That faintest creak from the wheels of Donaldson's oaken desk chair numbed the pudgy young accountant as effectively as a year beneath a glacier. His mouth grew as dry as the West Texas noon as he realized that he hadn't simply caught his pants leg on some nail beneath the massive desk. The wheels creaked again. He flung two soft damp hands against the scarred mahogany, right hand almost touching the faint dent Loyalty Unlimited's founder had tattooed into the dark surface a half-century before with countless fist-banging tirades. Donaldson was an instant too late to keep from being drawn another fraction of an inch forward.
Oh, mystery had given way to satisfied, uncurious delight months before when he'd grown used to finding his assignments in the top middle drawer each morning, completed meticulously in flowing fountain penmanship. He'd had three raises in the short time he'd... He screamed shrilly as another hands-breadth of his trembling pinstriped trouser legs rolled beneath the desk. No one to hear — no one stayed in the office during lunch. He could see the traffic on the sun-drenched main street from the second-floor window beyond the desk. A cop was writing a parking ticket on Donaldson's BMW. The accountant waved frantically, hurled his plastic pen at the window, saw the policeman squint up momentarily at his own window-mirrored image, and resume writing.
The chair, now jammed against the desk, could roll no farther, so the next tug slid Donaldson's sweat soaked shirt several inches down along the leather seat back. The phone. A convulsive grab for the receiver succeeded, but as he reached a shaking finger for the buttons, the cord, carelessly caught inside a partly open drawer, was neatly severed as the drawer crashed shut. He let the silent receiver fall to the gold carpet.
"Stop this!" Donaldson whimpered, "What?..." His double chin struck the top edge of the desk as the next jerk interrupted. He desperately snatched up his brass letter opener, and began stabbing at the tough wood, gouging long shallow grooves. "I'll wax you," he pleaded, hacking furiously until the top center drawer licked out, striking him in the throat. His head fell to the seat cushion, crushed vocal cords croaking, eyes bulging as the desk shook with a grunting, grinding snarl. Donaldson slid completely into the shadows. Moments later, a small mangled pocket calculator flew from those shadows to crash into the wall across the workroom. The first returning secretaries strolled chatting through the door as the top drawer reopened stealthily to receive, on a sudden inexplicable gust of wind, the resumé Donaldson had almost finished updating.
RICHARD S. HALADA, a member of West Texas Mensa, possesses a clutch of university degrees, including a BS in physics and an MS in geophysics. He writes that he "will have more soon, hopefully."
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