Mobile technology allows the man from the French office to berate his wife at his temporary desk just behind mine. “Haloo. Yeah. Hi. Have you found the duffel bag? The wallet? Okay, well- Yes, well I need the duffel bag – I need the duffel bag for tomorrow. Did you get that? That’s right. So you’ll bring the duffel bag?” If he says “duffel” one more time I’m going to trepan him with a hammer claw. Despite the broth of meds that keeps my “trouble” at bay, his pet word is beginning to affect me physiologically. Fortunately he hangs up.

Rather than having a single tedious extended conversation, French prefers several hundred ongoing tedious conversations.

Ring. “Haloo. Where are you? You haven’t left? Why not? Look, did you ring the taxi? I just asked you: did you ring the taxi? Well look, you’re going to have to. I can’t. I can’t deal with that right now. It’s in the duffel bag.” I flick my wrist once and my sleeve-hammer drops into my waiting hand. “Suite 317. Three- It’s a suite. Suite 317. Just tell them suite-” Now it’s “suite.” He’ll be the one in trouble when I jam my thumbs into his eye sockets all the way up to the second knuckle the very next time he says that word. I listen more closely, and admire the perfect ivory arcs of my extended thumbs. He hangs up.

A few minutes later: Ring. “Hello? Okay, bye.” He hangs up.

What was the other side of that conversation?

Ring. “Hello?”

“I’m pulling the trigger now.”

“Okay, bye.”

How can a phone conversation be that brief? Something that short… it’s more like a stimulus response test. Buzz, hit the button, get some kibble. Buzz, hit the button, get some more kibble.

On the phone French’s voice drips with the venom of someone who had one too many bad childhood experiences with the wire monkey mother. But look how he lights up like a dandy christmas tree when the cute new intern comes by for introductions. She doesn’t know that he’s actually a crankypants who may very well represent humanity’s genetic nadir.

These people around me, they’re like tartar buildup on the office’s cubicle teeth, and for me there’s been but one sanity-salvaging solution: astral projection. Of course it didn’t take long for Management to catch wind of the fact that I’m having these out of body experiences – perhaps it was the drool on my keyboard? – and they don’t like it at all. It’s not so much because I might manifest in conference rooms during important meetings, which I totally do, but rather because I don’t get much work done when I’m “away.” Well, I say, you can’t be in two places at the same time no matter what kind of powers you’ve managed to tap into. They tell me my priorities are screwed up, and I say that they’re just jealous, and fucking get over it, cockscombs.

What I haven’t revealed to anyone yet – what I won’t reveal – is that I can be in two places at the same time. In fact, I’m often gallivanting in several conference rooms at once, and I’ve even managed to duplicate myself once for every single employee on my floor. I followed them around like shadows, and watched them as they talked to their instant messenger friends in tiny chat windows at the bottom of their monitors.

No one wants to be where they are, but mine is the most effective solution. Why bother with pathetic phone arguments or vapid IM exchanges? Why not just leave the zits and dandruff behind and go right into the light? Impossible? Well I have a hammer in my sleeve that says it’s easier than you may think.

Language Creeps

entry_109Process-eez. The word haunts me, only it’s not a word. Not where I come from. But a word doesn’t have to be a real word to be worthy of loathing. It can be the sound the word makes as it slides over the palate, or merely the image it invokes. Me, I’ve always been sensitive to texture. With food it’s not so much the taste that turns me off, but how it feels on my tongue (not to mention whether I suddenly realize that I’m eating, which is another horrifying topic). Sounds can hold terrifying power as well: the sound of an old man swallowing his apple sauce, or the crinkle of napkins, or the dull chalky drag of teeth across drywall. And what are words but choreographed sound?

Feasible. Ointment. Nugget. Treat. Nutriment. Suckle. Moist.

Words have the power to make us cringe because of the particular ways they tinkle through synapses. “Moist”–the single most feared word in the English language–is as cloying as treacle, with snaking feelers that wend their way betwixt the cerebral lobes, and then tie themselves tight as a tourniquet. And as you can see, most of the words used to describe “moist” are nearly as abhorrent as their host.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we spend a great deal of time avoiding the words we hate, whether by keeping a close eye on the company we keep or by the unceremonious slapping of palms to ears. There are occasions however where we find ourselves in situations that demand that we just sit there and take it like the weakling kid with the permanent limp, and usually it’s at the office.

Our company ingested another company a while back, and its staff came aboard as foreigners. Friendly they were, to be sure, but they had their own way of doing things that brought on a clash of microcultures, detectable only by myself. That they contaminated our meetings with their particular meeting rituals was obvious. But far more sinister was the way they introduced to our lexicon all manner of foreign words, rife with long, drawn-out vowels and extra syllables. Indeed, the fact that my otherwise reliable comrades were oblivious to this was a major point of concern.

“Processees.” If there was a totem word to which the newcomers all supplicated it was this. The bastard plural of the word “process” combined with… What? I don’t know. Facilities? Diocese? Herpes? Menses? They used the word far too often though, often going way out of their way just to savor the extra long EES festering there at the ass end of the word. “We’ll need to adjust the production schedule to account for new development processeeeez.” Hercules, manatees, bees knees.

So imagine my horror when the word began to propagate like a virus, sometimes right before my eyes. My compatriots fell like old trees before the sheer will of this alien minority–they with their precious processees–and would abandon their own pronunciation in the middle of the meeting. In fact I once witnessed the pronunciation switch in mid sentence, with a “processes” to the fore, and a “processees” aft. I was careful to avoid the word altogether, because if they control your words then aren’t they, in a way, touching your brain? Licking it? Lap lap lapping at your melon…?

By now just about everyone has given over to the new way of speaking, but as much as I’ve always considered myself a progressive futurist, I will never utter that word unknowingly. Incidentally, this is, in fact, how the world evolves away from us. It’s inevitable; as cool and as current as we think we’ll always be, at some point we’ll see an innovation for what it really is: a corruption, a degradation, a devolution. And we’ll dig in our heels in, and we’ll ossify, and the young moist ones will find our resentment amusing, and then we’ll be forgotten altogether.

I’m thinking these very thoughts as they call on me at the meeting, and I’m caught off guard, and yanked back into the present with something new: a secret acid determination. I prepare a response, readying my fingers for the devastating “air quotes.”

Fearless Leaders

· A master; a lord; especially, an absolute or irresponsible ruler or sovereign.
· One who rules regardless of a constitution or laws; a tyrant.

· Being on one side only; affecting but one side; one-sided.

· The jurisdiction of a patriarch; patriarchship.
· Government by a patriarch; patriarchism.

· characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule; having absolute sovereignty; “an authoritarian regime”; “autocratic government”; “despotic rulers”; “a dictatorial rule that lasted for the duration of the war”; “a tyrannical government”
· expecting unquestioning obedience; “he was imperious and dictatorial”

· a policy of extending your rule over foreign countries
· a political orientation that advocates imperial interests
· any instance of aggressive extension of authority

· characteristic of someone who employs terrorism (especially as a political weapon); “terrorist activity”
· a radical who employs terror as a political weapon

Wait, which leader is this referring to?

The Machine

“Can you step right over here, sir?”

Of course I’m used to this by now, and stroll into the roped off area as easily as if I were queuing up at the grocery store. It used to be the metal in my shoes that set off the security scanners, but this time I’ve made it through unscathed. Instead, the attention seems to be on my bag this time, and they’re rolling it through the scanner repeatedly, and pointing at the monitor, and squinting their eyes.

I know they’re squinting because it makes the lawn darts easier to see. Those and the live pit vipers, as well as the ninja-issue throwing stars, the twelve blue vials of nitro glycerin, and the shards of glass from the asylum I’ve just escaped from. You see those items when you’re bored out of your mind – I can hardly blame them for their diligence.

The head security guard–the pit boss–swaggers over to the table next to me with my bag swinging from his fist liked a hanged man. That’s all I can think about, I mean. In the meantime, he’s smug, and ready to rack up the charges. “Mind if I take a look? See what we have?”

“Have at it,” I say.

“Okay, before I do, is there anything in here that’s going to poke me?” He’s at line four in the guidebook, I can tell. “Do you have anything sharp that I should know about?”

My thumbs aren’t necessarily sharp, but I do know how to use them if it comes to that. I put my hands in my pockets and say, “No. I have some clippers in the toiletries bag. And there are some spoons in the front pocket.” He’s not interested, except to note that I’ve missed my last chance to confess.

As he digs through my laundry, curiosity gets the better of me. “Is there anything in particular you were looking for? Maybe I can help, I mean.

He doesn’t look up, doesn’t pause. “Okay, well the machine showed some scissors, the kind with the curled blades.” I’d never heard of such a thing. “The kind you’d use to trim your moustache. Long curled blades.”

“Oh,” I say, rubbing the clean-shaven skin over my lip. What he means is that they were the kind of scissors most people would use to trim their moustache. I, on the other hand, would be using them to pierce the necks of the flight attendants as I clawed my way to the pilots’ cabin.

The guard shrugs off my demonstrative gesture. “Really, it’s not a question of whether you have them. The machine is never wrong. It’s a matter of where you have them. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and the machine is never wrong.”

Are you quoting directly from Brave New World then? I don’t remember that line specifically, so help me out. I nod, “Well I don’t think I’ve ever owned scissors like that, so if you find them it’ll be pretty cool.” Actually it wouldn’t be all that cool once the initial gee-whiz how’d-you-do-that factor wore off, and the handcuffs closed tightly around my delicate wrists. I suppose that I’m entitled to some degree of outrage, but my initial reaction is one of sadness for this security guard who is now dropping my underwear and notebook on the floor as he chases phantoms. A machine that could foresee a middle aged man in polyester uniform staring critically at my toothbrush would be a machine that was never wrong.

“I’m going to scan it again,” he says, voice flat. I watch as he peers at the monitor while the other security people look decidedly less interested. Might they be stifling laughter? All I need is to see one of them whistling and rocking back on his heels and my day is made.

“Okay, we’re done,” he says, handing my bag back to me. It’s unzipped, and my socks are hanging out of it. It looks like a rape victim down at the police station. As I straighten my things he leans in and says something spooky: “Are you okay, sir?” Like I’ve forgotten my next line to him.

“Sure,” I say, and flash him a convincing smile. Back to the villa for me, and you’d better wash your hands, by the way. It’s truly a relief to be done with this though, because I do have bigger things on my mind. This bag I carry is, after all, made of just over three square feet of my homemade explosive fabric, and I’m about ready to rock steady.