by Matthew Amundsen
The first hour of my second day on my third temporary assignment, I was paid $17 to drink half a cup of coffee, say hello to four or five people, and turn on a computer. That left plenty of time for organizing my desk. I like to keep it clean and presentable. Even though it is only my desk temporarily, I still respect it and feel obligated to make it look nice. I spend a lot of time fussing over it because that is how professional I am.
I like to work. I know people my age are not supposed to give a fuck about anything, and I agree with them that most things are not worth giving a fuck about, but I like money. What a good little American I am! I would like to be rich one day so that I could buy a monkey. That would be outrageous! I just want a little monkey to sit on my shoulder and watch me type. I would teach it how to care for its nails and feed it frozen yogurt. That is a perk we have at this office, free yogurt. That is so nice of them to think of us year-round. Even in the winter, we can eat frozen yogurt, even temps like me.
Let me assure you, I am quite professional. I am always dressed in tasteful corporate attire: shined shoes, pressed pants, leather belt, ironed shirt, and a tie that is easy on the eyes but has just a hint of splash to betray my quirky but loveable personality.
I arrange all my clothes the previous night, laying them on a stuffed chair in proper order as if I was sitting there myself. I do not tie the shoes. Instead, I align the laces in orderly fashion, protruding them straightforward. Sometimes it frightens me in the middle of the night when I wake up and see my own ghost. I should be used to it, but I’m not.
Once I wore a flashy tie on my second assignment and everyone looked at me all day. It was almost unbearable. A lot of people said they liked it but I think they just said that to make me feel better because everyone was staring.
I will never wear a tie like that again.
Even seated at my desk I make certain that my tie is centered upon my shirt. It is important for me to look symmetrical. That is how professionals dress.
There is a girl in the office next to me. I try not to notice her because that would not be professional. I do not know her name or what she does. Every time I am about to say hello, she avoids eye contact with me, as if on purpose. I do not know why. She is quite pretty and I am growing addicted to the scent that lingers after she walks by. It is very subtle; that is how I know she has class.
Once she looked me straight in the eyes when we passed each other in the hall. I was on my way to make copies. I like making copies. The rumble of the machinery and the smell of fresh ink make me giddy. But that was the only time she looked me in the eyes and she was lovely. I bet she would talk to me if I had a monkey.
If only I had a monkey.
When I was a child, my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said a little monkey and they said I was a little monkey! That was not funny. And, as you can probably guess, I did not get a little monkey for my birthday. I got a chair.
The monkey I want would be one of those monkeys that plays with itself a lot because after work we would go home and masturbate to cable television or lingerie catalogs. It would be fun. I would even show him how to do it if he did not already know. If I were really rich, I could afford a hooker for him too. But if not, we would just share one. I would not mind because I am not selfish, unlike some people in the office.
The second hour on my third temporary assignment on the fourth floor was more exciting and did not leave as much time for manicured ministrations. I typed a letter for one of my bosses. Some people say that I am a “whiz” at typing because I can type so fast. I “whiz” through every assignment. At the temp agency, I tested at 74.5 words per minute, but I made 15 errors. I was angry with myself because they were very simple errors. Once I typed “copmany” instead of “company” and “take aletter” instead of “take a letter.” I pulled my hair I was so mad! Although I am meticulous about my spelling, the program I am [writing on right now this very minute] using in the office has a spell check device I can implement after completing a document to make sure no misspelled words slipped by me. They rarely do, but I use it anyway, just to make sure. Better safe than sorry, I say. Better safe than sorry.
I wonder how much it would cost to have a monkey-sized keyboard made. He could help me type, maybe just numbers and special punctuation like question marks. I do not like typing numbers. They are so far away from the other letters and they slow me down when I am typing a world-class memo. The monkey could do that. He would enjoy that task, and I would feed him animal crackers. He would not even know if he ate a monkey cracker!
I would teach the monkey to use the fax machine too. If only our clients knew their faxes were sent by a monkey—that would be so funny! The monkey would clap and dance, dance and clap, and I would feed him animal crackers.
The third hour on the fourth floor in the building near Fifth Avenue was very hectic and I had no time to attend to my nails. I was so busy I forgot I even had nails! Or at least I did not think about them, which amounts to the same thing. Whiz whiz whiz, fax fax fax, hello hello hello. That was my hour, not necessarily in that order.
Each office has its own rhythm, but it takes patience to learn this unique beat. I am like a chameleon because I can blend in anywhere. I am a dancer, or at least I should have been. I tell my sister that all the time. She is a little monkey!
The fourth hour in the building near Fifth Avenue, I began to type my sixth inter-office memo. I am very impressed by the system they use here. If I put a letter in a specially marked envelope and just write someone’s name on the outside, a man will show up and take it to that person. What a good system! That saves me the time and effort of having to walk and learn new names. And it does not even cost a stamp, though I suppose they have to pay the man who delivers the letters. He probably does not do it for free. I have a lot in common with him because he probably likes money too. But I could not even guess what he does with his money. Maybe he has to feed a family of goats—wait, I just guessed and I said I could not! I sure am outrageous sometimes.
The fifth hour after photocopying my sixth memo for inter-office delivery as the seventh person in the department—including the pretty girl—was lunchtime.
Lunch hour, how soon it arrives! I must make a confession here: I like to test out closets at lunchtime when no one is around to make sure they would be suitable for my monkey. After waiting for everyone else to leave the office for lunch, I go into the closet, push aside whatever garments are hanging there—usually just my coat—and hang from the bar to measure its durability and grip. A good bar needs to be thin because my monkey will have small hands, but it must also be sturdy.
The coat closet in this office is practically ideal. Although I could not fully test it yesterday because I had to drop off last week’s time sheet at the temp service on my lunch hour, I remember its bar being particularly firm and sturdy and not too thin or thick.
When I hang in the closet, I occasionally enjoy a good hoot. But I have to be careful about hooting because it can bring attention. A good hoot is distinctive, unique even, like fingerprints or snowflakes. I practice my hoot at home when I watch shows about monkeys on PBS or the Discovery Channel. I must admit that I hoot along pretty well to them.
You may ask, why hoot? Is not “monkeying around” in the closet, hanging from the bar, enough? No, it is not! And do you know why that is not enough? Because when I get my monkey, he is going to want someone to talk to. I will be there for him to hoot with all day long. We will have a hoot!
Some of you are probably thinking that since I love monkeys so much, why do I not marry one? I will tell you why I do not: because that is dumb. I will never marry a monkey. They are for friends, not spouses. Anybody knows that—just ask a little kid on the street.
I eat bananas on my lunch hour because I want to establish a pattern which will easily accommodate a monkey. His presence in my life will be change enough. Sometimes I eat peanut butter sandwiches with bananas on them that I make the night before. I generally prefer not to eat at my desk because I like to keep it clean. Sometimes crumbs sneak away and then reappear at embarrassing times, like when a boss comes to your desk to give you a special task.
After every meal I rinse my mouth with mouthwash. I do not like food tastes to linger. Food tastes are for tasting food. Lunch is for lunchtime. If I am working and my mouth has a food taste, I feel unclean and I feel like my mind is still “out to lunch.” I should not get paid for being out to lunch.
Today after everyone had gone to lunch, I sneaked into the closet and closed the door. I hung from the bar, pulling my legs up behind me so that I was off the ground. Oh, yes. This was a great closet: roomy, not too stuffy. My monkey would love to work here. Maybe they have a permanent job available. You have to plan for your future. If I know anything, I know that much. I had never thought of a permanent job before. I am so used to new people and places. Maybe I would talk to that pretty girl if I worked here—at least after I got a monkey.
If I had a monkey, he could take her a note that says I like her. She would think it was cute because he would be a cute monkey.
I was feeling bold with my new plan.
My sixth hour as the seventh person in the department on March 8th was elegant. Because a lot of people were still at lunch, I had time to drink more coffee and clean my nails. I like to use a straightened paper clip to do this. It forces out dirt and dead skin trapped underneath.
There came a point in the afternoon when everyone had come back from lunch and was out of their offices and in the main room filing or copying or faxing or babbling, and I decided that was an excellent opportunity to voice my question.
I stood and cleared my throat.
A couple of people stopped what they were doing and looked at me, but not everyone.
That got their attention. Good thing I wasn’t wearing a brash tie because that would make me nervous.
“Since everyone is here, I want to ask a question. It is actually one big question, with smaller ones attached.”
“Hurry up, we are right in the middle of a merger.” Some goon said that. Of course, I would hurry. Wasting time is unprofessional!
“Okay, my question is, are there any permanent jobs available at this corporation and, in the event I were to be hired for such a position, would it be okay if I brought a monkey to work? I do not own a monkey right now, but I plan to purchase one soon, when I am rich. And if my monkey is allowed to come to work with me, can I put it in my contract that we buy a custom keyboard for him to use, with only numbers and special punctuation on it?”
No one said anything for a moment, and then everyone turned away and went back to what they were doing. Good, they were considering my request. I knew they were professional because they did not say anything. I would not respect them as much as I do if they had made a hasty decision, even if it had been made in my favor.
The seventh hour at work on March 8th, I completed the ninth set of copies for inter-office delivery. When I returned to the office from making all those copies, which I sorted and stapled myself, everyone had left for the day. A lot of people left the lights on in their offices. This was unusually unprofessional of them—not only to leave early, but also to leave the lights on. What a waste! Diligently, I turned off all the lights.
Before leaving myself—there was no work for me to do if there was no one to give me work—I made up my mind to try the bar in the closet one more time. I had to push aside a bunch of coats besides my own. The weather must have improved if no one needed coats. I felt they should have taken their coats home with them, though there was no one for me to tell of my opinion.
I may be special because I am a “whiz,” but I bet I could teach my monkey my job. And then he could feed me bananas, and I would watch him work. And when it came time to do the faxes, I would clap and dance! Everyone would think a monkey was sending their faxes but it would be a human. That is outrageous! And I would type the numbers and special punctuation. I knew I could do it. What a great plan!
The lawyers did not know quite what to think when they found me in the closet hanging from the bar and hooting. If I say so myself, I have a very distinct hoot that any monkey would know as mine. To be honest, their discovery was a little awkward. I did not know my acrobatics would be scrutinized by such an impressive array of professionals. And my hoots—well, my hoots were my fault. The whole office had probably heard them.
“Where have you been?” I was still hanging.
“Uh, we were in a meeting.”
“Since you are back, I want to ask one more question. Will you hire my monkey, and if you do, can I be his assistant?”
“Maybe you should just go home.” They said that as if there was something wrong with me.
But I was not leaving, not after finding a bar this perfect. They stood around and I guess they just did not know what to do. They simply closed the door on me. I did not care. This bar was perfect and I did not want to leave. Maybe I could stay in the closet for the rest of the day and hang here like a little monkey.
That would be outrageous!
After a while I could hear them moving around outside the closet. I tossed all of their coats onto the floor so they would not be confused to find me still hanging on the bar. That is how thoughtful and professional I am. I heard them murmuring and scuffling around outside the closet and then everything was quiet.
I thought maybe I should go home after all, but then the door slowly creaked open. It was the pretty girl, and she was staring at me. She said she couldn’t believe that there was someone out there that liked to do the same things she did. I made room for her so that she could hang from the bar too. The bar was perfect and would not break even with both of us hanging from it. She said we were both bananas.
MATTHEW AMUNDSEN’s stories have been published in The Harrow, Millennium SF &F, Zygote in My Coffee, Starsong, and others. In addition to fiction, he has also published extensive music criticism for brainwashed.com and various print publications. Over the years, he’s worked in film, television, and photography while living in New York, Atlanta, and Minneapolis. He now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he continues to write as well as record and perform experimental music as Surface Hoar.