Turns out, along the way, I seem to have written a novel. You’d Guess From Their Cries: One Heretic’s Quest for Salvation is a tale told in three parts, and in gratitude and love I’m posting the second of those parts, “Tale of a Lost Worker,” in its entirety, as a serial. If you missed part one yesterday, you can check it out here. If you enjoy, information on the book is at the bottom, and stay tuned for part three on Monday.
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It was another morning, not too many mornings later. The strange events of the other day no longer seemed pressing. Supernatural phenomena make for great conversations, but have little to do with day-to-day survival. Fitzy and Ellen were as grouchy as ever, and refused to talk or even pay lip service to my nonsense.
I was engaging in my favorite form of idolatry. Beneath the leaves of my two cherished pothos plants (Juanita y Carlos), I kept a small collection of religious figurines. When I had the discipline to practice – and, sometimes, when I wanted to harass my two cranky neighbors because they wouldn’t talk to me – I’d say little prayers and have little conversations with “the gods of my desk.”
“May we have some way of being saved from the fallen ways of this place. May we find redemption, forgiveness…grant us somehow, with any agency at your disposal, a path by which we may be lifted up.”
“I thank you for this day,” I was praying, “please let us see it for the ball of life that it is, and to fly on this wild spaceship with joy. Oh, Friend Pharaoh, may we be among the stars as you are. Oh, laughing Buddha, may we laugh with you amidst all the crazy desire and suffering. Oh, Confucius, please do not look down upon us too much, for we are mere western office peasants with no idea what we are doing. And oh, Friend the Fisherman, please take me for a ride on your open seas this day. Carlos and Juanita, take in what is good of this atmosphere and reject what is foul – for plants may be blessed unlike we humans, who must take in everything nourishing and polluting all in the same breath.”
Fitzy and Ellen looked at each other and sort of grunted, attempting to refuse to look in my direction.
“May we have some way of being saved from the fallen ways of this place. May we find redemption, forgiveness…grant us somehow, with any agency at your disposal, a path by which we may be lifted up.” I picked up my head and looked at the other two. You really can work yourself into a bit of a frenzy even play-acting with this kind of thing. I could almost feel a wind-like current going through the room. “Yo, did you guys feel that? I’m asking seriously.” Sometimes it’s hard even for me to tell what I’m making up and what I’m actually perceiving, so it’s a good idea to ask for independent confirmation.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to tell what I’m making up and what I’m actually perceiving.
“Oh, can you feel your prayers being answered, now?” Fitzy grunted.
“I dunno, I felt a chill,” Ellen said.
“I mean forget spirits in the machines for a minute – don’t you think there are at least spirits in the air, spirits flying between us, and all the computers and all the monitors? I mean, imagine if you could see a graph of the invisible electrical field interconnecting this whole giant room. Just think about it – you don’t think there’s spirits who influence that? Things who manipulate it? Neither of you should be dismissing this. I mean, is Robert Stack dead? Do they still do Unsolved Mysteries?”
“I used to totally love that show, back in the day,” Ellen said.
“Yeah, he’s pretty dead,” Fitzy said. “John Walsh is still alive, though.”
“You think this shit belongs on America’s Most Wanted?” I asked.
“I think you might end up on America’s Most Wanted. But no, I don’t think the crime hotline is open to claims of office gods and spirits.”
“All right, nobody would put this kind of thing on TV…but don’t you guys ever just feel it? You both smoke, too. How do you explain it when you’re outside smoking and everybody outside, people from all around the room and all different departments – how is it that everyone always has the same kind of day at the same time? You know the vibes go on through everything.”
“That’s vibes,” Fitzy said. “I believe in vibes. You’re talking about spirits.”
“It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Remember,” I laughed, “’in the battle between the real and the possible, men stout of heart will never side with the real.’”
I hadn’t met the mysterious HR guy, nor had I seen him yet, but when I saw him walking slowly up the row, shaking hands and making small talk, I knew instantly that it was him. There was definitely something strange about him. To be fair, I used to dismiss all new people for at least six months as a matter of policy, since they rarely lasted that long. All newcomers were somehow untrustworthy to me. It was a real Vietnam kind of thing, like in Platoon. This one didn’t seem untrustworthy, though. I just thought he was glaringly out of place.
When he reached our area, he was on their side of the cubicles, having not yet made it around to my side. He really didn’t look like I expected, whatever prejudices that may betray. He was sort of dark-skinned, and hairy. Extremely Mediterranean. And when I say hairy, I mean the dark hair on his head was short but wavy enough that it had a hint of unintentional (and untamable) craziness to it, that he appeared to have recently shaven but his face was covered with out-and-out stubble, and that his light blue button-down was rolled up just enough to expose his hands and lower forearms, and they were positively bear-like in their fur covering. I have always been waiting my whole life for an excuse to use the word “swarthy,” which no one seems to use anymore (are there negative connotations?) – but this fellow was swarthy. Short, stocky, and swarthy. He wore no glasses, there were no lines in his face, his eyes were green and his teeth were very white. You could see them because he was smiling what I considered at the time to be a very Human Resources kind of smile. It’s a kind of smile very similar to that of a Public Relations smile, related not-so-distantly from a politician’s smile.
In other words, it’s a really loathsome smile. But Abraham sounded sort of nice. He talked softly in a deep voice, softly without timidity. He didn’t walk with timidity, either. This was a self-assured fellow. He approached Ellen first, starting to introduce himself and then leaning back with a pause. “Oh! We met yesterday in the cafeteria! How are you? Well, I hope you had your toast this morning – big day ahead. Hi,” he said, looking up at me and down at Fitzy. “I’m Noah Abraham, the new evil HR guy.”
Neither of us could manage much more than a feeble “Hi,” in return. We stated our names, smiling and nodding. It’s not like I wanted to start off as enemies, even if that might have been the real power dynamic. Politically, philosophically, and emotionally, I oppose police, but in practice I have always been polite and friendly with individual officers, even when they are arresting me. It makes it less likely that they will hit me with sticks.
After all, that’s how power works, isn’t it?
“Nah, I like to say that to people and see how they react,” the HR man laughed. “Look, I am the new HR guy, and I know that makes me sort of a hatchet man or whatever term you prefer. But if you can’t tell already, I’m a little different. I am not just some random MBA. I used to be a day laborer. Then I studied for a while to become a rabbi. Then I became a radical political activist. Eventually, I realized I’d have greater impact by taking my march from the streets into this building to change things from within, so I tricked them into hiring me. Ha!”
All of us wanted to look at one another.
He continued, “So if you need anything, seek me out and ask me whatever, and hopefully we can find the answers. Hopefully I’m not just a guy who fires people. I will see you around.”
He continued walking off to introduce himself to more people.
I looked at Ellen and Fitzy. “Was that…real?”
“It might have been,” Ellen said. “I’m not really sure.”
“I’m not sure at all,” Fitzy said. “You been breathing drugs on us, man? Like…I thought I’d seen and heard it all before…”
I shook my head, almost at a loss for words, certainly at a loss for good ones. “Like, what the fuck is that guy? Even if I breathed the craziest drugs on you and employed all my powers, I’d never be able to create something like that. Beyond my capacity for imagination. Like, seriously, what the fuck is that guy?”
“What is it that you think I am?”
By the looks on both Fitzy and Ellen’s faces at that moment – their eyes had grown wide at the same moment – I realized without turning that Noah Abraham was standing right behind me. Only when he laughed this weird, gentle, reassuring laugh did I turn around.
“What is it that you think I am?” he said.
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Look out for part three on Monday, same time, same place, and check out You’d Guess From Their Cries: One Heretic’s Quest for Salvation on Amazon.