George looked forward to the Christmas party each year at the office. He had worked at Schaffer’s for twenty years in the accounting department, poring over numbers from 8am to 5pm. On Wednesdays, he hit the gym for an hour, just enough to keep him vaguely in healthy shape. He wore nondescript dress clothes in the tan to mahogany hues his father used to favor, keeping a kind of nostalgic camouflage. But tonight (he checked himself in the bathroom mirror) he was going cheetah.
“Hi George,” Patty greeted him when he entered the party. She slid one manicured crimson nail down his spectacularly spotted tie. “Leopard this year?”
“Cheetah.” George smiled.
“Feline tonight, eh?” said John joining their group. He clasped George on the shoulder and called over his own shoulder to Lenny, the Director’s Assistant. “You owe me 20 bucks, Len!”
Lenny came shuffling over, plastic cup of beer in hand. “And here I was sure you’d go zebra, George!”
George laughed. “Yeah, well, I still have the rest of the zoo to go through.”
They made small talk; inquisitive, prying eyes seemed to find George ever so often conveying a confiding, sly humor. He soaked the attention in like a plant thirsty for sunlight, grinned into his glass, and started planning his next pattern.