“I’m letting you go, Kate. Here’s your pink slip.”

When Kate answered the summons, she was pretty sure what to expect. She’d seen it coming. Besides, Marcia, her boss’s mousey minion, wouldn’t look Kate in the eye when she delivered the message, “Veronica wants to see you in her office.”

Veronica Loring was one of those self-made women — deemed tough and savvy and definitely on the far end of yuppie. Her shoulder pads were so high, Kate was reminded of the Carol Burnett sketch where, as Scarlet O’Hara, Carol was wearing the curtains still on the rod. To her friends, Kate referred to Veronica as “She of the Triple Shoulder Pads.”

Along with the ironing-board shoulders came the frosted coif, the requisite clunky designer jewelry, flowing natural fiber ensembles, and an office that was all white down to the carpet — so bright that it was blinding. Kate got headaches trying to read her computer screen. And, naturally, Veronica Loring drove a Beemer.

Kate took the slip and stared at Veronica. “You want to tell me why, exactly? I did bring a bunch of clients with me.” Kate was a commercial travel agent with a long list of loyal clients. When she interviewed with Veronica’s agency, the woman had practically salivated when she heard.

“I’m really not seeing all that much business from that bunch. You’re slow,” Veronica sneered.

Kate felt her anger rise, knowing it was a fabricated excuse. You didn’t keep your clients if you didn’t work hard to get them the best airfares and routes and threw in a little chit-chat to keep them happy. She had generated thousands of dollars of business and drawn in more clients. Her customers were glad to pass the word along. But Veronica was a monster to work for. This was Kate’s ticket to get the hell out and take her clients with her.

With a raised brow, she parried the accusation. “Really? You can prove that how?” When Veronica only glowered, Kate said, “Thought so. Well, toodle-oo. I’ll be sure to let my clients know.”

Kate returned to her station and, not bothering to log-off, stuffed her red hair in a scrunchie, grabbed her purse, coat, and spare pair of shoes, and left. As she emerged onto the street, her blood pressure was spiking with rage. She imagined all sorts of revenge scenarios as she trudged to the closest saloon.

Slumped on her stool with her G&T, she scanned the bar and recognized her friend, Brian. They’d gone to San Francisco State together. He ended up with a degree in biology — an entomology major. Kate had a B.A. in art, then fell into the travel biz to pay the rent.

“Kate! How’s things?” Brian came over and slid onto the stool next to her.

Kate grimaced and looked down.

“That bad, huh?” Kate nodded.

“This your usual lunch place?” she asked with a wry smirk at his highball.

“Nah. I just have a bunch of time to kill between job interviews. You know how it is.”

“I do, or I will now. Just lost my job.” Then she told Brian about the Ice Queen and dreams of revenge.

Brian cocked his blond head and considered. “Why don’t we go over to that booth, Kitty-Kate, and talk this over. I might just have an idea for you.”

His idea was sheer genius. With his connections to bug labs, he could easily order a carton of them and have it delivered to Veronica. With the witch’s aversion to anything soiled, untidy or un-white, cockroaches were the obvious choice. And with all the paper supplies and heat thrown off from multiple computers and copiers, they would spread all over her Ice Queendom, making themselves happily at home.

Kate grinned, picturing the shrieking fits, maybe even a stroke. She’d pay for shipping. They shook on it.

Brian called her the day UPS would be (anonymously) delivering it. He’d customized a Mission Pak box with a spring-loaded platform below the inner container and slit through the tape keeping it closed so that when the package was opened, the roaches would hurl through the air. Kind of a creepy-crawler Jack in the Box.

On D-Day, as soon as she saw the UPS truck pull up, Kate followed the delivery guy, carrying a smallish box with air holes, upstairs to the agency and loitered outside in the hall. An hour passed with no fanfare or fracas. Finally, she asked a client exiting the agency if Veronica was in. He said he’d just seen her, then he left. Another hour passed. Nothing. Maybe Veronica was waiting until the office closed to open it. Kate decided to come back after 5:30.

At 5:45 p.m., after Kate saw, from her stake-out down the hall, the last coworker leave, she walked over to the agency door. Veronica never locked it until she herself left. Kate eased herself in. As expected, the main office was empty. A light showed under Veronica’s office door, indicating that she was inside. Tiptoeing over to her door, Kate heard her ex-boss’s voice. She was crooning. And . . . smacking her lips?

“Come to Mama!” Then crunching sounds. “What a thoughtful surprise.” Burp! “Zurfnod must have sent them. He knows how homesick I get for palmetto bugs,” she trilled with a girlish giggle.

Wide-eyed, Kate glanced at a phone console near her showing no lines lit. Veronica was alone, talking to herself. A sound of panicked scurrying came next, followed by a horde of roaches from under the door. As they tried to make their escape, a long blue tentacle sporting a designer bauble whipped out from under the still-closed door and, in one scoop, drew them back.

“Snap, crackle, pop!” she heard, chuckled from within.

Kate made it to the ground floor in record time.


This story took fourth place in our Monster Flash Contest!

Lauren Stoker was propelled by a non-drug-induced mid-life crisis from her native California to New England. She lives in Plymouth, MA, home of Plymouth Rock and other fabulous myths. Lauren enjoys playing loud music at her neighbor, ranting about anti-environmentalists, and collecting beer coasters, while drinking a fine British ale. Since the tender age of 15, she has struggled with the written word (and sometimes won) and has at last committed some of her ravings to print. Her comic short story, “Hogging the Hooch,” published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press in the U.K., was her first international publication.