“You’re fired, Jenkins.”
I heard the words, but my eyes were closed, so I didn’t see Butterschmidt’s puffy wet lips pronounce the words, and I didn’t see him brush the stray strands of his crumb-laden caterpillar mustache back into place. I was elsewhere. I was picturing my happy place: alone in my room, embraced by a beanbag chair, hands lovingly caressing a Super NES controller. I was playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. I was in a Zen-like trance, where no enemy could touch me, and every swing of my bo staff connected.
“Did you hear me?” said Butterschmidt. “Look at me, Jenkins.”
I opened my eyes. Butterschmidt looked mildly annoyed. His whole life was a perpetual perturbation, like a jagged rock had crept down the back of his pants into his asscrack, and every waking moment for him was a mild irritant.
“I said you’re fired,” he repeated, emphasizing the last word so hard that a fleck of spittle escaped his lips and struck me on the cheek. “Times are hard. The economy’s bad. We can’t afford layabouts like you who don’t pull their own weight.”
“Oh,” I said.
Butterschmidt narrowed his beady eyes suspiciously. “That’s it? ‘Oh?’” He snorted. It reminded me of a hog snorting. “I guess I shouldn’t have expected a fight from a born loser like you, Jenkins. Well, fine, that makes this easier. We’re done. Go clean out your desk. If you’re not off the premises in an hour, security will remove you.”
I stood up and stretched my arms above my head. My shirt came untucked, which didn’t bother me. It felt pretty good, to be honest. Relaxing. I followed in that vein and loosened my tie before unbuttoning my collar. I took my jacket off and tossed it on the drably carpeted floor of Butterschmidt’s office.
“What the hell are you doing, Jenkins?” said Butterschmidt.
Now that’d I’d taken my jacket off, I was realizing just how good it felt to get out of my monkey suit. I felt like a jailbird in an old silent movie who has a chain attached to his leg that’s connected to a huge iron ball so he can’t run away, but suddenly the chain’s been removed. I kept going. I pulled my tie all the way off and tossed it aside, and then I started unbuttoning my shirt.
“Stop taking off your clothes,” growled Butterschmidt, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I knew he was saying words, and I was aware of their meaning, but it didn’t really matter to me. I still felt weighed down. I finished unbuttoning my Oxford shirt and tossed that on the pile. Next was my undershirt. Butterschmidt was pounding on his desk and screaming. I was enjoying the feeling of cool AC on my bare chest. I pulled off my shoes one at a time, hopping from one leg to the other, and threw them onto Butterschmidt’s desk, knocking over a framed photo of his timid-looking wife and two spoiled children. By this point he’d picked up his phone and was hollering into it for security to come and haul me off. I unbuckled my belt and whipped it off, delighting in the whoosh it made as it slid against the fabric of my pants. The pants came next, bunching at my feet before I managed to untangle myself from them. There I stood, in just my boxer briefs and dress socks. It felt really nice. Butterschmidt was really starting to bore me, so I turned around and walked out of his office.
“Jenkins!” bellowed Butterschmidt. He chased me outside, into the sea of cubicles where tiny minnows nipped at each other until one got big enough to swallow the others and eventually evolved into a Butterschmidt. The minnows were peaking over the tops of their cubicle habitats now, with anxious, furtive looks in their eyes. These events were disrupting their ecosystem. I turned around and saw Butterschmidt lugging his hefty frame through the door of his office, clutching my crumpled jacket in one hand.
“This kind of insanity is exactly why you aren’t working here anymore!” He was red in the face.
I knew what I had to do. Taking a deep breath, I leaped into the air. My hair brushed a square ceiling panel, and I hung there, suspended. Then I pulled my knees to my chest and performed an aerial somersault. I tumbled end over end, and as my feet arched above my head I willed them to move forward, downward, at terrific speed, defying inertia. I flew through the air along the hypotenuse formed by the line of the floor between me and Butterschmidt and the line of the vertical leap I had made. My legs were stretched before me, the soles of my feet magnetically attracted to Butterschmidt’s flabby chest. They connected with a terrific thud, and Butterschmidt tumbled backwards into his office, defeated. He blinked red a few times and disappeared.
“Cowabunga,” I said.