Ross White is the editor of Inch, a magazine of short poetry and microfiction, and the publisher of Bull City Press. His work has appeared in Tar River Poetry, Carolina Quarterly, and Southern Poetry Review, among others. He lives in Durham, and teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Like everyone else, I'm just trying to get ahead.
You have to be a bastard to make it, and that's a fact.
Showed up early this morning and there he was
coming out of my cubicle: a centaur
in crisp pressed shirt, silk tie,
pinstripe jacket draped over his chestnut coat,
his human-enough hands around a wireless card
from the discard box. He winked
as he shuffled his uneven gait by me.
He made his way through a maze
of cubicles, eyes scanning, legs stopping
as if to grazeat every empty work area.
He quickly assembled a working computer
and from his briefcase unpacked pictures
of the wife and kids, some two-legged,
some four. He taped a makeshift nameplate
to the cubewall. He set to work,
upgrading servers, humming a song
we all recognized but no one could name.
We herded around the water cooler
to play Name that Goddamn Tune.
I can hardly name all six guys in sales.
The district supervisor queried
the project manager by instant message,
asking who hired him. The receptionist
couldn't reach corporate. Human resources,
which we always joked was staffed
by trolls, seemed likely to oppose him
during this hiring freeze but
the morning meeting focused on retraining.
The front desk, which refuses my wife
when she comes weekly to take me to lunch,
made no apparent fuss buzzing him in
this morning. Perhaps it's his pearl cufflinks.
He reorganized the shared drive
so finding files is like falling off a log.
He spoke to no one until lunch,
when he sidled up to the receptionist,
who recommended good Mediterranean,
and he smiled, said, "Thanks much,"
and galloped down the stairwell,
the thunderous, racing clap-clop
echoing through the sixteen floors,
another song we have all long known.
I tried to goad him into gossiping
about the project manager, the office goat,
all afternoon, tried chit-chatting
about favorite television shows,
but he never bit the bait. He configured
a comprehensive antispyware solution.
He set up our first wireless network.
He offered to hem a skirt for the fidgety temp—
I wonder where he learned to do that.