There was a water cooler in the corner to the left. I nodded my head at it. “Pour me a glass of water,” I said. No “please,” there, but I let my tone make it a polite request.

Mr. Jones studied me for a moment. Then he nodded, politely acquiescing, and stood up and went over. His right side was turned away from me, but when his right hand came into sight again, it was empty. He used it to pull one of the little paper cups off the stack. He held it under the spigot and pressed the knob.

I heard him press it–press and hold it, and hold it–and hold it–and then let it snap back. He blinked. It must have been a completely unexpected betrayal, this familiar thing suddenly ceasing its familiar, predictable patterns of behavior with no warning–then he pressed the knob again.

Still, no water. Instead, an air bubble flowed backwards into the tank, ballooning from the tap at the base of the cooler. It grew to about fist-size, then rounded off and floated upwards–and stopped, without breaking, inside the waterline. Then a piece of it pinched off and rose, and popped. Then another. Then another. Then I let the main body split into two. Four. Eight. Sixteen. A cloud, and I made them shoot upwards like reverse hailstones and explode with an audible, violent slap against the plastic walls.

I said, “Do you understand what I’m showing you, Mr. Jones?”

Mr. Jones showed me his poker face.

I couldn’t help the sharp, high tones in my voice. “If you are going to kill me, shoot me in the head when my back’s turned! But don’t you ever threaten me again. Ever.”

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