|I slowly make my way down the hall.
I walk softly, but I'm certainly not sneaking. Sneaking connotes some form of wrong-doing or guilt. I certainly do not have to sneak. It's my duty to ensure that the underlings are performing.
I note the rooms which are still lit up. I pay special attention to the rooms which are still lit up without an occupant. Some of the smarter associates, the survivors, have come to realise that I like making my rounds at about 10pm or so every night. The brighter ones, the winners, have come to realise that I like seeing them there.
For some reason, the survivors think that a switched-on lamp and the old coat/handbag on the chair will evince a clear intention to work really late but-oh-I've-just-stepped-out-to-dinner/toilet/smoke-but-I'm-definitely-still-working-cause-I-left-my-light-on-and-my-personal-belongings-are-still-here.
I usually assign these associates to years of unimportant, time-flexible work like due diligence. I also enjoy writing letters congratulating their coats/handbags on the late hours worked and awarding their said coats/handbags a suitable bonus. Only one ex-associate has ever attempted to collect the money.
Once I may have casually mentioned my night-time prowling habits to Ted.
Ted's office now sports a fancy light switch timer, which I enjoy tweaking. It helps ensure that the urban legend of the 'haunted office' continues to circulate among the first-years.
I hear that some have started hallucinating headless alate figures dancing in Ted's room late at night. I have noticed Ted's nasty habit of leaving his half-eaten lunches in his office. Disgusting given how the cleaners only really deal with it the next day. It's especially bad when Ted has bananas and the fruit flies celebrate.
Look at Ted's desk. Office in clear disarray - remains of a cheeseburger in the trash, lights on (of course), papers all over. Mess to me is a sign of lethargy and an undependable personality. I'm not a captious or difficult person, but a hard worker should be a neat worker. Like Diana. Although I do have to speculate a bit here. Diana has somehow figured how to keep her room door locked when she's out. I need a skeleton key.
I read the first few paragraphs of Ted's opening submissions for some arbitration case he's on. Turgid prose. A devout, boring adherence to case law. Like it matters. It was obvious that Ted's submissions were a bricolage of genius ideas which he had simply regurgitated without further thought.
I should know, these were my genius ideas in past cases. While Ted's mimetic tendencies were flattering, it was done with the intelligence of a butterfly. I am inspired to draw one on his paper. It won't ruin his work or anything like that since he already had 5 spelling errors on the first page. Not that I'm being persnickety or anything. I also decide to take his pen.
I bump into Diana on my way out of Ted's office. I hurriedly slip the pen into my pants pocket. Not because I was guilty or anything like that. As equity partner, technically all pens in the office belonged to me. Well 1.11% of all pens. One shouldn't forget the other equity partners.
"Hey Diana. Heading back to the office?"
"Just packing. Clearing out my office was more work than I expected."
I felt a flash of panic. If Diana was leaving for a rival firm, I might have mutiny on my hands. She was popular enough to have the sheep move en masse with her. On the other hand, she was a woman...
"You're leaving the field? Why wasn't I told? I never really pegged you for someone who would settle down with a fella and be all desperate housewife-like."
I received a piercing look. "First of all, Boss, that sentence is insulting in the ears of any woman. Second, I have a girlfriend, not a 'fella'. and lastly," she touched my arm, her gaze softening. I must admit I felt my heart race a little. She had that uber-female office-warrior look going for her. I braced myself for a declaration of love.
"Boss, I know you didn't attend the last Board meeting, but I'm sure I personally gave you the last internal memo from the Board. You do remember that don't you?" She patted my arm and continued.
"It'll only be officially announced next week, but I'm suppose to take over the alt disputes resolution department from tomorrow."
"But I'm in charge!" I paused. "And you're not equity!".
"Boss... I don't know what to say. It was a tough Board meeting. We managed to retain your place in the firm, but Bobby, Fred and I didn't have enough clout to... it doesn't matter. I'm... I'm equity now, and you are still too, but as a... Consultant. An ad-hoc Consultant."
I knew what that meant. They had retired me. The bastards. A pension, a fancy title and an excuse to work from home indefinitely.
"But why?" I was whining slightly now.
Now Diana won't look me in the eye. "Look, we tried, but... you wander around the office late at night, switching on and off lights. People talk. Richard also told the Board that you keep wandering into the wrong offices, like you couldn't remember your way back you know?"
"The moron stopped short of saying you drool into your food, but you get the idea. It got really bad when he brought up the fact that you couldn't remember names, not even Fred's and he's worked with you for years. Fred tried to explain that he liked being called Ted, but Richard had already made his point."
She stared into Ted's office. "I think it got really, really bad when Richard started passing around the papers you had shredded. Like the last few Board memos. They didn't like that. He also got his hands on some of the papers which you doodled on... along with the promotion letters that you had addressed to... to the associates' personal belongings."
I blanched. I tried to fire off all my explanations at once but found myself choking. Diana slowly led me off to the elevators. "Look, I'm sorry, I know it's hard. Here, I'll drive you home. I spoke with Elizabeth and she agreed to take you in for a while even though the divorce hasn't been finalized... just until..."
Words used for the contest
Evince, Alate, Captious, Lethargy, Bricolage, Turgid, Devout, Mimetic, Persnickety, En Masse