When I started the job I had no intention of making trouble. The job involved “microform scanning.” This meant that I was checking microfilm records of various legal documents. I’d scroll along a spool of microfilm to make sure the document in each frame looked square. If it wasn’t square, that meant it was crushed or folded and had to be redone. Square: good. Squiggly: bad. That was it. Eight hours a day.

I did this in a big room where two other women, a pregnant Italian madonna named Gabriela and a thin, high-strung high school dropout named June, also worked at computers. I have no idea what they did. They had been having a running feud with our supervisor about something for years, and my arrival was a catalyst for action.

Occasionally I stopped and read the pages. Some were death certificates, and with the typical writer’s lust for detail and story, I soon became bored with myocardial infarctions and looked for those with tales to tell: Shot at close range in bar fight or fell off a six-story building. Eventually I began reading the certificates out loud to my office mates. They were instantly interested.

Something about all that mayhem, all those hints of death and destruction in our gray-cubicled, fluorescent-lighted, sanitized hellhole, released all the angry energy they’d been storing up toward the supervisor. She was a bouncy, trouncy little thing, who wore skirts like a cheerleader, had thick muscular legs like a wrestler, and had a bad habit of wandering the halls singing her sorority song, even though she’d graduated from college 10 or 15 years ago. Gabriela, who was faced with the prospect of trying to raise her child on six bucks an hour, and June, who was stuck in this job because she’d never been to college, had no use for her.

“Bitch,” they whispered after she came in, ordered us to do something, and bounced out. “Hey, let’s see some more of those stories.”

Gunshot wound. “I’d give her a gunshot wound,” said Gabriela. “Arrow in the head,” said June decisively.

This went on for days. I stopped reading the certificates and just looked for square or crushed pages. Behind me, the debate went on. The room filled with violent images, with the supervisor as the star. They spun in their chairs, blatantly ate snacks at their desks, and loudly talked about sex. One day, June was standing on her desk singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” in a screaming falsetto, cocking her hands like six-shooters, blowing away enemies. The super burst in. I was hunched over my desk. Gabriela was laughing hysterically. June flung out her arms and screeched about Beelzebub. Can you believe it? I got fired.