Marty takes the long route to work the following morning, pondering the previous night while feeling that he still belongs there. Morning came far too quickly. And because of this, Marty is far too tired to be going to work. Damn morning. It ought to hold off a bit and let a man get some sleep.
Marty doesn’t necessarily have to be awake for work though. His job is boring, just like the rest of the life he set-up here in this boring setting. And all because he had boarded up the comedy so that it couldn’t get in. After the previous night, Marty feels mildly ashamed of his actions in the past few weeks.
But at the same time, he is rather excited to find himself in such a situation. Because all along, he wasn’t escaping the comedy—he was preparing a good ole world of boringness to be the setting! Because all the best comedies are the ones that sweep through a plain, authoritative world, leaving destruction and absurdity in their wake. Because all the best comedies arise where you would least expect them. Like at a paperclip sales office.
Marty arrives with a grin, and is delighted by just the effect this has. Why is he grinning? People are growing frightened.
Henry Miller is beaming with a red face today because his tie is blue. Holy crap, it’s normally black. This should have the office talking, but instead, they’re all caught up by Marty’s grin. Sorry, Henry Miller, you’re just not interesting enough to get noticed today, blue tie or not.
And Jill Smith, she is drinking far too much coffee, maybe she had an argument with her husband again. That guy is sick. He sells staplers. That’s like blasphemy here in the paperclip industry, and she’s married to him.
And what about Timmy Jones? Well, he never finished grade twelve. It’s the best known secret. Kind of defeats the purpose, but the boss doesn’t know. That makes it mildly suspenseful. Whenever Timmy is asked to perform advanced addition, people get on the edges of their seats. Will the dirty secret be revealed?
Not today. Today Marty has come to work with a maniacal grin. And now the whole office cannot focus. And every time something occurs that is out of the ordinary, Marty is eager to pounce on it, while holding back a nervous laugh.
He looks over his shoulder as if expecting to see a few clowns sneaking into the building. Then he goes to the water cooler and splashes some water on the floor. He appears to have done it on accident, but when it happens, he laughs nervously and points. Then his eyes are shifty, he pretends not to have done a thing, though everyone in the office is watching him, and he skips off down the aisle to his cubicle.
By mid-afternoon the suspense has gotten to him, and his entire office block wants to go home early. Marty suddenly realizes that if something goes wrong, such as a sudden prank or criminal assault, the whole office will blame him without a moment’s thought. But then he abruptly finds this hilarious and takes off to the coffee machine for a refill, cracking up the whole way.
And then his boss approaches him with a concerned expression. He is likely suspicious and wants to know what Marty has done. “Hi there, Marty,” he says, his mustache shifting and bobbing back and forth as his lips sound out the words. “How was your weekend? Get up to anything…interesting?”
Marty gives a nervous laugh. “Yes,” he blurts merrily, before swiftly striding away with another mug of coffee. He can feel his boss’s stare, and he lengthens his stride doubly without spilling his coffee. He moves like a marching band conductor who has to take a piss but hasn’t found the appropriate moment. And coincidentally, Marty soon ends up in the washroom, having begun to overflow with coffee.
And that is when his cell phone rings. He answers while standing at the urinal.
“Marty. Listen very carefully.” It is a man’s voice. Deep throated and serious.
Marty frowns. “Who is this?”
“I cannot tell you. But you must do exactly as I say.”
“Erm.” Marty seems to have had a full bladder. “Kinda busy right now. Can you hold off a bit?”
“No. Unfortunately we do not have much time. They’re coming for you, Marty.”
“No time for that. Listen. The cubicle across from you is empty.”
Marty looks to the nearest bathroom stall. “So?” he asks.
Marty laughs. “Did I say I was kinda busy? By that, I’m not talking about paperclips, if you know what I mean. So if you want some paperclips real bad, maybe for some official documents, ransom letters, you know the sort, then why don’t you call Henry? He’ll tell you all about his cat and dog and befriend you like a church boy in the choir. Then he’ll sell you enough paperclips to make a chain mail body suit. If that's your kind of thing, just saying.”
“Marty. I am not interested in paperclips. And we have very little time. The cubicle across from you is empty.”
Marty finishes and walks into the empty bathroom stall. “Now what?” he asks. “Pull down my pants?”
The man pauses. “…No,” he says hesitantly as if this would be bad judgment. He is slightly put off but manages to remain mysterious.
Marty is distracted by the bathroom graffiti, but carries on nonetheless. “I’ve already got five gold stars in potty training, so I really don’t need your guidance.”
The deep throated voice pulls away from the phone and coughs. Marty can hear a few bewildered curses. Then the voice comes back in again. “You are in a far more dangerous situation than you know. Your…basic skills…will not come in use. And you would do well not to mock my intelligence. So follow my instructions exactly. I know far more than you do about the correct procedures in this situation.”
Marty looks at the toilet. “Right. Listen. I can tell you’ve got this whole thing planned out and all, but truly, I don’t have to go.”
“Yes, Marty. You do.”
Marty frowns. This is getting far too personal.
And then the voice elaborates and Marty is relieved. “When I tell you, go to the end of the row. Stay as low as you can.”
Marty sighs. “Right. You and I are now slightly more on the same page. Wait, did I say moron?” At this point, Marty is sidling into the role of a cheap dinner theatre stand-up while unknowingly taking part in a satire.
The voice is urgent. “Go. Now.”
Marty slips from the stall and crouches low in a run down the row to the far end of the bathroom.
“Now. Go to the window. Outside there’s a scaffold.”
Marty looks up at the small, dusty window that lets in a soft glow. Not even a moth would be attracted to it. Marty swallows. “No way. This is crazy.”
“There are two ways out of this building,” warns the deep throated voice, but Marty will have none of it.
“Who are you anyway? This is a prank call! Isn’t it? Do I know you from somewhere? Did my mom put you up to this? It’s not my birthday. Your voice is very familiar. Come on, give me a hint here. Bowling? Gotta be bowling.”
“I do not bowl.” The man says 'bowl' as if insulted by the very idea.
“Neither do I. I was thinking of my grandfather’s bowling team. But if that’s not it then…Mr. Parry? My grade five English teacher? No way!”
“No. Marty. We do not have time for this. There are two ways out of—”
“Come on now. Tell me who you are. I know you sound familiar.”
“Marty. They’re coming for you.”
Marty looks back to the window. “I’m afraid I cannot fit through this window. And I’d have to break it open first.”
The man suddenly pauses. “You…can’t fit? On the far side, one of the panels should swing open.”
“I think we’re talking about two different windows here pal. And my, you do sound familiar. Were you a blues singer at one point?”
The deep-throated voice lets out a growl. “Did you follow my instructions exactly? What room are you in? Are there any pictures on the wall? Any names?”
Marty gives the wall a careful look. “Yes. There’s a picture of a penis and the only name is your mom. Does that help? It even has her phone number.”
The man coughs and chokes into the phone, and then moves away wheezing.
“You really gotta stop smoking,” Marty advices. And then, as the man comes back on to the phone in the most serious voice he can manage, Marty suddenly clues in.
“Hold it!” he cries out. “I know who you are! You’re some rich-ass guy with a deep throated voice who contacts people over the phone! Ah ha!”
“Excuse me? Is there someone you know who actually has that title?”
“Well yes! He’s the one who hired the thief to spy on my neighbor!”
The deep-throated voice lets out a groan. “Now how the fuck could you make a connection like that?”
“Well there couldn’t be two of you working in the same city. It’s hard to find voices like yours. All the movie industries sweep them up and get them introducing a hero of men in a thrilling adventure of murder and betrayal that will change your life forever.” Marty stops himself before he goes too far and inevitably gives the entire plot away. He's got some style even if no one would hire him to narrator a movie trailer.
The man curses into the phone.
“No one is actually coming for me, are they?” asks Marty.
The man takes a swig of something and then continues his dark instructions. “Yes. They are coming for you. But you’re on your own now. I cannot help you escape the building. But I will call the pay phone on the corner of Sunny Drive and Park Lane at four o’ clock. Be there.”
And then the man cuts off before Marty can make a snide remark about the street names. He is left alone in the bathroom, except for three occupied stalls and a janitor trying his hardest to take the role of a non-English speaking mute who really just cleans urinals and doesn’t listen in on personal conversations.
Marty gives a ridiculous laugh, slaps the janitor on the shoulder, and moves to the exit.