Specific Advice: How to Wage War on your Elderly Coworker by Killing Her Potted Plants One by One

Why You Hate Her

Edna sits across from you in Accounts Recievable.  She’s so old you can see her veins stand out like cords under her skin. She’s got pictures of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on her desk. People are kind to her. She listens to your coworker’s problems. You are jealous of her, in ways that are hard to articulate.


How You’ll Get Her

Edna keeps plants scattered about her desk. You don’t know their names, because you’re not the kind of person who cares to know things like that. Each day, she takes the plants to the break room and waters them in the sink by the space heater. Sometimes she leaves them there. 


Victim #1: Probably a Ficus

Next Monday Edna leaves a plant by the sink. When the office is silent, move towards the break room. Look at the little plant sitting in its plastic pot by the sink. It’s got dark leaves, probably. What’s the plural of ficus? Fici? Ficish? Ficuses? Fuck it. Move it towards the space heater.  Closer.  Closer.  You’ll know you’ve done it right when you can smell plastic burning. Feel something like pleasure. Walk home to your apartment. Sleep the sleep of the just.

Next morning, go into work and make a beeline for the break room. The (person’s name for plant)’s all lovely and cooked up. Edna’s apologizing to your boss, JoAnna. Edna’s holding her arms across her chest. Allow yourself the luxury of a little pity.

JoAnna hugs Edna! The bitch hugs her! JoAnna looks over her shoulder at you. You feel like an insect. Avert your eyes. You don’t know why people look at you like that. All you’re looking for is a little human closeness. Something to fill you up. Resolve to kill another one of Edna’s plants as soon as possible.


Victim #2: Some Ferny Bullshit

Edna keeps a big ceramic pot full of ferny bullshit on the windowsill. When everyone’s left and the sky outside the window is dark and starless, get out of your chair and walk towards her desk.  Touch her plants a little. Yeah, like that. You may feel a little creepy right now. Ignore that feeling. What you’re doing is totally normal. A totally normal reaction to totally unreasonable vicious provocations. Crack the window so there’s a little breeze blowing. Knock the ferny bullshit off the windowsill.

The next morning, the old bat doesn’t say anything to anyone about it. During the lunch break, Janet in marketing comes over and starts chatting with Edna. She left her husband a while back and she’s afraid he won’t be able to cook for himself without her. The bitch. She could talk to you. You’d listen to her. You’d be really fucking considerate if she came over to talk to you. You’d give her all kinds of advice. You’d set her straight. Fucking Edna barely says a fucking thing. You feel hot bile rising in your throat.

Again. Tonight. Go out to a CVS on your break and buy a big jug of drano. This is how serial killers must feel.


Victims #3, 4, 5 & 6: Probably Orchids or Whatever Those Weird Fleshy Looking Plants Are Called.

Everyone’s left the office. It’s just you. You and your gallon jug of off-brand Drano. Touch one of the plants, your flesh against its flesh. Pour a little Drano into the potting soil. Oops. Make that a lot of Drano. And look how much Drano’s left. It’d be a shame to waste it. Do the other three. The things are like Pringles,  you can’t stop at just one. Now screw the cap back on …


Jesus balls that burns really bad. Run into the women’s bathroom and  run some water over the affected areas. Leave the building quickly. The next morning check out your hands. They look sort of red and blistered.

At work, the orchids are all withered up. Go to lunch. When you come back to your desk, find a little bottle of aloe and a cheery note from Edna.

This is definitely the last fucking straw.


Victim #7: Almost Definitely a Bird Of Paradise

Time to get serious. The thing’s like three feet tall with all sorts of colors coming out of the top. Take the hedge clippers out of your desk. Drop into a low squat. Stalk towards the Bird of Paradise. Let out a battle cry and decapitate it. Leave the flower lying on her desk.

The next day, Edna barely glances at the decapitated Bird-Of-Paradise. She sweeps the sad little bloom into her trash bin and picks up her pencil. Feel an unexpected surge of disappointment.  You want to be condemned. Go home to your apartment. Watch TV. Feel the silence rise up through the floor. Grip the arms of your La-Z-Boy, and try to feel anything at all.

The next day there are three new Birds of Paradise sitting on Edna’s desk. She’s standing at the coffee machine. Approach her.

Hear her say, “I grow them in my greenhouse at home.” She’s known all along. Back away from her. Start as her hand darts out and grabs your wrist. She’s strong. How is her grip so strong? Her other hand comes to rest gently on your shoulder. Hear her say, “Samantha, if you ever need to talk—” Wrench your wrist free of her hand and shrug her other hand off your shoulder. Walk trembling back to your desk. She knows. She knows, and she hasn’t said a harsh word to you. She gripped your wrist tightly so you could feel the gentleness of her hand on your shoulder.


  1. 0
    Miriam G. says:

    “She left her husband a while back and she’s afraid he won’t be able to cook for himself without her.” So good.

    I didn’t think this would be possible, but I like this one even more than the last. Paul, you’re a genius.

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