Monday, February 23, 2009

Office Story

Here's a short story I wrote recently. It doesn't really have anything to do with games, but is that a crime I ask? (That's really a rhetorical question more than anything.)

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Office Story

By Orin Bishop

Jim and Brad crossed the threshold separating the light-rail and the platform as several car alarms went off.

“Did you see that guy back there?” Brad asked, “He had, like, a bun in his hair. Doesn’t that seem weird to you?”

Jim thought about it for a moment.

“It seems okay to me,” he concluded. “ I mean, it’s the 21st century. I think in this day and age we can reevaluate the traditional gender roles we’ve previously seen ourselves cast in, you know?”

Brad looked confused.

“Wh- no. No, I mean like a hotdog bun.”

They were silent for a while as they crossed out to join the downtown crowd on its way to do the morning’s business.

“Maybe he was going to eat it later” Jim finally offered.

“What, his hair?”

“No, the bun, I mean.”


Brad seemed somewhat satisfied.

They rounded the last corner and pushed their way into the cool lobby of IndustraCorp, pausing for a moment to watch the old woman who seemed to be caught up in the revolving glass doors. Jim briefly contemplated trying to aid her, but she didn’t look to be in any particular distress. He waved hello to the security guard, and Brad did some kind of friendly fist-poundy thing which the fellow seemed to regard as slightly offensive.

“Any hopes for the day,” Brad asked as they made their way to their cubicles.

“Only that Trent doesn’t need me for anything,” replied Jim, “that guy drives me nuts. He’s got that whole fake-o British accent and everything. Gack.”

“He’s British.”

“Well he’s a jerk!”

“Agreed, but, I mean, it’s not really ‘fake-o’ if he’s British, is it?”

“It is when he does it.”

“Hey look, there’s a note here from Stan the overlord.”

Jim pulled off the sticky and read it aloud.

“ ‘Jim, I need you to deliver the Stevenson account. Tube thingy isn’t working today. –Stan’… Well that’s alright then; we don’t hate Stan.”

“No,” said Brad,” we just think he’s clinically insane.”

“Shh, he’ll be listening through the carpet.”

They both had a good laugh until Brad spotted the second note.

“Hey, Stan left you another one below that.”

“ ‘P.S. – the Stevenson account is with Trent.’ Dammit!”

He cursed loudly enough that several people looked up reproachfully from the water coolers.

“And I think he also did this other one with a t-rex fighting a robot,” said Brad.


*  *  *


Trent was holding a meeting when Jim reluctantly slipped into the room, awkwardly knocking aside the projector which had inexplicably been placed in front of the door. The room was silent so he cautiously spoke.

         “Uh, Trent, can I talk to you for a m-“

         “Epepep,” Trent stammered, looking up irritably, “Jim, we’re in a meeting right now, and we don’t really… like you all that much. Jeffrey, you were reading the minutes.”

         “Eight forty-five, Jim waked in. He was being annoying.”

         Jeffrey emphasized this last bit by pausing to stare balefully at Jim. He looked back at his computer and continued.

         “Eight forty-six, Jim left.”

         Both he and Trent stared balefully at him.

         “Probably in a huff,” Jeffrey concluded, apparently reading off his monitor. Then he gazed at Jim some more, and when this didn’t seem to be working, he began making encouraging circles with his hand.

         “Look, would you stop reading the min-“ began Jim

         “Continue reading the minutes!” screamed Trent.

         Jeffrey glanced briefly at his enraged supervisor, then looked back at Jim and, failing to think of anything else, began moving his hand again.

         “Look, I just need the bloody Stevenson account.”

         “Yes yes,” said Trent, “it’s in your desk. Somebody around here actually reads the notes you get.”

         “What?” Jim said, taken aback, “why do you think I’m in here?”

         “Out!” yelled Trent, “and put that projector back the way it was.”

         “I don’t think both of those tasks are physically possible, sir,” said Jim.

         “And that is why you are not management material, Chris.”

         “It’s Jim, actually,” he said, mostly to himself, as he awkwardly closed the door while positioning the projector by its cord and gratefully headed off down the hall. “It was in the minutes.”

The meeting resumed its silence.


*  *  *


Jim returned to his cubicle in a less than jovial mood, but the Stevenson account was in his desk just as Trent had promised, along with several fliers advertising some sort of Lithuanian cruise. It seemed Trent wanted him to leave the country.

He hurried out through the lobby past the revolving doors in which several more elderly ladies appeared to have congregated. The Stevenson account felt inordinately heavy under his arm, and though he was unsure of the contents of the bulging manila envelope, he had a peculiar feeling that his task held great importance. Spotting the InnovaTech building (with which the package was addressed), he hurriedly bustled his way through the downtown crowd, and collided with something short and loud.

“Blaaa!” said the old gentlemen he had just knocked over.

“I’m terribly sorry!” said Jim as he helped the man back onto his little stool. “Er, why are you sitting on a stool in the middle of the road?”

“Because you kindly helped me back up, young man,” said the fellow in a voice that reminded Jim of pemmican. “Otherwise I would be lying beside my stool.”

Jim couldn’t really argue with this conclusion. He was about to bid the fellow a good day and take his leave when the man spotted the envelope tucked under his arm.

“Could I see that?” asked the old man.

Jim felt rather bad about knocking the man off his stool and embarrassing him (though in truth no one in the surrounding crowd seemed to be paying them any attention), so he reluctantly ceded the package. The fellow tilted it this way and that, held it up to his ear and shook it, and then began trying to wrap it about his knee.

“Er, could I have that back now,” said Jim, “I need to-“

“It’s a good envelope,” interrupted the gentleman, “I’ll give ya that,”

He looked thoughtful for a moment and then said “I’ll give ye four magic beans for it.”

Jim was taken aback. “It’s not for- uh, beans, did you say?”

“Fine, five beans, but you drive a hard bargain, son.”

“Look,” explained Jim carefully, “I can’t just go around selling important documents. I’d be fired from my job, and… uh, magic beans?”

“Well they ain’t Tijuana beans,” said the man, taking five lima-bean-esque objects out of his coat pocket and holding them out for Jim to examine.

“Er, how do I know they’re magic?” asked Jim.

“Are you kidding?” said the man, “these are the most magical beans I’ve ever owned, and they’re guaranteed to make your dreams come true.”

“Ah,” said Jim, “and I suppose that’s why you’re sitting on a stool in the middle of mainstreet?”

“Exactly,” smiled the man softly, an enigmatic glint in his eye.

“Uh huh…” said Jim, “well okay then.”

He handed over the Stevenson account and took the beans.


*  *  *


Jim experienced the first pangs of buyer’s remorse about half way to InnovaTech. Then he stopped walking.

“Why did I sell the Stevenson account for beans?” he said out loud to himself, taking them out of his breast pocket to examine.

‘And why am I still walking this way?’ he thought. ‘Am I going to deliver these beans instead?’

He half considered it, just to get the accursed things out of his possession, but then he realized that perhaps the old man would let him trade back. After all, what use would a bunch of papers be to him anyway? Unless he were some sort of corporate spy… with beans.

Jostling his way through the crowd, he came to the place he thought the man had been, but there was no trace of him or the stool. Maybe he had imagined the whole thing. He looked down at the beans in his hand and discarded this theory. Beginning to panic a little, Jim frantically wandered around for a while, and then gave up and decided to go back to his office. Perhaps Brad would have a suggestion. He dashed into the lobby past the revolving doors. The old ladies were gone now, but they had left behind a surprising amount of graffiti.

“You gotta help me,” Jim pleaded when he reached Brad’s cubicle. “I traded the Stevenson report to an old guy for some beans!”

“Why?” asked Brad.

“The guy said they were magic!”

“Are they?”

“I severely doubt it!” Jim leaned in close. “Look, you gotta help me. What should I do?”

         “Well, my wife sometimes makes a nice stew, and we-“

Jim shook him by the collar,“I’m not asking you what I should do with the beans!”

 “What’s all this then?” demanded Trent as he rounded the corner with Stan. “Did you manage to deliver the Stevenson account?”

“Who do you think would win in a fight?” interrupted Stan, “A t-rex or a robot?”

“Err,” responded Jim, “I suppose it would depend on what sort of robot.”

“Hmm,” said Stan pensively, “I hadn’t thought about it like that.”

“The account!” Trent cried exasperatedly.

“Ah yes,” said Stan, “did you deliver it?”

Jim looked awkwardly at the floor, and Brad looked awkwardly down his own shirt. Finally Jim decided to come clean.

“I was going to deliver the Stevenson account,” he began, “but...”

“But what?” demanded Trent, “You instead spontaneously decided to wallow in your own incompetence as usual? Is that it?

“I sold it to a man on the street.”

Trent said nothing. He looked as though he had been slapped with a wet fish. Finally he turned to Stan.

“I assure you, I did not tell him to do that. I gave him specific instructions-“

“So the Stevenson account is currently in the hands of some random fellow you met in the street?” Stan asked slowly.

“Yes,” said Jim ashamedly.

“And you don’t suppose this fellow has any intention of delivering it himself?”

“No, sir. I’m very sorry, sir.” Jim looked away.

For a moment, no one said anything. Then Stan gave a huge sigh of relief.

“Thank god. I’ve been terribly worried. I realized there were all sorts of errors and typos in that report just after you left, and I had feared the worst.”

“What kinds of typos?” asked Brad.

“I accidentally called the CEO’s son a persimmon,” said Stan.

“What did you mean to say?” asked Jim, feeling greatly relieved.

“I meant to call his son a terrorist,” said Stan, laughing at his own ineptitude.

Trent was reeling. He said nothing, and looked ready to vomit.

“You did well, my boy,” said Stan, clapping Jim on the shoulder. “Now if I could just find something to eat around here, everything would be perfect.”

“I think Jim has some beans,” said Brad.

“Shut up!” said Jim.

“Yes,” said Stan, “it’s impolite to offer another man’s beans, when that man might want them for himself later on.”

Trent looked as though he were in a strange fantasyland and couldn’t understand the local dialect.

Jim took the beans from his pocket and presented them to Stan. “I just have these five here. If you want them, please feel free, sir.”

“Excellent job, my boy. You save me from both embarrassment and hunger in a single day, and all before ten-o’-clock in the morning. I’m promoting you to manager.” And with that, Stan took the beans and strode off.

Trent fainted. Behind him, Jim spotted the old man waving to him from outside the window. Jim regarded this as odd since they were currently on the 32nd floor.

1 comment:

  1. I had been wondering about the origins of the 'War on Persimmons'.