Jig and Charlie

Jig sat on a concrete bench between a pair of tall corporate buildings. On the bench beside him was a plastic bag with a box inside it wrapped like a gift. Marjorie would come outside with her lunch any minute and that’s when he would present her with the box. It was all exactly as though he was still working here. Like he’d just come down for lunch after a morning of managing funds. Except that now he couldn’t sit still. He kept getting up and walking from one side of the courtyard to the other. Office workers came and went from the office buildings- some smoking, some eating from paper bags. So far he didn’t recognize anyone but he knew it was only a matter of time. He wiped his hand across his forehead and his brow was slick with sweat.

Jig, I thought they fired you, Sam stood above him with a few of the other interns. They want me back, Jig said. I know, it’s weird. I guess I’ll find out more when I go in.

Sam looked at him. Shows what I know, said Sam.

Yeah, it does, right? said Jig, with a short laugh. Sam and the interns left. Jig noticed Sam on his cell phone as he walked away and wondered who he was calling.

The sun gradually changed its position and the courtyard fell into shadow. More office workers came and went. Marjorie had not yet made her entrance. Jig sat and hugged himself as the wind picked up, channeled between the buildings. He rocked back and forth. He took the small, wrapped box out of the bag. It was chocolate brown and had no card or ribbon. Just a cube wrapped with brown paper.

Jig loosened his tie and unbuttoned his top button. His neck was cold and wet. Carson, a hulking security guard who had just arrived for his shift, sat off on a corner bench. He jabbered into his cell phone, puffing on a cigarette.

Eventually the courtyard was empty except for Jig. The end-of-day exodus was underway, with everyone leaving the building by elevator to the parking garages, avoiding the lobby and the courtyard. Still no sign of Marjorie. Then Jig was inside the building, waiting by the elevator, pretending to be on his phone. When someone with a security fob showed up, Jig followed him into the elevator.

Jig, appearing engrossed in his phone call, pressed “44”. The other man in the elevator looked at him. Jig kept on with the call, although in reality he would have lost reception by now. No, no… Yes, yes… No… Well, we have three… I know, I know… I know, Charlie… That’s what I said, right? Jig faked a laugh. The man observed him out of the corner of his eye. But then the man exited on 5 without looking back and Jig was alone. He kept the phone to his ear as a security measure but stopped talking to his fake friend Charlie.

When the elevator doors opened, the 44th floor was pretty dark. An imposing figure stood to the left, half in shadow. How’s it going, Jig? the man said. Jig recognized the security guard Carson. Jig pointed at his phone. Yes… Yes, CHARLIE, that’s what I’m doing! Jig said, avoiding looking at Carson. …I know… But I have to hurry… And Jig rushed down past the empty reception area to the rows of cubicles. Carson trailed after him. Finally Jig made it to Marjorie’s darkened office and shut the door behind him, locking it. You can’t go in there, said Carson.

Just a second! Jig called out. I’m on the phone! Jig wasted no time in Marjorie’s office. He dumped papers from drawers onto her desk and the floor. He knocked the pictures off the walls. The bottom drawer of her desk contained more files but instead of removing these he urinated onto them, rivulets of pee flowing along and then soaking in. What’s going on in there? Carson asked.

Charlie, let me tell you the important details! Jig shouted into the phone so Carson could hear. The plane leaves at 8:45 but make sure you have all the ratchets! All a hundred-twenty-eight of them! Okay! Can you hear me Charlie? Do you need me to speak louder?

Tell your friend you need to hang up now, Carson said. In a count of three I’m going to open this door and we’re going to have a little talk about office security. One… Two…

She had puppies? …Wait, how many? …Oh, I can’t believe it! That’s so sweet! …Anyway, back to business! I have a very rude “rent-a-cop” yelling at me over here but I need to get you this important information! …Yes, ventricles! With a flange! A flange!

THREE! And with that Carlton unlocked and swung open the door. He was about to say something but stopped. Jig had just now lit the papers on fire and stood behind a wall of flames and smoke, phone pressed to his ear, eyes wide, a huge grin on his face. Stacks of papers burned on the desk and on the floor all around him. The brown box he’d brought was burning up on the center of the desk, a dark sludge leaking out of it.

Rita? RITA? Carson said into his walkie. RITA, I’m going to need you to call the fire and the police departments. Now! NOW! Just then Jig jumped through the flames and bolted past Carson, heading to the stairs. RIT–… Carson trailed off, staring into the flames. Then he turned to stare after Jig. Finally he snapped back to life and ran after Jig, taking the stairs two at a time.

Crashing down the stairwell, Carson bellowed after Jig: AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! I’M GONNA GET YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!!!

Jig made it out to the street and ran right into traffic, cars swerving to avoid him. On the other side of the street he ran down the stairs into a subway station, jumping the turnstile and not stopping until he was seated on a D train, the AC cooling him as he hyperventilated. No one looked up from their subway stupor except for an Indian business woman next to him who rose and moved to the other end of the train car. Jig looked down at his hand and realized he was still clutching his phone. The lull of the crowded subway car was broken by the sound of Jig’s voice. CHARLIE? He said. …Charlie, my friend, are you still there?



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