Dead kids isn’t what I call small talk. But the new guy from production seems to think it’s perfectly fine conversation. We linger by the coffee maker for probably the same reason: Work is terrible. But dead kids is probably worse.
New guy doesn’t seem to think so. New guy is quickly making a name for himself around the office. Creepy. Disturbed. Dickhead.
“And this kid is just toast, man,” new guy says.
He wants to send me links to videos where poor decisions lead to ugly consequences. His point here is that kids do the most fucked up things. And new guy has the proof to back it up.
“He just, like, splatters everywhere,” new guy says.
I think of my kid splattering everywhere, but she’s still in baby form. My baby bounces off the floor like rubber. She’s in no danger of splattering anywhere.
“Dude, I watched it five times this morning, pure gold,” new guy says.
My baby is probably in its mother’s arms right now, draining her of breast milk. I’m in the copy room, which doubles as our work kitchen, draining the coffee pot. Me and the baby. Draining the good stuff. Definitely my kid.
“So what do you do here?” new guy says.
I tell him I write the copy on the Band-Aid box: “Breathable protection for everyday nicks and scratches.” That’s my handiwork. “Won’t stick to scabs.” That stuff pays for the baby’s clothes and diapers. “Treating cuts and healing families.” I like to overstate the power of the Band-Aid. I like to think no injury is beyond its restorative power.
“Cool, man. But Band-Aids can’t cure everybody. I saw this one video…”
And new guy picks up right where he left off.
Look at this! New guy and me not talking about dead kids by my desk. New guy can be all right sometimes. He knows a lot about brewing his own beer, which he does in large batches in his garage.
“I’ll bring in a couple bottles for you tomorrow. Chocolate brew,” new guy says. See this right here! New guy and I bond fast and hard. Me and the new guy. Chatting about home brew at the office. Definitely an all right guy. Nobody’s splattering anywhere.
“How old’s your daughter, bro?” new guy says.
We’re all good people here at Band-Aid. And maybe new guy’s no different. Maybe we’ve been wrong about him. Maybe new guy’s just been nervous. He needs a second chance. We’re all about healing here at Band-Aid.
“Five weeks,” I say.
“Your wife, Kathy, she holding up okay?”
“She’s great. C-section was good.”
“Wow, did you see it?” new guy says.
I tell him I didn’t look.
New guy seems let down. He grabs a photograph of Kathy off my desk and runs a fingernail down her belly. “Pffffst,” new guy says.
Bill, one of the sales managers, finds new guy at the copier, photocopying fifty copies of his zine. New guy is written up by HR, who handle these violations with interviews and paperwork.
“It was just photographs of crime scenes,” Bill says. We’re back by the coffee maker. The whole office talks about the incident, but Bill is our man on the inside. He tried to steal a copy of new guy’s zine, but HR took them all. Bill’s eyewitness account is the only thing we have.
We’re all friends here at Band-Aid, fat men drinking coffee in the break room. We first bonded over protecting minor cuts and scrapes, but we now bond over something unexpected. We’re all new men this morning.
Bill’s story kindles our fascination with the zine, titled Bad Day #3. New guy pasted captions beneath each crime scene photograph. Bill saw a photograph of a woman whose face was caved in by a hammer. New guy’s caption said, “Man, I got hammered last night!” That’s all Bill remembers. But it’s enough.
Johnson & Johnson’s HR department is thorough and knows how to handle these matters in a neutral yet judicious way. We like to think HR keeps new guy locked up in some HR holding cell, but he’s just been sent home for two days without pay. I have faith that HR will protect us from harm, like a mother does. I know Johnson & Johnson is a just and merciful corporation.
The baby doesn’t understand the difference between night and day. Everything’s one long happening for the baby. It knows only breast milk or no breast milk. It’s as complex as a light switch, on or off.
New guy notices how tired I am this morning. We’re in the elevator. I feel our ascent in my knees.
“Baby?” new guy says.
“Baby,” I say.
New guy doesn’t say much anymore. New guy dresses well, always wearing a thin tie. It’s a different shade of red each day. I don’t want to ask what that means.
When we reach our floor, my friends’ faces wrinkle as if to tell me they’re glad I wasn’t murdered during the elevator ride. I feign relief by wiping imaginary sweat from my forehead. We smile. It’s great. These guys are my friends all right.
New guy designs the look of the Band-Aid box. He’s good with the computer, picking the perfect color scheme and the right fonts. He’s young and this work seems easy for him.
I’m older and fat. I spend hours picking the right word to use.
New guy positions a picture of a young girl next my words: “We tend to her bumps. You tend to her tears.”
New guy designs a silhouette of a sapling with a tiny broken branch, setting my words beneath it: “Love and protection today. Big and strong tomorrow.”
Me and the new guy. We’re a team again. We’re a one-two punch. Out of all the in-house creative staff, new guy’s the fastest and most talented.
New guy emails me new creative. “Should we submit it?” the email says. It’s a rough drawing of somebody with their guts hanging out. New guy’s words set above it: “Skin is nature’s Band-Aid.” Then beneath it: “Keeping everything from spilling out.”
More splattering. I forward it to Bill and my other friends. I want us fat guys to drink coffee together and add this to the lore of the new guy, but somebody forwards it to HR, who intend to use it for something more serious.
“Did you hear?” Bill says later. “Two days without pay.”
New guy brings a hatchet to the office. It’s what Bill sees. New guy is stopped by security at the front door. New guy holds it naturally, like a briefcase.
“Like he was clocking in at the sawmill,” Bill says later.
Bill gives us the details we want to hear.
“He was surprised they stopped him,” Bill says.
Bill is the authority on new guy. We demand to hear every detail. Look! Me and my friends bond over real danger. We all speculate what new guy needed the hatchet for. We laugh and groan. We live easy lives and never experience real danger.
Bill’s story is smart because it involves lots of Band-Aids. Chad suggests maybe the hatchet is a novelty thermos. Doug suggests maybe new guy moonlights as a lumberjack. I suggest maybe new guy is an aspiring juggler. Us old guys laugh big and feel happy about our fellowship, but I’m secretly thinking of Kathy and the baby.
I do not share that story with my friends.
Photo By: weeziggle