Whenever the mega millions reached 100 million, a bunch of us in the office would start a pool: Dana in Communications, Angela in Programs, Umang the web guy, Barry in Finance, and me in IT. We didn’t tell the managers. They made too much money. Five bucks each, equaled 25 dollars’ worth of tickets. We figured a dollar and a dream times 25. We’d say our dreams. Angela wanted to travel. She had been in the army, right out of high school, and she had thought she was going to see the world. She was wrong. She was going to do it the right way this time. Barry was going to pay off all four of his daughters’ college tuitions, twins already there and two more going. He didn’t care where the next two wanted to go. The most expensive college money could buy. Hell, NYU if they wanted to. Dana was going to buy a mansion with an adjoining dog mansion for her dog. Inside would have grass and roses so her dog can pee and smell the roses and be house trained all at the same time. Umang was going to marry a nice Indian girl, bring her to America and eat Indian food every day and grow fat. Oh, and would also start an outsourcing company in India that outsourced to China that outsourced to America and hired people with British accents. He was going to call it New Dell-i. Me, I was going to stay.
“Bullshit,” they all said in unison. We were all in the lunch room sitting around the same table.
“No, serious,” I smirked and leaned on my chair.
“Yes, so you can change their mice, turn on their monitors, tell them their passwords, and also tell them to reboot,” Dana said.
It was fun thinking about lotto numbers: birthdays, anniversaries, favorite numbers, how many times we’ve had sex; until Lenny, the office manager wobbled in, his small legs curved like enclosed parenthesis. Angela put away the scrap paper with our dream numbers.
“What ya’ll eating,” Lenny said, clumsily trying to sit on a chair around an empty table.
“Lunch.” Angela said.
Angela had some beef with Lenny. We all did, even Umang who was vegetarian. His office etiquette wasn’t the most popular. He’d always mess up the lunch room by leaving his bowl in the sink, or he’d microwave fish. In the bathroom, he wasn’t a consistent flusher; he’d talk in the toilet stall on his cell phone and put callers on hold. He was the guy that printed 100 copies of his memoir so that people had to wait for the printer to be free. He came in late and left early, took 2 hour lunches, and breaks in between. But the worst though, was when Lenny talked about his other life. His out of office life. He always talked about his boat eventually coming in. His roosters coming to roost. The rabbits on the farm. He talked about his acting; how he knew this guy, who knew this guy, you know that guy; how he was an extra in Law and Order,(everybody in New York City was an extra in Law and Order); how he had this acting company, apparently he taught, wrote, produced, and acted in a short short on YouTube. We all laughed at that because he was a midget.
“Yo, man.” He said to no one in particular. “I just got this script. And it is hot. September man. September and I’m giving them my two weeks, if even.” He said that every other month.
I went about eating my lunch, fried rice and beef, and everybody else did too with their respective foods. We heard Lenny talking on his cell phone to his supposed agent when my boss came into the lunch room. Old Man Winter or OMW for short, I called him, because he was so old his first computer was an abacus, he’s so old that his social security number was 5, he’s so old that his first kiss was Eve, he’s so old… that’s how I would spend my days, thinking about how old he was; thinking how this guy had been hired to be my boss instead of getting promoted to IT Manager. OMW came in with a worried look on his face. “Jorge,” he said, stretching the loose wrinkled skin on his neck like a rooster’s wattle. “I have two problems… or three.” He always did that, re-counted problems.
I looked at my watch. That was my universal sign that I was out to lunch. That and a spoonful of food.
“When you’re not busy, or when you’re done with lunch.”
I never finish my lunch.
“The network is down.” In translation, OMW meant that his wireless got disconnected, not the whole office network was disconnected. “It might have been when I spilled water on my laptop keyboard,” which meant that coffee spilled on his laptop and it was now completely broken. “It’s not urgent except I can’t work right now.”
I looked at the warm fried rice and beef, perfectly proportioned on my spoon. It would be cold by the time I got back. I felt like saying goodbye.
“Oh, and the third thing,” he said, “someone stole the hi-def camera in the conference room.”
I thought about a million dollars. Just a million. After tax. I thought about unplugging all the servers and T1 line to see if OMW or anybody can plug them in. I thought about running a script that can change everybody’s password and then jetting the hell out. But most of all, I thought about a world without keyboards and mice.
Luckily it really was water that spilled on the keyboard. The network really wasn’t down, but he had accidently turned off a switch on his laptop. I thought about putting a strip of scotch tape over it so that he wouldn’t do it again. This was the third time he had done it. The last problem was an actual problem though. The hi-def video camera in the conference room was missing. It didn’t occur to anybody because nobody had used it since our last all-team conference meeting a week ago. Once every quarter, we would all sit in the conference room and give each other praises, most of them passive-aggressive, do some team building, reintroduce each other’s job again, laugh at the sexual harassment video from the 80s, find out where we were in the company org chart in the always reliable changing quarterly re-org, and then, listen to the CEO summarize how good of a job we were all doing despite the budget crunch, which meant, we would not be seeing any raises this year, like last year, like the year before that, of course, all this, via video feed from her vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard. It was a week-long conference.
OMW and I were in the conference room staring at the empty space where the hi-def video conference would have been on top of the 55-inch HD TV. Lenny entered the room as well since the office manager had to take inventory.
“So,” Lenny said, “who do you think did it?”
OMW was looking out into space like he always did. Then he paced back and forth. He raised his eyebrow. “Do you think it could have been an inside job?”
“Could be,” I said skeptically. “Whoever did it was tall…” I looked at Lenny embarrassed sort of because I said tall. “Or had to climb the wall unit below the HDTV.” Lenny was rubbing his 5 o’clock shadow. “Someone would have had to know how to unplug the wires on the back panel that attached the HDMI cable to the speakers on the HDTV along with the USB cable on the computer. The remote was missing too so whoever stole it knew what they were doing.”
“Hmmm,” OMW said.
“At least they didn’t take the computer,” I said. “Without it, the camera is pretty useless.”
“How much was that camera, exactly?” OMW said.
“Really? Dang!” Lenny said, surprised.
Or at least when my old boss and I installed it, before he had gotten fired over stupid office politics, and before OMW came into the picture. “Probably, it’s 10K now.” I continued. “You can probably get that much on eBay.”
I waited for OMW to suggest our next steps. His pauses were epic. I saw time move forward. I saw seasons change. I saw my future wife and kids and grandkids and great grandkids. Countries and nations rose and fell. Evolution happened. I thought of suggesting something but I knew if I did, OMW just repeat whatever I said in a different way. But then I thought about my lunch waiting for me. “Maybe we should…”
Then Lenny interrupted, “I think we should do a thorough investigation.” His voice changed. He sounded like an extra with a speaking part. “We have to report this to the proper authorities. Do we know when it was stolen? Check the office logs. Check the sign in sheet. Check who was here? Don’t touch that wall unit! We may need fingerprints.”
OMW agreed. He looked at me and said I had to work with Lenny on finding this camera thief. Not like I had anything else to do, like fix the computers or document fixing the computers, you know, my job. Lenny was excited though. He wanted to prove himself. He didn’t want to be just the guy who sat around and played solitaire on his computer or went online shopping. Sure, he had messed up the shipment that was supposed to go to LA, Los Angeles, instead of LA, Louisiana. Sure, he had always dropped the ball on a bunch of projects; he had always been late in delivering milestones. This time around, he was going to find that camera. He was going to find the thief. He was going to be a coworker.
Lenny looked at computer login files, with my help of course, of all the people that were in the office during the time the camera could have been missing. He went to the building security guard and cross checked handwritten log files, visitors that may have gone in our office, residents of the building who worked in other offices that may have gone to our office (especially the survey company on the second floor who hired questionable people), and he even talked to one of his acting friends who happened to be a former cop and asked if fingerprints could be dusted. He interviewed everybody in the office until the head of HR stopped him and replayed the harassment video.
It was pointless. The trail was cold. Lenny had nothing. He wobbled up to me with his head down, frustrated and tired. It was late. “Whoever got it, is sure enjoying their new toy,” he said.
“I can’t imagine what you can do with a hi-def video camera without the computer.”
“People have their reasons.” We both looked at the conference room. The office was empty. “Your boss went home already?” he said.
“Shit was wrong with what happened to you. Everybody knows it. You shoulda been IT manager man.”
“You and I, we’re all on the same boat. I been working in the company way longer than you man. Either you trying to be captain or jumping ship.”
“Just trying not to rock,” I said.
“True to that. Maybe somethin’ will come up. Maybe you’ll get your mega million pot.”
“Here’s to dreaming,” I said.
He scratched his head and said, “Have a good night Jorge.”
“Have a good night Lenny,” I said.
All that Sherlock Holmes-ing with Lenny took priority over my real job, so I stayed late that night updating the computers. I was almost done when I lost connection to the conference room computer. It was probably something stupid like a disconnected network cable or the computer had gone to sleep. It wasn’t. I logged locally as an administrator. The low hard drive space warning popped up on the bottom right side of the screen. I checked the C drive to see where all the space had gone. It turned out that it was in OMW’s account and it was under the My Video folder that all that hard drive space was used. Up to 1 TB’s! I checked it out and found a video file. Had it been recording all this time even without the hi-def camera? 37 hours’ worth! I opened up the file and for a good 5 hours it had been a blank screen, most likely after someone had unplugged the camera out of the computer, so I rewound all the way back to the beginning. OMW had been recording. I guess when he did the hi-def video conference with the CEO, he accidentally pressed the record button. Typical OMW button slipping. The whole video conference was recorded and nobody knew. I didn’t. My coworkers sure didn’t. We looked so fake praising each other. Praising our fearless CEO. Fake laughing. Har har har. I fast forwarded to the scene where the conference room was empty. I thought, could it have recorded the thief?
In the recording, it was at night, way past office hours. The door opened. Two curved legs appear. It was Lenny. It can’t be him. He never stayed late. He can’t even reach the camera. I watched him look around carrying a book. He started reading it. His left arm was out high and his right arm was holding the book at eye level. I can’t make out what he was saying, so I turned up the volume on the computer, and rewound. Hopefully, I could hear what he was saying. I could barely hear when I made out, “Who’s there?” Then with a different voice, Lenny said, “Nay answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.” Where had I heard this before? Lenny kept going and then I heard, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” Then it dawned on me. He was doing Hamlet!
For a good three hours, he played every character from Horatio, to Claudius, to Polonius, to girl parts like Gertrude and Ophelia (which was impressive), and Hamlet himself. He changed his voice. He pantomimed. He strutted. He even looked at the hi-def video camera not knowing that it was recording, so it was like watching a play within a play within a play. Then, he said, “To be…” He paused and looked at his short frail legs, “Or not to be.” He stared at his reflection on the powered down HDTV. “Whether ‘tis Nobler in the mind to suffer, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…”
I watched and realized, he was good. He was really good.
At the end, he died. Hamlet died, that is. And Lenny got up and bowed to an empty conference room. I almost wanted to clap. He pressed his shirt and made his way out to the door of the conference room. Then he stopped. He looked back. He turned around. He wobbled toward a chair and rolled it next to the HDTV. He climbed the chair, climbed the wall unit. He looked around one last time, and his hands became larger and larger and larger.
Lenny gave the company his two weeks. I caught him in the bathroom and I told him some guy from the Midwest won the mega millions jackpot. “Imagine what you could do with that much outrageous fortune?”
Lenny smirked, “To be honest, I don’t need that much.”
About the AuthorAlaric Lejano was born in the Philippines and grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. He received his BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers.