Friday, November 2, 2012

A Satisfactory Beginning

There he sat, shredding the air with his stare. Watching as the sausagey fingers of his sworn enemy hovered above a shared foe. This peaceable union would never last. It was a simple matter to slay the metaphorical Jabberwock between them and then go galumphing back to a meaningless and antagonistic coexistence.

With a smooth, practiced hand, the enemy of his enemy plunged that mightiest-of-all-weapons downward. Dry scratching filled the room as the wicked instrument of doom worked back and forth, grinding relentlessly until black blood stained in a pattern that was pleasing to the manipulator. Even so, the tragedy was not the sacrifice on the mahogany altar, but the tick, tick, ticking of the round observer on the wall, forever lost down the rabbit hole and funneled directly into Tick Storage Room A.

With a final snicker-snack, it was over.

"I've gone ahead and marked your performance as satisfactory for this quarter."

His boss spoke in a flat monotone. The man’s dry, ashen hair had all but deserted the apex of his head, growing ever thicker as one moved downward to where salt and pepper whisker battled with trembling jowl. Two chins rounded out a face schooled in multiples. Even the beady brown eyes seemed a copy of each other, as if only one had been faxed in by God with instructions for the Earth-bound souls to "go ahead and take care of that."

"Thank you, sir," Damian heard himself reply.

Now is your chance, Damian! Press onward!

He had named the voice in his head Inigo. Or perhaps the voice had named itself, he couldn't remember. It had been a constant companion of his since grade school. The name fit with the Spanish accent, so it had never occurred to Damian to call it anything else.

"Is there anything you'd like to add?" his boss asked.

Damian was pretty sure his boss had a name, too. He could dredge it up from his memory, but that would require effort, and he was loathe to give the man even that. It was rumored that, deciphered from its native Managerican, the name would roughly translate as Door Mat. In English, it was probably Bob. Weren't all bosses named Bob?

"No, sir. Thank you."

Bob nodded, pleased with the stability of the boat. "Back to work, then."

Damian felt himself return the gesture. He watched, detached, as his body rose and took one step toward his boss.

What am I doing?

For the briefest of moments, he entertained the notion that he might actually punch the man on the other side of the large desk. But that was silly. He couldn’t afford to lose his job. Could he?

Damian shuddered and pushed the thought from his mind. Hitting the man was not a smart idea, and Damian was not many things – not striking, or strong, or smooth – but he prided himself on being smart.

His body turned and exited the office. Hands balled into fists, Damian stalked away from the corner office. Feeling began to return to his extremities only when he’d made his way back to the forest of cubicles.

Once again, your cowardice shames me, Inigo said.

Damian frowned. It's not my fault, Inigo. There was nothing I could have done.

Lies! Inquiring about the raise you are due would surely have been an appropriate action.

At least I have a job. I should just be thankful. Besides, no one is getting raises, Inigo. And you heard his review. "Satisfactory" does not translate to "raise." Even in Spanish.

Damian, you and I both know that Benjamin just received an increase last week.

Shhh, Damian hissed in his head, we're not supposed to know that. He plodded between rows of desk, frustrated both with the voice in his head and with himself. Mostly with himself. Besides, Ben has been here longer than I have.

Inigo snorted. Yes, a paltry six months, and he does nothing whilst you work.

"You all right, Gardner?"

The voice startled Damian. It belonged to his cube-mate, Ben Windsor. Tall, dark, and handsome, Ben seemed to lead a semi-charmed life, riding the coattails of his suave demeanor and dashing looks to success. Damian was only slightly jealous.

Ben raised a dark eyebrow. Damian echoed his puzzlement at first, but then realized he'd been standing at the entrance to their desk area, mumbling to himself. Heat rose to his cheeks.

"Yeah, we're fine," he replied casually, cursing himself as he noticed the slip in personal pronoun. It had been a rough day. He was losing his focus.

Ben shrugged and shoved an ear bud back in. "Whatever, dude."

The young man spun around in his chair to return his attentions to the glowing screen. Over one of Ben's muscular shoulders, Damian could see a clearly non-work-related video playing. It looked like one of the gentlemen in the clip was about too... yep. Gratuitous nut shot. Ben let out a guffaw, oblivious to the various shades of work going on around him.

Inigo piped up. See?


Elizabeth Anne Mitchell said...

The dreaded evaluation--*shudders*. You've brought it to life or me, as well as the blasted "golden child" cube-mate. I'm behind in reading your excerpts, but I will endeavor to keep up in future.

Thanks for sharing/

Matt said...

Ha. I love this scene as well. It seems like a great way to start a story. Pretty relate-able, and fun. Plus, I think you get a good sense that Damian is different, but not "foreign." That is, he may be different but it's not exactly giving him anything special.

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