twitter novel, continued: THE PLACE BELOW

(Get caught up from the beginning.)

Hands clasped behind his back, Thom’s supervisor strolled around the room, looking over people’s shoulders.

The woman who sat next to Thom sighed and minimized an episode of Doctor Who. “When will this guy get a clue?” Clarice muttered, not seeming to look away from her monitor.

Thom rearranged the windows on his own screen. “He has a clue.”

Clarice adjusted her black thick-framed glasses. “Oh yeah?”

“He’s here to trim the dead wood. Don’t worry, you’re a woman. You’re safe.”

“Fuck you.” Clarice pointed a finger at him like it was a gun. “My parents. Did not spend $200,000 to send me to Tufts so I could get a job being babysat like a fucking kindergardener.”

“Sounds like you’ve had it rough.”

Clarice couldn’t answer because Brad was sauntering toward their desks now, thumbs hooked in his belt loops.

Thom snuck over to Irvin’s cube. This took longer than it should have because the desks in their department were laid out in a crazy quilt pattern, which was meant to enhance their creativity or something like that. The arrangement pre-dated Brad, who would probably get the desks into orderly rows as soon as he could.

Thom felt absurd, like a grownup in a child’s maze, every time he had to navigate across the room.

Irvin had one of the good cubes, with tall partitions and his back against an actual wall. Irvin’s chair was empty, so Thom scribbled a note on a Post-It and stuck it on Irvin’s plushie Yoda.

Feeling like Inspector Clouseau, Thom peered over the top of the partition. Brad was in a deep crouch, inspecting something on Clarice’s screen. That must be annoying the hell out of her, Thom thought with mild amusement. Brad didn’t know any programming; Clarice’s code would look like gibberish to him, whether it was or not. Brad had no business supervising any of them, really, but it bothered Clarice and the rest of the team much more than it did Thom.

The way Thom saw it, people like Brad were an unavoidable nuisance. Every ecosystem had its predators and bottom-feeders. Thom just tried to stay out of his way as much as possible.

He tossed crumpled neon green Post-Its into Irvin’s trash can until Brad went back to his desk and then took an unnecessary bathroom break.

“It’s funny that I just mentioned Tufts,” Clarice said when Thom came back.

“Why’s that?”

“Brad said something ominous about how they only want people with a college degree here now.”

“What? That doesn’t even make sense.”

Clarice maximized Doctor Who again. “He asked me if you were still going to night school.”

Thom grimaced and turned back to his own screen. When he’d applied to this company five years ago, he’d listed “degree in progress” under Education on his resume. He was self-taught. When it came to computers, nobody cared as long as you could do the work. At least, they hadn’t cared five years ago.

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