I think it’s time I got a real job, I said to myself. I can still commune with dead saints, mountains, and trees in my free time.
So, I cast pallid, enfeebled, truncated (skeletal!), shrunken (emasculated!) summaries of my abilities and experience onto some streams of the Internet, and one of these washed up like the baby Moses on the shores of a company that, according to its website, did really important stuff without which the moral fiber of the country would fester and suppurate and the economies of nations would collapse in on themselves like massive, aging stars.
The company sent out agents to waterboard anyone who had ever had contact with me, extracted some of my precious body fluids for analysis, administered various personality tests, assigned me an Enneagram, and hired me anyway.
The last of twenty-six interviews for the job was with the executive vice president for investor obfuscation, who earned $950,000 per year, plus bonus and stock options, and, astonishingly, had voted for both Bushes and Trump, supported wars on general principle, feared dark-skinned people, and didn’t believe in global warming, the sixth great extinction, homosexual marriage, deferred action for childhood arrivals, estate taxes, or Medicare for All. What a surprise!
On my second day on the job, some nice fellows from the IT department came by, shaved a spot on top of my head, and swabbed it with an antiseptic, a supply of which they left on my credenza.
Thereafter, every morning, I would swab my shaved spot and apply the antiseptic. Then a tentacle would come out of the ceiling and embed itself into my brain and suck out my life force, leaving me just enough intelligence and spirit, at the end of the day, to sustain such necessary nonwork functions as showering and grooming, going to the bathroom, making dinner and breakfast, and, of course, taking the El to work.
A week in, I stopped by the office of my supervisor to ask about the claims by certain radical elements (reporters for The New York Times) that the plastic tubing produced by one of our subsidiaries for the avowed purpose of feeding premature babies was actually being used by cosmetics manufacturers to administer corrosive chemicals to the eyes of bunny rabbits. Showing up at her office without having first sent a meeting request turned out to be a breach of corporate etiquette–a faux pas–for I interrupted her in the process of eating her young.
She wasn’t happy but agreed not to have my flesh scraped from my bones with currycombs this time.
A month in, the company was purchased by an equity firm. Now that was thrilling! I rather liked seeing the new managers ride in with their shiny armor and crisp white livery and shields emblazoned with images of the true cross, for at least the octopi were inoperable while they swapped them out for succubi, which they considered more effective and reliable and better able to communicate with their parent CRM, EIS, HRM, MBMS, and so on down the alphabet.
There was a meeting. The new president had inherited ten zillion dollars from his grandfather, who, as it turned out, was a founding partner in the equity firm that had bought us! Funny how these coincidences occur! Such synchronicity! He brought to the job a lot of experience smoking hashish and playing the hang drum on the beach in Goa, India, and dancing in rave clubs in Ibiza with the other jet-setting sons and daughters of the leaders of the New Feudal Order, as well as two weeks’ experience as an intern at BOA Morgan Wells Fargo PNC Chase Merrill Citi Deutsche UBS Goldman Credit Suisse, the firm that resulted from the mergers that occurred during the financial crisis of 2023-24.
The new guy inspired confidence. He said, “You’ll like the succubi. When they liquefy your insides, it feels all warm and cozy.”
Two weeks later, however, we got the memo that all employees with over three years’ experience would be desiccated, ground into powder, and fed to new hires. Our president had read an article in the Sloan Management Review that reported on an experiment with flatworms (Platyhelminthes). Researchers had taught these cute but cannibalistic and cross-eyed worms to turn left in mazes by administering shocks if they turned right. Then, they ground up the worms and fed them to worms that had not been taught. The untaught worms turned left, which suggested that the learning of trained worms had been transferred to them. The president explained that feeding experienced employees to new hires was purely a financial decision, and one that he did not take lightly. A company exists, he admonished us, to return a profit to its stockholders, and as the chief officer of the company, he had a fiduciary responsibility to do that by whatever means might achieve that end, and obviously new hires were cheaper than vested workers, who tended to be fatter and require larger cubicles anyway.
As it happened, I was not to be there to witness all the desiccating and grinding of the workers first hand, for when the end of my probationary period came, my supervisor indicated on my review that I was having ideas and showing initiative, either one of which was grounds for dismissal as per section K-21-468-10, subparagraph 289a of the Employee Handbook and Cheery Motivational Guide.
In the days that followed, the color returned to my cheeks and I achieved reentry into non-corporate life much as Kore/Persephone did on her return from Hades, and for months thereafter, everything I encountered seemed finely articulated and luminous.
Art: Opera di circa 220mq realizzata a San Gavino Monreale col contributo dell’Associazione Culturale Skizzo. Zard [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Copyright 2009. Robert D. Shepherd. All rights reserved.
For more short stories by Bob Shepherd (and for essays about the reading and writing of fiction), go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/short-stories/