Monday, March 04, 2013

Call to Action

(This is the beginning of a short story based on life in a Cincinnati branding agency. Loosely, but not currently, autobiographical.)

He sits in a rectangular room, not a cubicle. It has a door, and usually it is closed. He likes it closed, so that people can't see what he is doing, which usually is reading a book or surfing the net or writing on a pad of paper. He is afraid that others might think he is not working, and in fact most of the time he is not — that is, not doing the work they pay him for.

No, he isn't neglecting his job — it's just that there isn't enough to keep him busy all the time. When he first discovered this, he was nervous, and kept asking people if there was anything he could do. Usually there wasn't, so he began to fill up the time with other activities, especially reading. Now he counts on having lots of time to read and resents it if he doesn't.

His "desk" is a kind of table built into the wall, whose surface is covered with a plastic that reminds him of the lunch counters in cheap diners. At one end of it rests the computer monitor; the keyboard sits on a movable tray bolted to the undersurface of the "desk." To the right of the monitor sits a stereo in the shape of a cube: it contains a CD player, radio, and cassette player. The cube's face is liberally outfitted with buttons, toggles, knobs, plugs, and controls, most of which he doesn't use. Then comes a phone, then a rubber sleeve made for holding cold drink cans, but now holding pens and pencils; then a row of books, including novels, dictionaries, the Chicago Manual, three or four old magazines, some plastic file boxes with a collection of old memos, a binder of Ingredient information. The row slants lazily to the right and is kept from falling by a cardboard box of slides and transparencies that he is expected to catalog, a task he has been meaning to do for several months.

The foreground of the desk is occupied by pads of paper, a scattering of CDs, a stapler, a coffee cup, tape dispenser, various binders, a time sheet, and a little plastic box with a hole in the top to shake paper clips out of. Now the hole holds a small chocolate egg wrapped in bright foil.

On the wall is a poster advertising a book he wrote years ago, now out of print, and a calendar of castle pictures, hung by a push tack. A thin black wire stretches up from the back of the music cube across the calendar and winds around the push tack: the antenna. This improves reception.

On a pad in front of him, a list of words: Attention. Customer. Benefits. Differentiate. Prove. Credibility. Value. Call to action.

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