“You don’t look too good Jim. Everything alright?”
“Yeah man. I’m fine.” Jim croaked stifling a small cough.
“If you need me to cover for you-“ Eric paused casting Jim a dubious look.
“Appreciate it but I’m alright. Thanks though.” Jim waved him off and popped another menthol lozenge in his mouth. His report was due before the end of the day and having the sniffles was not a good enough reason to postpone it. His boss, Linda, wouldn’t accept any excuse-nothing short of death. Though Linda stood five-foot two and looked like a freshman in high school-she was formidable. Indifference could’ve been her middle name. On his way out Jim tapped her door twice and waited.
“Yes?” Came a cold voice.
“Hey Linda. It’s Jim from payroll. Just wanted to let you know the reports in your inbox. If there’s-“
“No.” Snapped Linda.
“No?” Jim muttered confused.
“No. There’s nothing else.” Linda said impatiently.
“Oh…okay then. See you tomorrow.” Jim backed away from the door.
“Get yourself looked at.”
Jim stopped mid-step and looked back into Linda’s office. “Hunh?”
Irritated Linda began to repeat what she said but at that moment her phone rang. With a casual flick of her hand she dismissed him. Shrugging Jim left. As he headed to the store his phone buzzed. Grinning he tapped it and placed it to his ear.
“Hey Jiji. You get the card yet?”
“On my way right now.”
“Good good. You taking care of yourself? You sound sick. Is that woman feeding you?”
“That woman is my wife mum.” Jim responded slightly annoyed.
“Just saying. Anyways let me know when you get the card. Party’s this weekend remember? K? Love you.”
Smirking and shaking his head Jim reached the store. At the door a woman appeared to have her hands full of grocery bags and struggling to let herself out. Jim quickly opened the door for her.
“Oh thank you!” She flushed slightly breathless.
Looking up from her bags she faced him and paused. “Are you okay mister?”
Her expression suddenly caused something inside Jim to drop. “M-me?” He stuttered.
“Yeah. You…you got this look…” She trailed off a dreamlike look on her face.
Nearby a car honked it’s horn and the woman seemed to snap out of it.
“Oh I’m sure it’s nothing.” The woman said timidly. “Its just that my husband passed a while back. Cancer. He…he looked the way you do just before…before…well.” She lowered her head and her chin trembled.
“Look. I’m sorry to hear that but I’m quite alright.” Jim piped up with false cheer. “Can I help you with those bags?”
“ Don’t worry about it. Thank you though.” Swiftly the woman shuffled off to the waiting car.
Hours later Jim’s body was removed from his home. The autopsy report baffled the coroner’s office. Jim was 28 yet when they opened him up it was like looking into the body of a 90 year old man.
Weeks later Jim’s wife, mother, Linda, Eric and the woman he had met at the grocery store came together to split the insurance money. The policy was worth 5 million. Everyone was content.
All it took was a little suggestion.