We were in my office, that square of space set aside for indulgences, a desk crenelated with bright-lie photos of kids and wife, a wheeled chair, file cabinets, a drawer with paperclips, an oblong ashtray of jelly beans.
"You're blowing this out of proportion," Janice said. She laid her iPhone on the desk. The screen showed a graph with primary-colored lines that resembled a mountain range. Billings on the y-axis, month on the x. I leaned forward, careful not to kick the bundle wedged beneath the desk. A shudder scuttled through. I didn't want to think about that, who it was, why it was there. I'd been holed up all morning waiting for Management's shoe to drop.
I focused on the phone. "Is this supposed to reassure me?"
"Yes," she said. "It's not so terrible, Matt, it really isn't. Yes, you lost a potential client, but you'll bounce back. Remember last time?"
I nodded meekly, and felt my face drain. Blood on the floor, splattering the walls. It had taken Janitorial a week to tame the smell. "They said if it happened again I'd be sacked. They said--"
"It's been four years," Janice said. "People forget. Raley's moved on, Jenkins is on vacation, your numbers are better than ever. It will be fine, trust me." She reached across the desk for my hand. Her grip was firm. I longed for her certainty, a steady passion that could infuse a life without overwhelming it.
"Mondays are bad," I said. "I told Sarah--"
"I know," Janice said. "Sarah should never have let her past the front desk."
"Mondays are bad." My voice trailed off, even as echoes of the weekend invaded my ears. Kids screaming, glass shattering, Beth's face slicked with tears and snot. If you were a real man, you'd discipline them.
"There's a meeting in twenty minutes," Janice said. She retrieved the iPhone, and ticked through a few screens. "The O'Reilly merger. You're on due diligence for that, right?"
"Yeah." I sighed. O'Reilly was a douche, but I hadn't found anything solid to suggest he had misled us. I looked down into the trough of shadow beyond my knees. "What about...?
"I'll speak to Juan," Janice said. "Don't worry, she'll be gone before you get back." She smiled. "I know how it is, Matt. Balancing family and work is a bitch."
"Thanks," I said, and now I did kick the body. For an instant it felt as if hands closed around my ankle. But, of course, that was impossible. I extracted my leg, and pulled a letter opener free of the lump of flesh and fat.
"Requisition a new one," Janice said. "And stop by the Men's Room, okay? Wash your hands, brush your hair. You want to look presentable, right?"
"Yeah," I said. I stood. The dead woman's eyes flashed in the flood of new light. I imagined Beth's wide eyes, the vein pulsing on her forehead. Monday, I thought. This was going to be a long week.
published 6 February 2013