Two weeks ago, we packed our bags and left the civilized world. We moved into an Office Max. One with trouble maintaining full lighting. Downtown.
Though it is the dead of winter, the hiss and heat of the scanners makes us warm and soothed in our deepest of arteries. We make love to the terrible rhythm of ink cartridges draining themselves useless. They are difficult to dispose of.
We assist many in disposing of these old cartridges. Right this way, please.
Everyone who patronizes this Office Max is a weird, scared horse. Recently, I had to talk down a woman about Swinglines. She was frantic and mad with administrative strivings. She was snapping a pearl-slick Swingline at my face, as if it were a portable shark or a closable jewelry case.
You escorted a businessman down aisles and aisles of filing cabinets, until he found the perfect one. He slowly opened a slightly open drawer to find our steel cut oats and a bit of honey inside. He was delighted.
“Does this come with the cabinet?!”
The smile on his face was dumb ash.
The employees assumed us as two of their own, from the very start. You’ve been promoted once already, and I’ve been privately encouraged by the regional manager, over cheese whiz and crackers and a nip or two of brandy in the break room. It was either this, or a tiny house. We made the correct choice.
We went to a party. It was at Marv’s place. Marv is a real sort of fellow, a no bullshit type of bullshitter. Marv shows office furniture, in the office furniture showroom. He has no belief in God. At Marv’s party, there was a warm handle of vodka and some Dixie Cups on a fold-up table in the very center of his studio. He wore a hat, though it wasn’t flattering. This is just further proof of Marv’s hard sort of kookiness.
At the end of the party, Marv’s cousin, Minnie, got off on her many offers to drive people home. Minnie has strong beliefs in God. Minnie does not drink warm vodka or any type of spirited liquid at all. She turned to me and to you, simultaneously.
“Y’all hop in the car, now! What’s your address?”
“Oh.” I say.
“No.” You say.
“No Thank you, Minnie.” We say, in unison.
We must keep up our appearances. This means forsaking the do-goodery of our work colleague’s disciplined yet hospitable family member.
It is 2 am. The busses stop at 1.
We walk the sixty-two blocks back home. To Office Max.
Today, there is a large online promotion. Though it only exists in virtual means, there will be promotional wants and needs bleeding into the store in the near future. Our website crashes. Our computer support team is us. We sweat at the brow and curse at the lips as we re-platform our site and E-blast apology all about the wide, wide world of the web.
Tomorrow, you will grind your jaw. Your temples will pop. You will move about the floor like an accountant. I will try to calm you with some chamomile tea and some Lisa Frank schoolgirl folders, but it will have no effect. The promotion has ended in the virtual world, and only just begun in ours.
A young couple expecting a baby buy stacks of cashboxes and two 20 oz Mountain Dews from the cooler kept at the tills. They pay in rolls of quarters.
You say, “But what will you put in the boxes?” And they look ashamed, as they scuffle out the automatic doors.
An entire office comes in for paper, and then we have no more paper. Did anyone order more paper? No. It was never expected that people would have a continued interest in this item, once we ran out from our original, impressively large, amount.
A very tall person comes in to use the print services, but only scans their ass cheeks for hours and hours. We are powerless.
Before we bed in a crib made of office chairs bungeed together, you write down on your scratch pad, “paper—of course”.
Our profit margin isn’t so grand.
But our hearth, our home, is warm with harsh fluorescents.
Kate Jayroe is an editor at Portland Review, works at Powell’s Books, and serves on staff with Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Other work by Kate can be found in Hobart, NANO Fiction, Word Riot, and elsewhere.