Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Short Fiction: Mr. Nailson

He looked down at his watch and then flicked an invisible bit of lint off of the cuff of his wool suit. The call center was a hive of busy activity, but the tall, lean redheaded man seemed to take no notice of it. His clothes were perfect for the setting, just the right mix of severity and casual to make him blend in with anyone at any level in the company, with the exception of the janitorial staff. The only thing that seemed a bit off was the set of scars running down the middle of each lip. The scars were fainter on his upper lip, but the discoloration was still pronounced enough that it caught the eye.

As he waited for his meeting, he watched the people about him. Some of them seemed to stand out as brilliant lights of personality. Others just seemed to be bland copies of each other. He wasn't sure if he pitied the ones who lacked originality or if he was disgusted by them. This question, and curiosity as to what there was to see, kept his eyes moving over the people about him. A balding heavy set man made his way out of a cubicle at the head of the line immediately before the waiting man.

As he walked up to his two fifteen appointment, he glanced down at the folder in his hand. The resume was impressive. It was clear that the neatly dressed man was overqualified for a phone jockey job, but the economy was hard. The balding man reached up and adjusted his tie minutely, realizing that he was at least two inches shorter then the man before him with a measure of discomfort. Pushing aside the unease roiling in the pit of his stomach, he reached forward and took the other man's hand.

Pumping the hand of the man before him up and down in an almost mechanical gesture as he affected an air of bored disinterest, the man in the suit found himself disgusted by the wretch before him. He had heard talk about this Mr. Smythe. Apparently, he had acquired a reputation for something of a bully. It was part of the reason why the red haired man was there. Tired of having a sobbing woman on the phone, he took the matter into his own hands. It took a bit of information manipulation and a few well placed deceptions, but it was shockingly easy to maneuver himself so that he was interviewing with his friend's harasser.

Smythe considered if the man who followed him down the corridor was a potential threat to his position. Recalling the long lapse between positions that he noted on the resume, Smythe was fairly certain that the tall man would bend to his will. After all, when a man with those kinds of qualifications is applying for a bottom feeder job, he has to be desperate for work. Smythe opened the door of the conference room and gestured the man in the black suit into the room. He thought about the scars on the other man's face, wondering if the red haired man was trouble. Smythe considered the other man's lean build and decided that it had to be some childhood mishap or something equally mundane to have caused the other's distinctive features. A toothpick thin man can't be much of a threat to anyone, right?

The tall man sat down in the chair at the right of the head of the table. Smythe took the chair at the head of the table, unable to suppress the quick thrill. He wanted to be head of the department. If he pulled it off, this would be his regular seat rather then down at the other end between a wet behind the ears college kid and a woman that he dubbed an ice queen. Smythe was pretty sure that she had to be some kind of militant feminist or something because she wouldn't even give him the time of day. Caught up in his brief fantasy of putting that ice queen into a position where she had to acknowledge his superiority, Smythe handed the tall man one of the bubble questionnaires that was in the folder.

The red haired man looked down at the form and restrained the urge to yawn. He was bored of paperwork. The entire project had been far too much paper pushing so far and he was ready to move onto the next phase. Deciding that his mark was sufficiently duped, the red haired man folded hands on the table before himself. Smythe looked at him in askance.

"Mr. Nailson, do you need a pen?" he asked. Nailson resisted the urge to smile, it was too easy. Smythe pulled a pen out of his pocket and reached across the table to hand it to Nailson. The moment the two hands met, Smythe gasped. Suddenly, the world seemed to have changed. Smythe sat up abruptly with a gasp, finding himself back in his cubicle. Nailson leaned against the outside wall of the cubicle, looking down at him.

"Mr. Smythe," said Nailson in an almost pleasant sounding tone, "I trust that your nap was sufficient?" Smythe looked about himself with a sense of dread, alarmed and deeply troubled by the change of events. Smythe opened his mouth to speak when Nailson lifted a finger on the hand resting on the top of the cubicle wall. "They can't see me. They can't hear me. As far as everyone else here is concerned, I don't exist," Nailson said.

Smythe reached to pick up the phone and call security when Nailson reached over and put a hand down on the receiver. Smythe stood up and called out, "Security!" Nailson's smug smirk was infuriating. Smythe move to push Nailson aside but, Nailson moved and Smythe fell out of his chair. As he sprawled on the floor, a few heads poked out of their respective cubicles and looked at him in confusion and mild alarm. Smythe's face darkened as he spluttered, "Security!"

One of Smythe's coworkers picked up their phone and punched a few numbers. Nailson pointed towards the commotion down the corridor as two burly security guards bustled towards them. Relief was palpable in Smythe's face as he scrambled to his feet. "Security, get this man out of here," Smythe demanded, pointing towards Nailson. The security guards gave Smythe an odd look. Smythe looked over his shoulder towards Nailson but the tall red headed man had moved.

He had walked over by where a small group was gathering. Confusion and concern was painted over their faces as Smythe glared at him. "Get him out of here, call the police," Smythe demanded. His coworkers looked between themselves and moving back as he stepped forward. Nailson didn't move, rather his smirk turned into a grin. Smythe's blood seemed to be set afire as the mysterious Nailson grinned at him.

Smythe remembered a grin similar to that. He was seventeen and a girl had laughed off his advances. He was going to put her in her place when she grinned at him and said two words, the same two that Nailson said as Smythe opened and closed his hands at his side: Do it. Fury that had boiled beneath the surface at the cool looks and the icy civility of his coworkers mingled with the anger that Smythe felt at Nailson's presence. "You're as bad as that bitch," Smythe spat, closing his right hand into a ham sized fist.

He swung and Nailson moved away. Failing to meet his target, Smythe was over balanced by his swing and stumbled forward. Squawks of alarm and demands that security do something came from the people who scrambled back away from Smythe. Nailson grinned at Smythe, standing in front of security. One of them stared at Smythe utterly in shock. The older of the two, a barrel chested man with a squint in his right eye and a name badge of Boorson looked Smythe over with an expression of disgust.

"Get this smirking son of a bitch out of here," Smythe demanded, glaring at Boorson.

Nailson made a rude gesture at Smythe, who lost what shreds of his composure he had regained to swing again. Boorson brushed past Nailson and tackled Smythe. He pinned the big, roly poly man to the floor as Smythe started to shout vulgarities. All of the rage that Smythe had nursed and conserved over the years came boiling out of him. Boorson restrained Smythe as his compatriot ran for the EMS personnel that were arriving. After a brief struggle, Smythe was wrestled onto a gurney. Nailson walked along side of the gurney along with Boorson as Smythe screamed death threats at him.

Boorson and Nailson walked out of the building. They watched as the EMS personnel loaded Smythe into the ambulance. Police walked between the two men and into the building. Boorson looked over at Nailson and shook his head. "Subtle, he said," the older man said. Nailson shrugged as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it. The pair walked across the blacktop as a pair of ravens pecked the ground.

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