nod and gesture and never make a sound. The whole thing looks like
some insane high school theater exercise. I leave them be.
I begin to spend the better part of my days taking care of the growing
forest. As the tree roots crack the floor, I cut away the carpet, dragging
swaths of it out to the back hall so that after night falls I can cart it down
to the dumpster in the service elevator. I dismantle cubicle walls as they
interfere with plant growth, stack chairs and computers and desk detritus in the supply closets. The forest grows much faster than I can clear
away debris. It now occupies nearly a third of the floor. Jim’s desk is almost fully enveloped by it, yet he works on, unperturbed, even as vines
begin to drip over the cubicle walls.
Meanwhile, one or two new shades arrive every day. I take a census
each morning. No matter how early I arrive or how late I leave, they’re
always there, clacking away at their desks. For my part, I’ve given up on
e-mail and answering calls. Sooner or later, someone will show up here
to check on me, but I don’t let this worry me. By the time I get home, I’m
too tired from the day’s work in the forest to do much besides eat and
Two weeks pass. The forest covers half the floor and continues to spread.
There are thirteen shades total. I start each day by walking the perimeter and taking my census. That done, I check on the fish, crumble some
flakes into the pond, let them peck at the dead skin on my fingers. Then
I sit for a while next to the pond in the heart of the forest, where the trees
have reached the ceiling and are beginning to investigate the roof tiles.
I take off my shoes and savor the damp, spongy earth. I close my eyes
and listen to the little rustles and buzzes of insects and leaves; I let my
winter-parched skin soak up the humidity.
Another week passes. No one comes to check on me. I finally work
up the courage to look at my e-mail and find there are no messages in
my inbox. People have been telling me to zero my inbox for years, but I
could never bring myself to do it. I hate nouns turned into verbs. I check
the sent folder. It’s empty too. I stand up and look around the office. I listen to the whispering leaves and the clacking keyboards. Is it they? If so,
they’re likely doing a better job at my job than I have in a long time. And
so I shut down my computer and return to my husbandry of the forest.
The amount of waste I need to cart down in the service elevator has
reached unnerving proportions. I’ve started abandoning it in unused