Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020
From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.
ITEM ONE: Coca-Cola Co. announced the discontinuation of diet pop pioneer and 1970s phenomena Tab Cola.
The typist pictures a Coke exec going into a wood-paneled room with a sunken seating area and wall-to-wall shag carpet.
The Tab president sits open legged in brown corduroy bell bottoms, a star-shaped belt buckle poking into his noticeable pot belly.
His yellow paisley shirt with collars so wide you could land helicopters on is unbutton three buttons past too low. The hair on his chest flutters freely like a nature preserve of body hair.
He takes a hit off a glass bong and there’s cocaine in his mustache. He notices the exec and offers them fondue from the pot on the table since 1972.
“Carl,” the exec says in a tone I indistinguishable from the harsh electronic tones of a Speak & Spell, “we have some bad news.”
“Oh, shit man,” Carl stammers. “Look, she said she was 19, man …”
The Coke exec holds up his hand. “Now, now, Carl. You know we took care of that.”
Carl shakes off the haze of the last of the greenies he imbibed with a shot of whiskey and Coke.
“Yeah, yeah,” Carl says. “Right. You pulled one out of the old Chappaquiddick playbook. Really saved old Carl’s bacon.”
The exec, clad in a black suit with a black shirt and a long, skinny tie stares blankly at Carl.
“This is not why we are here,” he said.
Carl drops three chunks of ice into a rocks glass and pours bourbon in with a splash of Coke.
“Well, old Carl made it worth it, didn’t he?” Carl says, swishing his glass in the air as if it were the point of Zorro’s sword. “Carl made Tab. Convinced all those tubby gals in capri pants to suck down that gasoline as a diet plan.”
Carl swallows his drink in two gulps and slams his glass in the drink caddy so hard all the other liquor bottles clang together in a cacophony of broken church bells.
“These people were eating salads under 40 gallons of thousand island and polishing off five of those square burgers from Wendy’s and the sipping Tab like it made a damn bit of difference …” Carl’s voice trails off as he stares out the slats of horizontal blinds to his view of the employee parking lot.
The exec stays still. “Carl —“
“You know this used to be peach trees as far as the eye could see,” Carl interrupts. He turns away from the blinds and looks at the nameless, faceless exec.
“Carl, the organization has decided to discontinue Tab,” the exec says. “You are the lone remaining employee in the division. I think you know what this means.”
Carl sighs. “Fucking Diet Coke, man.”
Carl opens the top drawer of his desk and stares in. He does not look back at the exec.
“Yeah, I know what is happing, you greedy son of bitch!” Carl yells. “Can you you have somebody bring me a box?”
The executive nods and turns to leave. Carl slumps into his high-backed vinyl-covered chair.
The executive closes the Carl’s door behind him. He pulls his smartphone from a jacket pocket and makes a call.
“Yes,” the executive says as he presses the elevator button, “send some boxes to the Tab office — “
The sound came from Carl’s office followed by a thud.
The executive glances back at Carl’s door.
“Cancel their boxes,” the executive says. “Send up a cleaning crew. Bill it to the Chappaquiddick account. No, no. Jerry will know what it means.”
The elevator dings and the door opens.
“That’s right the Tab office,” the exec says as he steps aboard the empty elevator. “I know, right? Who knew we even made Tab anymore?”
The elevator door closes as the exec says, “Somebody get me a Diet Coke.”
ITEM LAST: The Sunday Hot Sheet is now 7.8% warmer than the weekday Hot Sheet due to climate change.
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