“A Slip of the Tongue” by Camille DeFer Thompson

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Working for a Living.” 

I thought I’d won the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Thirty-something and single, just hired by the sheriff’s office, I envisioned uniformed men stumbling over themselves, catering to my every whim. Little did I know the experience would turn out to be more like a minefield than a candy store.old computer

Selected for my expertise in information technology, a unique skill in the late 1980s, I found myself answering the call of frustrated tech-challenged co-workers on a daily basis. One morning, I spotted a gaggle of testosterone-loaded colleagues hunched over the monitor of the deputy in the cubicle across the aisle from mine. Before long, my curiosity got the best of me. “You need some help over there?”

“Danno can’t get out of Excel,” came the baritone reply from an onlooker.

This won’t take long, I thought. I’ll dazzle them with some fancy diagnostic somersaults then graciously accept their offers to fetch a fresh cup of coffee for my trouble.

I sauntered over and paused to let the contingent of spectators make way for the pro, feeling their eyes bore into my lithe form. I leaned over a bit to accentuate my allure and surveyed the paralyzed PC. I tapped a couple of keys. Nothing.

“Hmmm . . .” I said, scratching my head with a sexy French-manicured nail. “Looks like you’re hung, Danno,” I said, contemplating my next expert analytical maneuver.

Tap, tap, tappity-tap. Nada. “Geez, you’re really hung.”

Tappity, tappity-tap. Zip. “Yep,” I said, engrossed in the task, ignoring their muffled snorting. “You’re seriously hung.”

An explosion of laughter shook me out of my system-support stupor.

My face on fire, I hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and slunk off to the ladies’ room to formulate a keystroke combination to reboot the last 15 minutes of my life.

As network administrator for the new county jail under construction, I soon learned that the majority of the sworn staff assigned to the massive high-security campus was unfamiliar with the mystifying world of user ID’s, diskettes and email. This afforded the strapping young bucks any number of opportunities to come sniffing around my office. One burly, barrel-chested lieutenant was a regular visitor, offering a variety of lame excuses to shoulder his way in. He made himself comfortable in the chair next to my desk and regaled me with tales of his tough-guy persona.

One morning, Lt. Bragsalot stopped by just as I was about to enjoy a morning pick-me-up. He crowed about his latest show of unparalleled courage during a recent encounter with an unruly inmate. “I slapped the cuffs on that thug, looked him straight in the eye and told him . . . uh . . . I told him . . .”

Camille still enjoys her morning snack.

Camille still enjoys her morning snack.

“What?” I asked, looking up when he stopped mid-sentence. “Told him what?

His face lit up like the flashing beacon atop a patrol car. “You’re not . . . uh . . . going to eat that now . . . are you?”

I reached behind him and tossed the flaccid yellow peel into the trashcan. “Yeah, why not?” I replied, still oblivious to his rising discomfort.

“Uh . . . well . . . I mean . . .”

Just as I bit the top off my suggestive snack, he stammered, “I gotta go.” He fled the scene like a thief with a bulging bag of booty.

Who knew a common tropical delight could disarm a Sonny-Crockett wannabe in one mouthful?

My duties with the department included a turn as IT manager for the automated 911 dispatch system at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Housed in a 1950s-era underground bunker, built to serve as a bomb shelter during the Cold War, the windowless, dingy white concrete walls proved to be a depressing work environment. To lighten the atmosphere, the EOC manager encouraged camaraderie among the small assortment of sworn and civilian staff. A striking figure in his starched uniform, Captain Chiseled maintained a dignified demeanor, but often joined in the water cooler conversations, careful to never breach the line between superior and pal.

Deb, a chain-smoking, take-no-prisoners divorced mother of two—think Carla of Cheers fame—was the civilian receptionist for non-emergency calls. Despite her edgy persona, she maintained a calm, authoritative tone over the phone.

One day, a handful of co-workers gathered in her cubicle. The topic turned to favorite foods. I commented that some years back I had acquired a taste for venison, one of my former mother-in-law’s signature dishes.

“Oh, yeah,” Deb said, in her distinctive raspy voice. “Preparing wild game is tricky. You gotta know how to cook out that gamey taste. I got to be pretty good in the kitchen growing up, helping my mother.”

“I’ll eat just about anything,” the captain said, “except beef tongue. That’s one dish I’ve never cared for.”

Without missing a beat, the proud cook blurted, “Oh, Captain, I could slip you some tongue, and you’d never know it.”

I watched Deb’s face kaleidoscope through 50 shades of crimson. Just as the collective gasp died down, and the roar of belly laughs reached its crescendo, her phone rang.

We struggled to muffle our guffaws. Ever the consummate professional, my co-worker closed her eyes for a moment, stiffened her shoulders then picked up the receiver. “Sheriff’s Office, may I help you?”

Captain Chiseled ushered us out of Deb’s office, and then motioned for me to follow him.

Crap, what now? The only civilian witness to the incident, I wondered if I was in trouble for . . . what? Unauthorized amusement? I prepared myself for a tongue-lashing.

“Sit down,” he said, gesturing to the sofa against the wall opposite his desk. He glanced around the room, avoided eye contact then settled into his high-backed executive chair. “You know Deb pretty well. This is awkward, but . . . has she ever talked about . . . me?

Oh. My. God. Did he think for even a nanosecond that Deb’s slip of the tongue was intended as a come-on?

He adjusted some papers on his desk. “I don’t want to embarrass her, but if she needs to be spoken to . . .”

I interrupted his rambling.

“Captain,” I said. “I can assure you that Deb did not mean for her comment to be interpreted as anything other than cooking a slab of meat.”

He leaned back, ran his fingers through his hair then let out a long breath. “Right. Thanks.” He rose and opened his office door. “That’ll be all.”

The unfortunate tongue incident never crossed anyone’s lips again. Peace was restored to the bomb shelter.

Work4Living450RGBCamille DeFer Thompson is a freelance writer and blogger. Her short fiction and nonfiction appear in a number of anthologies, including Not Your Mother’s Book…On Home Improvement. Her feature articles can be found online and in print. Camille lives in Northern California. Be sure to check out her very funny humor blog: www. camilledeferthompson.com

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Working for a Living,” under the chapter heading “Open Mouth…” The book is filled with 59 very funny stories by working stiff. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1yNYujU) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1xXyrVR).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.