By Dana Jean Rider
Gabriela noticed a flashing icon at the bottom of her screen and groaned. “Printer error, printer error,” she muttered, casting a longing glance at the beach scene on her desktop background—a vacation photo from over two years ago. She shook away the memory of dancing ocean waves as she stalked off to the office supply room where the vintage behemoth resided.
Whenever the printer bled ink all over a document or held onto a paper jam like a precious child, as office manager, Gabriela was the one who had to sort it out—and so she was the one who discovered that the printer was spitting hot white sand from its output tray.
When she entered the room, the sand was trickling down to the floor, landing in a neat little mountain. The printer gave a mad beep when it saw her, and the sound preceded a whoosh of sand as the trickle became an honest pour, speckled with tiny shells and sea debris.
Gabriela watched the small mound of sand topple across the floor before snapping into action. She rushed to the machine and pressed “Cancel” and “Off” and every other button she could find, but nothing changed. She looked around for a bucket or bin into which she might scoop the ever-growing pond of sand.
The printer, for its part, gave another scream of beeps and began to vibrate. Gabriela began to panic as she kicked through the quickly advancing beach on the floor. “Stop it!” she shouted, struggling her way over to the machine.
Her yells attracted Sue, the accountant, and Marcus, the district manager, who poked their heads in the doorway. Sue swore loudly, to which Marcus responded, “Sue, that sort of language isn’t office appropriate,” in a managerial tone.
Sue glared at him, thinking he was young enough to be her grandson, and replied, “Look in there. Deserves a couple f-bombs if you ask me—what’s happening to the printer? Gabriela?” Gabriela did not respond, now up to her knees in sand and trying to shovel it up with a three-ring binder as she seethed at the printer.
Marcus cleared his throat and stood up a little straighter. “Gabriela? The noise and mess is distracting the office.”
She spared a fraction of a second for a bewildered look at him.
He continued, “Do you think you can wrap this up soon so everyone can get back to work?”
“I’m doing my best, sir,” came her reply, as the sand piled up around her. Sue made the sign of the cross and ran back down the hallway, shaking her head and muttering about the devil. Marcus set his hands on his hips and looked around at the mess.
Gabriela pleaded with the printer as she pushed the sand into everything she could find—plastic desk organizers and pencil holders, orange shipping envelopes and cardboard file storage boxes. After another anxious minute, the printer gave an ear-splitting beep-screech and a series of clunks and pops like a death rattle. It began to shake and smoke, and finally the flow of sand came to a stop, just as the power light went dark. Gabriela would have sunk to her knees in relief if the sand hadn’t been bracing her up to the hips.
“Oh, look!” Marcus chimed. “Good. Thanks for getting this all cleaned up, Gabby. So you’ll still have the monthly schedule spreadsheet to me by end of day?”
Gabriela nodded and sighed, resting an arm on the silently smoking body of the long-beleaguered printer.
As Marcus strode back down the hallway, Peter, the janitor, poked his head around the corner. He saw the white sand still spreading out of the office supply room door and across the carpeted floor of the hallway. He walked forward and picked up a perfect, minuscule spiral shell from the mess, pocketing it.
Gabriela still stood next to the printer, hunched over with a hollow stare that put Peter a little on edge. He sucked his teeth for a second and let out a low whistle. “Hi, Gabriela,” he said. “I’ll grab the vacuum then, shall I?”