The cursor was blinking again. Jesse silently wondered if there was a common Latin root between “cursor” and “curse,” although the very recent invention of the cursor as a thing made that unlikely. Felt like it, though.

“You almost done, Jess? I know I told you the quarterly is due Tuesday, but I want time to look it over so we can make edits. First thing on Monday, we’ll make the final changes together, so print it with the graphs, in color—I want to see it the way the Board will see it. I swear, last time someone asked why we chose purple for the graphs, like his masculinity was too threatened to see the numbers through the girlie color. Pick a template color scheme that seems to favor neither gender, and I’ll have to cross reference it against football teams and gang references to make sure we offend no one. These people will kill me one day, I kid you not. Have a great weekend, Jess. We’ll knock it out at 9:00. 9:15–log in, get coffee, print, and then we’ll attack it.”

And Diana walked out of the office. There had never been a chance to speak. That was probably for the best. What would he have said? No, Diana, it isn’t almost done because I’m having trouble starting, and I was hoping I could slip out of here at the tick of 5:00, clear my mind this weekend, and pull something magical out of thin air on Monday, which was admittedly an ill-conceived plan from the start, so the new deadline doesn’t really work for me. Can I pencil you in for the following week instead?

Jesse chuckled dryly and turned back to the screen. It was still there. Groovy. Good thing he didn’t have plans until Saturday. He could be there all night if he needed to be. Wasn’t that convenient.

This always seemed to happen around the end of the quarter, when all the nastiest of reports were due. Jesse liked to think of it in much the same way people describe their slow descent into a life of crime. At first, it was just one extra job duty—a chance to show off a little for the boss. Then it was two or three a month, then two or three a week. Before he knew it, his entire position had changed. “Program Development” sounded like a creative job, but the last successful program that had been developed was the Birthday Club as a morale booster in the office. Anything can be called a “program.” And that also meant he was at the mercy of the Program Director, whose name is on all the reports. Not that she writes them, of course. Now, that was Jesse.

Steady pay. Benefits. Two weeks off a year and sick time when needed. For all of the frustrations in life, Jesse didn’t worry about how he was going to make his car payment. That was supposed to be enough. For a while it was. Not so much anymore. The headaches were getting worse, and maybe the fact that he’d recently doubled his coffee intake was only responsible for some of the new stomach pains. This couldn’t be what he was meant to do in life. No one is born to do someone else’s reports. Jesse shook his head and muttered to no one in particular, “There has to be a better life.”

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