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The Pineapple Problem

The pineapples arrived six or twelve at a time.

“A half dozen or a dozen,” Culver said and Jane wondered why she hadn’t thought to group them that way in her mind. Six pineapples on somebody’s desk was unwieldy. But a half dozen – how manageable! The same increment Culver requested donuts for the interns. A baker’s dozen in the lobby. That’s what they were looking at now.

“I count thirteen,” the policeman said.

“In this instance, yes,” Culver agreed.

It was a tough situation and Jane thought Culver was handling it well. He was calm, serious, and in-control. Jane found this attractive. Culver’s ability to control situations large and small was part of what drew her to him in the first place, part of what made her glad he was not just her boss, but also her boyfriend.

They’d been dating two months. Coincidentally, they got together right before the pineapple problem started.

“It might have something to do with us,” Jane had said.

“Like, someone trying to send us a message?” Culver asked and he’d looked so concerned Jane had to tell him she’d only been joking. How could a bunch of random pineapples be about them? It made no sense.

But then, nothing about the pineapples made sense. For a while Culver had taken a wait-and-see approach. It wasn’t like they were arriving every day. Once a week, if that. Then one afternoon a pineapple fell off a high shelf in the copy room and brained Elmira who had been with the company for like fifty years and even though she said she wasn’t going to sue there was still an L&I report, and Culver said after that if any more pineapples showed up, he was calling the cops.

It was a Saturday, but Culver made good on his promise. Jane drove. On the way to the office, Culver called in Elmira. Jane thought this was because the police would want a statement from her since she’d been injured by the previous batch of pineapples. But so far the policeman had only talked to Culver. And Jane wondered if Culver needed Elmira because he did not want to be seen alone in the office with Jane. Because of how it would look.

Culver was very worried about that, Jane knew. They had not yet disclosed their relationship to HR and sometimes when Jane gazed into Culver’s eyes she could see a cloud of anxiety forming over his brow.

Early on, he’d asked her if she felt coerced in any way.

“Do you?” was her reply. Another attempt at a joke, but he’d said, “I feel our relationship is respectful and consensual,” which Jane thought was the least sexy phrase she’d ever heard.

The policeman asked about motive. “Is there anyone who wishes your organization harm? Political activists maybe?”

“We make and sell personalized cell phone covers,” Culver said.

“These are strange times. You ever put a Confederate flag on one? Or a picture of Hillary Clinton?”

“Sometimes we get requests for covers with pineapples on them,” Jane offered. “But I think it’s just because people like the design.”

Culver looked at her with his furrowed brow. Like he was afraid the policeman might suddenly start asking who she was, and why she was there, and did she feel coerced into sex with her boss?

The policeman said he’d see what he could figure out. Then he left and so did Elmira.

Then it was just Culver and Jane.

“I don’t know what to do here,” Culver said. “Whoever this pineapple bastard is, he’s really got us over a barrel.” This made Jane feel sad for Culver. She didn’t like that. From Culver, she only wanted logic and confidence. The ability to turn six into a half dozen.

She took him into the copy room and made love to him. She thought that would help. Though it was the very room where the pineapple had hit Elmira on the head. Culver made appreciative noises, but he also held very still, like there was an animal nearby he didn’t want to spook.

“Talk dirty,” Jane said. “Tell me I’m a bad girl and I’m fired.”

“I don’t want to do that.”

“Do you want to pull my hair?”

“No. I just…” Culver started but nothing else was forthcoming.

“A half dozen is a nice turn of phrase,” Jane said, once they’d finished. They were still in the copy room. Culver had a pineapple in his hands. How long had he been holding the pineapple, Jane wondered? Was he holding it while they made love?

“What’s that about a half dozen?” Culver asked.

“You have a way with words, I mean,” Jane said.

“Jane, you’re very sweet. I appreciate all you’ve done for me. Like just now, for instance.”

He was feeling overwhelmed, he said. The office was in chaos. He should have taken the pineapples more seriously, should have taken action to determine the culprit earlier. He’d let his employees down.

“No one’s let down,” Jane said.

“What I’m trying to say is, I don’t have the energy for this anymore,” he said, pointing his finger between himself and Jane. “I think our fling has run its course.”

Our fling has run its course. It sounded so reasonable, Jane couldn’t argue. Even though she did not agree. She wanted more fling. A longer course for it to run.

“You understand?” Culver asked, his brow re-furrowing once more.

If she couldn’t have more fling, then she wanted more pineapples. Jane imagined a cascade of pineapples. They would flood the office with their spiny bulk. The hollow thunking sound of one falling, then a thousand. Jane and Culver would be killed and buried by pineapples right there in the copy room and when their bodies were found everyone would know they had been together. Not a shameful secret, but a story of glorious, tragic love.

Jane nodded. She took the real pineapple from Culver’s hands. “Don’t worry,” she said. “The bastard will get what’s coming to him.”

Author of 'I'm Fine, But You Appear to Be Sinking'. Published in Ninth Letter, Prairie Schooner, Hobart, and more. Short fiction aficionado.