IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A REASONABLE FEAT to cardswipe the door while half-grasping the bag of McDonald’s breakfast. The proximity switch would not bleep or flicker green. “Thanks again, God,” Jacob muttered. It was 10:30 in the AM and the drive across the Macy River Bridge had been an hour and a half, break-pumping, bumper-to-bumper, psychological experiment of car rear-endings and police-induced lane mergers.
Was it really the three hundredth late morning since he’d started working for his first Mechanical Engineer job? A strange milestone, but engineers are always weird about numbers.
He had studied engineering a little later in life and so, now, he was thirty-six. Never really married, a couple live-in girlfriends had broken his heart and set the fracture a little different each time. His hair had not weathered with time however: a rowdy mullet, ever-poised to explode into the full potential of its Glamrock glory. On that morning, he was awaking a shade fuller to the realization that this particular employer of his choice was a tier-three, over glorified, aerospace job shop. Belstan, for example, or Agillant or VRI: these companies knew they were job shops and took a certain pride in being good job shops. His company polished themselves up as a big dog—a GE, a Rolls-Royce, a Pratt and Whitney. The proximity switches at those companies probably always worked and people didn’t have to waste time walking around the building to slip in the back door. Over in his cubicle, the stouter of the two maintenance guys lay on his back ratcheting a socket wrench on a sleek, treadmill desk. He had disassembled the old desk and cabinets in a mess of particleboards, Allen screws and dust bunnies. Roy and Matt and Walter Flint puttered over the work along with some other kid he didn’t recognize.
The unrecognizable kid stood tall and proud, a couple paces behind the others in cashmere slacks, an imperial blue button down and Nike running shoes. The kid was probably the supposed, senior mechanical engineer that they had just hired, even though he was clearly in his mid to late twenties. He looked like one of those trust fund, yacht-happy J-crew types. The expectant, open mouthed expression of his face seemed to be searching out an appropriate work identity. Willie—Jacob’s manager—he had told them in a staff meeting that this new kid was coming, that they would practically be reporting to him as the kid had interviewed well and had somehow already amassed a great deal of work experience through internships, a masters degree and an impressive stint at his first job. He had worked for some artsy aerospace startup in silicon valley by way of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and now, for some inexplicable reason, had decided to work in Georgia.
“The thing that’s really great about this,” the new kid explained, taking a step into their group, “Is that it’s self powered. It won’t hurt the environment any more than it has to.”
“The environment?” Walter Flint asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “It sustains us.”
“Is that right,” Matt said with a smirk. “You know you’re in Georgia, right? Blake, over in the corner cube is homeschooling his kids and listens to Limbaugh. I’m sure you and him can spend time talking about the environment.”
The small group snickered as he studied their faces.
“Do you think he might be interested,” he queried.
Jacob set his sack of McDonald’s onto his workstation’s narrow desk.
“Hi there,” he said. “I’m Gregory Hatter. Like, the mad Hatter. You must be Jake.”
“Jacob,” Jacob corrected him.
“I don’t care how much he helps the environment,” Walter Flint barked, “as long as he checks prints for us like he did in San Diego.”
“You the kid that’s here to help us check all these assembly and detail drawings?” Jacob asked.
“That’s one of my job functions,” Gregory said. “Yes.”
The maintenance guy lumbered to his feet, pressed his fists into his lower back and groaned. “Well,” he said. “I ain’t never put one of these things together before. But it should be ready.” He grasped a black knob, “Look here,” he said to Gregory. “This is the monitor height adjuster.” He tapped a black lever. “This controls your mouse and document swivel. Got it, kid?”
“Yes. I understand.” Gregory said, somewhat coldly. “Thank you.”
The maintenance guy slumped away.
Gregory took tentative first steps onto the rubber belt, poised a half foot above grey carpet.
The group focused on him. Matt’s mouth gaped with starry eyes like a five-year-old watching a shuttle launch.
“You’re going to walk on this thing?” Jacob asked. “While you do work?”
Gregory picked up speed on the belt, triumphantly. “Certainly. You see?” he pointed to the belt: “Whisper-quiet.”
“I negotiated for it in my interview,” he explained. “Times are changing. The office is becoming more progressive. I want to stand in my cubicle!”
Jacob unwrapped his sausage and egg biscuit. “But why?” He chomped a mouthful.
Gregory stopped walking and turned around to Jacob from the added height. “For life! For health! I don’t want to be beaten down—”
“Life always beats you down,” Walter explained.
“People who sit in sedentary office jobs are five times more likely to die of heart attacks regardless of exercise,” Gregory decried. “That’s from the September issue of Men’s Health.”
“I don’t care if he walks on his hands,” Walter said. “So long as he checks his twenty five a day,” he added before making an abrupt exit.
The next day as Jacob walked in, Gregory declared that he had already checked four sheets. But this new guy was the type to sneak out a little early. Jacob stayed late. Gregory gave him some of his sheets to double check. The guy seemed to know what he was doing. But he wrote kinda funny.
On Wednesday, Gregory wore a slant-stripped, orange and grey shirt and pleated, twill paints with New Balance running shoes. He highlighted a drawing with his left hand and manipulated the spaceball in his right, which sent signals to his extra-wide flatscreen monitor to properly orient the pixilated, aerospace engine. “What’s the tru-position on a close toleranced thru hole,” Gregory asked. “Oh wait, I remember: it’s six thousandths, right? Yeah, that’s right. Hey, that reminds me of the Karaoke bar I was at last night: there were six people scheduled to sing in front of me but it felt like thousands. I sang some old stuff by Sublime and they went nuts. Everyone else was singing all this tear-in-my-beer stuff and it was like they never thought to sing anything like that and they just went nuts. I was getting high five’s and everything. Have you ever been to that bar over on Thirteenth and Jefferson?”
Jacob sat up straighter and defocused his eyes from the landing gear on his screen. “What?” He blinked. His back was stiff and tight from the cheap chairs they gave him to sit in for the nine, straight hours. With email and his own phone and Microsoft office and Skype and analytic and solid modeling tools, there was practically no reason to get out of his seat other than bathroom breaks and…Cokes. A cold, twenty-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola Classic always gave just the right jolt to make the grey walls, the condescending draftsmen, the endless sitting, the young guy from the West Coast that was supposed to know it all—it could make it all drift away “I’m going to get a Coke.” Jacob leered over, “You want one too, Greg?”
Gregory slowed from his brisk trot to a complete stop. His face looked ruddy and healthy—his eyes: blue, clear, bright—almost fierce. “Pop?” he asked.
Jacob squinted. “What?” He shook his head. “No. I said, Coke. You know…like a soda?”
“Oh,” Gregory looked to his left, “He does mean pop then; doesn’t he?” He glanced back to Jacob. “Well it’s just…wait…nevermind. No thank-you, this time.”
Jacob slumped. “So you don’t want one then?”
“No. Uh, thank you though.”
“Wait,” he said. “What were you almost about to say?”
Gregory hesitated. “It’s just that. Well…you probably already know that they put high fructose corn syrup in pop and a lot of the ingredients are GMOs anyways and that’s not good.”
“Genetically modified organisms. Like the corn they make the syrup from…it’s genetically modified—like gulping down a twenty-ounce question mark in terms of your future health.”
“I was just offering something to drink, Greg.” He took a step closer to the treadmill desk and looked up. “You thought I was going to get upset over that.” He stared up at him.
Gregory leaned back and slit his eyes. “No. Well, I really don’t know sometimes what will offend a person.”
Jacob stepped forward and swatted the side rail of the treadmill desk. “Relax, Greg. You’re in Georgia now. We’re not so uptight about everything over here. You’re going to have to get used to that. Okay.”
“Yeah, sure. No problem. No problem, man.”
Jacob raised his hands in a containment motion. “Now: I’m going to go get myself a Coke, if that’s okay. Is that okay?”
Gregory’s knees buckled as the belt slipped and he caught himself on the side rail. “Yeah. Sure. It’s okay. Of course.”
“Okay. Because I just wanted to make sure I had your permission. Do I have your permission…Greg?”
He back-swiped at Gregory and trudged out. It was a short walk to the vending machine and he had heard everything that Gregory had said about soda before. But the way the guy said it was like the dude was bringing stone tablets down from the mountain. He smacked some quarters into the machine in the break room and got a twelve-ounce can instead.
Over by the sink, Ed Bickler said to Birch: “I don’t know what it is about this job, I’ve gained like twenty pounds since I started in February.”
“Yeah,” Birch agreed. “Ever since they gave us those nine hour shifts, Monday through Thursday, all I do is work-out when I go home. I don’t want to get my name added to the injured list. People are dropping like flies from sitting all day in these cheap-ass chairs.”
“And you know why we really get to work those nine hour shifts?” Ed Bickler asked.
“Why’s that, Ed?” Jacob walked over and asked them. He popped the top on his Coke.
Ed Bickler looked around the corner, “We work the nine hour shifts so it’ll be easier to extend the four hour shift on Friday when there’s overtime. And they know that there’ll be overtime. But the main reason we do it is because it came down from the CEO that that’s the way he wanted it so he could fly in and out of town on his corporate jet each weekend. And nobodies watching him to see if he works those nine hours during the week anyways. That’s why this place is so rundown and we got these worn down, 1980’s chairs and shit stains on the carpet near the bathrooms and too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer and leaking ceilings and we never get a decent raise or bonus. The company’s already blown all its money on the executives. Think about it: a ninety-person company, tithing to a big national conglomerate, changing hands four times in fifteen years and we’ve got three vice-presidents, a CEO and four directors—twenty project managers and supervisors? And how many engineers we got? I mean on a good year. Four? Maybe we got four. It don’t make no sense. The only way to get ahead is to do like that new guy, Gregory, did. He looked at the place from the outside and said, uh-uhh, bullshit, dude. This is what it’s gonna take to get me to work here. And they met his demands. Because they were scared—scared they couldn’t get somebody from outside the area to come work here when we really needed extra help.”
“It’s not as simple as that,” Jacob corrected. “You gotta pay your dues in life. That’s the important thing.” And he took a confident slurp of Coke.
“That’s true,” the other two agreed to themselves in their own time.
The next day, the drive into work took almost two hours. It was getting close to the summer tourist season and the idiocy and unnecessary breaking before the tunnel were reaching their apex. As Jacob stepped out of his Civic, his back cracked. “Ah!” he staggered for a couple steps and rubbed his lower vertebrae. His lats spasmed with each step but he wasn’t going to let it get the best of him.
Inside the cube, Gregory stripped off a merino v-neck to a turquoise polo shirt and barked into an iPhone as he jogged and highlighted drawings with his right hand: “Sure,” he yelled through bounding strides. “Opps, sorry,” Gregory exchanged glances with his manager, Willie, over the cubicle wall as Willie got something off the printer and Jacob walked passed. “I mean, sure,” he continued softer. “Friday, after work, at five-thirty sounds fine. I don’t know anyone at my apartment yet but I could come. Should I bring wine or something?”
Jacob set down his McDonalds.
“That stuff smells good,” Gregory said, slowing his jog to a stroll. “But you know I can’t eat it. You know, I think I’ve lost like six pounds since I started using this thing. Gonna get the ole’ college eight-pack back before summer. I might spray tan. You ever tried that, Jacob?”
“Will you shut up?” someone screeched from behind a cube wall on the right.
“Thank you,” Jacob said, exasperatingly.
“Jeez,” Gregory said. “You guys sure value you’re silence inside this cave of an office. You could hear a pin drop in this place. Not like in San Diego.”
“Well, you’re not in San Diego anymore, Greg.”
“Don’t I know it,” he picked up speed as his sneakers pounded out a soft drumbeat.
Unfortunately, the execs had had Pandora blocked and Jacob kept forgetting to bring in CDs to drown him out.
“You know, I think this thing is increasing my productivity. I feel my mind is so much more…active. I’m starting to run out of work to do—”
“Suck my dick,” Jacob mumbled.
Gregory skidded to a stop. “What?”
“That’s not what I’m into, Jacob.” He started trotting along again. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I have a lot of gay friends. But, me…well, just last week I met this nice college senior with these great, big firm,” he wiped sweat from his brow and flipped to the next drawing, “ideas about our future. Big, firm ideas about our future.” He chuckled at himself.
“I’m going to go get a Coke.”
“But you’ve got pop from McDonald’s right there on your desk.”
“I’m going to go get another one,” he leered as he slipped through cubicle dividers.
“You know I warned you about that stuff,” Gregory said.
“Shut up!” the hidden voice from the right screeched.
“Sorry,” Gregory said. “I forgot: library. Got to remember: be cool, be cool at the library.”
Jacob was actually on his third Coke that day when Gregory and everyone else finally left. He paced his cube in circles: “That’s not what I’m into, actually. GMOs.” He looked around at the cubes. “And nobody even likes the guy.” He took a gulp of his twenty-ouncer. “Mmmm—sweet.” He looked over to the slick surface of the treadmill desk’s belt, dipped a finger into the big-mouthed bottle and tapped his wet finger and thumbs. “What if?” he asked himself. He sloshed the fizzing liquid all over the treadmill desk’s belt. When he was ready to leave and had shut down his computer, he touched the belt to see if it had dried. It had. It was sticky but slick, not too brown to be noticed right away but he turned the belt over so the sticky mess was on the bottom before leaving for the night.
* * * *
The ambulance spun red and blue lights right in front of their office parking lot with Jacob’s arrival at around 10:30 the next morning. “No way!” Jacob blurted as he parked. “Oh shit!” he hollered as he tried to stand up straight after being stuck in that civic for over two hours. His back spasmed as he fell over the trunk of his car. “I guess I deserve this,” he said. “Why would I sabotage somebody?” As he made his way towards the entrance, he met Gregory being wheeled into the Ambulance. “Gregory!” he said. The kid’s mouth was all bloody—full of gauze. His front teeth had been knocked out, his face ashen and blood all over his pinstriped, salmon shirt. “Are you all right? Are you all right, Gregory?”
Through the blood and the pain and the gauze a smile peaked out and he raised an ashen thumb high as they lifted him into the back of the ambulance.
Jacob held the clenching muscles in his back and hated the guy for being so likable all of the sudden. “Where did that come from?” he asked. The world seemed a little bigger. He threw his McDonald’s in the trashcan on the way inside.
The kid came back on a Monday after two days off. He wore some bizarrely-wrinkled khakis and a bleached-stained, dark-blue shirt. His mouth was wired shut, full of gauze and, when he looked at Jacob, a sensation of staring into a cracked mirror struck out from the kid’s eyes. He was settling in as Jacob arrived at 10:00 and he took elaborate pains to crush his medications, funnel the powder into a water bottle and drink them through a straw. He wobbled across the cubicle to retrieve a bulky parts catalog and caught himself from falling in the middle of a stagger.
“You okay, Gregory?” Jacob asked.
Gregory looked up at him, questioningly, then gazed at the ceiling and walls. He looked at his treadmill desk with apprehension and touched the side rail tentatively before mounting it. He shuffled like an old man, clawing the left railing before flailing to his right. He turned on his computer and looked over to Jacob and nodded up and down as if agreeing with himself that he could do it before jerking into a discombobulated sprint. His steps veered to the left and he folded himself over the side rail and skidded back. Then, he did it again, hanging his waist over the right side rail.
“Gregory,” Jacob said. “Maybe you should just take it easy today. Huh, buddy? Gregory?” It was as if Gregory couldn’t hear him. “Gregory!”
“Shut up, dude,” somebody screeched from behind the right cubicle wall.
“Gregory!” Jacob cried out as Gregory folded himself over a side rail, again.
Gregory looked up at Jacob with fearful eyes and his defeated, wired jaw. He shook his head ‘no’ and stumbled and clenched his hands along the rails.
“Flint!” Jacob yelled. “Can you get over here?” Walter Flint and Jacob pried Gregory off his treadmill desk and sat him in an empty task chair on the other side of the cubicle. Gregory shook his head ‘no’ and looked up with this cracked mirror eyes. “You’ve got to relax, Gregory,” Jacob said. “Here. You can sit right down at this desk and login.”
Later in the afternoon, it was apparent that Gregory was even having trouble using his mouse and spaceball. Even his pen. He held his pen backwards and then realized his mistake but became distracted by his mouse. He kept missing the mouse buttons and clicking the desk or the back of the mouse. “Haven’t you been sleeping? You should be home in bed,” Jacob told him. Gregory managed to write something on a post-it note: “Can’t. Probationary period. They’ll fire me.”
Jacob had never sabotaged anyone before. The secret weighed into him with hooks that felt like they could tear—like a program in the back of his head, always causing him to question himself, making the simplest tasks, like documenting a bending stress calculation on a PowerPoint slide—it made everything impossible.
The next day Jacob came in at 8:00 sharp and Gregory got in around 10:00. Jacob got himself a nice, neat haircut, some dress slacks and a cufflink shirt. The back flap of Gregory’s shirt was untucked and he shuffled his feet as he walked around the office. After lunch, Willie stopped by the cube to find Gregory slurping a shake through a straw.
“Gregory,” Willie said. “We’ve got some important things to discuss.”
“I can give you two some privacy,” Jacob offered.
“No,” Willie said. “Keep working the orbiting missile model. That’s the hottest priority.”
“Gregory,” Willie said. “Things aren’t working out, are they?”
A black, plastic case hung ominously from the manager’s hand.
Willie pulled up a seat and sat down. “I’ve got something in this case that’s going to fix both our problems.”
The maintenance men came into the cube and started dismantling his treadmill desk. Gregory upsprung but Willie shoved him into his seat with one hand. “Hold on there little buddy. You can’t use that resource no more. We’re allocating it to one of our analysts over in the cube to the right. She’s been complaining of back pain and this should be just the thing.”
“The one that keeps telling everyone to shut up?” Jacob asked, sarcastically.
Willie turned back. Jacob pretended to resume working for a moment. “Now,” Willie said. “We hired you on the assumption that you could help us push through this mountain of drawings so we can get the GE job out into the shop. And the GE job’s schedule has slipped too far to the right and we’re in danger of not only missing our milestone but sacrificing the relationship with the customer if we don’t deliver. Now, you should probably be at home resting but I guess you realize that you haven’t worked long enough to get short term disability.”
Gregory nodded slowly.
“And you’re hand eye coordination is just a little off to say the least. Probably on account of you not sleeping and taking all those drugs.”
Willie slapped the plastic case over his knees. “Well—like I said—this here’s gonna solve all our troubles.” He unlatched and opened it to reveal what looked like a black crown with wires bundled and gathered out the back. “It’s got a USB plug to go into your computer. What it does is—it monitors neurocortex brainwave…” he lost his thought and looked around in frustration. “Ahh, hell kid! I ain’t some scientist.” He slapped the open case over Gregory’s legs and stood. “There you go. Enjoy your brain helmet, kid.”
Willie stood and wheeled over Jacob’s shoulder at the model on his screen. “What’s that thing? A cockroach?”
“No,” Jacob replied.
The next day a crowd formed behind Gregory to watch as he tried out his plastic, computer-tethered crown. They Oooo-ed as he scrunched his brow, calibrating the curser, moving it over the screen and finally double clicking icons at will. By 11:30 he was typing emails with no hands: twenty words a minute, forty words a minute, eighty words a minute, letters flashed across like lightning bolts and zipped through the wiring to alert the appropriate internal and external personnel: this part is out of spec, this vendor is noncompliant, this assembly doesn’t have the right name designation, this material is too long lead and volatile for the test cells in Cincinnati.
But the crowd eventually bored. When Jacob stood over his shoulder and watched the white cursor flick about the screen, watched the windows flash up, resize and rearrange, he felt more in the presence of a new fax machine or printer than a person.
“I’m getting my nails done at that cute spa on Fifth,” the analyst said as her running shoes beat over the tread in the next cube. “Mitch thinks we can’t afford it, but I can’t afford all his Texas Hold’em excursions, ya know? Ya know, I think I’ve lost ten pounds on this thing, already. Mitch will understand what we can and can’t afford a little more clearly once I help him finish those night classes we’ve been putting off.” Feminine merriment filled the air. “You know how they have all those charities where you’re supposed to save the tops of your yogurts—?”
Gregory unplugged the back of his brain helmet and left it on absentmindedly as he got up and stumbled over to the next cubicle to stare at the jogging analyst. She noticed him eventually and ushered him back to his seat and plugged him back in.
The next day, Gregory convinced Matt to climb up on his desk and unscrew the fluorescent lights to reduce the screen glare and help provide a more meditative atmosphere. The day after that, he turned off the monitor and somehow continued working. He explained in some sloppy scrawl that his brain had acclimated to understand the data exchange without being bothered by the screen. As he got more into his work, he started slumping forward. A couple days later he decided to remove his chair and sit in the lotus position to remedy the posture issue and also to help regulate the flow of energies through his body. Flint put a potted plant in his lap for a whole day and most of the office workers were pretty weirded out. Next, he decided to lie on his back in a position he’d learned from yoga called the corpse. That didn’t last too long before Willie came by and explained, “Gregory…hey, Gregory. We need to move you and your stuff into the empty room that we used to use as a coat closet. It’s just temporary. We got a tour for all the big Aerospace suppliers coming through and we need to make the right impressions. The guys from maintenance will help you get all settled in and cozy.”
“My wife said we ain’t supposed to eat chicken no more,” Jacob heard Ed Bickler say to Birch in the hallway just on the other side of his cube. “She said because they keep them chickens cooped up in tiny cages and they can’t stand up, that that’s cruel and we can’t eat’em and I says to her, I says, Honey, ‘Why is it that them chicken should get treated any better than me?”
“Yes sir,” Birch said.
“Everything’s getting maximized nowadays: fat chickens, fat turkeys, fat steer, fat people. Once you get maximized, you bet’ not move. You better sit in one spot and produce!”
“And you know the reason they’re gonna have that tour? It ain’t CEOs from the different aerospace suppliers. It’s a consulting team. They’re moving Gregory so they can show those guys what the office is normally like without him. This company doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going.”
“I’m getting better at squash,” the analyst hollered out from behind the right cube wall, “But squash isn’t the same as racket ball. And racket ball isn’t the same as badminton. They each have their own little idiosyncrasies. Isn’t that interesting? Don’t you think—how there can be like all these different kinds of sports and each one can be just a little different and still be called a different thing? I think it’s interesting.”
It was a week later when Blake rushed into Jacob’s cubicle and said, “I think somebody’s messing with me. I just got an email from somebody named Gregory. Say’s he works here and that I used the wrong positional tolerance for the end of the stub shaft.”
Jacob turned around. “That’s Gregory Hatter. He started in March, remember?”
Blake’s eyes got bigger and he smiled. “Oh yeah! That engineer we keep in the coat closet!”
“He’s not in there permanent,” Jacob said. “Just until his jaw heals.”
“Well, what if he don’t wanta come out?”
“What?” Jacob asked. “What did you just say?”
“What if he’s inside that machine too deep? What if he don’t want to come out of his hole once his jaw gets better? What if he likes wearing that thing now? Are you gonna tell him he has to come out here and keep you company. Hell, you didn’t like him much anyways.” Blake laughed.
“He’ll come out,” Jacob said. “He has to come out.” He got up and went into the coat closet.
Gregory lay on his back like a dead body with that thing on his head. “Gregory,” Jacob said. “Gregory,” he yelled his name again, but the guy wouldn’t stir. “I killed him,” he said to himself.
That night in his bed, Jacob saw Gregory’s face in his dreams, seeing those pained eyes from the first day he came into work with his wired jaw, those eyes that screamed out because the mouth wouldn’t work—a look of fear and rage and panic like he’d hired a carpenter and then cut off the guy’s hands in the middle of hammering. Jacob leapt out of bed and searched the cabinets for whiskey. There wasn’t any.
He got in around 10:30. As he passed the front desk, the analyst met him on her way out, carrying a banker’s box of her textbooks and desk organizers with her lipstick smeared over her cheek on one side and her face pink. A security guard edged up behind her impatiently.
He cardswiped his way inside. Just through the doorway, the maintenance guys bookended a pallet jack loaded with neatly stacked, shrink-wrapped boxes. The short one looked up from his clipboard. “We brought you guys a surprise.”
Jacob bent down to pick up a box but Walter Flint snatched it up first. “Not so fast!” Walter said. “I got seniority!”
“Seniority for what?” Jacob asked as a ravenousness pack of office workers clamored around the boxes, tearing off shrink wrap and cardboard.
“The future!” Walter said with beaming eyes.
“That’s it!” Jacob declared and he stormed toward Willie’s office. Inside, he found Willie huffing along on the reallocated treadmill desk, talking on a Bluetooth headset.
“I’m on a call,” Willie said.
“So you finally got it figured out,” Jacob said. “Management gets the treadmill desks and the office grunts get the brain helmets.”
“It’s not that we have a problem with those protocols,” Willie told his Bluetooth. “The databases aren’t syncing.”
“I want treadmill desks for all of us. I won’t sit motionless in my cube like a potted plant all day.”
“I’ll call you back.” Willie smiled as he walked on his reallocated treadmill. “This decision’s already been finalized.”
“Well, unfinalize it! What happened to Gregory was wrong.”
Willie gave a conspiratorial look. “Yeah, sure was a strange accident, huh? You’re always welcome to work someplace else,” he said. “Oh—” he smiled. “That’s right, there’s that pesky economy to worry about.”
Jacob walked over and tapped his fingers on the oak of his boss’es abandoned desk. “Guess, I should go back to my desk and wear my helmet and behave. But what if we do all decide to wear those helmets? We’ll all be lying down in the dark and comatose like Gregory.” Jacob met eyes with his manager. “How many managers you think they’ll need to take care of a bunch of office plants? Sure would be profitable to find a way to lose a few managers.”
Willie’s eyes widened. He skidded to a stop, got off the treadmill and picked up his office phone. “Bob? Yeah, Bob. I been talking with Jacob over here in Engineering. I think we gotta think this through first.”