“You must have heard the news. I can’t believe they’re doing it now. Those poor people, and with the holiday right around the corner.”
I don’t want to look. But I feel myself caught. The gravisocial field is too strong, and I don’t have enough managerial thrust to escape. I turn, sigh, and nod.
“Hi, Bertha. What are you talking about?”
She’s still in her chair, but I can feel that tugging field rolling out like waves from her. She doesn’t stand much, but she doesn’t need to. She’s like a small mountain, pumping out ever-present clouds of sadness. Whenever someone has a balloon of happiness, she’s always ready with a pin.
“Marketing,” Bertha repeats, as if I should know. “They haven’t hit their targets. Half the division’s being laid off.”
Didn’t know. Don’t care. Need to get away. “Well, I’m sure that they’ll be hired back soon enough,” I say, putting on a fake smile. “Besides, they make a ton. They’ll be fine.”
“It’s a bad sign,” the cloud of sadness insists. “Means more layoffs are coming soon. Might hit our department. Someone will be going. And probably someone new, or someone close to retiring.”
My teeth hurt. I keep them clenched. “I’m sure we’ll be fine,” I say. But it’s not enough. I can’t fight sadness with optimism. Gotta try a different tack.
I flick through my options. Ebola? No, blew that already. Other sad things? I’ll just be caught forever. Happiness isn’t enough. I’ve got one more card left.
Time to play for shock value.
“Actually, Bertha, there’s a video I’ve been meaning to show you,” I say, trying to lean around her to reach her keyboard. I don’t think I can make it around. There’s too much ’round’ to make.
Instead, I wave at her keyboard, and finally, she passes it over. She’s a little confused, but with me for the moment.
Pull up YouTube. “Sail Cat.” Awolnation. This might be my ticket out. Bertha’s over the hill, she doesn’t watch viral videos. Not even the old ones. I’ve had this bullet ready in the chamber for a while.
Play. Video’s going. “Aww, stray cat?” Bertha rumbles, but she’s still watching.
Music’s building. Here it comes. “SAIL!” Off goes cat. Gasp goes Bertha.
“Oh my gawd! I can’t believe it! How do I watch it again?”
“Just click right here. No, here. No, this button. Look, just let me.” Video’s playing again. Bertha has all her attention on the screen. The field lessens. This is my chance.
Sprint away. From behind me: “SAIL!” “Again, again!” I’ll have to find some more cat videos for next time.
The elevators are ahead of me. Jam the button. C’mon, c’mon. Ding. Yes! Through the line, into the room, and I’m free! The doors are closing! The doors are closing!
The doors are… caught on a hand in them.
I’ve got a bad feeling about this…