"Butterflies are great," mused the Outgoing Secretary. "In fact, all insects are great. Even wasps. Why do people hate wasps? Unless you shove a big stick at their nests, they don't bother anyone."
"Indeedy," said I, the Incoming Secretary.
"I'm a fan of all the misunderstood animals," she went on, "Wasps, crocodiles, lions, killer whales."
Everyone in the company knew the Outgoing Secretary – important bosses, worker bees, the canteen lady, the man who put the big snowball bags of CONFIDENTIAL shredding onto a truck. She was weird but utterly charming. It was such a change from the usual bland office slugs. She bubbled along with her loopy stories and jokes, so comfortable in her own skin. She took me around the building for introductions, leaving a trail of smiling colleagues behind us.
She was leaving to study Meteorology. They gave her a cake. And a card. And gift vouchers. And a fancy necklace. After only one year as a temp! She was adored!
They all talked about Weather while I quietly shredded a choc chip muffin and felt inadequate.
"I met a wasp on a scorching day last summer," she was saying. "I was on my way home, running from tree to tree, trying to soak up some shade. There on the grass was the wee wasp. He was in a bad way, so very weak, only the occasional half-hearted flap of his wings.
"I got out my water bottle and poured some into the lid. He must have been so dehydrated, coz he just lapped away at it, schloooop schloop schloop. We just sat there on the grass together for half an hour. It was so sweet, you could have almost patted him! But he was so hot I was worried he'd crumble."
"Ohhh!" piped up the Incoming Secretary, in a stunning display of intelligence and conversation skills. "Cool."
But I had an equally endearing Insect/Summer story. They'd soon be warming up to the Incoming Secretary, yes siree. I was nine years old. My sister and I collected some bugs from around the playground – peeled bark from trees, crawled under the classroom, dug around in flower beds.
Then we put them into plastic cups, filled the cups with water and stuck them in the school canteen freezer. Once they were solid we ripped off the cups and erected our Frozen Bug Museum bedside the monkey bars. They looked beautiful, suspended in their frosty domes. Tiny/red, metallic green/scary horns, brown/weird.
The domes began to sweat under the frowning sun. Despite my lack of medical knowledge (Mel Gibson was yet to star in Forever Young), I was confident the bugs would come back to life once the ice melted. They'd shake the water off their spindly legs and get right back to work.
But then I peered closer. I saw tiny helpless claws and surprised wings. I saw little bug faces, expressions snap-frozen into fear or outrage. My stomach curled up in guilt.
We picked up the icy prisons and pounded them against the monkey bars. We hacked away until there was a pile of a shattered ice and sand and twigs at our feet, with only the core left in our hands, a little chunk with the bug inside. We sat with them cupped in our palms and waited for the melting and the waking-up.
I realised it wasn't an endearing story at all. I was just a cold-blooded killer. I decided to keep that information quiet, eat the muffin, and win them over in the days to come with my staple-removing prowess.