The room is packed with computers and chairs and cubicles, all in muted greys. The dry hum of electricity fills up every crack. In the cubicle diagonal to mine, a guy chews something crunchy. I think his name is Stephen. It surprises me there hasn’t been a fire yet due to faulty wiring. I pray for a fire. It would break the monotony of telephone rings and the buzzing of the damned lights.
Above me, there’s a coffee-colored stain on the ceiling tile. Sometimes I imagine there’s a dead squirrel up there, decomposing, ready to fall through at any moment.
If it drops—when it drops—I won’t move. I’ll sit with it in my lap and invite everyone over to see the new office pet. The squirrel, in its posture of playful repose, will be our mascot. We’ll call him Alvin and laugh. Stephen and I will blush when people say we should get married and raise him together. The ladies in HR will stop by our cubicles on their fifteen-minute breaks, cooing and giggling, while stroking his hardened fur.
On Alvin’s first birthday, we’ll bring cake and fire up candles and hold our little guy up as we sing. Someone will turn out the lights, setting our faces aglow. And in the dark, we won’t be able to see Alvin’s further disintegrated flesh or the mask behind our faces or the carcass shaped hole where he used to lie. But still, we’ll know it’s there.
Amber Wheeler Bacon is a writer, teacher and literacy specialist. She has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and is on the board of directors of the South Carolina Writers Association. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Epiphany, Ruminate, Post Road, New Ohio Review, Crazyhorse and Witness. Her writing can also be seen online at Ploughshares and CRAFT. She was awarded the 2018 Breakout 8 Writers Prize by Epiphany and The Author’s Guild.