Oblong

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Chapter 15

Having neatly stacked the packed boxes near the door, TF wiped down the now empty desk and filing cabinets in his mentor’s erstwhile office. Double A entered with a wet umbrella and drenched hair.

“You should’ve let me give you a ride.” TF handed her a paper towel for her face.

Double A patted at the water dripping down her forehead. “I might’ve if I’d known this morning’s sprinkle was going to turn into a deluge.”

“I thought you liked summer rains.”

“That’s not rain out there, it’s a monsoon.”

“It seems this morning’s shower was less enjoyable than yesterday morning’s shower.”

“I’m standing here sopping wet and all you can think about is sex?”

“Your present condition certainly lends itself to that line of thinking...a shame I can’t get you out of those soaked clothes and make you more comfortable.”

“All I need right now to be comfortable is to sit down.”

He pulled out the desk chair for her. “Why merely sit when you can recline?”

“I don’t want to ruin the leather by getting it damp.”

“I think it’ll be fine. I’m pretty sure cows are waterproof.”

She sat down, leaned back, and looked around. “Take away all the clutter and this is actually a pretty nice office. I wonder who they’ll give it to.”

“Maybe you.” He stood her umbrella in the corner of the room near the door. “I think the previous occupant would’ve been pleased that you’d inherited his office. Afterall, he thought you were the smarter one.”

“That was just his knee-jerk opinion.”

“Sure, but it doesn’t mean he was wrong.”

“Do you know where you’ll be sitting yet?” she asked.

“Five floors down. IT set up my desk this morning. There’s just enough room on it for both a computer and a phone, but then that’s all I’ll really need. My new boss in on vacation this week, so there’s nothing for me to do until Monday.”

“I got an email telling me that I’m supposed to report to the PR department head on Monday too.”

“Then I guess this is our last day of working together.”

She put her feet up on the desk. “It’s for the best really. We’ve spent just about every moment of the past few days together, and frankly I need a break.”

“That’s the effect I have on women.”

“It sounds like we’ll both be pretty busy next week...want to maybe take a road trip this weekend before we officially become corporate drones? I know this place where—”

A knock at the door interrupted Double A’s proposal.

“Come in,” called TF.

Two maintenance workers entered the office. “Sorry to bother you...we’re just here to take a few quick measurements for the partition.”

“Partition?” asked Double A.

“Yeah,” replied the other worker as he extended a tape measure. “We were told this office needs to be split in half for a couple of new execs. I guess that means you two.”

“It means her and somebody else,” TF said. “I work a few floors down.”

“Okay,” said the disinterested worker. “We’ve got a crew coming in tomorrow, so everything should be done by Monday.”

“Will you be adding another door then?” Double A asked.

“Yep, figure it’ll make getting into the other half of the office easier,” the first worker answered with a wink.

“Is that difficult to do?” asked TF.

“Nah,” the second worker replied as the two continued to take measurements. “Only the perimeter walls in this building are loadbearing. We move doors around all the time. We’ll keep the piece of drywall we cutout tomorrow to fill in the next door we’re told to take out.”

The first worker scribbled some numbers on a workorder. “That’s all we need.”

“We’ll let you two get back to work,” the second worker said, winking at TF.

“They were a winky pair, weren’t they?” Double A asked after the door closed.

“What do you want to bet that they and their crew finish the job by noon and spend the rest of the day hanging around in here like we do?”

“All while earning overtime pay no doubt,” she said. “It’s probably been quite a while since this office has seen an actual full day’s worth of work.”

“Speaking of people in the office not actually working, let’s see if Oblong’s morning story is up yet.”

Friday Morning Story by Oblong

The common weasel is the world’s smallest carnivore, but as with many diminutive predators, its size belies its ferocity. Pliny the Elder wrote that the weasel was the only animal capable of slaying the basilisk, a reptile known as the Serpent King whose venom was so toxic that it could kill with a stare. The Ojibwe believed that the weasel possessed the ability to defeat the Wendigo. The Inuit revered the weasel for its bravery.

The weasel’s courage is borne of cunning rather than brawn. They were once thought to be the familiars of practitioners of the dark arts. During wintertime, the weasel can turn its coat white to better camouflage itself in snow. Weasels have long been rumored to alter their appearances in other ways to adapt to the everchanging world. There are those who think that weasels are congeners that can change their visage to look like larger predators. They believe the possibility exists for any lanky, long-necked animal to be a weasel in disguise—a dog, a wolf, or even a human.

You may consider that possibility preposterous, but I’ve seen it firsthand...at least, I think I have. I’ve known pretty people in attractive coats who are well-spoken and well-mannered that at any given moment could claw the life from you. However, concealment isn’t the only trick of the crafty weasel. I’ve cornered rangy uprights and waited for them to shed their costumes so that they might defend themselves free of encumbrance only to see them cower so convincingly that I thought no animal could fake such authentically human cowardice. Then when I backed away to give the frightened upright quarter, believing that I had made a mistake about the true nature of the timorous creature before me, I saw the fleeting glower of the weasel behind human eyes. That transient look told me I had indeed identified a weasel but that it had fooled me. In that moment we both knew the other’s secret self and understood that our next confrontation would be the final test of conviction.

Beware the wily weasel—underestimate him at your peril...he hunts to prove his worth.

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