Jeff’s unblinking gaze focused on his stacked tower of red solo cups before him while mine fixated on the blue cups in front of me. My friend had forgone the typical cup pyramid and was trying to see how tall of a tower he could build with the cups. We were trying to see who could build to the ceiling first. The loser would buy drinks for the winner tonight at the bar.
As time went on, I was starting to worry I might lose. What had first seemed like ample room for success, given Jeff’s lack of discipline, had quickly been eroded away thanks to several convenient gusts of air. Each one only ever managed to knock over a few cups, but it was enough to slow my progress. He stood on his chair as he added each new layer with extreme caution that he rarely exhibited in any other scenario.
Of course, most scenarios didn’t involve free drinks.
Jeff promised he'd make me regret that deal when he won. Now, the temptation to return the favor blow over his stack, sending the creation cascading down grew with each new layer. However, that would be against the unspoken rules, and breaking the rules would be bad. At least that’s what Jeff kept reminding me because he knew, of the two of us, which was most likely to not try and cheat.
Jeff topped off another layer and smirked down at me. “You’re falling behind there, Jack.”
“Gee, I wonder how that could have happened.” I feigned ignorance as my friend puckered his lips and sent another puff of air at my tower.
I had half a mind to just bump the table and end the competition then and there. Though I figured Jeff would claim himself the winner since his tower was taller at the moment of collapse, and I couldn’t have that. I needed to dig deep to come up with a plan. As it was, we were cutting it close to the wire. There were only a few more minutes before we had to get back to work.
An idea came to me, and I waited until Jeff was carefully placing his next cup. “Oh crap, Sarah’s coming!”
At the mention of one of the executives, Jeff fell out of his chair, landing with a thud. I hunched over laughing as he grumbled about me playing dirty. He fell silent as his gaze landed on the teetering tower of red cups.
My breath caught in my throat as I watched it sway, waiting for the thing to topple. But it didn’t. My shoulders slumped as it steadied.
Jeff dusted himself off as he stood. “That was a dirty trick.”
I shrugged and finished off another layer. “Eh, I owed you one.”
My friend let out a slow breath as he studied his tower. The simple action was enough to seal his fate. The small gust dislodged a single cup, which knocked out another, and another. It was beautiful until it affected my own tower.
I hadn’t considered how close our creations were to one another, and how his collapsing would knock down mine as well. All I could do was watch in shock as his red cups took out my blue ones until there was nothing left standing but the two of us. We were surrounded by an indoor sea of red and blue plastic. I wondered if there had been a patriotic theme in mind when the cups were bought.
I didn’t get to wonder long though, because in walked Sarah. It was as if she had sensed her name being said. I couldn’t believe it.
When she saw the mess of cups scattered around us, she froze and we knew we were in deep trouble. “What are you two doing?”
After a hasty and apologetic explanation from Jeff and myself, she pinched the bridge of her nose. “You two are morons.”
We hung our heads in shame and prepared to march back to our desks.
“You should have started on the floor. Then it would be more impressive!”
We watched in silence as she knelt and began a new tower.
After a few cups, she peered up at us with a smirk. “If you don’t start your own towers, you’ll both be buying drinks tonight.”