The office manager was dead. She had been getting on in years, it was true, but she appeared robust—her eyes bright, her face a healthy tan, her hair marked but not overwhelmed with gray, her busy legs scudding easily along under her ample abdomen—right up to the moment when she collapsed in the hallway wending between the kitchen and Copy Alcove No. 2. Her corpse was discovered shortly thereafter, and, once word got around, the office was thrown into a tizzy of disorder and confusion, which was naturally to be expected after the death of a long-reigning office manager.

A few employees were observed to pace restlessly. Others hopped back and forth and waggled this way and that in frenetic, fruitless dances to which no one but themselves paid any attention. Many simply rattled around their cubicles, blindly bumping into walls and sending stacks of papers, jars of paper clips, and sundry other office supplies cascading to the floor. The distress of the office was so acute that three quarters of an hour passed before several bookkeepers gathered to drag the husk of the former office manager to a window and condemn her to the ground 16 stories below.

Despite that burst of hygienic activity, order within the office continued to deteriorate, and it seemed that total chaos would follow within a short period. The tide of chaos, however, was stemmed by the return to the office of Sandy Green, a secretary, who had been off on a feeding excursion when the late office manager had breathed her last. Sandy Green was the oldest and longest-serving member of the group and had previous experience in at least one other office setting as well. This wise elder circumnavigated the office, gathering the other secretaries so that they could perform the necessary task of choosing a new office manager.

Typically, a new office manager is selected from among the younger but experienced administrative assistants available, and this office did not prove to be exceptional. With Sandy keeping the more flighty, quailing individuals in line, the secretaries made their way through the dysfunctional office, sniffing out likely candidates for the office-manager position and passing judgment upon them. Shortly, they settled on Tricia Apple, who was already noted as a proficient orderer and distributor of office supplies as well as an impeccable record keeper. Additionally, it was agreed that she had that certain je ne sais quoi so often found in the best of professional organizers, and that, in her case, it manifested itself in her precociously managerial bearing.

The selection having been made, Sandy Green and two other long-serving secretaries, Lois Chin and Marty Jeffs, entered the office-supply room near Copy Alcove No. 1 and retrieved, from the extreme right-hand side of the lowest shelf in the rear shelving, that most precious of office supplies: the royal toner. In the kitchen, they carefully stirred the transformative black powder into a cup of instant coffee. Then they brought the potion over to Tricia Apple’s workspace. Though Tricia was not as agitated as most of the other workers, she had left her workspace during the initial moments of the crisis, and her attempts to reinstall herself there had not yet been successful, as she kept stumbling into the gray fabric walls near the entrance. Each taking an arm, Lois and Marty guided Tricia to her chair, where, once she was seated, Sandy offered her the cup containing the royal toner, which, Sandy said, would help soothe her.

The effects of royal toner are in fact anything but soothing. The office-manager-to-be rapidly enters a manic state, her moods swinging between the ecstasy of power and the crippling stress of heightened responsibility. The creation of a new office manager is not a thing to be taken lightly. For the office and the potential manager, it is a time of trial and possibly danger. For those who spend their lives studying office dynamics, the privilege of observing the fascinating ritual of creating an office manager is their greatest reward.

The effects of quaffing the draft were upon Tricia Apple within moments. She started to speak in the perky drawl peculiar to the office-manager ilk. She stood up and, ignoring the secretaries’ protestations, ran about the office, planning a new scheme for reassigning offices and workspaces. But she had not yet completed the sequence of events that would ensure her place as the next office manager.

Tricia’s agitated movements, her changed tone of voice, the mixing of her scent with the scent of toner, and, most especially, the blackness of her mouth excited the instincts of the eligible male workers in the office, particularly those in the mailroom. Their snorting and stamping and mock combats in turn further excited Tricia, who, without thought, took to one of the elevators and descended to street level.

She bounced out of the elevator and rushed through the building’s revolving doors out onto the street, with the six male office drones close on her heels. Tricia shed her shoes. Her skirt rippled in a freshening breeze. The males shed their pants. Their masculine prongs bobbled splendidly erect in the warm afternoon sun. One after another, they caught up with her and coupled with her on the run. It is a common misconception that the male pursuers die immediately after mating with an incipient office manager. In general, they do not. However, in the excitement of the chase and the exertion of copulation, some may meet with physical injury or succumb to adverse cardiac events that may lead to sudden death. Sadly, this was the case for one of Tricia’s mates, who perished when, in a postcoital daze, he stepped carelessly into a busy thoroughfare and was struck by an overnight-delivery van. Typically, though, the males simply never return to the office and eventually die of starvation or exposure. It is reasonable to suppose that this effective banishment serves to avoid internal conflicts that would weaken office cohesion.

Tricia returned to the office later that afternoon—her spirits perky, her hindquarters swollen—ready to lounge around, reorganize the cubicle layout to her liking, and see to the hiring of seven new employees.