Overtime

For many years Neal Merman commuted back and forth to his place of work like countless others. Neal performed the job of an everyday clerk in an insurance office; a room with blank walls, linoleum floor and forty desks under naked florescent lights.

This mechanical routine shifted abruptly, however, when Neal became part of his desk. First, the desk absorbed only two fingers, but by the end of that afternoon, his entire left hand was sucked up by the metal. The following morning Neal’s left leg from the knee down also became part of his desk. So it continued for a week until the only Neal to be seen was a right arm positioned beside a head and neck on the desktop.

When the other clerks arrived in the morning, all they could see of Neal was his head bent down, a pencil in hand, reviewing a file with utmost care. To aid his review, Neal would punch figures into his calculator fluently and with the dexterity of someone who knows he is in total command of his skill. Such acumen brought a wry smile to Neal’s face.

One day, Big Bart, the department boss, came by to check on Neal’s files. “Clerk, your work is better and better, although you are now more desk than flesh and bones.”

“What files do you want me to review today?” Neal asked, still scrutinizing some figures.

“Not too many files, clerk, but enough to keep you.” Big Bart withdrew and Neal followed him with his eyes until his boss could no longer be seen.

Later that day Neal’s right arm faded into the metal. Then, like a periscope being lowered from the surface of the sea, his neck, jaw and nose sank down, leaving his eyes slightly above the gray slab. Neal looked forward and saw his pencil straight on – a long gleaming yellow cylinder with shiny eraser band at the end. Over the pencil, his telephone swelled like some giant mountain. Hearing the phone ring, Neal instinctively reached for the receiver, but this was only a mental gesture. Neal felt his forehead sinking and closed his eyes.

–Glenn Russell


Stories

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