This One Time, 82

This one time we were listening to the rain drip through the hole in the roof and soak its way through the acoustic tile. Well, that’s almost accurate. I’m not sure what it sounds like for the rain to soak through anything, but I expect it’s very quiet. If we count the quiet parts between drips as the soaking, then yes, we’re back on track.

Forgive me. This is a law firm. That’s the natural habitat of the most hated predator on earth, short of dentists and mothers-in-law. After us I think it’s Siberian tigers, and then telemarketers, though I may have that backwards.

Never sharks anymore. Everyone always loves sharks. It’s hard to be afraid of that goofy-ass grin these days. Lately we all know the waters, as it were, harbor worse horrors.

Seven of us had dragged the uncomfortable little armless chairs we keep around for the guests we don’t like to feel welcome over to form a rough semicircle around our most hated hallway print/copy machine. The wet spot on the tile, where the drip was, was right above it, perfectly aligned over the little vents over the control boards.

We had tested it with a plumb-line cobbled from thread from someone’s sewing kit and a leather Ferrari key fob we’d found behind the machine. The alignment was perfect. A happy accident contrived in heaven.

Maintenance and upkeep was a union thing. So was moving anything larger than a typewriter, especially if it plugged into a wall. The copier was thirty years old, largely incapable of printing anything other than a nearly uniform mottled gray that may or may not have concealed whatever was copied. We principally used it for printing and making copies of items that we were then going to fax. Oddly enough, the contrast settings of the fax were good enough to filter the noise. Unless you hit the “foto/fine” button, in which case what came out the other end was an unreadable mess. In addition to taking hours to send a twenty-five page document. It was an excellent delaying tactic, while looking remarkably like good faith.

The impending death of this beast would make us a tiny smidge more honest. We would file a claim for replacement against Maintenance. Their insurance would buy us a new machine that did a thousand things we really wouldn’t have a use for, even at the depreciated value. But we would then be forced to fax things that were readable all the time, and thus the world ticks forward.

Some clever bastard from our pool of paralegals had suggested that we could anchor the thread into the ceiling tile where the wet spot was with a paperclip or a push pin and let the drip follow the thread down at an angle into a wastebasket, where we could anchor the other end of the thread. It was a brilliant solution — for a boyscout. We hung our heads, knowing one of our number was doomed eventually to become a public defender.

Regardless, we debated it for twenty minutes. Then a senior partner wandered through and said he there would be disciplinary action taken against anyone caught vandalizing ceiling tiles, because Maintenance bills us $75 to replace those things. Also it would be a safety hazard for someone to stand on a chair and lean way over the machine like that. If they actually fell, it would be up to the review panel to see if Worker’s Comp would cover injury, plus we’d be stuck eating the cost of replacing the copier if someone fell on it and broke it.

And there we were. The roof and ceiling repair order was already submitted with the hazard to equipment noted. We knew damned well we wouldn’t hear back on it, or the request to move the copier, until well past noon. It was a race of weather versus bureaucracy. Anybody with any sense knew which would win, so there were no takers in the pool for betting on the machine’s survival. Though there was $20 on the option of the ceiling caving in and injuring or killing a significant number of bystanders.

I studied that phrase for a minute, wondering what would constitute an insignificant number of bystanders. Is significance reserved for senior partners, junior partners, and the rare well-liked case manager? Could I argue for the significance of the paralegal pool? That looked like an easy $20, even though I also risked the boyscout label. Maybe it was a test.

I took the bait, even though I couldn’t make myself feel good about it.

I could always move my chair closer to the machine and, if I survived, argue in favor of my own insignificance as well as the insignificance of anyone else injured or killed. No one would ever expect that. Not here, anyway.

I felt somewhat better.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the ceiling tile was visibly soaked through and distended, with a single pregnant drop of water, or something reasonably close to water, hanging off the bottom. Our boyscout took sightings of the front and one side with his plumbline and declared everything to be in order.

We all took a seat. Leslie left for a quick second and returned with a single pale rose from the centerpiece in the lobby and an unlit cigar.

The droplet fell. And then another. And then another. There was an ominous sizzle and a dimming of all the lights on the floor. A pop. And a thin stream of smoke.

Leslie stood and tossed the white rose onto the closed platen cover on the top of the defunct machine.

And then that something happened that nobody knows what it was and I woke up here. As soon as someone can figure out if what happened was remotely connected to the storm/copier event, I can start preparing to argue for my own insignificance.


March 23, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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