01 July 2005


He sat at his desk and stared blankly at the pile of forms. After a few minutes, he grabbed the form on top, ensured it had the correct number of stamps, and applied his own before placing the form on the next desk, which was, for the moment, unoccupied. The job was a useless, thankless, poorly paying task which he reveled in not doing very well. He hadn't the authority to approve of the forms or their contents. His job was to put his stamp on the forms, so that someone else could stamp another form in another office. He had swapped his stamp with that of the occupant of the empty desk a few weeks earlier, in a feeble attempt at an office prank, and as of yet, nobody had noticed, so he kept stamping.
Each time the colleague who stamped the forms prior to him dropped off another pile, he avoided recognition by looking at the empty desk. The forms waiting to be stamped, some rather desperately, had not been neatly stacked by the occupant of the occupied desk, and were sliding over themselves in an attempt to reach the floor. So he looked at the floor.
He couldn't see any forms on the floor near the unoccupied desk. The stained red carpeting seemed too relaxed for a life of paperwork. He tried, without success, to remember if anything had ever been spilled or placed on the carpet that could have stained it. He pondered the possibility of pre-stained carpeting for a minute before stamping the next form, and placing it gently upon the unstable pile.
He had finished off his original stack and started on the next when tar came to mind. The carpet appeared to have had tar dripped on it, as if road crews had been working on the floor during his lunch breaks. He pondered the feasibility of pre-tarred carpeting, and considered the relative market shares of pre-tarred and tar-free carpeting in the workplace. He chuckled quietly at the thought of low-tar or filtered carpeting, then looked around the office to see if anybody else might know about his private joke.
The others in the office seemed even less aware of the carpeting than they were of the forms they were stamping. He continued to look around until someone almost made eye contact with him, then averted his gaze back to the unoccupied desk. He wondered where the occupant of the unoccupied desk was, eyes flitting from potted plant to family photograph, until apathy got the better of him and he returned to his forms.
When his lunch break came, he descended to the lobby, and stared blankly out of the windows at the beautiful day the building sealed him from. It seemed as if the whole outdoors was filled with people far more interested in jogging than in getting their forms stamped correctly. He knew, deep in the back of his mind, that it was not the whole world. It was the office complex on the other side of the courtyard. The office complex where all the forms came from, and which decreed that his office had no authority to do anything other than stamp the forms in the pre-designated boxes. His suspicion that they never check the forms for stamps was strengthened by the knowledge that, for two years, he had not been stamping in his designated area, but stamping the previous address boxes into incomprehensibility.
Although the people of the office complex across the courtyard had the power, he was smarter than they were. He knew of their schemes, while they remained willfully ignorant of his. They were his enemy, and from the lobby, he could gaze upon the unsuspecting foe. That is why he always came back to the lobby, to watch the courtyard activities, and determine if the receptionist temp was cuter than yesterday's.
He needed the right moment to look at her. An awkward silence usually sufficed, but not today. Being the only person besides the receptionist in the rather spacious lobby was awkward, but this receptionist was talking. He had no idea with whom, but was pretty sure it wasn't business, as the conversation was frequently punctuated with "Just a moment. How may I direct your call? Please hold." He stared out the window at the small animals scurrying from the joggers, waiting.
After a few minutes, he was convinced that the conversation was neither going to end, nor drift to a subject even remotely appropriate for an office, so he left through the doors. The doors themselves were light, being glass and a few bits of metal, but they moved as though they were brick. As they swung themselves shut, the small metal bits clanged as if much larger, and several passers-by looked his direction. Not wanting their attention, he ducked his head and tried to vanish into the crowd that wasn't there.
He went to a local shop and bought himself a small lunch, returning to the courtyard benches to eat it. He ate it swiftly, tossing the hubris to the wildlife. They continued to scurry around the joggers, occasionally stopping to nip at the leftovers. Several of the smaller furry ones hid under him as though he were inanimate, but never for more than a handful of seconds. He leaned back on the bench, pondered managerial plots involving industrial strength doors, and fell asleep.
He was dreaming as he slept. Dreams of thwarting managerial plots and being rewarded to buy his silence. Dreams of running away to a paradise with the temp who smiled at him last spring. Dreams of working on an anti-managerial task force, becoming famous amongst the anonymous office clerks. Dreams of being chased by a large insect with the same bad taste in clothing as the person who leaves forms on his desk.
He didn't feel well when he awoke. He was sore, cold, and very tired. A quick check revealed that his clothing was torn, he wasn't in the courtyard anymore, and it was nighttime. He was laying, now sitting, on a stone table outside of a small restaurant. It's windows were missing, and the lights were off. If it wasn't for the small fire near entrance, he wouldn't have seen even that. He moved off the table and went inside to warm himself by the fire.

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