Thursday, October 02, 2008


Here's an excerpt for a novel I was writing. It had to be abandoned owing to the fact that no plot was cohering.

Towards Corporate Fecundity and the Rapture of the Final Quarter’s Growth

The bird squawked again. Owens couldn’t see it. He hadn’t seen it since the day they brought it in.

“It’s to enhance realness” they’d said.

“Oh, the bugs make it plenty real.” Owens had said. They mistook it for a quip, the kind of workday back and forth common in the elevators and the breakrooms, so they laughed politely. The kind of laugh that reeks of insincerity on both sides. Obviously obligatory. Ignoring what he’d said, they’d released the bird. It was black, the feathers had the sheen of an oil spill, it paced around it its cage, and when freed, gave a celebratory squawk and flew away.

Some days the bird’s cackles were distant, some days they were so close Owens thought that if he looked up he would see the bird perched on top of his monitor, bending its head down to look at the rows of figures he’d been processing.

“What about the shit?” He’d asked in the monthly meeting to provide feedback on the Natural Workplace Environment Initiative, where the introduction of the bird and possibly other fauna was discussed.

“That’s a concern we’ve looked into.”

“So what are you going to do about it?” Gomez asked. “I don’t want to show up with bird poop all over my computer and work station.

Colvin and Collison echoed these concerns.

“Don’t worry. The bird has been trained to not defecate on any equipment.”

“How do you train a bird to not shit on things? Birds’ll shit wherever they want.” Gomez said.

Once again Colvin and Collison offered their agreement.

“Don’t worry about it.” The corporate ornithologist said. “Buster has received the most state of the art training available. I assure you that he won’t go doody where he’s not supposed to. Isn’t that right Buster?” He then gave the bird a treat. The bird crowed its approval.

True to what they’d said, the bird never shat on their equipment. The only sign that the bird was even in there with them were the tell tale feathers found atop the grass and the far off caws in the distance.

Routine folded in on itself. They forgot the bird was there. The feathers and crowing became just another part of the environment, the same as the desks and grey cubical walls and other corporate clutter. Others noticed immediately.

“What the fuck is that noise?” Strohmann asked as he entered the atrium.

“What noise?” Owens replied, genuinely perplexed.

“Don’t you hear that? It sounds like a fucking bird or something.”

“Oh yeah. It is a fucking bird.”

“In here?”



“You afraid of birds or something?”

“No. Who’s bird is it?”

“I don’t know really. I think we’re leasing it from this guy who trains animals for movies or something like that.”

“Huh, how about that.”

“His name’s Buster.”

“The animal trainer?”

“No, the bird.”

“Interesting, lets go.”

They exited the atrium, the door swung but didn’t close, and re-entered the traditional office, with all its resident tropes. Printers and machines whirring, buzzing. Owens didn’t particularly miss any of this. He didn’t miss the smell of burnt microwave popcorn that clung to the air like lovers reunited after a long separation. He didn’t miss the acrid chit-chat, the back and forth banter. Work was work all the same, whether in meadow or sterile office.

“You like working in there?” Strohmann asked as they walked down the halls.

“It’s alright.”

“You know what Monique said the other day?” He said, inclining his head conspiratorially.

“What’d Monique say the other day?” Owens replied.

“She said she didn’t think you guys where doing any work in there. That you just sat in there and pondered melancholy things. Like about the imperceptible gravity of life and recklessness with which we go through it. Is that what it’s like?”

“Not at all.” Owens answered. “I think, and the data will back me up on this, that there hasn’t really been a change in our productivity. For the better, or for the worse. It’s remained pretty constant.”

“Are they going to implement it company wide?”

“It would be incredibly expensive, and not really worth it.”


“I guess that’s all up to Shaeder. We’ve got to turn in a report at the end of next month.”

“A report on what?”

“The meadow thing, NWEI.”

“Oh right.”

“Did you know that originally he wanted to test various environments? Desert, rain forest, tundra. He wanted to see which one got the best response.”

“Who would want to work in a fucking tundra?”

“That’s what everyone said.” Owens replied. Strohmann laughed. They took the stairs. Their black leather shod footsteps echoing through the stairwell. Throughout his six years working here, Owens had seen Strohmann alternately as an adversary and as a comrade. They both had similar backgrounds and had both been hired at the same time, thus they had competed for the same promotions. Strohmann had desperately wanted to work in the meadow, had desperately wanted to be the first to toil in the vedant foliage. But he had lost out to Owens. So Owen believed that it was Strohmann, not Monique, who believed that no work was being undertaken there. Sometimes, while talking to Owens, Strohmann’s voice would coarsen with jealousy.

They didn’t speak as the walked up the stairs. They pondered separate minutiae. They thought nothings. They walked automatically. The route routine. The rote everydayness graying at its temples. Strohmann punctured the silence, deflating it like a balloon struck with a needle.

“I’m having an affair.”

“With anyone I know?”

“No. Her name’s Samantha.”

“I knew a Samantha once.”

“Which way of knowing.”

“All ways.”

“I don’t think this is her.”

“Does she have dark hair and alabaster skin.”

“No, she’s black.”

“I probably don’t know her.”

“I said you didn’t.”

“Does she work here?”


“Does Susan know?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Do you want her to know?”

“Of course not, she’d castrate me.”

“Then why did you tell me?”

“I didn’t think you’d tell Susan.”

“I’m not going to tell Susan.”

“She probably wouldn’t listen.”

“Why not?”

“She hates you.”

“Really, why?”

“She thinks you’re aloof.”

“Many women have mistaken brooding for aloofness.”

“Are you a brooder?”

“Sometimes more than others.” Owens opened the door to the third floor, holding it open for Strohmann, then stepping through himself.

“Well then, what’s the difference?”

“What difference?”

“The difference between brooding and aloofness.”

“Oh, right. I think brooding connotes a certain preoccupation with the world and its trials. A certain melancholic disposition wherein one thinks and feels things deeply. Perhaps on a deeper level than many, though there is a certain guilt towards feeling that way. Aloofness is detachment, a more self-aware kind of detachment than haughtiness. So you can see why brooding can often be mistaken for aloofness and vice versa.”

The third floor hallway was virtually identical to the other floors, minus the smell of burnt popcorn.

“Yes, I suppose. Were you brooding when you met Susan?”

“Possibly. I don’t really remember.”

“You know, she was in love with you.”

“Was she?”

“I think so.”

“What makes you think so?”

They stepped into the stairwell. This one faced the sun, was bright, like the vision of heaven one might have if that vision of heaven was a sterile stairwell.


“What kind of things? Does she say my name when you’re making love.”

“We don’t make love.”

“When you fuck.”

“We don’t do that either.”

“Is that why you’re having an affair?”

“I think she might be having an affair.”

“Anyone we know?”

Strohmann’s heel caught the edge of a stair; he tumbled forward, catching himself on the railing. His head hung over the abyss of the stairwell, the heads of people entering the lobby below.

“You okay?” Owens asked.

“Yeah fine. My shoe must’ve been untied.”

“No, you just tripped.”

They both looked down. Both of Strohmann’s shoes were tied fast. They continued descending the stairs.

“What were we talking about?” Strohmann asked.

“You were intimating that I might be having an affair with Susan.”

“Well, are you?”

“You said she hated me.”

“That could be a lie.”

“I’m not having an affair with Susan.”

“I’m not sure I believe you.”

“I haven’t seen Susan in years.”

“She’s grown out her hair.”

“I loved her with long hair.”

“Yeah.” Strohmann said wistfully.

“Does she still do that thing where she taps her teeth with her fingernail…”


“…when she’s trying to figure something out.”

Owens wanted to sigh, but wouldn’t in front Strohmann. They entered the ground floor.

“Promise me something.” Strohmann said as they reached the door to the NWEI.


“Promise me you won’t sleep with Susan.”

“I told you before, I always respected your fidelity.”


“I though she hated me.”

“Only when you’re aloof.”

“I could have been brooding.”

“Either way, promise me.”

“Ok, I promise. It doesn’t matter, I haven’t seen her in years.”

“I have to go.” Strohmann said, checking his watch.

“See you.”

“Good bye.

The door to the atrium was open. Owens went in and resumed his work.


Blogger BrendonHarper said...

man this is long!

10:45 AM  

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