While ordering a communal shrimp plate for the office, I somehow missed the moment my employees shrank to one-eighth their size.
The men and women of Financial Solutions were usually tall, career-driven and dependable. Today they were different. Black eyes, little orange feelers, scales, gills, talons, mandibles. They gave up English. Not a single word came out. They kept saying, “Wurble-wurble-wurble,” and nodding at me. The syllables sounded suspiciously socialist.
I asked one: “Johnson, what day is it?”
“Wurble-wurble,” Johnson answered.
“Is it April Fool’s?”
“All right,” I said. “You got me.”
Glancing at Tim’s polar bear calendar during my coffee break, it was clear we were actually in the midst of late September.
Wanda’s workspace was outside my office. Wanda was my right-hand woman, but that day her skin had turned an orange tint as she floundered all over her keyboard, hunting for plankton.
Jesus, I thought. Wanda isn’t organizing the bake sale.
Wanda was in charge of the “Stay Fit, Stay Fun” committee. There had been some debate whether the committee would be able to juggle the subtleties of staying both fit and fun — surely a difficult balancing act at the best of times — but Wanda had so far done an admirable job of both. She’d helped Tim lose five pounds and relive his youthful passion of selling hard candy to senior citizens. It’s easy to understand my astonishment, then, that Wanda was a buttery orange appetizer. It would take more than shrimp, tuna or orca to organize the annual “Fish Come, Fish Served” seafood bake sale, and frankly, if Wanda was to remain an oversized shrimp, could she discern the difference between fit and fun? Fit maybe, but not fun, never fun. I tried to stifle the shrimp prejudice shrieking like boiling water inside my head. Retaining an open mind is key to good business decisions.
I turned back to my associates at the conference table. Their chairs were empty.
Some employees scurried along the floor of my office. Others attached themselves to larger fish in the hopes of trading cleaning favours for protection. Nets were scooping up the HR people as interns doused themselves in cocktail sauce. I lifted my feet off the ground as a stream of fresh-faced tuna swam through. They looked uncannily similar to the sales department. Outside the glass wall of my office, secretaries were wrapping themselves in pads of rice and seaweed, a practice strictly in violation of company policy. Any acts of self-sushi were strictly prohibited on office grounds, except by licensed sushi masters, none of whom were currently employed.
“Jesus,” I said, watching the interns flounder. “They’re animals.”
Around an hour after lunch, a time usually reserved for facial scrubs and Internet “boogie boarding,” three men in raincoats entered the office and tossed a bucket of ice over Crawley, Tiff and Erikson, who’d been discussing budget issues. The raincoated intruders then rolled Crawley, Tiff and Erikson into semicircles and packed them in refrigeration crates.
Outside, my employees were outrunning a giant crab scuttling its way through security. The crab looked disgruntled, possibly from a pay dispute. Security had become entangled in a plastic six-pack ring (people should really dispose of those things properly), leaving anyone to swim up to the office and harass the staff. And if that wasn’t enough, the interns were now being served along with plum sauce, and weren’t getting fit or having fun.
Wanda needed to be made aware of these outrageous developments. She was the only shrimp I could trust.
“Hello,” I said glumly into my personal phone, as I rode on Wanda’s back, the office filling with water. “Cancel that order of shrimp, please.” Knowing fresh shrimp would not go over well among a crowd of crustaceans, I made the call, just in time to dodge a large hook hanging from the ceiling — clearly defying company fishing procedure, which states any company fishing is to be done outside the office and preferably upon bodies of water large enough to sustain seasonal fishing yields.
The nets were closing in, but Wanda dodged them deftly. Her many stringy legs vaulted the cubicles ahead of us as I held the coarse black hairs behind her antennae. Her gills expanded and contracted like accordion valves pumping horseradish.
Wanda’s skin wasn’t oily like other shrimp I’d known. I put my nose to her back. She smelt more like ocean than fish. I’d never noticed how strikingly beautiful she was.
“Wan-da,” I said, relishing the sound of the name. Her many orange legs floated gracefully over the rows of cubicles like a flying caterpillar, her black eyes shining pearls as she resumed her plankton hunt.
There aren’t many times, in my opinion, when cussing is justified. But then again, there are times, however rare, when everyone in your office transforms overnight into a cross-sectional panorama of Pacific sea life. When this happens it’s easy to feel darn tired of it all. So the word just slipped out. “Wanda, what the hell is going on?”
“Wurble-wurble,” Wanda answered, ignoring my sinful outburst.
Wanda always had a way with words. She was right, of course. Office romances were strictly forbidden. It would never last. Don’t shit on your feet.
Despite Wanda’s truthfulness, I imagined spending a night in an aquarium castle, on a bed of anemones, fertilizing Wanda’s eggs and not feeling the need to go downstream in the morning. It all felt so accessible, paperwork be damned.
Several IT people were gathered in a school to fend off manta rays. Something about the way they gathered, utilizing telepathic abilities for co-operation — I felt so proud. Whether it was the shrimp interns being packaged in vacuum wrap, the clownfish hiding under the water cooler, the giant rampaging crab — or even Wanda’s sultry, slick scales beneath my crotch — something felt cathartic. The endgame. We were the fish who made Financial Solutions the conglomerate it is today. My life’s work vindicated. All it took was the supernatural mutation of my entire staff to see.
The thing to do was — well, to heck with it — I whispered into Wanda’s earhole, putting my vocal cords through all the gusto of a man-fish in heat:
“Let’s find a room, baby. Someplace you and me can wurble-wurble all night long.”
Something snapped beneath my legs. Some professional pride breaking in two, some restraint finally boiling over. I felt a powerful jolt beneath me, a clean break, and we were off into the night, breaking every code of the employee terms and conditions contract: leaving early, engaging in unprofessional engagements with another co-worker — to say nothing of forgetting to set the office alarm. Sure, it was shellfish, but that’s love.
We went off into the night in a state of callous disregard, but without completely reckless buccaneering. On the way out, I took it on myself to fully stock the supplies cabinet. I had to avoid a couple of tiger sharks to organize the staples, but it was worth it, to see those supplies ready for Monday. With a salute and a whistle, I rode Wanda out the office and towards the open sea, leaving the office to the schools of fish and coral springing up under the photocopiers.
“Here we have done something good,” I said on a whim. “Now is the summer of our fish-content.”
I think that’s Shakespeare. Surprisingly wise words for a man who reportedly wasn’t a fish.