by O Bod
Nero is fired from a cutting-edge tech company... is stricken by wanderlust...Lupine Lady
Of All Places
Sometimes it's the Journey
In the beginning, Nero had a life like most others.
He'd get up in the morning, brush his teeth, do his stretching and push-ups, and then catch the train to work.
He'd arrive at the office around 8:30 but wouldn't actually start working until a good half-hour later, as he liked to sip his coffee in front of his computer screen as he went over the news headlines on the Internet, his e-mail and his schedule. Usually he had only one or two meetings a day as he was fairly low on the totem pole and was expected mostly to produce things with his keyboard and mouse, as opposed to interfacing with other people, as the managers seemed to do most of their time.
This suited Nero fine, as he never got that same sense of accomplishment from people as he did when he produced something. When some task was complete, concise, working, and elegant it really made his day. You know, the kind of satisfaction you get when you manage to clear out the sink and counter and put in all in the dishwasher and it exactly fits and you hit the ON button.
It was a good life, or comfortable one, at any rate.
But this day appeared to start off not too well.
His e-mail contained nothing but junk - nothing from his co-workers or boss, which he thought was odd.
When he clicked on his home page, there was one of those "Top 10" lists, this one entitled: 'Ten signs you're about to be fired".
Normally ignoring these, he clicked that link now, and sure enough, item number 1 read: 'You're not copied on mail or memos, and you're not invited to meetings.'
No sooner had he read that then he noticed a commotion outside, people walking hurriedly past the door to his office. His next-door neighbor poked his head in and inquired: "Aren't you coming to the meeting?"
"I guess I'm not invited."
Throughout the day more signs showed up.
Mid-morning he finally did receive a relevant e-mail, from the director bemoaning that the company is facing tough times - that was number 7 on the list.
At lunch he noticed that none of his group members sat next to him, and when he returned to his office he found somebody had removed the monitor he had installed the week before - sure enough, those were mentioned, too, and he checked off items number 3 and 5 on the list of signs he was going to get sacked.
He looked around his office, maybe for the last time.
It was more than the place where he worked. It was his second home. No, it was his first home, as he spent more waking hours here than at his real home, and he had set it up just like he liked it, without having to care what anyone else felt. He had 4 shelves of knick-knacks and memorabilia from his previous travels, homes and workplaces. He had posters from the 60s and from faraway places. He had a telescope set up near the window pointing out to sea. (He fancied himself an amateur astronomer, and he could already name a couple of constellations, including The Big Dipper, and Orion, with its famous red giant star Betelgeuse on the top of the hunter. He kept the number of the Astronomical Society on his phone, on the speed-dial list, just in case he'd be the first to witness Betelgeuse going super-nova, which it was bound to do, any day now, within the next 1000 years, just when he walked the dog in the evening ...).
He had a rug on top of the wall-to-wall carpeting. No interior-designer could classify this style, and nothing matched. His CD collection, which he played on the computer, included both classical music (especially Bach), and modern, but nothing past the 70s, except for African music, of which he bought whatever he could get his hands on
He had a pet of sorts, or a friend animal, in the form of a squirrel that would come knocking at his window around 4 o'clock every afternoon. Nero would feed it some cashews which he kept in a drawer just for that purpose.
Another 'pet' was one of those miniature Japanese Bonsai trees, which he kept on his desk and cared for lovingly, with an artsy Japanese poster scotch-taped to the wall behind it.
He had never been to Japan - always wanted to.
The world was just the right size - big enough to be constantly interesting, as nobody can visit and experience every corner of the globe in a lifetime, yet it is small enough that one could still visit most places.
Now maybe he'll have time to travel a bit.
All you need is a little money. And time, which he seemed to have plenty on hand now.
He could see the world, and maybe even understand it a little better...
Maybe these signs were all a coincidence, but he decided he was not going to wait it out and risk the humiliation. He needed a change of scene, anyway.
He composed a terse e-mail, putting only 'Cabbages and Kings' in the subject-line and nothing else, and sent it to all. It would appear instantly on everybody's screens. Then he grabbed his backpack and headed down the corridor to the door, but Eli stepped out of his office and blocked his way.
"I had no idea," he said, and proceeded to quote Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum's Walrus and Carpenter poem (actually Lewis Carroll's poem): "The time has come ..."
"See you around," Nero interrupted, shook his hand and headed out quickly, before anyone else overheard the phrase and came out to see who and what he was referring to (which is why he didn't put it in the mail to begin with). Should know better than to underestimate Eli ...
He'd return to clear out his desk later.
"Good luck!" Eli shouted after him.
The train station looked unfamiliar at this hour. None of the crowds he was accustomed to seeing at the end of the workday. He knew the evening schedule be heart, but at this hour he had to consult the wall.
He walked in a daze to platform 2, boarded the train, found a seat and in an instant he was asleep.