Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet (Web-Novel) – Episode Two


Did you miss the first episode?  Link to Episode One

Episode Two

A long time ago, when I first started at TMG, I slipped a paragraph into a piece on the government cover up of toxic waste dumping. I wrote about the trust between a government and its subjects; about how the damage to the environment, severe as it was, was only a first step in a greater decay and corruption of trusted officials who allowed such things to occur on their watch.

It was a heavy-handed soap-box piece to be sure, but it was better than anything I had read while researching for the Trusted Authority. The editor didn’t agree. He said that if I wanted to get published, I should write a letter to the editor just like the rest of the public. Maybe they would print a sentence or two in the ‘Feedback From Readers’ section on page 16. He reminded me that my ‘function’ was to research what was written, not to have any original thought.

I didn’t make Star Researcher of the month that time.

Having clapped for the appropriately required length of time, everyone stopped and Snavely moved on.

“One final note, this month’s POMO theme will be Cross Team Synergy, and some of you will receive an e-mail later today assigning mentoring duty to a new or recently hired employee. This will build on our existing New Team Member Orientation as well as extend it to members of other departments. All the details are in this week’s memo. Any questions?”

Shane smiled in blissful agreement but didn’t say anything. Everyone in the room collectively breathed a sigh of relief.

“Ok, then. Meeting adjourned. Let’s make things happen!” Mr. Snavely always said this at the close of his Monday morning staff meeting. He thought it was upbeat and motivational.

New Team Member Orientation. It’s a rotational task; I have to help some new guy learn the ropes. Here’s the phone, here’s the fax, bathrooms are over here, smoking area is out here; that kind of thing. As if I didn’t have enough to do already, now I had to baby-sit some green recruit; probably an intern just out of school.

I checked in the small mirror in my cubicle to make sure nothing was hanging out of my nose or that my hair was not going in fourteen directions at once. I was OK, I thought.

At first look, you would probably think I was about 30 years old, but people have told me there is something about me that seems older than that. It could be the look in my eyes, or maybe the set of my jaw. Once, a girlfriend said I was like a paperback book that has been read too many times. The pages are dog-eared and the spine is broken so that it doesn’t close properly, but the cover is still glossy. I don’t think it was a compliment.

I glanced down at my watch which read 10:11 in block numbers. Better hurry, HR hates it if you’re late. I hurried from my cubicle and headed downstairs.

There is a row of chairs lining the wall just outside the HR offices. New recruits usually sit there, wide-eyed and fidgeting after filling out reams of first-day paperwork. As I rounded the corner, I expected to see the new kid occupying one of the uncomfortable seats. Instead there was a pretty girl about my own age sitting in the last seat, farthest from the door. I turned and entered HR.

The first cube inside the HR area belonged to Beverly; no one dare call her Bev. She was thin with graying hair and very large glasses. She had been with the company as long as anyone could remember, having laid claim to the HR throne simply by outlasting any rivals. She now presided over her dominion with a strict and authoritative rule.

“You’re late. New Team Member Orientation begins at 10:15,” said Beverly, even before I had approached her cubicle.

“It’s only 10:16,” I said, checking my watch.

“10:16 is not 10:15 now is it?” Beverly said, looking over the rims of her glasses.

I moved on, asking, “Where is the new guy?”

“Tanner Orb. She… is waiting in the hall for you,” said Beverly, her finger gesturing in a lazy pointing motion toward the door as she turned her attention to her computer and more important tasks.

I stuck my head out the door and looked down the row of chairs. There was still just the one woman sitting at the end of the row. The rest of my body followed my head as I stepped into the hall.

“Are you Tanner Orb?” I asked.

“That’s me!” she said, rising from the seat and extending her hand. Shaking it, I couldn’t help noticing how soft it was.

“I’m Tanner Orb. I guess you’re the guy who got stuck with showing me around. Sorry about that.”

“No trouble at all,” I lied. “Robert Bokes, but everyone calls me Bobby. I’m pleased to meet you, Tanner. Follow me.”

I tried not to be too obvious as I sized her up. I guessed she was in her late 20’s, early 30’s. Her brunette hair hung straight and simple around her round face. Not too much makeup. No doubt, she had fussed over this for an hour to make it look like she didn’t try too hard. She wore a blue blouse and skirt. It was tasteful business attire and accentuated her figure nicely. No wedding ring or engagement ring.

Tanner picked up an open box and followed me. Out of the top of the box, a Galilean Thermometer stuck up, along with a couple of rolled up posters. Stuff shifted around as she walked. I punched the up button on the elevator and the doors open almost immediately.

“So what did you do before you came to TMG?” I asked, looking down at the HR paperwork. It’s the right kind of thing to ask, but I didn’t really care.

“I was a part owner of a company. We located and authenticated rare books from around the world. Then we would make them available for purchase over the internet. Maybe you heard of it?”

I hadn’t heard of it and I shook my head.

A look came over Tanner’s face that was almost wistful and her brown eyes seemed to brighten. “It doesn’t exist anymore but we were pretty well known in some circles. I managed the whole thing, from finding the books to maintaining the web site.”

I was suddenly interested, remembering my still disconnected monitor. “Yeah? Do you know anything about computers?”

“I was pretty hands-on with everything. I had to keep the servers up and running, but that wasn’t my primary job. I mean, I mainly collected and researched the books; where they came from, who authored them, where they had traveled. You’d be surprised, a good book can have a more interesting life than a lot of people.”

As Tanner spoke, I smiled and nodded, but I think she could tell that I wasn’t really interested in the details. The elevator doors open and I said, “Let me show you where I sit.”

Tanner followed through the maze of cubicles until we reached my seat. Cubicles. They are like bathroom stalls with lower walls, no doors and less dignity.

“You think you could help me out with this?” I asked, pointing to the new computer, still not hooked up.

“Sure, you just need it hooked up?” She attached various cables here and there. “You’re good to go.”

Alive! It’s Alive! I jumped into the chair in front of the computer and said, “Thanks a lot,” as I typed in my password and logged on. Then while the machine was loading the desktop, I looked at the sheet Beverly had given me. “Looks like you’ll be sitting around the corner. Just go down that way and take the first right. You’ll be somewhere on that row, the cube should have your name on it.”

I turned back to the screen and started scrolling through my e-mail.

“Ok, thanks.” She started off uncertainly, “This way, right?”

I nodded. She’ll find it.


Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet

©Copyright 2015, Mitch Lavender

Rubik’s Cube® used by permission of Rubiks Brand Ltd.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed this episode of our  web-novel.
Check back Sunday, March 8 for the next episode, and feel free to comment below.


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