T was the only one in the office who could listen to Plump without laughing or banging his head against the wall. It was the perfect marriage of minds. T was slow and distracted, and could hardly hear, which made him a favorite of everybody in the office, including Plump. Plump loved him as his own brother. He could scream at him whenever he felt like. He doubted whether T shared the love he had for him because T never showed it or told him. Maybe it's because he's half deaf, Plump had speculated and gave him the benefit of the doubt.
"How are you Timothy?" Plump screamed.
T paused, looked back, then said casually, "Wash your hands first."
Plump smiled. His cheeks got sucked in between the cheekbone and jawline, revealing a mammoth dimple, which people would stop thrice to look at.
"I am not always eating. Hey, you are spilling all over your chair, "Plump said, looking at his buttocks overhanging from the chair.
T didn't even care to look down. "I mix the beans and the cheese with my tongue first. Then I take out the potato from inside the left cheek and chew it with the bun," T said, demonstrating how to eat a burger.
"I can design an expandable chair for you. I can't see your buttocks overhanging like your breasts. It makes me conscious of my thinness. Why don't you get rid of it?" Plump screamed, refusing to get distracted.
T gulped down the last morsel with satisfaction. "Heavenly! Oh Plump, I wish I were as skinny as you. I would have eaten all my dream food. Extra cheese pizza, double-decker burger, French fries with cheese dripping from them, cakes with extra icing," he said with increasing relish, "Bags of potato chips, carts of ice-cream, ships of chocolates, houses of pastries, oceans of milkshakes, clouds of beer, continents of apple pudding."
"Stop it, you glutton," Plump screamed at him when he noticed that T's eyes were closed. "You have those things," he screamed into his ear.
T didn't even flinch. "I will strangle you someday," he spoke as if out of a dream.
"Gosh! You are old fashioned. Why do you want to tire your fat arms like that? You can do more horrible things to me. You can mess me up by sending me thousands of spams everyday so that no genuine mails can reach me. Can you imagine what that will do to me? I will bang my head against the wall or I will break my laptop and have a heart attack because I didn't have a backup. Then you won't be responsible for murdering me. OR. You can put my number on the net. That is in vogue. Strangling?" he made an awful face, "is gory and barbaric."
"Mmmmmmmmm. I wish to die eating it," T said, chewing on a sandwich with new vigor.
"It is good that the bastard is deaf," Plump mumbled, going over to his cubicle.
"You freaking ass," T's voice boomed through the room. Plump started and looked back. T's eyes were still closed.
"The bloody imposter," Plump said softly without moving his lips to see if T would hear it.
"The bloody ass," T said calmly, almost enjoying it.
Plump retreated in fear, shut his mouth and did not speak to anybody till lunch.
"The gadget boy," Plump greeted Jack with a pat on the back on his way to the cafeteria.
"Where is your mustache?" Jack gasped as though he had seen a ghost.
"I never had a mustache."
Jack laughed, throwing his head back. Plump started counting his teeth. "You funny funny man," Jack sprayed the words between exploding fits of laughter.
"You are so short, still you haven't got enough brains," Plump said disgustedly.
This got him serious. "What did you say? Is it good that I am short," he said, looking hopefully at Plump.
"Yeah, it's good. You don't need such long hands and legs. You travel by car, you sit here all day long, and you hardly ever walk. You are smart, that is why you are short. Why do you need stuff you never use? Get rid of it," Plump explained.
"I like you Plump," he said boxing Plump's waist, as he could only reach till there.
Plump boxed his head in return. It was most convenient.
"I like you too Shortie," Plump said with admiration.
"Great to have a guy like you around."
"How's your wife?"
"What wife. You mean girlfriends?"
"Wife. How's your wife?"
"It has been two years since we got divorced. Don't you remember?"
"I know. How is she?"
"She's all right," he slowly said, eying Plump doubtfully.
"She is good. Did everything right."
"Are you saying she was right in leaving me?"
"She wasn't happy with you."
"She should've given it time."
"She gave seven years."
"I shouldn't have married her."
"Ah! You really are a short man with little brains. Could you predict?"
Jack relaxed. "Yes, I couldn't. It was bound to happen."
"No, it happened because you chose to make it happen. But you are just a frail human being. You break so many times, but the best part is that you somehow get mended. Just like the phoenix. You die a thousand times in a lifetime, but then you rise up again, ready for more."
"You are right Plump. I cannot blame myself for everything that went wrong."
Plump rolled his eyes.
"Can you come into my office for a moment, Plump," Mr. Reed's steely voice echoed a chill through the room.
"Yes," Plump said, getting up.
When they were seated, Mr. Reed spoke.
"I have been observing you of late, Plump."
"From this cabin without windows?" Plump said flabbergasted.
Mr. Reed laughed. "That is what everybody likes about you. You are so damn funny."
"I really ain't," Plump said flatly.
"But you are. The staff respects you and loves you, and that is what a manager needs. The trust of the staff."
"What's the point?"
"The point is - we are promoting you! You are our new manger. Congratulations," Mr. Reed said, bending forward to shake hands.
"But there is only T, Jack and me."
Mr. Reed's face tightened. "You have been given a responsibility, Plump."
"Yes, but -"
"They love your jokes. You make them laugh. They are happy to be with you. You can do wonders with your sense of humor. You can get them to work more. They won't mind you telling them to add a few working hours a week. Just make a few new jokes and laugh a lot with them. With a name like Plump, they won't suspect you of any maliciousness."
"But - "
"You can dictate without being hated. Just turn yourself into a nave, jovial, unthinking brute, and they will love you."
"They love me now, but - "
"Ha ha ha ha. There you go."
"Bu - "
"I will go and announce it to them," Mr. Reed said getting up.
The next day -
"Mr. Plump, I would need the graphics file," Jack said to Plump, half entering his cabin.
"Are you crazy? Mr. Plump," Plump mimicked Jack's voice.
"But now you are second to Mr. Reed."
"Come and sit here," he dragged Jack by the arm and pushed him into a chair. Then in a conspirational tone, he whispered, "Reed wouldn't listen to me. He stuck this stupid managerial tag on me to escape being hated by you guys. Through me he wants to get all the dirty stuff done. Do you understand? If I tell you to put in two more hours everyday, don't do it. Okay? He increased my pay by $10. Can you believe that? He has trapped me and I can't do anything. I feel as if a rope binds my hands and legs. I feel like a handicap."
"But we will have to do what you tell us to, otherwise . . ." Jack fumbled with the words. He didn't know what would happen if he didn't follow Plump's instructions.
"He wants you to hate me. That is what he wants. Shall I resign? I can't do without this job. My daughter is graduating this year."
"We won't hate you," Jack assured him.
"Okay. Don't hate me, but don't do anything I tell you to. Deal?"
"Give me back my folder!" Plump screamed at the top of his voice, emptying all the air from his lungs.
"Got you," T winked.
Plump took in a deep breath. "Give it to me! I need it!" he screamed again. This time his thin frame shook with the effort.
"Don't overdo it," T advised, shifting his weight uncomfortably.
"You are killing me. Any moment now, I will bang my head against that wall."
"Jack, he needs you," T walked out of his cabin and called out. He went to his cubicle and relapsed into the beautiful world of taste.
"You want me?" Jack's head popped out from behind the door.
"Tell T to give me my folder. I need it," Plump said politely.
The head popped in again. "He refuses to give it to you."
"What did you say to him?"
"I said you wanted the folder."
"You fool! Tell him you want the folder and give it to me," Plump said, wiping the sweat off his face.
The head popped in again. "He refused to give it to me. He never gives me anything. You know it."
"That is because you never return it back," Plump screamed with new rage.
"Why are you always screaming?" Jack said, made a face and left.
"I will kill myself today."
"Mr. Reed is calling you," Plump said to T, standing at the opening of his cubicle.
T didn't utter a single syllable. He just winked.
"Jack! Please go and tell T that Mr. Reed wants to talk to him, and don't mention me AT ALL."
Jack came back, holding fear in his eyes. "He heard you."
"Plump!" Mr. Reed's voice reverberated through his body.
"Yes Mr. Reed," he said, going over to his cabin.
"Why is T still not here?" he demanded.
"He doesn't listen to me," Plump confessed.
"What have you done to the men? Didn't I instruct you on how to lure them? My whole business is getting messed up because of you."
"I told you I wasn't - "
"I hate excuses. I thought you were the one, but I was mistaken. You have a good heart Plump, but no . . . you are not the one," Mr. Reed said.
"Matrix?" Plump said, recollecting the lines.
"What the hell are you talking about? Have you gone crazy? What matrix?" Mr. Reed sprang from his seat and walked over to his side. "Look, no hard feelings. I understand your position. I know you have done everything you could. Even in this room with no windows I could hear your screams, but I have to do some things which I don't like, things which are good for the company."
"The company doesn't need you, Plump."
The words rushed from his ears to his brain and jammed it instantly. "Wh . . . Wh?"
"You are fired Plump. You have made the staff disobedient and inefficient, and it would be demoralizing to demote you, and I can't have you as a manager. You are awful," he extended his hairy arm to pat Plump.
"I didn't do nothing."
"Exactly. That is it," he said, brightening up.
"But - "
"We have managed to get a guy transferred from our headquarters. I hope he does a better job that you."
"But - "
"I will miss your jokes. I really have my blood pressure down when you are around. Ha ha ha ha. Just thinking about your jokes make me laugh," Mr. Reed's demonic laugh traveled into Plump's insides, making him sick.
"But - " he said, his bonny face growing elongated.
"I wish you all the luck in life. You will make an outstanding comedian Plump. Try it. With a name like Plump you can do wonders."
"B - " Plump relapsed into silence before anybody could interrupt him.