Company policy dictated the wearing of bright colors for all male employees. One senior manager wore a sky-blue suit with a scarlet tie; another wore orange slacks and a green sport coat. Maracas were issued to everyone in management, with instructions on how to use them and when. I’m not sure what I was doing there. Probably I had been hired through a temp agency and kept on indefinitely, despite my failure to observe the rules about fun. But now they were trying to make me part of the team.
Along with one other guy, I was taken downstairs to the plush offices of the Chief Financial Officer, who always wore mirrored sunglasses, he said, to protect his eyes from the glare of the suits — including his own, which was a vibrant purple. He spoke in a low, conspiratorial whisper. “What they want us to do now,” he said, “is watch some silly training video. But I don’t think you two really need any more training. I got some other ideas — come on, have a seat.”
I sank into the plush leather armchair and directed my gaze toward the screen while the CFO fiddled with the projector. “I know, I know. We can build the most sophisticated weapons delivery systems known to man, but can any of us operate a simple projector? No, we cannot,” he said with a self-deprecating chuckle. C’mon — how dumb do you think we are? I remember thinking just before the first of the lurid images appeared on the screen.
The CFO maintained the avuncular tone throughout, supplying the only soundtrack to the silent movies of rape and incest and torture. “Good stuff, eh guys?” I found myself nodding in agreement — I wanted the job. When the lights came back on, I forced myself to smile. Our new friend handed us each a pair of sunglasses identical to his own. “Welcome to the firm,” he said.
That was my last dream this morning before I woke. Don’t ever let anyone tell you we dream in black and white — a silly notion — though sometimes maybe I wish I could. Outside it was overcast and threatening rain.
The other day around 3:00 in the afternoon, the sun broke through in the middle of a downpour. In the little marsh across the road, the roof of the springhouse shone brightly through the curtain of rain. It was beautiful. Fog began to form almost immediately, the rain turning back into clouds as soon as it hit the ground. When it slackened off, I rushed up into the field to watch the last of the mist rising off the goldenrod.
By the following morning, off-and-on showers had given way to a steady rain. My brother brought his year-and-a-half-old daughter up for a visit and they horsed around for a while in my parents’ library. She has been drawn to books ever since she could sit upright — even large books without words. She loves sitting and turning the pages of her daddy’s scholarly tomes, or visiting the public library with her mother. If her grandpa doesn’t sit down and read one of her favorite children’s books to her as soon as they arrive, she gets very out-of-sorts. And I have to say, whenever she comes to visit, the books up on the shelves suddenly seem considerably less solemn and reserved, as if they know it won’t be too many more years before a new reader takes them down, one by one, and translates their black-and-white pages into joyful sound.
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