Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay roundabout
Deep and crisp and even…
Pam wanted to smash the radio. Over Michael’s head, for preference, but by hour three of the all-Christmas-carol marathon on the station he had started playing that morning, she would settle for smashing it anywhere, on anything, as long as it would stop playing. Unfortunately, right after Michael had started the music up, he had dragged Dwight and Jim out with him for some unexplained and probably inexplicable errand that just had to be done now now now right now, and locked the door to his office, where the controls were. And since he’d taken Dwight, the spare keys were gone too.
And since he’d taken Jim, Pam’s mind continued without her permission, she actually cared. Now that she’d let herself acknowledge the thought, it took over. If her best friend Jim were still here, he’d be cracking jokes about the songs, and that would make it bearable. “When is the Feast of Stephen, anyway?” he’d ask, with a glimmer of mischief in his eyes. “And what is it? Are they eating some guy named Stephen? Pretty gruesome, if you ask me. No wonder the third verse talks about ‘bring me flesh.’ He can’t say what the flesh is because it’s a cannibal story!” Then they’d collapse into giggles—or at least she would. Jim always laughed, but he never seemed to feel the need to fall over like she did. He’d just stay there, perched against the edge of her desk, and twinkle at her as she giggled, and that would make her giggle more, and before she knew it whatever stupid plans Michael had for the Friday before Christmas would be over and she could go home.
To an empty house. That thought had the audacity to both stop the pleasant imaginings of Jim that had finally allowed her to stop consciously hearing the insidious Christmas music and to remind her that unlike Michael, Roy’s boss/best friend Darryl had had the good grace to actually give them the week leading into Christmas weekend off like he’d promised, instead of yanking the rug out from under them the week before. And her fiancé, being the man he was—“he’s wonderful,” she reminded herself, “you love him. You’re getting married…someday. He’s just a little thoughtless sometimes”—had, instead of staying in Scranton with her, gone on the two-week vacation they’d planned to the Poconos, taking his brother Kenny along. So not only had she had to work this week, but she’d had to drive herself in every day, and come home to a cold, empty house where she had to do everything herself. Not, she reflected, that this was all that different from when Roy was home, but at least he usually drove in the mornings. And she got to see him and hear from him—which just reminded her that she’d had a grand total of one non-drunk phone call from Roy the entire week. That wasn’t to say they hadn’t talked. He’d woken her up three times—once at one, once at two-thirty, and once at four a.m.—to tell her how much he loved her…and more importantly, how he wanted to show it. But they’d barely spoken when he was sober, and she’d had to go into work every day knowing he and Kenny were whooping it up without her on a vacation she’d spent three weeks planning. Roy hadn’t been interested in booking hotels or ski times, but he sure as hell was interested in using them now, she thought. Oh well, at least there was some peace and quiet here, when Roy wasn’t calling at least, and she’d actually gotten a little painting done—a watercolor of a tree, which she was starting to decorate with little splashes of color for ornaments.
She sighed as the radio droned on about “heat” and “sod.” Roy had half-heartedly suggested she drive up that afternoon to join him and Kenny, but she could already tell that if she did all she’d get to do for the next week was watch him and his brother ski. Just like whenever they went on any family vacation, really. She’d hoped for some one-on-one time with Roy to rekindle whatever it was in the relationship was worth rekindling, but that opportunity had gone out the window when Michael Scott bubbled up a week before and told everyone in what he thought was an apologetic voice that they’d all have to come into work the next week, because they hadn’t made the December sales goals.
Why he thought they’d magically acquire any more orders on a week everyone else was taking off was beyond her, but that was Michael.
She’d tried to make the best of it—they all had, even Michael. She’d replaced the jellybeans on her desk with candy canes, and she and Phyllis had festooned the front of the office space with green and red streamers (although when they’d tried to move to the back area Angela had stopped them with a raised eyebrow and a reminder that green was a whore color, “and she was sure the little Christ child had not been swaddled in any such thing”). The streamers made it feel a little bit festive, she thought, no matter what Angela thought, and the candy canes had the unexpected but honestly welcome effect that Jim had to stay up and chat with her longer than normal so he could lick his way through one per visit.
And if she sometimes got distracted by the visuals, that was hardly her fault. Not that it meant anything, anyway. Jim was her best friend, and she’d gotten more than a hint that he and that purse girl—what was her name? Kady? Katy? Kathy? OK, she knew it was Katy, but it was nice to pretend she didn’t sometimes—were possibly becoming an item. But anyway, the candy canes had done nicely, thank you very much, and even Angela had snuck one once, when she thought Pam couldn’t see.
Some of the efforts to make the week bearable were less effective, however. Michael had made a lot of noise about a tree, but Pam had seen neither hide nor hair (twig nor branch? Damn it, where was Jim when you needed him? He’d know the proper expression for a tree) of one. Anyway, there wouldn’t have been presents under it, because they’d already done the office Secret Santa, precisely because Michael had originally told them they wouldn’t be working that week. They had had a Christmas party, awful as that had been. They shouldn’t be here now.
Involuntarily, her eyes glanced to the break room and the little teapot on its shelf in the cupboard. She’d found herself leaving that cabinet the tiniest bit ajar whenever she could so she could look right in and see it whenever the door to the break room was open—as it now was—and it still made her smile. OK, so the Christmas party hadn’t been entirely awful.
Though she was pretty sure there wasn’t an iPod waiting for her back home under the little artificial tree she’d put up. Nor was there one in the Poconos—and if there was, Kenny was probably filling it up with all his awful tunes. Wasn’t it a bit sad, she thought, that the best chance of her getting the gift Roy had dangled in front of her was if she let his brother have it first?
She didn’t want to think any more about that, so she wrenched her mind back to the topic at hand: Michael’s attempts to make everyone feel better about the lost week of vacation. On top of the non-existent tree, he’d promised a second, better, more awesome Christmas party, and insisted that today everyone had to bring ugly sweaters in for an Ugly Sweater Party—but that since he couldn’t tell them when this surprise Second Better Christmas would be, they couldn’t just wear them in on the day. No, he’d insisted they stash ugly sweaters under their desks to be worn on command. Pam hadn’t had anything better to do, so she’d brought in a sweater Roy’s mom had made for him back in high school—it didn’t fit her, but who cared?—with Santa dressed like a football player on it. Roy always wore it when watching football on Christmas, but apparently he’d forgotten it in the back of the closet when he packed for the Poconos. That made it Pam’s one chance to make fun of it without him getting mad, so she’d stuffed it under the reception desk. It had the added benefit of being huge on her, which meant she could slide it over her head without disturbing the rest of her clothing.
She wondered how many others had actually followed Michael’s instructions. Dwight, obviously, and because Dwight probably Angela, if she was willing to admit any of her sweaters were ugly that is. She’d seen Jim stick a plastic bag with what looked like a sweater in it under his desk but he’d flat out refused to show her, saying it was too mind-blowingly awesome to be put on display at anything but a real ugly sweater party. Creed had worn the same ugly reindeer sweater for the whole week, but Pam couldn’t tell if he was preparing for the party or just hadn’t changed clothes. Or if he even knew Christmas was coming, since he’d happily wished her a Happy Canada Day on Tuesday.
Pam listened as the music shifted again—she’d managed to distract herself from the end of Good King Wenceslas and most of Grandma getting run over by a reindeer, but now she was aware again of a little drummer boy.
Boy, she could really use some pa-rum-pa-pa-RUM right now. One of the downsides of sitting out front where everyone could see her, though, was that that option was not readily available to her. But the only other thing that could relieve the tedium was…well, was chatting with Jim.
Which just led her back to her more basic question: where the hell was Jim?