Sick Of It

Queasy and lethargic, the significantly softened frame of Eden Offen did its best to wobble and bobble in her too-tight work outfit into her and Shira’s cheery workroom.

“Uulllaaaaghh!” was her workday start greeting to Shira, who was already in her seat.

“Rough night again?”

Rough first month! I don’t ever want to see another chocolate in my life—premium or otherwise! Milk or dark! Nutty, chewy, or soft-centered! How am I going to survive 5 more months of this?!

Eden had made so much noise, she’d not heard the door swing open.

“You’re doing very well so far, so hopefully it’ll work out.”

“Mr. Easter!”

“Good morning Eden, Shira.”

“’Morning Wes.”

Eden spun her head around almost fast enough to give herself whiplash. “Wes?!” she silently mouthed.

Wesley Easter easily read Eden’s lips. “We’re a California company through and through, hence tending casual where others might use formalities. Were we in the Deep South, assuredly I’d have greeted you as Ms. Offen and Ms. Will. My greeting just now using your given names was intended with the same respect, as is our shared culture here. Shira’s been here longer, so I know she’s comfortable going on a first-name basis. Would you prefer I call you Ms. Offen, which I will gladly do if you so wish?”

“No, I just… I’m….” She never finished her thought aloud.

“Please don’t anyone get worked up over this” he smiled gently. “I am totally happy being referred to as any of Wes, Wesley, Mr. Easter, and maybe more variants if I thought carefully about it, interchangeably. Now if someone gets into That asshole Easter or Jerky Wes, that’s a whole other matter—unacceptable. At least to be verbalized or written for others to see.”

“No no! You’re… more than kind! I just… it’s…. It’s a lot of chocolate!”

“It is. But at least it’s a variety of chocolates with wholesome, pure ingredients and no preservatives, as was this company’s practice before the mid 20th. century mass industrialization of food beyond those like us of an earlier era, where preservatives, other additives, and sometimes less-pure ingredients became common. As Shira knows and you’re now finding out, I’m here this morning for monthly checkups—her two month and your first: your one month. We’ll start with you, Shira. Do you want to meet privately?”

“No need” she smiled. “Eden and I are getting on well—from my end at least, and I’m an open book.”

Indeed, reclined in her chair with her legs restfully spread, had she not already developed chastity fat, the tightness of her thin-fabric pants might have taken her to a whole other level of open.

“Last month you reported touches of nausea, primarily at the end of the day. What’s your current status with that?”

“Improved greatly. Better hydration, mostly plain water but also non-caffeinated teas brewed on the weak side, avoiding things with the same categories of ingredients we use here to the degree possible, healthy veggies and savory foods when hungry—all of these have helped, I think.”

“So nausea issues are… rare at this point, would you say?”

“Pretty close to nonexistent, for me.”

“Excellent” he smiled, tapping some notes into his tablet. “I have no record of other concerns from last month. Am I missing any?”

“No. It was just the nausea from getting used to all the chocolate.”

“Would you say you’re used to your workday average consumption at this point?”

“Well, closing in on that. I’m no longer nauseous, though there were still a few days this past month where by the end of the day I was more than ready to go far, far away from anything black and white and porcelain and chocolate—any one or more of those.”

“I See, capitalized S—ah hah hah! OK, I shouldn’t make jokes on the job, nor anywhere else amongst civilized beings. We’re doing what we can to rotate our fails between varieties and evenly distributed between the two of you, to minimize overloading on any one variety. But as you know and Eden’s now going to learn, in a perfect world we’d have no rejects at all, hence no need for the excellent, important work the two of you are doing. The nature of the process is that failures, misadjustments, out-of-tolerance ingredients, and so on tend to affect one product until we detect and resolve the issue, hence yesterday for example we had that problematic batch of Polar Bear Paw®s with the slightly burnt peanuts.”

“Ullllggh—sorry!

“It’s OK, Eden. Or did you want Ms. Offen?”

“Eden.”

“I want to hear all about your experiences and work with you in a moment. So for now listen in, and think about whether you prefer to have a private meeting with me or have it here with your team member. Either option is up to you, no judgement, no bias. Back to you, Shira: any new concerns or questions or anything?”

“Nothing like that. I’m enjoying my job much more having a co-worker to talk with, so thank you for scheduling Eden in with me!”

“Gladly. Despite the unfortunate circumstances that led up to it, we’re glad to have her here. And you, for sure.”

“I would like to ask one question that I may have asked last month, that I think Eden wants to ask but will be too shy to follow through on. Why again is it that we Defect Processors in here are prohibited from using our tech devices on the job?”

“Before I answer, totally understood that it would seem to make sense in today’s world to allow employees in your positions to freely do so. Now the answer, two major points. Point 1: we found that allowing previous Defect Processors to use their devices at-will led to more than one of them becoming sufficiently distracted that they failed to keep up with their candy consumption. We do understand that your personal devices need to be at hand for urgent communications, say from relatives in trouble, repair shops contacting you, and the like, hence those things and brief work-related usage are allowed.

“Actually I just remembered a point 1B: one former employee was playing a game or doing something which deleteriously affected her visual system in a manner that her body became far more nauseous than when her device was put away and her focus was elsewhere within this room. She didn’t know what was going on and neither did we, but when she stopped using her screen during her active work shift and only used it on breaks and lunch and before and after work, all was again well with her.

“Point 2: IT objects. This is an issue out on the production floor and for us in the offices as well, though many office jobs including mine require regular contact over handheld devices, so to a degree IT has to deal with it. The reason for IT‘s objection is primarily one of network security: when connected to our internal WiFi, there were situations where malware came in on personal handheld devices—more than one, I’m told—then infiltrated the network and got into some of the production systems. They’ve redone the networking to better isolate production systems that generally have no need to be on the public Internet apart from occasional software updates, setting clocks to network time, and all that. Nevertheless they don’t want to have the greater risk exposure of more devices if those devices are being used primarily or purely for entertainment. Yes Eden?”

She‘d had her hand up. “What about staying off of company WiFi and using cellular?”

“What’s your reception like? Go ahead and pull out your device and try it.”

The results were disappointing. “One bar.”

“There’s a lot of metal rebar and sheet metal all over the place with the machinery and trays and storage and so on. As you two may already know, the whole cellular system was designed by telephone companies for outdoor mobile operation. It never occurred to them in the 1980s and 1990s that we would have powerful handheld supercomputers that could be cell phones too that would obviate most people’s need or desire for the old-timey hardwired voice-only telephones they offered back then, hence they figured there was no need for indoor coverage since indoors at home or work people would keep using legacy telephones. Alright, I’m talking too much, and we all need to get on with our workdays. Bottom line as you can see is that cellular is spotty, the company isn’t going to install cellular boosters or anything like that for better in-building coverage as it’s not a business need, and WiFi’s problematic as I explained.

“So now to wrap up with your monthly meeting, Shira: I am pleased to report that your job performance remains excellent. You’re managing to do your part disposing of our defective confections in the least environmentally detrimental way we know. It’s delightful beyond what I can readily express that you and Eden are here for each other as a new unified team, with you with your greater experience able to answer many of her questions and generally smooth her path along where you yourself recently traveled mostly solo, apart from that first week when Ellen was still with us.”

“What happened with her, anyway?”

Wes bit his lip. “Iiiii can’t comment on current litigation. Please each of you, both of you: let me know soon as you and your health care provider know if you’re having medical issues strongly suspected to be job-related.”

“Got it” she nodded. Given prior context she had that Eden did not, this constituted an answer to her question.

“Keep up the great work, and thank you for working here! Now it’s your turn, Eden. What is your preference in terms of privacy for this meeting?”

“Shira’s my bestie and really the only one I know other than you at this company, and we’re on the same team and she seems to know so much about everything already, I prefer that you go ahead with my meeting right here with her present, as you just did with her.”

“Excellent. I’ll strive to be more succinct with my part of this meeting. As always, we start with any concerns you may have about your job and working here. Might as well start with anything you want me and the company to know about your nausea.”

“I don’t know if nausea and queasiness are fully synonymous, but whatever the term, I’m truly struggling taking in so much chocolate—wonderful though each piece is!”

“Is there anything we the company can do that might help, keeping in mind that reducing the number of defective chocolates is always our goal, though with our exceedingly high standards there are often many, thus in terms of daily quantity none of us have much if any control over that.”

“Is it possible to stock Detox Rocks! tea in the cafeteria? Purge Urge is alright, but reading the warnings on the box it says that it’s not recommended for people with a history of bulimia, of which I have a little.”

“Really?!” he seemed shocked. “I did not know that about Purge Urge! Yes of course we’ll get some… what was it again?”

“Detox Rocks!, with an exclamation point at the end, so it’s about how wonderful it is rather than rocks that somehow detoxify. I think it‘s part of David Lee Roth’s line of health-promoting teas.”

“Perfect” he commented as he tapped away on his virtual keyboard. “Apart from nausea and queasiness, any other concerns?”

“Shira’s helping me with advice on how to take in so much chocolate without blowing up my health but… I’m worried.” She looked it. “I didn’t know the whole thing about fat cells being permanent when we made our deal, and fat’s not healthy!”

Notwithstanding her clear upset, the way she grabbed her flabby hips sent a rush through Wes Easter. “Well I am certainly no medical professional, and it would be delusional for me or anyone to deny that the high consumption of anyone working for us as a Defect Processor is without significant risk, but so far we have found that through diligent efforts on our part to supply wholesome albeit out-of-tolerance chocolates with fine, pure ingredients along with a clean, well-lit, fresh air-laden work environment, reasonably healthy options in our cafeteria, encouragement for movement and exercise at and outside of work, and healthy living in general, most issues are sufficiently mitigated to not be problematic—especially over limited time frames of a year or less, as you two are currently looking at. We’re all dealing with different genetics, with some of us more susceptible to insulin resistance and problems related thereto, others less so—and so far it seems not possible to know in advance.

“OK, I’m rambling again. I’m trying to say that from the totality of what I’ve read, significant stored body fat is neither automatically unhealthy or healthy. Too many variables, many unique to each individual, and frankly not enough honest, neutral science going in deeply enough in enough areas where we need greater knowledge. So yes by all means be aware and do what you can for your well-being and, as with the tea, ask or tell us if we can do better providing what you need to stay healthy, whether you’re fat or not.”

In a moment of un-thinking, he reached out and started to touch her forearm, recoiling quickly upon contact when he realized what he’d done. “Sorry! I’m very grateful that you’re here as a witness, Shira, in case Eden feels a need to report my transgression just now.”

“I don’t mind, Wes!” Eden insisted. “It was just a friendly touch, and I don’t have any sense that you’re trying to make me do anything against my will, nor lord your power over me. Your respect is acknowledged and appreciated, and there were too many people starting there then going far beyond that who did use their power to get sexual favors, uncompensated emotional labor, and other stuff from employees who reported to them, so in that sense I’m glad there’s this greater awareness and caution in today’s society.

“Having said that, given what’s been shared about California casual social standards plus my sense since meeting you that you’re a gentle, friendly, open-minded person, is it possible for us with Shira as our witness to have the mutual understanding that friendly touch between us is permissible? ’Cause I gotta tell ya, I’ll let you do me, if we can re-negotiate our agreement for a shorter time span.”

Boink!—both pairs of Shira’s and Wes’s eyes shot wide open.

“Alright, that was a massive overshare, likely sleep-deprivation-related. Please tell me I didn’t just make my senten–, uh, committed work time span any longer.”

“That’s an exceedingly kind and generous offer” he replied as he couldn’t help eyeing her generous mid-body curves, “though even if you made it after a long span of full night’s sleeps I hope you start enjoying soon, I would have to refuse a re-negotiation. You did intend to cause us harm, possibly significant damage at a minimum if Hector hadn’t fortuitously been working near the door and that window, and we truly do need the two of you to carry us through our standard work week day shift production defect processing. You wouldn’t want to leave Shira on her own eating all the chocolate, would you?”

Still wide-eyed, Shira shook her head slowly and widely Eden’s direction.

She had no problem seeing that, nor Wes’s eyes darting back down to her hips and belly. “Well, I guess there’s worse things in life than having to eat a lot of chocolate candies every day and getting fat. I know, Shira: fatter!

Especially with everyone so flustered, there wasn’t much more if anything to Eden’s and Wes’s first monthly meeting. Shira’s spontaneous hug of Wes led Eden to do the same, stirring everyone up further and ensuring that Wes Easter hurried up getting out of there and letting them get to their day’s (barely) defective chocolate candy eating.