Deadbeats

© 2018 by Tom Sparough

Deadbeats

Sue Their Ass Legal Associates seemed like a great firm. I was thrilled to get a job in their physical evidence department.

My team sorted through the various documents, reports and notes that were not in electronic form. I became the seventh member of a group affectionately known as the Deadbeats.

The Deadbeats got their name because they almost never seemed busy. The thing was, they got their work done very quickly. After that, they could do anything they wanted.

On my second day there, our team received about 10 boxes of medical files. We were to read through them, tab and highlight key sections, and write a series of summaries. They gave me about 300 pages.

At the end of the day, I was on page 207 and the rest of the Deadbeats were playing poker. Somehow they had finished the rest of the 10 boxes.

“How did you do it?” I asked. “How did you get through that much material accurately and quickly?”

Jose, Susan, Jeff, Yolanda, Kiefer, and Sam looked at me at the same time. It was both comical and creepy. They started to laugh.

Kiefer said, “We have super human skills.”

Susan said, “Do you want to be one of us?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“All you have to do,” said Susan, “is a short flight, a tiny swallow, or take the big plunge.”

“What does that mean?”

They laughed again. I still had 100 pages to go, and they were playing cards. And now they were laughing at me.

Susan said, “There will be plenty of chances to join us, but for now just get your work done the old fashioned way, by the sweat of your brow!”

I finished my 300 pages and the summary statements a little bit before noon the next day. The Deadbeats were headed out to lunch.

Jose invited me to join the group. “Come on big fella, come celebrate with us?”

My lunch was in the refrigerator. “No, I am going to stay in the office this time. I already have my lunch here.”

“Party pooper, party pooper,” Yolanda sang out.

They got in the elevator at 11:55 and didn’t get back to the office until 3:20. They clearly had been drinking.

Jeff put his arm around me. “All work and no play make Gavin a very dull boy. Next time you got to come out with us, dude.” He rubbed the top of my head with his knuckles.

I had been reading a series of briefs that had been sent to our work group. We had work to do, but they said it could wait until tomorrow morning.

“We will do it in the morning, and since it will be Friday we will have a dart tournament in the afternoon,” Jeff said.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “They have just delivered 20 boxes to us.”

“Holy crap,” said Yolanda. “We better get started right away or we will have to work all weekend.”

They burst into laughter. Kiefer turned on the TV, and they began to watch “Judge Judy.”

Susan looked at me watching them. She walked over to me. “Why don’t you just pick a box and get started? Don’t worry about us. You’ll see. It will all get done in the morning.

I worked until 7 p.m. that night. It was a 12-hour day for me, and four of those hours were time and a half. The rest of my team had left at 4:30. “Shhh,” they said in unison as they left.

They were done with the 19 boxes before lunch. I was barely into my box. I imagined that they didn’t read anything. I didn’t know what they did; yet I did know that they were known as the most efficient and careful readers of the whole firm. I had asked to be part of this team. I loved to read and was great at analysis, but I was clearly missing something here.

That night I worked until 10 p.m. The Deadbeats had left at 4:45 after a raucous afternoon of dart playing and beer pong.

I heard laughter coming into our office at about 9:50 that Friday night. I looked around and it seemed to be coming from outside. I walked over to the big window, and I saw lots of motion going through the air, like birds, or drones, or something.

I stood looking out that 8th floor window with my jaw open wide enough to swallow a baseball. I knew what I was seeing, but I wouldn’t let myself admit it. The Deadbeats were flying through the air, laughing and passing by the window. They were a ghostly grey and as they flew by they had a contrail that stretched out and then recoiled into them.

As I looked out in awe and panic, Susan flew to the window and hovered in the air staring at me. Her hair was being blown every which way. She winked at me and flew off with the others.

I had no doubt I was hallucinating. I called it a night.

On Monday, as I was working through my box, Susan asked me, “So, how was your weekend?”

“It was good, very restful. I had worked late Friday night and needed some down time.”

“My weekend was crazy fun. It must seem strange to you how the rest of us ‘fly’ through our work.”

The way she said “fly” gave me a chill. She was telling me with a smile that I hadn’t been hallucinating.

“Would you like to learn to ‘fly’ through your work the way we do?” she asked.

“What would I have to do?”

“Just take a short flight. Then you will be one of us.”

“What do you mean a short flight?”

“You know,” said Susan, “like, from the 8th floor to the ground.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. “I’m good. I’m just gonna keep working here.”

“Suit yourself. But it is quick and easy, and takes away all of your burdens.”

Kiefer looked at me, raised his eyebrows and simultaneously put both thumbs up.

The next morning at 8 a.m. the Deadbeats were sitting around the circular table sipping their cappuccinos. I must admit that I have a weak spot for that wonderful mix of steamed milk and dark coffee, especially with a bit of flavoring in it.

Jose said, “Isn’t this killer stuff?” He took a heaping spoonful of what appeared to be powdered chocolate and mixed it into his drink.

The Deadbeats passed the canister and spoon around the table, each taking a towering spoonful. Yolanda sprinkled the powder onto her drink. She brought the cup, which was steaming in the office air, up to her nose. “I live for this,” she said.

I had my own caramel latté. I had joined them at the round table. Jeff handed me the canister. “Try some. Seriously, it is to die for.”

I took the spoon and the canister in my hand. I turned the metal canister around and saw the words “rat poison” written on it. Everyone stared at me.

“Why does it say rat poison?”

“You know,” said Sam, “We don’t want to have any rats in the group.” More laughing, or was it cackling?

“I think I’ll pass.”

“Come on,” continued Sam, “just one spoonful and take a tiny swallow.”

“What is it really?”

Susan smiled, “It’s really good.”

They were all looking at me, encouraging me with their hands, nodding their heads up and down.

Awkward as it was, I put the canister down on the table. I got up and said, “Oh rats, I better get back to work.” I walked out of the conference room.

Later that morning I opened the door to the janitorial closet. I had spilt my drink on my desk and wanted to clean it off with a rag. I pulled the chain to turn on the light and scanned the room for a clean rag. My gaze went up to the shelves above the work counter.

On the second row I saw a canister that looked like the one this morning. It said rat poison on it. There were some mousetraps next to it. Not seeing a rag, I turned around to leave, and there was Susan in the doorway.

She had such a big smile. “What are you up to? You bad boy!”

“Oh, nothing. I was just looking for a rag.”

“Would you like to spend some time in the closet? I would be happy to join you?”

I had some stirrings. Susan was more than attractive. She took a step closer to me. I could feel the heat from her breath.
She reached past me and took the canister off the shelf. “Let’s try a little of this, and then do a little of that.” She took her index finger, brought it to her lips and then licked tip of her finger with her tongue.

I closed my eyes for a moment. She pushed her body next to mine. I backed up to the counter. She moved with me.

Susan unscrewed the cap, dipped her finger into the canister and put it in her mouth. She pressed her lips together, “Mmm, so good.”

She dipped her finger in again and brought it to my mouth. “Go ahead, have a little swallow. We have to have this before we can get to that.” She smiled and brought her lips together with a kiss.

I looked at her finger covered in powder. It wasn’t chocolate, but it couldn’t really be rat poison. This was some crazy joke. I wanted to be with Susan. It felt like she wanted to be with me, yet it also felt like I was being played.

“Not so fast,” I said. “You know I am on a diet. And my landlord is going to kill me if I don’t pay my rent. I better get back to work.”

“Naughty, naughty landlord,” said Susan as I left the room.

It was Wednesday, again I had been working and the Deadbeats were out for an extended lunch. When they came back, they were laughing and shouting. They came into the workroom.

“Guess what we learned how to do?” said Yolanda.

“It’s dangerous,” said Sam.

“So you won’t like it.” Said Jeff.

“But we got you one anyway,” said Kiefer.

“Please try it. Have some fun,” said Susan.

Jose pulled out seven letter openers out of a wooden box. “These aren’t actual swords, but they still work.” Jose passed one of the letter openers to everybody but me.

“Let’s all do it together,” said Sam.

“You just watch,” Susan said to me. “We learned this from a street performer at lunch.”

The Deadbeats licked their letter openers, tilted back their heads, opened their mouths, and stuck the swords down their throats. They stretched out their arms in unison and wiggled their fingers for applause.

It was crazy impressive, and I applauded.

They pulled their swords out. “Now it’s your turn,” said Susan handing me one of the short swords.

I felt the sides of my letter opener. It was sharp, more like a knife than a letter opener. “I am not doing that.”
“Party pooper,” sang Yolanda.

“Come on,” said Susan. “Live a little.”

“If you don’t want to swallow it, try this,” said Kiefer. He pulled his shirt out of his pants and unbuttoned it. He thrust the letter opener into his exposed stomach. He partially opened his mouth and began to grunt as he moved the opener around in a rough circle. There was no blood. It must certainly have been a trick knife.

Kiefer pulled out the knife and pushed his hand into the section of his stomach that was cut in a circle. He pulled it out. His skin and entrails were in his hand. “Lunch was so good,” he said, “I have to have seconds!”

He took a bite of that tubular mass of flesh.

I nearly passed out. The Deadbeats were falling over in laughter.

“Give it a try,” said Susan. “Do the deep plunge!”

“Join us, dude,” said Kiefer.

“Say it. Don’t spray it,” I said to him. I put the letter opener down on the table. I walked in a haze toward the boss’ office. I knocked on his door.

“I need a new assignment. Can I work in the electronic forms division?”

My boss looked at me and smiled, “Why would you want to work with those little devils?”

 

Reflection

Be Your Own Person. It is important to get along with others at work, yet we do not need to conform to ways that make us overly uncomfortable. Team members must use common sense to decide for themselves what to do to fit into a company culture and simultaneously be their own person.

How was the narrator of this story being tempted to join the rest of the team? How did he show his strength to not conform?

In your work environment, what are ways that people are able to keep their independence and individuality?