a novel by MATT HEFFERNAN© 2003 Slithy Tomes
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Mitchell Meyer was perfectly content in his job. He came to Willis-Gruner right after graduating from business school. He had no other aspiration other than being an accountant, as he liked numbers and always did well in math. At W-G (as all the employees called the company), he earned his certification and stayed on for a full-time job in Accounts Payable. After three years with the company, he earned a decent salary and had a job that fit his life well.
He was a very private young man, and proper. He corrected anybody who dared call him “Mitch”, but it didn’t prevent most people from continuing the practice. He didn’t mind as he spent most of the time alone. His cubicle was 107 inches by 98 (he measured it on a lunch break during his first week), and the opening faced a solid wall, uninterrupted by pictures or a window. The interior of the cube was as stark, containing no personal effects other than a combination paperweight/pencil-holder that his parents gave him as a graduation present. He only had a few shuffles of paper as the great majority of his work was done entirely on the computer. His pencil lay undisturbed on most days, resting in its snug little hole.
The only books in his office were computer manuals, and half of them for the benefit of advanced spreadsheet creation. But he had little use for these, as he worked from templates he had mastered on his first day and simply filled out every day since, from 8:00am to 5:00pm, with an hour break at noon. Every morning he placed a bag lunch in a desk drawer built to carry hanging folders, and four hours later he would eat it at his ergonomically designed workstation.
During the day, he would only get up to use the bathroom, and on such trips would grab another free soda from the refrigerator before returning to his cube. If his energy level was low towards the end of the day, he would get a candy bar from the vending machine. Other than these metabolic issues, he only needed to leave the cube on very few days. These instances would be to interact with one of two people.
The most simple interaction was with his office’s secretary, Theresa Simmons. When he needed more staples or envelopes, he came to her for the supply closet key.
“Key, Theresa, please.”
“Here you go, Mitch.”
Then there was his direct supervisor, Mr. Evans. For meetings with him, Mitchell didn’t need to leave his cube. He didn’t even need to get out of his chair. Mr. Evans would drop by once in a while, usually at least once a week, but sometimes not. He would ask Mitchell about the status of a high-priority report that he had to send up to the next level of Accounts Payable management. In most cases, the report was sent in already, or was currently being worked on.
The reports themselves were quite simple to make, and would be unbearably tedious to someone who did not enjoy numbers as much as Mitchell. He would receive expense reports from several different sources, and he would compile them categorically and chronologically. Each line item had a seven-digit numerical code, of which the first two digits denoted the category. Mitchell did not know the meanings of the item codes or the category codes, nor did he need to know them to do his job. He simply entered the codes into the spreadsheet template, and then sent his supervisor the completed spreadsheets.
All he knew was that everything he compiled was written off by the company, based on the category. At the end of the day, he had accounted for about a million dollars in company expenses, give or take a hundred thousand.
Then he got in his car and would return to his one-bedroom apartment. Of course, this took a great deal of time, as Wallis-Gruner was in an area that contained several other pharmaceutical companies in this part of New Jersey, each of them employing thousands of people, like Mitchell, who haven’t the slightest knowledge of bio-chemistry. Yet they all crowd the same highways at 5:00 desperately trying to get home before six, even though they live less than ten miles away from their respective offices. All the while, they scoff at the idea of commuting to New York, like so many of their neighbors.
But not Mitchell. He didn’t know any of his neighbors, and didn’t know or care where they worked. He would drive up to his apartment, unlock the door, step inside, and immediately lock it behind him. Once again he was completely sequestered from the rest of the world. His blinds were constantly closed, and there was never anybody else in the apartment. In a single, involuntary stroke, he would turn on the television and walk into the kitchen, arm outstretched, to open the freezer. He would pull out something resembling a meal and throw it in the microwave for a minute or two while he rummaged for clean silverware and some sort of beverage. The microwave would sound its ending announcement, he would pull out the contents and head to the living room to watch the news.
If there was nothing worthwhile afterwards on television, he would play one of his video games. He had all the latest home systems on the market. With no real social life or expensive hobbies to spend his money on, he could afford the electronic luxury. He particularly enjoyed games that required puzzle-solving or strategy. In high school and college, he was treasurer of the Chess Club, a position that he had wished he could continue on a salaried basis after graduation. But that was more or less a childish fantasy, and he had given that up.
After a satisfactory round of gaming, he headed for the computer and checked his personal email. He only received personal messages from family and friends from college, and the latter became less and less frequent over the years. Most days, he received no personal messages, only advertisements for things he didn’t need, like laser-printer toner or impotence drugs. At times he would consider that he might benefit from his own company’s top-selling drug: Cybrox, a popular anti-depressant. Most of his time on the internet was spent surfing between math-puzzle pages and pornography.
Sometime between midnight and 2:00am, he would drift off to sleep with all basic physical needs satisfied. He had a steady paycheck, a car that still ran, a computer that was still staving off obsolescence, a roof over his head, a decent dental plan, and a somewhat diversified 401(k) account. At 6:30am, the alarm clock would ring and he would have another pleasantly uneventful day.
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