The man in the Winnebago is staring wildly. A Cadillac is wedge precariously under the nose of his monstrous vehicle. Smoke is pouring out of both hoods, fluid leaking from underneath. The woman in the Caddy is sobbing, her nose streaming blood onto her cashmere sweater. A siren howls closer and closer.
I walk by this mess, no time to stop. I was due at work two hours ago, more or less. I suppose if I stop I’d at least have an excuse for my boss. If I just got a little blood on my jacket that would be enough to convince him. But it’s leather and I really don’t care if I get fired.
Two more blocks and I’ll be there, at the office. I’m almost taken aback by the enormity of steel and brick towering over me. The street is lined by these ancient buildings. Here no trees offer shade, no glass a soft path, only hard, cold materials. I hate this city.
I slap the button to make the handicapped accessible door slowly easy its way open.
“Hey, Chief.” The security guard says, “You got your badge?”
“It’s at home.” I tell him.
“What’s your name?”
“Uh, not Chief.”
“What’s your name?” With more force.
I tell him my name. He checks his list.
We do this everyday. It’s some sick kind of ritual. I have my badge in my pocket. I just like messing with the guy. Might as well work for his paycheck.
“Go on through the metal detector.”
“Really?” I whine. “We gotta do this today. I’m a little late.”
He cusses me out. I walk through the gateway of detection. It beeps frantically. This too is a ritual. I remove my keys, my lighter, my badge and place them in a basket. I walk through again. No beep.
The guard hands me my belongs and notices my pass. He lets out a grunt and tells me to do something that my mother warned me would make me blind. I laugh.
He goes back to reading his dirty magazine.
“Elevator’s busted, Chief.” He turns the page.
My feet slowly climb the stairs.
“No reason to rush.” I think aloud.
The woman five steps ahead of me turns to me, “Excuse me?”
“You’re excused.” I answer.
She takes the steps a little faster.
I walk through my office, past the receptionist and into my cubical. My square of doom. A note is taped to my computer screen.
“Could we please met when you get in?” Black Sharpie letters on pale yellow Post It.
I remove it and toss it in the trash. My computer is already on and Facebook is up. I “poke” a few friends. Check up on what happened in the last 15 minutes.
Leeza is eating cookies.
Brian is glad that the sun is shining.
Ramona is angry. (as always)
The phone on my desk buzzes.
“Jello?” I say into the receiver.
“Hi!” My boss.
“I’m sorry. Who is this?”
“Um, Thomas. Your boss.” His voice lowers to a whimper. “Could you please come to my office?”
“Yeah. Just let me update my status. Cool?”
Everything about my boss’ office is small. Small door, small windows, small boss. He hates it. Complains about it everyday. I sit in one of the under-sized chairs in front of his tiny, doll house desk.
“Hey.” He’s trying to be reassuring. “What’s going on?”
“Well…Leeza’s eating cookies.”
“Right.” He didn’t listen to my answer. “So, I’m getting this strange idea that you aren’t loving your job.”
“Should I love my job?”
“Yes. I think you should.”
“Oh. Well, this is awkward.”
Sarcasm meant nothing to this wee man.
“Listen,” He climbed up on his desk, not without a great deal of umph. His eyes look directly into mine. He was concerned. “You might be surprised to know that you’re several hours late.”
“Nope. That doesn’t surprise me at all.” My voice was as bland as a rice cake.
“So, why is it that you’re so late?”
“Oh. That. Well I guess I just got busy with stuff at home.”
“Are things at home bad?” He crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows in worry. “Are you going through relationship troubles?”
“I guess you could call it that.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Sure.” I answered, inserting enthusiasm.
“I think I changed my mind.” I scratched my head. “I think you should just fire me.”
“No. Please.” He begged, tears collecting in the corners of his eyes.
“You see kids like me coming in here all the time. You had to have known this would never work out.”
“I know.” He weeps. “I just had such big dreams.”
“You know I’m not going to amount to anything in the business world with my lack of respect for authority.”
“I’ll just pack up my things and leave. I’ll turn in my badge to the security guard. Perhaps you should have someone escort me out of the building.”
The receptionist met me outside the boss’ office with a box. She’s about as old as my grandma and about as mean as a shark.
“You really messed up, you know.” She barks at me and walks away.
If she had been my boss I would have worked harder, been on time.
I place the box on the desk. I have nothing personal here; no pictures of friends or pets to take home. I place my badge on the rolling chair and walk myself down the stairs.
The guard has his nose in that magazine still.
“You get canned?” He asks without looking up.
“No. The company’s paying an all expense trip to New Zealand to romp with the Hobits.”
“Punk.” He puts the magazine face down on his desk. “I gotta get your badge.”
“It’s at home. I’ll mail it to you.”
He calls me a few unsavory names.
“I’m going to miss your ever sweet disposition.” I say, walking backwards, slapping the handicapped button again.
The air outside is fresh. The sun is, indeed, making me glad. My walk feels like a glide across the pavement.
The Winnebago is jacked onto a tow truck. The Cadillac is already gone. The man is getting into a taxi, the wild look still in his eyes.