The doors open once again. My worst fears are realized.
I’m pulling hooky and my boss is in the elevator with me.
Shrink back. Hold briefcase. Don’t make eye contact. I’m just grabbing an early lunch. Not feeling great, hoping some OJ will be enough of a pick-me-up. Don’t want to infect the office. My shield feels flimsy. I don’t know if it will be enough.
The boss is in. Doors close. Tick, tick, we drop through the floor.
Three floors down, and he clears his throat. “Barry.” It’s not a question. My gut’s in knots.
“Headed out early?” This is a question. No, it’s an interrogation. I lift my eyes, and he’s locked on like a laser sight.
“Just an early lunch, sir.” That quiver in my voice is good. Shows I’m being truthful. I just wish it was on purpose. “Not feeling so great, hoping that some fruit might help prevent any sort of flu, nip it in the bud.”
Narrowed eyes. Is he buying it? I can’t tell. “Flu.” He wants an explanation.
I scramble to give it to him. “Had a couple late nights, sir. Might be coming down with something. Don’t want to affect office productivity, though. If it’s bad, I’ll push through and work from home.” There. Good work ethic. Promote that man. Or at least let him out of the building.
“True,” he nods after a minute, and I have to fight to hold in my sigh of relief. “Want to keep the herd safe.”
He leans in. I try not to lean back. “By the way, on the topic,” he adds, his voice dropping. “Have you heard about this ebola thing? Just caught a whisper of it. Bringing doctors back here, I heard.”
“Sounds quite nasty, yes sir.”
“I might duck out a bit early, stock up on supplies. Caught a whisper that there might be shortages, maybe even riots. Don’t want to deal with that. Working from home’s a good idea, Barry.” A nod, a nudge from an elbow. “Good man.”
We’re slowing down. The doors open. Sweet, sweet freedom awaits.
Let Donaldson out first, though. Watch him stride across the lobby in his suit. Keep the downcast expression. Keep on thinking about being sick. Gotta play this right.
…and he’s gone. Step through those big doors.
Breathe in fresh air. Arch back.