What lies below is a truncated version of a short story I wrote, depicting a real vision I had during a temp job at a bankcorp. It lasted a week, but I never knew how fearful a corporation can make you, dangling the hope of a permanent job, healthcare and a future in front of your maw like a rare steak to an anemic. My suprevisor called me into a meeting room a asked me if I was mentally disabled, because I just looked lost. I had a mild panic attack later and saw halos around people’s heads. Some were white and others were black. I’m sure it was a side effect of the panic attack. Had to be. They fired me a week later and my temp agency stopped calling. I had never been happier.
“Permanence Angels Won’t Smile On Me:”
There is ghost who that walks amongst the cubicles, this one casts a shadow. Soon, only the ghost will remain. Fragments of corporeal life would be found in the file drawer: a timesheet-unsigned, a Gators mug, a TopTemps Policies and Procedures manual. His name will be Ted, Ted the ghost temp. That’s what I changed my Outlook signature to.
On the morning of Casual Friday, Ron read from a Sword and Sorcery book during his break, gulping warm coffee from a Dr. Who mug, helpless as a lifeguard who can’t swim. He tries to look at me, but the quivering Termination Sight on my head is all he perceives. He’s also a temp, but the Unseen Supervisor likes him.
The rumors of my dismissal crossed departments like the stench of burnt microwave popcorn. I tacked motivational quotes from famous winners like Lincoln, Scott, Kathy Lee Gifford, and Donald Trump on every surface of my cubicle. These hopeless petitions to the Permanence Angel would bounce off the fiberglass tile ceilings.
My hope of going permanent – terminated.
I noticed the Termination Sight a week ago after I missed a meeting. I thought I got that memo. Nelma, my workflow coordinator intentionally didn’t give it to me. She told me many times I wasn’t a ‘producer.’
During afternoon break I went down to the cafe to get a latte. On the elevator, I noticed my reflection on the shiny metal doors which showed a very worried man, but there was something a little off. My brow was creased, but riding in a small crevice was a laser red, pea sized dot. I rubbed at it but it didn’t come off. I looked like the point of a laser pointer, but how could someone aim in an enclosed car? I stood closer, and then the elevator stopped at the second floor. The doors parted and a white shirted man looked at me, and then staggered backward two steps, eyes fixed on the red dot. “I’ll take the next one,” he gasped and staggered backward.
I returned to my cubicle. Roy had his headphones on, so I went up to him and asked, “Hey, do you see anything on my forehead?”
He looked with bulbous eyes and slowly dragged the headphones to his neck. “I knew you were in the shithouse, but I didn’t think you were going to stay.”
He rolled his chair toward me, but not too close. “You’ve heard of the Permanence Angel?”
“Yes,” I said. Everyone prayed to them
“They’re easily offended. And if you really screw up they can pass final judgment. You, poor bastard, have the Termination Sight. They’ve dispatched the Supervisory Sniper. Soon he’ll pull the trigger. I can’t be near you, I have a five month old daughter. You’re on your own.” He rolled back to his desk.
“But do I die?” I begged.
“Temps don’t die. They are only rendered inactive.”
Inactivity – the worst fate. That meant you dwelled forever at home, or a ghost of your home, circling the phone which will never ring for you. There is an homeless man who lingers around the dumpsters, jabbering into a dead cell phone. “I can type 10,000 keystrokes per millisecond,” he says over and over before wandering into traffic one day. Will that be me?
NelmaI spent the day watching myself in the monitor and when I was bored, I got up to get coffee. When I came back and checked my email, I got a message that had no reply-to address, no addressee. It said two words – Casual Friday. I’ve been warned, but now I knew when. It was Wednesday. It would make sense, a nice closure to my final week of employment.
I pretty much fucked off the next two days. I borrowed one of Roy’s fantasy novels without asking, and he didn’t have the nerve to ask for it back. I told my fiancé about my impending termination. She locked herself in her room for four hours blubbering on the phone to an old Sorority sister about what a loser I was and how she could do better.
The morning of Casual Friday, I dressed in my dark blue interview suit and shined my shoes licorice black. I dabbed on the last two drops of the good cologne, and reported to work ten minutes early. Of course with no work to do I lingered in my cubicle, my ears hot with the rumors and waited. Roy worked at his desk, but I had noticed a glow around his head and noticed cloudlets of colors the others’ heads. I’ve heard about condemned criminals, knowing their death is near, seeing angels and ghosts, even devils. Perhaps it was a glimpse of what awaited them, to console them in the last painful moment.
Roy’s head shone with the Permanence halo. There would be health insurance for his infant daughter and wife, a livable salary, perhaps even a long future with the company. I was happy for him. Like a dark cloudburst another deity floated above all this, the Unseen Supervisor who dispatched the Permanence Angel and the Termination Sight. Yet, fierce red, the Termination Sight quivered on Nelma’s head. She was next, but I’d gather all management had this sight to keep them in line. A dark form detached from the Unseen Supervisor, a rifle in his hands. I dodged under the desk and pulled the chair to block him. I breathed my last breaths as a wage earner. Then the rifles bore pointed at Nelma and I heard something hot whizz by me.
A security guard and one of the other managers approached her desk with a legal sized box.
Someday, but not today. As I watched Nelma un-tack the photos of her two disabled children from her cubicle wall, I sipped coffee. Sometimes, you get a reprieve or the Unseen Supervisor chooses another victim. Maybe the Permanence Angel petitioned to give me a second chance. I no longer cared.