The new guy walks right through Accounting eating a rat on a stick. Roasted rat on a stick. Kid you not. I see him first, can’t believe my eyes. He’s content and happy, eating that rat on a stick. Like a kid at the fair polishing off a corn dog, humming happily as he parades past me and Danzig with this rat on a stick, his teeth tearing away at the meat, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Danzig stands up, his eyes giant, his mouth open. “Hey,” he mutters, and that’s all he can say. The new guy keeps walking. Danzig walks over, invades my space. “Who was that?” “The new guy.” “That thing had legs.” Danzig’s breath is atrocious. It’s like he just opened a jar of rotting meat and sour milk. “You see that thing?” Gently, I push him away. “That thing was a rat.” Danzig looks at me like I’m the one with a rat on a stick. You can nearly see his mind doing the math. That was the new guy. The new guy eating a rat on a stick. We’ve all been hearing great things about the new guy. Fitzroy can’t stop talking about the new guy. The new guy, some kind of out-of-the-box thinker. Fitzroy’s new genius. Finally Danzig says, “You think they taste like chicken?”
The new guy doesn’t look like us. He has this whole I-don’t-give-a-shit scene going. Long dark beard that comes to a point near his sternum. Big head of black, wavy hair. Big, thick tribal tattoos on his long, muscular arms. Dark sunglasses, worn indoors. Heavy, charcoalgray jeans, worn-in T-shirts and big black boots. Yeah, he’s a pretty jarring sight around here. I wish I could dress like the new guy. Then I stop and ask myself, Well, could I? Sometimes these days, I wonder what people would do if I came to work rebel-style—my dick and balls flapping in loose jeans, my feet free in hemp flip-flops, my T-shirt untucked, my whiskers out for everyone to see. God, that would be something. Lately, Janice from Finance keeps bugging me for the master doc for the Procurement PMO. She’ll come over with her face in a knot, all worked up, snapping, “Waddlington needs the PMO master doc for the P5s by EOB. And if you can’t get the Q1 POD results sooner, then we’ll need to put the P6s into the FOD, and that includes the L2s and L6s.” Danzig will holler from across the aisle, “And don’t forget the SWAT reports for the L10s and L16s in FOD.” My throat is so dry, I feel like it’ll crack. Sometimes when I’m passing Fitzroy’s office, I look in and see the new guy at the white board, sketching something out—God knows what—and Fitzroy is sitting there listening, completely attentive, nearly blown away, like they’re uncovering the secrets of the universe right then and there. Yeah, the new guy doesn’t worry about L16s in the FOD. Or Janice from Finance. I’m sure of it. The new guy is sitting in the break room, wiggling his tongue through the rat, getting at the meat. Penny from Legal walks in, gives him a double take, drops her Swedish meatballs, and trots out of the break room. We can hear her retching in the women’s room.
We watch him from afar, through the glass. “It’s a stunt,” Danzig says. “Maybe,” I say, “maybe not.” “Oh c’mon, you think he just loves rat?” More people join us. Gasps abound. Several folks have to turn away. “Well,” I say, “in Africa, a field rat is a real treat. Millions of people eat them.” “But this guy isn’t African.” “So you’re saying only Africans should eat rats?” Danzig stiffens. “I’m saying, this is America. People don’t eat rats in America.” Carol from the second floor says, “But Fitzroy loves him.” “Out-of-the-box thinker,” I add. “That’s what they’re saying. ‘Outof-the-box thinker, out-of-the-box thinker.’ On and on and on.” Barbara from Analytics joins us and squints into the break room. “That’s Fitzroy’s new guy.” She watches him. “Some kind of rugged genius.” Danzig snaps, “Genius? Who said that?” “Well . . . ” Barbara watches. “They say Fitzroy loves him.” Fitzroy is the boss—the boss’s boss’s boss. “What’s he eating?” “Rat.” “Rat?” Barbara straightens her blazer and clears her throat. “We’ll see about this.” She charges in. We all look at each other and decide to follow. Barbara stands over the new guy, hands on her hips. “So you’re the new guy.” The new guy looks up, licks his teeth. Slowly, he grins. “Yeah.” He says it nice and slow—lazy-California-surfer style. “That’s right.” Barbara seems unfazed by the glistening rat skeleton that’s now on the napkin in front of them. “Where are you from?” The new guy pulls his head back, grins. “All over.”
Barbara frowns. “No I mean, where were you working before this?”
The new guy grins wider. They’re nice teeth. “Long story.”
I like this guy. It’s like he’s saying, “Fuck you, lady,” smiling nice
and easy the whole way.
Danzig feels brave now. He leans in, over my shoulder. “So what’s
the deal with the rat?”
New guy turns and looks up at Danzig.
“Well . . .” The new guy waits extra long. “. . . what do you think?”
Danzig studies him. His voice is high from the stress. “Fitzroy
Those dark shades, that grin growing.
“They say you’re some out-of-the-box thinker.”
He smiles and nods, like he’s saying, Okay, man, it’s cool. I hear you.
Barbara bursts out, “What are you going to do here?”
Slowly, the new guy turns to her.
“Are you familiar with the California Stink Beetle?”
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