Tonight, you’re working again with Jim, and that’s something about which it’s hard to be happy. It’s not so much his reactionary politics or that he’s often late to the mid-rise office building where you both work as janitors. It’s not even that Jim occasionally forgets to swirl the toxic bleaching chemical in an alarming number of urinals, forcing Berthound, your imperious Albanian boss, to demand that you take up the slack.
No, the reason it’s hard to work with Jim is because he’s a grizzly bear. Nine and half feet tall and maybe 1,200 pounds, Jim towers over, well, everything. Mops, vacuum cleaners, the rotating marble polisher you take turns sliding across the lobby’s checkerboard-patterned floor—all are dwarfed in his massive paws.
Wrapped in his prickly pelt, Jim gripes and bitches his way through shift after endless shift, depleting the vending machine mercilessly and foraging loudly through the legal secretaries’ desks for protein bars.
You can’t say there haven’t been some good times. Like when Jim got you and your girlfriend free tickets to see him ride a unicycle in the county fair. Or the currency of his information on where to get the freshest honey. But, on the whole, Jim’s been a challenging co-worker at best. Last spring’s infamous basketball argument, for example, in which your support for Bill Russell over Hakeem Olajuwon as the best center to ever hit the hardwood resulted in Jim rearing onto his hind legs and tossing a floor-model photocopier at your head from across a conference room, destroying several pieces of pricey designer office furniture in the bargain.
Tonight, however, when you arrive, having done your best to psych yourself up for another evening of cleaning toilets, wiping down desks, and disposing of various accountant and lawyer trash, Jim is nowhere to be found. Not that Jim hasn’t had troubles at work before. Last summer, he was really down on himself for eating all the chocolate from the building’s reception area instead of foraging for nuts and berries. And it’s hard to count the number of times he’s missed half a shift futilely hunting for spawning salmon in the small stream that bisects the office park.
It’s Berthound who finally clues you in that Jim is hiding upstairs in the secret hallway leading to the freight elevator. Is it the hunters again? you wonder. Or is Jim expecting another visit from the animal-rights people who want to sedate him and fly him by helicopter to a remote region of Minnesota, where he will never again be able to watch his beloved Houston Rockets and will be forced to listen to that nightmarish flattened o every time someone says the word “cola”?
But when you do eventually locate a shaking Jim cowering behind a dumpster, he tells you that, due to substantial debts, it’s actually Manny he’s avoiding. Manny’s his connection for the extra-strong methamphetamines he’s been shooting since early November to avoid hibernation and its attendant weight gain, not to mention that it would mean squandering his carefully horded stash of sick, personal, and vacation days.