“Brisling!” yelled his boss Marquis, “if you don’t get out of the way, I’ll kick your ass for good.” And Marquis, darker but plump himself, wearing an atrocious suit with orange lines in it, smiled that puffy-cheeked grin he’d always use, like it was punctuation itself. I’m the boss and you’re the slob, it said. It was nothing less than a tongue speaking right at Brisling’s ear. Even commas and periods were in place, the exclamation points by the fingers. If there were question marks, he’d know them. He bet he could quote him verbatim, all the ways the boss man moved. All of it was catalogued, scored, filed away in his mind.
I work for the federal government.
I don’t know what that means.
Yes I do. It means pushing this broom from one end of the hall to the other ─ this end to that end ─ when it’s dark outside. Like now. I don’t like the dark, but these humming lights always work. If they don’t, I must report them to my boss. Mr. Shapiro.
Does that make me a reporter? No one likes reporters.
I hope the humming lights never burn out.
We saw it coming the whole time. Chase was a nice enough guy; he just wasn’t cut out for this line of work. We watched him fail over and over, everyday. For a while we tried to help but there were just too many mistakes and most of them were pretty big. It would have been a full time job minimizing the damage he caused. When he had to answer to Fisher in the morning meetings he’d stammer out fragments of explanations he hoped one of us would jump in and finish. None of us ever did. We couldn’t. We were as blown away by his mistakes as everyone else. All we could do was look at our shoes and hope he wouldn’t cry again. That only happened a few times but that was enough for all of us.
“Welcome to your new home down on the sixth floor, Mr. Smith…it may just look like a cubicle farm… but it’s really so much more”
“Call me Ted, please…otherwise you’ll make me feel older than I already am.”
“You got it Mr. Smith…I mean Ted…any questions?”
“I’m sure I’ll think of a million…but none right now.”
“Isn’t that always the case.”
37G Henry Spiler.
Henry Spiller had long stopped caring about the missing letter on the nameplate demarcating the faceless geography of his workspace. Terry O’Callahan over in 19F had got his fixed up after his wife dropped by for lunch and nagged him about it for three straight days.
Maybe Terry used up the last L anyway
Henry had bigger things on his mind. Deadlines had to be met. In seventeen years he’d never missed a single one but this would be tight. The faint chirp from his terminal could only mean things were about to get tighter.