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Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Later Prophets

Time wasn’t on Barry’s side anymore. Once considered an asset to his workplace, he was now overshadowed by younger clerks, and now that he was no longer the new face at work, people were getting tired of him. Just what it was they were tired of, nobody knows. Barry was quiet and didn’t intrude on anyone, which of course struck everyone as being aloof. You couldn’t win.

Barry Weiss worked in a large government building constructed in marble and stone, the traditional classic metropolitan style. Where there wasn’t marble there was granite, and as such the building was so incredibly dense that cell phone calls couldn’t be made or received. One had to stand outside in order to make mobile calls.

Barry turned his computer on and opened up his emails. The first one was from the Director and made him laugh.

“TO: All Departmental Personnel
SUBJECT: Cultural Diversity Month
As you all know, the month of April is Cultural Diversitty month. This month we salute all minorities, races and creeds by having hour annual cultural Diversity lunch on Friday, April 10 at 11:30 aM. Bring you’re favorite dish from you’re cultural childhood, it will be fun!
Examples: Burritos, tacos, enchilades, and other ethnic delites. See you their!
Director Dan Ashman
Los Angeles County Department of Legislators
NOTE: All governmental correspondence should be treated as confidential.”

Dan Ashman had the highest position in his Department but still had trouble stringing together a sentence. Cerebral Palsy victims were far more accomplished at expressing themselves.

Barry’s intercom line rang. “Hello?”
“Barry could you step inside my office? I need to see you”. It was his boss, Mrs. Weston.

Mrs. Weston’s office had no windows and the walls had generic art prints framed in the common manner. Her office furniture was like a wrestling match between blonde wood and battleship gray metal. Her hair had the same combination with the battleship gray metallic look winning. Her face was fat and overly simple, trying hard to look contemplative.

When Barry stepped into Mrs. Weston’s office he sat down. She kept on writing as if he wasn’t there. After a minute of ignoring him she looked up and said, “Could you close the door?”
Barry got up and closed the door and as soon as he sat down she said.
“Barry, this is about that request for time off next week. I’m afraid I can’t approve your time off, I’m sorry”.
“But Tuesday and Wednesday is Passover”.
“Yes I know it’s one of those Jewish things, but we’re really booked with deadlines that we have to meet by the end of next week. We’re short-staffed enough as it is, and Nyesha’s still out on vacation”.
“She’s been on vacation for three weeks”.
“Well, that’s not really your concern, but anyway, I hope you understand the position I’m in. Sometimes I wish you’d stop and consider the responsibilities a boss like me faces every day”.
“What if Nyesha returns next week?”
“Barry, I’m afraid it’s not negotiable”. Her phone rang which she promptly picked up. “Yes?” She looked at Barry. “We’re done”.
Barry got up to leave.
“Yes, yes, of course I’m listening to it right now”, she said and then raised her chin from the phone. “And please close the door after you!”
Barry closed the door and walked back to his cubicle.

The office was now an audio flood of broadcasts from the Los Angeles County Legislators meeting. Everyone had the meeting turned on live from their computers, so the whole room boomed with the sounds of the Los Angeles County Legislators arguing and discussing important matters. Barry was bored of government and bored with politics.

“You didn’t get your time off, huh?” his work mate Jerry asked him as he sat down.
“How can you tell?”
“The world famous Walk of Shame from the boss’ office”. They both laughed.
“Thanks for the laugh. I wish I had more to choose from”.
“Smile! Look at the sun shining and the flowers blooming! Spring is here!” Jerry waved his fat arms around. The only thing thin on Jerry was his face. The rest of him was big, thick and jolly.
“We used to be able to see the sun and the flowers and all that shit until Weston moved us into the basement. Now all we have are a lot of walls and exhaust from the parking lot”.
“Aw, what do you want to see a bunch of windows for? They’re too bright, you might blind yourself!”
“THERE’S TOO MUCH TALKING GOING ON. ARE MY REPORTS READY, BARRY?” Barry’s supervisor Miss Salazar barked at them. Miss Salazar was short and fat like a little dog and just like one did a lot of barking.

Two hours later Barry was wrapping up a ten-page report with databases and charts drafted by him. It was a pain in the ass to draft with the meeting squalling all around him, but he managed to slap it all together into something presentable.

His co-worker Ameer was across the room goofing around with Talia. He used to be pretty good friends with her until Ameer joined the section, but now she talked to him all the time and ignored Barry. Miss Salazar raced over to Barry’s cubicle on her stumpy legs and barked at him.

“Barry! I need you to get started on the meeting minutes and we need to have a final draft completed by tomorrow morning!”
“Wasn’t Ameer supposed to do the minutes? He told me you assigned it to him”.
“Now, Barry! Ameer is too busy with other assignments so I need you to step up and pick up the slack!”
Barry looked across the room at Ameer bullshitting around with Talia.

“I’ll draft the minutes but I think next time Ameer should do it next time like you said he would”.
“Why are you being so rude to me? Do you remember what I said the last time you were rude to me?”
“No, when was that?”
“You know, you remember!”
“No, I don’t remember, when was that?”
“Remember how last month I asked you to do something and you raised your voice at me?” Who the fuck remembers shit like that and why?, thought Barry.
“No I don’t and obviously I have a report to finish because Ameer”, Barry waved his arm towards Ameer giving him a dirty look, “has too many responsibilities keeping him so busy”.
“Well if you’re going to be that confrontational I’m afraid I’m going to have to write you up. I really didn’t want to have to do this but I have no choice”, Miss Salazar, thick, short single mother’s voice rose. “YOU MADE ME WRITE YOU UP, I DIDN’T WANT TO DO THIS I’M A NICE PERSON BUT YOU’RE JUST PLAIN RUDE!”

Half an hour later, Barry took his afternoon break. He finally got a glimpse of the sunshine, the wind blowing his dark hair around. He stood at the bottom of the huge marble and granite staircase the fronted the august building he worked at. There was a bus stop by the sidewalk in front, stopping every so often and letting high school kids out. They seemed very happy.

Barry straightened his tie and lit up his cigar, puffing it a few times to make sure the flames catch. The flames seared his sinuses and his throat giving him a smooth, delirious high. He took a quick look at the hills miles away from him, and then opened up his Bible. It was opened up for The Later Prophets, reading a few lines from the Book of Micah:

“Woe to them that devise iniquity and work evil upon their beds when the morning is light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away; so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage”.

Barry looked up from his Bible and saw Talia standing by the marble balcony overlooking the street, pretending not to notice him reading, unconvincingly. He looked back down at his Bible, turning to the Book of Habakkuk:

“Woe to him that getteth unjust gain to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil! Thou hast consulted shame to thy house by cutting off many peoples, and sinned against thy soul. For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it. Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood and stablisheth a city by iniquity!”

Barry took another puff from his cigar, checking his watch to see how much time he had left before he had to return to his daily reporting. A bus pulled up at the curb and a couple of laughing teenagers jumped off, yelling and jumping around. Barry turned to the Book of Zephaniah:

“The great day of the Lord is near…that day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring destruction upon men that they shall walk like blind men because they have sinned against the Lord, and their blood shall be poured out as dust and their flesh as dung”.

The Bible was funny. Barry laughed at the last line and realized that if he was going to get written up for insubordination he was going to do it with God’s blessing. He decided right then and there he was going to synagogue the following week for Passover. With a big smile he slammed the Bible shut, crushed the fat cigar out on the marble wall and slowly strode back up the steps of the obscene building.

1 comment:

Busy Gal said...

I was wondering what your next story would be about. Now I know.