A Mind Of Its Own
By Jeff Soesbe
The knife wouldn’t take Gordon’s second dollop of cream cheese. No matter how many times he tried, the cheese flowed back into the container like water.
His head still hurt from New Year’s Eve. He didn’t need this. What he needed was more cream cheese on his bagel. “Knife, come on!”
Knife spoke, slow and monotone. “No. More. Cheese.”
“House,” Gordon moaned. “This knife is broken.”
“Gordon,” House purred, in that ‘Sexy Robot’ voice he often regretted choosing. “Remember your New Year’s Resolution? Filed Monday, January 1, 2:27 AM by Gordon Martinique.”
His drunk, slurring voice echoed. “House, starting tomorrow I live right. Less fat. Better meals. More exercise.”
Then, the words Gordon feared he’d said.
“We will help you live right, Gordon,” said House. “Time to go to work. Car is waiting.”
Gordon grumbled. At least at work he’d be away from a sultry, overbearing House. As Car merged into traffic, he bit his bagel and cringed. It tasted too much like, well, bagel.
Panting, Gordon just made it through the door of RS-Tech as the display showed 8:00 AM.
“Morning, Mister Martinique,” said the security lobby. “How was your walk?”
“Walk?” Gordon gasped. “The car let me off at the other end of the parking lot. I nearly had to run to get here in time.”
“A brisk walk starts the day off right.”
Gordon pressed the elevator button.
“No elevator,” said the lobby. “Take the stairs.”
He trudged up the two flights to his floor. Could this get any worse?
As he exited, the smell of warm donuts yanked his attention. Sniffing like a bloodhound, he found them in the main conference room. Someone had left two dozen donuts, in a glittering pink box with “Happy New Year” flowing around the inside.
He drooled as he reached for the maple frosted old-fashioned, his favorite kind.
The box snapped shut. He jerked his hand back.
“No can do, my friend.” The conference room was the over-friendly, boisterous and annoying, like RS-Tech’s salespeople. “New Year’s Resolution.”
“House told work?”
“You told the house to tell work. Very smart. Whole-solution thinking. We like that here at RS-Tech.”
Gordon plodded to his desk, the denied donut haunting his mind. Well, he consoled himself, at least the conference room thought highly of him.
There was a bottle of health water waiting at his workstation. He ignored it and threw himself into debugging the latest customer optimization algorithms. Anything to distract himself from the sad groans of his deprived stomach.
At 10:15, Gordon perked up. The drink cart was here with his regular chai latte. All morning he had dreamed of the sweet warm blend of tea, milk, sugar, and spices.
He snatched the cup from the cart’s serving tray, sipped, and choked. It was just hot water and tea, thin and plain.
“This isn’t my drink.”
“Oh but it is, Gordon.” The cart was always chatty. “We’re supporting your resolution. Your weight and cholesterol are non-optimal. A healthy employee is a productive employee.”
The cart paused, then swiveled back and forth, taking quick glances down the long aisle of cubicles.
It nudged forward, speaking in a metallic whisper. “I can give you synth-sugar and non-cal creamer.”
“Ew.” Gordon cringed just thinking about it. “That stuff tastes like plastic.”
A side door clicked open to reveal an apple. “How about some fruit?”
“No!” Gordon snapped. He hated apples. The skins always stuck in his teeth.
“Okay, suit yourself.” The cart sounded disappointed. “Remember, lunch is only two point two five hours away.”
Enough time, Gordon thought, to formulate a plan.
Monday used to be Gordon’s Meat-Lover’s Pizza day. Not anymore. The food machine presented him with a skinned chicken breast, steamed broccoli, and a pathetic clump of brown rice.
He didn’t waste time complaining. He had his plan.
Avoiding co-workers, he found a seat behind the row of plastic plants. He scanned the tables, waiting for someone to make a mistake.
Jackpot. Kathy from project management. Kathy was naturally thin, ran marathons, and had left behind half of a hamburger.
Gordon carefully snuck over and slid the remnants onto his plate before the recycling cans got it.
His lunch tray was shocked. “Mister Martinique, what are you doing?”
“I’m eating a real lunch. Shush.”
The first bite was heaven. Thick, chewy meat. Gooey cheddar cheese. Even the wheat bun tasted delicious.
But it needed ketchup.
The condiment stand was across the room, near the food machines. The ketchup bottle chided him like a schoolteacher.
“Only. One. Tablespoon.”
When he came back to his table, ketchup bottle poised, his stolen burger was an icy lump. The auto-plate had frozen it.
The table chimed in. “Gordon, it’s for the best.”
Gordon collapsed into his chair and shoved the bottle, tray, and frozen mess to the other side of the table.
“Why?” he groaned, head buried in his hands. “Why does stuff have to have a mind of its own?”
“Funny you should say that.” The lunch tray laughed, light and airy. “We were just asking the same question about you.”