“He ate my crumb cake!” shouted Zach. Spencer and Clare waited outside the HR office while Zach and Miguel discussed the matters of the food fight and striking Mr. Howell in the face. They could hear Zach several times as he let out his frustration on the administrator.
Inside the office, the HR representative, Mr. Vanel, tried to calm down the situation. He sat timidly in his chair across the desk from Zach and Miguel.
“That’s very interesting,” said Mr. Vanel. “I’m so glad you were brought to me. We can solve this dispute easily. Do you have any proof of the matter?”
“No,” said Zach. “He ate it!”
“That’s not good,” said Mr. Vanel.
“I didn’t eat his crumb cake,” moaned Miguel.
“Can I add he’s a liar?” Zach asked Mr. Vanel.
“Not at the moment,” said Mr. Vanel. “Only if you want to be written up as a liar as well.”
“I’m not lying,” said Zach. “He is.”
“We don’t know that,” said Mr. Vanel. “Miguel is a model employee. He’s here on time every day. Volunteers to work weekends when needed. Nobody has a complaint about him. You’re accusations are strong, Zach, but unverifiable.”
“He’s lying,” said Zach. “We won’t you listen to me? Why is his word worth more than mine?”
Mr. Vanel’s left eyebrow rose. “You have several blemishes on your record. I noticed a flag this morning in fact. It’s been a rough day for you. I get that. That doesn’t mean you should bring Miguel down with you. He’s got so much to offer the company.”
“I just wanted to eat my crumb cake,” said Zach defeatingly.
“Now, hold up,” said Mr. Vanel. “There are several ways we can solve this. Please just bear with me here. I know I’m new to the company, but I have learned several methods of conflict resolution. We can clear all of this up.”
“Just go to the security footage,” said Zach. “Watch him take my crumb cake out of the fridge and eat it.”
“That won’t mean anything,” said Miguel. “Uh oh, I grabbed some food from the fridge. Guess what? It was mine.”
“We don’t have security footage over the fridge,” said Mr. Vanel.
Zach gasped in exasperation.
“The fact of the matter is there is no way to prove that Miguel here ate your crumb cake. I am sorry,” said Mr. Vanel.
“Then what are we doing here?” Zach asked.
“There is still a feud in the office that we need to clear up,” said Mr. Vanel. “A long standing rivalry between coworkers does not belong here. So, we’re here to nip that in the bud, right here!”
“How?” Zach asked.
“Easy,” said Mr. Vanel. “One big exercise to clear the air and settle this once and for all!”
Mr. Vanel stepped out from behind his desk. First, he walked over gingerly to the corner of the office where several metal chairs were folded up and stored away. He grabbed one of the chairs and brought it to Zach and Miguel.
“Is somebody else joining us?” Miguel asked.
“No,” said Mr. Vanel. “This is for one of you.” He put the chair directly between Zach and Miguel. It leaned up against the front of his desk ominously.
“New Delta Premium’s policies are a little light,” said Mr. Vanel. “Not anymore. Go ahead, one of you can grab the chair. Hit the other with it. Let it out.”
“What!” Zach screamed.
Miguel quickly grabbed the chair.
“Avoid the head,” said Mr. Vanel.
Miguel rose up to his feet. He had the chair cranked back with his arms, ready to swing.
“Wait! Stop! This is crazy!” yelled Zach. “What kind of exercise is this?”
Miguel swung the chair. Zach rolled out of his seat and dodged the hit.
Then Mr. Vanel stepped in. He put his hand up to stop Miguel from further advancement.
“That was it,” said Mr. Vanel. “It’s Zach’s turn now. Give me the chair.”
Zach was curled up on the floor. He watched stunned as Mr. Vanel got the chair from Miguel and reached out to hand it to him.
“Where did you work last?” Zach asked, getting to his feet to grab the chair offered to him.
“All Global Wrestling,” said Mr. Vanel. “Easiest HR job ever. Somebody has a problem, put them in the ring. Or just send them out with a chair. You still have that option. It’s your turn.”
Zach stood in awe of his HR rep. The chair dangled in his hands.
“If you don’t swing the chair, I’m going to have to escalate the situation,” said Mr. Vanel.
“How can you possibly escalate this?” Zach regretted asking.
“Alright, I see we need to move this along,” said Mr. Vanel. “I’m going to pen this in the work itinerary. Tonight at 5, it’s going to be Miguel vs. Zach in a cage match.”
“A cage match?” screamed Zach.
“A cage match!” celebrated Mr. Vanel.
“A cage match?!” yelled Spencer from outside the office. Immediately, he and Clare barged in to the room.
“Zach, what are you doing?” Clare asked, stunned to see him standing with a chair in hand.
Zach could not speak. His words once again jumbled and came out as gibberish every time he tried to say something.
“I’m going to eat you alive,” Miguel said. “Like a crumb cake.”
Spencer took charge of the situation. He got in between Zach and Miguel. Miguel had a good six inches over Spencer, but Spencer did not back down.
“He’ll make sure you choke,” said Spencer. “You deserve a beat down after stealing his crumb cake.”
Miguel chuckled. “I was hungry. He should have put his name on the plate.”
“Why doesn’t he put his name on your face?” said Spencer.
Zach shook his head. It was the best he could do to stop Spencer from engaging further.
Miguel turned to Mr. Vanel. “What do I get for winning this match?”
“Oh, I can throw in a quarter raise,” said Mr. Vanel.
Finally, Zach got his voice out. “What?!”
“Winning gets you a quarter raise,” said Mr. Vanel.
“He shouldn’t get anything!” yelled Zach.
“You can have a quarter raise as well, if you win,” said Mr. Vanel.
“Wait!” said Clare. “What about expunging his record?”
“Sure,” said Mr. Vanel. “I can do that for him instead.”
Suddenly, a wave of relief washed over Zach. His awful morning could be erased, even the transgression against Mr. Howell. His record could be clean again. He looked at Clare and smiled. She nodded her head back in support. She had his back.
“I just need you to sign the contract,” said Mr. Vanel, pulling out a clipboard with the rules sanctioning the fight.
“Let me see that,” said Spencer, ripping the contract out of Mr. Vanel’s hands.
“Steel cage?” asked Spencer, reading through the rules. “Does it have to be steel cage?”
“It’s usually the go to, but we can change it,” said Mr. Vanel.
“He doesn’t even work here,” argued Miguel. “He doesn’t have a say.”
“I’m Zach’s lawyer,” said Spencer. Which wasn’t entirely a lie. Spencer did go to one semester of law school, and he did represent Zach in a case against a dry cleaner using the city pigeons as a delivery system. The clothes always came back pooped on. “He doesn’t enter a fight unless I okay it.”
“Then I win by forfeit,” said Miguel.
“No,” said Spencer. “You’re fighting, just not in a cage. I want a No Disqualification Kitchen Match.”
“Whatever,” said Miguel. “I’ll destroy him anywhere. He’s going to wish he never brought crumb cake to the office.”
Zach pulled Spencer away from Miguel. They spoke softly to each other for privacy. “What are you doing? I can’t beat him.”
“Don’t worry,” said Spencer with a twinkle in his eye. “I’ve got something extra in mind.” Then he turned away and faced Miguel once again.
“When my boy is done with you you’re going to spit every bit of that crumb cake out,” said Spencer. He took a pen and began to rewrite several of the stipulations in the match, scratching out the references to any cages and replacing them with the rules for a No Disqualification Kitchen Match.
Then Spencer handed the contract to Zach. “Sign it.”
Zach, caught up in the moment signed the contract. Then Spencer threw it at Miguel.
“If you’re smart, you’ll walk away,” said Spencer.
Miguel laughed. He signed the contract.
“By the way your joke I laughed at earlier was terrible,” said Spencer. “But I’ve got a good one for you.”
“You just signed a contract for a baking competition,” said Spencer.
“Ooooh,” said Mr. Vanel, excited with the twist.
“I hope you look good in tights and an apron,” said Spencer. “I know Zach does.”
Clare nodded. Spencer wasn’t wrong.
Miguel fumed. He paced several times in a circle before he stopped at the side of Mr. Vanel’s desk.
“This isn’t over,” said Miguel.
Then Miguel lifted the desk and flipped it over with ease. Papers went flying. Mr. Vanel’s computer crashed onto the carpet. Zach, Spencer, and Clare were left speechless at his strength.
“I’ll see you in the kitchen!” Miguel yelled before he left.