two Our Fathers. One Hail Mary. Be careful with the drinking.”
She fed the paper into the shredder under her desk, recited the prayers silently and got to work.
By the end of the day, Sally was tired. Since she had had no caffeine to keep her going, she felt like the commute home was going to be a major trek. It was hard to face. She stopped by Amanda’s desk and asked her if she wanted to stop by the bar and have a quick drink before facing the subway. Amanda said she was up for it. They recruited Meg to come along. Soon after, they were all in the Woodbridge Bar, just a block down from the office.
They all ordered white wine. They skewered Jake for a while before turning to other topics. Pretty soon they were laughing hilariously. “One more?” asked Sally when their glasses were empty. “Just one,” said Amanda. They got refills and the conversation got even more animated. “I think we should eat something,” said Meg. “What and ruin the buzz?” said Sally, “One more for the road.” So they ordered a third glass. When they had drained it, the bill came. When Sally realized she could hardly read the bill, she knew, once again, she was shit-faced.
They all threw in a third of the total and Sally collected the pile of money to give to the waiter. As she grabbed the bill to put with the money, she noticed something written on the reverse side. Through her blurred vision, she read,
“Hello Sally. Two Our Fathers. One Hail Mary. Watch Your Step.”
Sally excused herself to the bathroom. She sat on the toilet, silently and drunkenly recited her prayers. Then she met her friends back in the bar. They walked to the subway entrance together but they headed in different directions when they reached the platform. Sally made her way to the east-bound R train. As she dangled her feet over the edge of the platform, watching for rats among the tracks, as she often liked to do, she lost her balance and fell onto to the tracks. Just then the R train arrived.