The Penguin’s Office

That enclosed recess next to the staff break room turned out to be a yellow cubicle with an armless yellow chair on wheels crammed as far as it could go under a crowded desk. To the cockroach looking up, or to a parachuting mouse, the teetering piles of files on the desk resembled skyscrapers: towers of information looming and soaring beneath a flickering white sun. A pyramid of paper-clipped paperwork—some of it intended to augment these files—was leaning against another, taller stack. A young man sat there awaiting the arrival of the Penguin. It occurred to him, as he listened to a cheap clock hiccupping on the east wall, that if he were to blow softly the top third of the files would slide forward, detaching themselves, one chasing the other chasing the other chasing the other chasing the other into a wastebasket positioned (probably) for this purpose. He could make out a conversation now from the break room, and he recognized the voices, but he was afraid to call out to them. So, he sat. Realizing how long he’d been sitting, he desperately wished that he had the nerve to leave the Penguin’s office and open his locker. Instead, he looked around for something to read that wasn’t business related. The clock ticked, and he waited, until, abandoning his concern to the dustbin at his feet, he found a yellow notepad and a pen and he began to write.

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