Based on a Reddit prompt: The 'Foot in Mouth' Syndrome.
Bob leaned back on his chair in despair, his lips pressed tightly. What were the chances of him being put in charge of a foot fashion show when he worked with a company that specialised in foot jewellery! Never mind, don’t answer that. It was a possibility that he wouldn’t mess up; after all it has been a long time since he... oh no, god no, it was starting. He felt the rumbling deep in his belly, vibrations ascending upwards without permission and then before he could stop himself, a loud chuckle escaped his mouth. He could taste the laughter in his mouth as it erupted, his lips stretching into a smile. It tasted like impending doom.
His laughter died as several pairs of eyes bore into him. “Sorry, never mind me.” He waved his hands at his colleagues. Chairs swiveled back into their original positions.
“Were you the one just laughing? You better not be wasting your time during work hours, Bob.”
He rolled his eyes. Samantha was a stickler for rules and sure, it worked out pretty well for her. She had been his boss’ personal secretary for over 2 year now which broke all sorts of records. His boss, to put it politely was not an easy woman to handle. But as much as he valued basic discipline in professional space, he wasn’t as bothered with rules as her.
“I was just going through a mail when it reminded me of something.” Bob said, pointing towards his computer screen. Samantha narrowed her eyes but refrained from arguing. She lowered her voice as she continued talking.
“I don’t abide by mindless gossip but I have it in good faith that you are up for Nick’s job.” And then dropping her voice even further, “And I’m rooting for you.”
“Also, Katherine will probably call you in for a meeting for the foot fashion show later in the day. Good luck.” She spoke, her voice returning to normalcy.
“Thanks Sam.” He replied his face contorted into a smile that dropped as soon as she turned her back. Of bloody course. He had been hoping for an opening for a promotion for far too long and now was the time his boss decided to make her decision. Under any other circumstance he would have been fairly confident of his chances but now with this foot fashion show, his confidence wavered.
And it wasn’t his fault; it was just the way his body reacted to naked feet. Ever since he was a child, Bob couldn’t help but burst into laughter. As a kid, this was dismissed as a cutesy quirk but when he grew older it caused him trouble. He offended an old woman who had six toes and really pissed off a homeless man on the street. He lost his first job at a shoe store but it was inevitable with or without this problem (people’s feet stink too much). The tipping point was when his uncle came to his place to stay the weekend. His uncle was an amputee, having lost one leg in an accident. And later when his uncle was in a pair of shorts, Bob laughed. He wasn’t of course laughing at the man’s lack of a foot but at the presence of one. He tried to explain himself but to no avail.
That was the time when his parents took him to a hospital for a solution. The doctor upon hearing his ailment promptly kicked him out muttering about time wasters and how his degree was not a joke. Since then he had designed various tricks to keep himself from getting into trouble, none of which to say stopped the actual laughing but simply postponed it.
But he really would have to tread lightly as he doubted any such trick would work for the foot fashion show which was going to take up a good part of his next week. Several major jewellery companies that specialised in foot jewellery came together at the end of every year to hold a gala. The purpose of the gala was to boost sales on the jewelleries that hadn’t sold well throughout the year. It wasn’t unlike the end of the year sale except a lot more extravagant and more expensive than worth but then again, it was simply one person’s opinion. And in contrast to all the C-grade celebrities who turned up at these events, his opinion did not count one bit. It appeared that it had been assigned to his company this year at the eleventh hour.
He spent his lunch break brainstorming ideas for the event, from the theme to invitations. And the sacrifice was worth it because he was in his best shape during the meeting. The cherry on the top of a deliciously baked cake was when Katherine, his boss, asked him to hang around after the meeting.
As his colleagues filed out, a couple of them flashing a ‘thumbs up’ sign, he approached her end of the table. “Now Mr. Gregory, please wait a minute.” She asked him to wait, going through a letter while she adjusting her thin-frame spectacles on her nose.
“Now, Mr. Gregory, as you are aware the foot fashion show is an incredibly important event among our company’s circles and we mustn’t be the company to fail at putting up a spectacular performance.”
“Of course not ma’am”
“Good. Now because you have been a consistent employee Mr. Gregory, I would like you to give a speech on the behalf of the company at the end of the gala. Can you do that Mr. Gregory?”
The speech that Katherine was referring to happened at the end of every gala. It was the final scheduled event of the gala before everyone dispersed to eat and make their purchases. He squared his shoulders; it was quite a responsibility and a chance to prove his worth.
The rest of the week flew by in a hurry, the enormity of the event they were putting up taking up all time. Models with long legs were brought in (a task Bob ensured he wasn’t required to supervise) and a venue was fixed. A caterer was decided and several phone calls were made. Decorations were put up and rehearsals were conducted while Bob managed to both sweat with nerves and giggle. It was a miracle he hadn’t ripped his internal organs out while trying to contain his laughter. He headed a good portion of the event, reporting directly to Katherine and as his confidence swelled so did his chances of promotion. It was a big week for Bob.
The last minute preparations and emergencies were dealt with on the day of the Gala. He got by with his mantra of – How dare you laugh when there are children starving across the world? He was in such good spirits by the time the event began that he was positive it would pass without any hiccups. He was, as it goes in most stories, terribly incorrect.
For the first half of the show he managed by switching between his mantra and allowing himself a socially acceptable smile. But as the show made its slow climb towards the end, Bob found it more and more difficult to keep his laughter in check. He point blank ignored Katherine, who was sitting beside him, and her head nodding and quiet commentary. He simply let his internal voice continue its monologue about the horrors of the world.
Disaster struck when was supposed to give his speech. Standing on the ramp, next to all of the models and the jewellery they were sporting, he lost complete control.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, today we are gathered here for annual foot fashion show and oh what an event it has been. But before we talk about anything else can we please have a big round of applause for the wonderful people with their gorgeous legs wearing our jewellery?” And caught up in his moment of gesticulation, he turned around. And as the din of the polite clapping ended, his laughter became audible.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably, chanting - How dare you laugh when there are children starving across the world? How dare you laugh when there are children starving across the world? How dare you-
Perspiration broke out on his forehead when he spotted the look Katherine was giving him. He had clearly spoken aloud. Grasping at the straws, Bob continued with the first thought that popped into his head.
“I don’t of course mean to spoil anyone’s fun but this is just to say that a small portion of the revenue generated from today’s gala will be donated to charity for hunger.” And then completely abandoning his prepared speech he continued, “So ladies and gents please don’t hesitate with your shopping.”
Cameras flashed followed by polite clapping from the audience. Some people approached the buffet table, the others the auction table. Bob, despite the trouble he knew he was in, decided that there really are two kinds of people in this world. He started towards Katherine, greeting and making small talk on the way. He approached her with a dry mouth and shaky hands. Oh god he was going to get fired.
“Ma’am.” He ventured carefully.
“Good work Mr. Gregory, the charity bit is definitely going to help the revenue. But perhaps, next time inform the company before hand.” Her red framed spectacles had slid down her nose as she peered at him.
“Oh, you are not firing me!” he exhaled visibly in relief.
“Oh no Mr. Gregory, I am promoting you. And you’re going to need the pay raise because I’m afraid the company can’t take monetary responsibility of your unauthorised commitments.”
"... monetary responsibility of your unauthorised commitments".Oh god, the charity donation was being cut from his paycheck. He really should’ve consulted a better doctor as a child.
“Of course ma’am,” He muttered, sinking into a chair the moment she left. His eyes strayed towards one of the models. His wife was going to kill him, he thought as he tore his eyes away from the model’s legs in case he began laughing again. She no doubt thought him to be a creep; he was beyond caring.