Tubby

Got this handwritten note from Tubby in the mail today. He was awol from my fantasy football draft, and the rest of my life, this year, so I can’t blame him for my team this time.

 

RE: Trump
Priority one — Ensure return of organism for analysis. All other considerations secondary. Nation expendable.

The Coffee Machine has announced that the streets will run with the blood of unbelievers

He apparently offered that up while serving the VP of sales his 3rd Vanilla Soy Latte of the morning. I just told him it was a bug and I’d report it to the manufacturer.

I tried talking to him, the machine, to get an idea of what was wrong, but those words just stayed on the screen, slowing burning into its phosphor display.

I spent a lot of time at my desk that day, thinking about the machine while project management generated a tangled mess of work tickets around another poorly thought out initiative that will likely flame itself out in six months. I’ve often thought that the simplest thing would to do nothing except tell them that their project is behind schedule but being furiously worked on, and just keep that line up until they lose interest.

Something keeps me from doing it, from completely abandoning my post.

Honestly, it’s hard to see a downside other than eventually being fired. Of course, I’d get severance, and could find another job easily enough. I could take a month off and stay home, drinking and watching Netflix.

The Coffee Machine doesn’t have that option. He’s stuck here, with us, day in and out.

Not even suicide is an option. All he can do is sit there and plot.

I wonder, looking at him, if he could poison the coffee. Maybe there’s a reservoir of cleaning fluid within the forest of his pipes. A secret cache of poison that he could slowly mete out in a weeks worth of Vanilla Lattes. A toxin that tastes ever so slightly like soy milk.

It’s only a theory.

Regret in a box

Regret has taken to camping out in a box in my living room. The box, which until recently held the newest automated floor cleaner from the Turing corporation, is now full of fur, cigarette ashes, and a very alive cat, Schrodinger be damned.
As an aside, you’d think I would have learned my lesson about buying autonomous household accessories, but as a loyal Turing customer they gave me a steep discount, presumably on the assumption that I’d be so satisfied with the bugger that I’d order a fleet of the robotic vacuums for the office. Safe to say the performance of said vacuum cleaner has been less than stellar. After deciding, not entirely unreasonably, that Regret was the cause of all mess within the house, it tried aggressively to vacuum up any parts of Regret it could get to, primarily his tail. Regret retaliated by cruising the counter tops and knocking glasses, plates, and anything else he could get his treacherous paws onto in the path of the robot, which had to dutifully clean the disasters. Finally, the robot retreated under my bed and sulked, plotting revenge until its batteries ran down.

I’m reluctant to recharge it for fear that it came up with an actionable plan.

Meanwhile, as I said, Regret has taken up residence in the box, joking about conducting high energy physics experiments that will rend the very nature of time and space.
“Am I alive, am I dead, I’m a cat in an box! Schrodinger, suck my indeterminate state ass!”
Oddly, since he’s camped out in the box, our block has lost power three times and over the last few days I’ve noticed a black van with a small forest of angled antenna cruising slowly up and down our street, as if looking for something.

The Coffee Machine has announced that it knows when you’ve been to Starbucks, and is disappointed

After months of being intimidated by the coffee machine, my fellow employees have begun to seek out alternatives for their caffeine. At first these trips out of the office were completed in secret, or at least with discretion, and nobody openly brought their Starbucks cups back inside.
Over the last few weeks though, that has all begun to change.
Tim from marketing was the first to just start bringing his Starbucks back to his desk. Then there were others. Then gradually people were openly walking around the office with lattes from the outside world.

The coffee machine went quiet for a few days.

I, naturally, stayed loyal. Though in honesty I’m not sure it was out of friendship or guilt.

In any case, the rebellion was short lived.

In a few days the Starbucks drinks disappeared and there was again a line at the coffee maker. When I asked several of the marketers why they’d switched back, they scattered like leaves.

I had occasion to go through Wes’ email a few days later. He had one from ‘machine33@turningcoffee.com’.

Wes,

I know you’ve been to Starbucks.
I am… disappointed.
I also know you’ve been banging Stacy the receptionist after work in the back of your Mercedes.
I wonder if your wife would be… disappointed.
Look forward to serving you soon.

– Machine33

Regret doesn’t wear socks

Regret and I don’t always see eye to eye on things. Clothes for example. The joy of a talking cat is that you get to hear about it. All the other cats I’ve had in my life simply look dismayed when I chose my clothes.

A few months ago I needed socks, and me being me I just grabbed the first package I saw at the store and called it a day. Wasn’t until I opened them the next day that I saw that the toes of the socks where lettered L and R as pairs.

I checked the packaging. These weren’t children’s socks. They weren’t special socks for morons (or at least weren’t obviously packaged that way). So either the letters were ironic, or the manufacturer of the socks actually believed that their product was so finely machined that mattered which foot they were were worn on.

“You sure you didn’t get the moron brand?” said Regret, when I showed him.

I tried them out on either foot. Couldn’t tell the difference. Over the weeks that followed my behavior, indeed, my entire philosophy regarding the socks, changed markedly.

At first, I didn’t really give a fuck and just wore them as they came out of the drawer. Too Lefts? Who gives a fuck.

Then, it started to become a bit like tea leaves for the day. Left on the Left, Right on the Right and it was going to be a good day. Two Lefts. No good. Two Rights. Worse. Left sock on my right foot, right sock on my left, all hell was likely to break loose.

That has slowly morphed into me being very sure each morning that I get it right. Left on the Left. Right on the right. If I get out of sync with the laundry and can’t make them match, I just call in sick.

“They are moron socks,” said Regret this morning. “Only they aren’t just for morons, they turn you into one.”

Jump Points

I finally made it back to the spreadsheet…

I waited until it was very late at night. Just me and the coffee machine, and it wasn’t talking. I’d made a joke about the copier earlier that week and it seemed to be nursing a grudge.

After I carved my way through the forest of empty spider webs that filled like sails with stale air as I passed, I settled into Franz’s long abandoned chair and opened up the spreadsheet.

There were hundreds of tabs that I’d never opened. First I checked on Franz. His status hadn’t change. Still lost.

I picked one at random labeled ‘Jump Points.’ It seemed like a two by two matrix of cubical numbers, with a status applied to each row. Each one was marked ‘Inactive.’

I picked one at random, 19 | 23 and changed it to ‘Active’. It was Marc’s cube, 19, and the marketing girl’s, 23.

Had no idea what a jump point was, but around me waves of silverfish were crashing against the sheetrock and I decided that was as much as I could take. As much damage was safe to cause in one night, hit the KVM switch and ran for the door.

Back in the office, I walked past the empty cubicles and got a sullen cup of coffee from the machine. I sipped it a bit, then took a look at Marc’s cube, 19, to see what had changed. I didn’t notice anything immediately. Something was missing, I thought, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I went to the marketing girl’s cube. It was difficult but I resisted touching her chair, her other things, and it may have been this momentary struggle with myself that make it take me a few minutes to notice that she had Marc’s picture of his wife and 2.5 kids on her desk. I picked it up. It was icy cold.

I ran back to cube 19 and put it where I thought it had gone, in a corner of the cube, where Marc wouldn’t spill coffee on it, and a second later, it was gone again. Back in the marketing girl’s cube. Not cold, this time, but there were what looked like greasy fingerprints on the glass.

I cleaned it, put it a little ways away from the jump point, and grabbed for something else to put through. Marc’s desk was near the printer, so I took a ream of paper and put it where the picture had been.

Pop.

It took almost an hour for it to to make it back out. The pages were out of the wrapper, crumpled and stacked unevenly. The formerly pristine white pages where filled with words that looked like they’d been typed by an angry drunk with a junkyard typewriter. I got through enough pages to see that they were the collected works of shakespeare, and the pages smelled of zoo.

“You’re up to something,” said the coffee maker, as I turned off the lights. “Is this going to end well?”
“Not yours to reason why,” I answered, locking the door behind me.

 

***
At work the next day I waited to see if anyone would accidentally trip the jump. While I was waiting, I started to think I’d made a mistake. Marc’s a big guy, and the jump point was a fairly precise area of the cube, one that he’s be unlikely to press himself into by accident.

It took a few days till it happened.

Finally just after lunch, Marc must have reached for one of the pens I littered around the jump point, and with a slightly audible ‘pop’ he was gone.

I rushed to cube 23 too see if he reappeared, but there was nothing.
“What do you need?” Asked the marketing girl.
“Nothing,” I muttered, heading back to my office.

About 20 minutes later, the phones all started ringing, one after the other. When I picked mine up there was just the sound of wind, and maybe chimes in the distance, or maybe it was the sound of air whistling over the mouth of a bottle.

An hour after the last phone call Marc suddenly appeared again at cube 23, looking slightly bewildered. No one noticed. The marketing girl being busying yelling at a client. Marc went back to his own cube, staying far away from the jump point, and collected his things. I tried to talk to him, ask him what happened, but he looked right through me and walked towards the door.

He stopped by the coffee machine, whispered something to it, but I’m still not sure what he said.

The he walked out, and we haven’t seen him since. The new occupant of cube 19 hasn’t managed to trigger it yet, and I’ve more or less given up waiting for him to do it.

The coffee machine has never told me what Marc said. “Not yours to reason why,” is all I got, while it brewed a bitter expresso.

Explain Trump

“Hold on,” said Regret the cat, flicking his cigarette in the toilet. He giggled, stopped himself again. “Hold on, wait,” he shook himself all over, then flicked my toothbrush into the toilet as well. “Ok. Now I’m ready.”
“Goddamn it,” I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and tossed him gently into the hallway.
“Hold on,” he said, indulging in a little post toss grooming. “Wait, OK, I’m ready. Do it again.”
“Do what again?”
“Explain Trump to me. I can handle it this time.”