I had a piece of grit stuck right down at the edge of the fingernail on the little finger of my right hand. A tiny black dot sticking out against the pale pink of the skin under the nail. I tried everything to get it out, even went as far as to stick a pin down there, but the pain level was indescribably high. So I went to work with the piece of grit stuck into me, and as I was on the bus, I thought: How did it get in there without me noticing? I held my finger up to the light and tried to work out what the black dot was and where it came from.
When I got to work, my cubicle looked strangely different. Something wasn’t right. My finger was throbbing by this point. I had been picking at it with my thumb in my coat pocket for the entire walk from the bus stop to my office and it was so sore but I just couldn’t stop aggravating it. But what the hell was up with my cubicle?
Craig walked past then and tapped me on the shoulders with both hands in a weird way. Craig was always behaving in ways people really shouldn’t. He rode a scooter everywhere, for one thing, and had a girlfriend who was morbidly obese and dressed like the host of a 1930s horror revue. This morning, Craig is eating prunes and I know this because I can see their sludgy remains in his mouth when he talks at me.
“How’s it going, Ted?” Sludge. Munch. Prunes.
“Alright. How are you, Craig.”
“Good for you.” I tried to squeeze past Craig and into my cubicle, which is a difficult manoeuvre, but one I have practiced often enough. Except this time, he stepped in front of me so I couldn’t get past.
“That’s a sweet throw,” he said.
“That cosy throw, on your chair.”
I looked over to my chair and sure enough, that was the thing that was different about my cubicle: a soft throw rug slung across the back of my chair. “That’s weird,” I said.
“How’d you score it?” asked Craig.
“I didn’t score it,” I told him. “I’ve never seen that thing before.” Craig nodded, but didn’t move, as if I was holding something back from him. “Anyway,” I said. “Should probably start some work.” Craig threw three more prunes to their death.
All day, it was either the grit in my finger (which I swear was getting bigger) or someone popping their head over my cubicle to check out my new throw. “Looks cosy,” they all said, and it was cosy, but I couldn’t understand why it was such an attraction. Some of them lingered there, disembodied faces above my wall dividers, waiting for something. I even offered it to Trudy from accounts, who had begun to look like a dog at a butcher’s window, but she just turned up her nose at me when I held the throw out to her, like it was a poisoned chalice. “Couldn’t possibly deprive you of such a soft, luxurious throw,” were the actual words she used.
By the end of the day, an official memo landed on my desk, put there by Craig himself, who had left tell-tale pruny fingerprints all over the manila envelope. Employees are NOT to bring to work any “comfort” accessories, i.e. cushions, pillows or fuzzy warm throws to work unless otherwise approved by a medical professional and management. Not only does this issue contravene many Health and Safety issues, it does affect the morale of other staff members, those of whom who do not have the financial security to purchase such luxury items as a chocolate cashmere shawl to cuddle up to during the day. It was the most ridiculous thing I had ever read.
I stuffed the throw into my bag, now that it was banned from my workplace, and set off for home. I was only fifteen metres from the bus stop when I fainted. As they told me in the hospital later, the black spot under my fingernail had turned out to be a particularly aggressive cattle tick, which I can only assume had burrowed into me on a recent bushwalking trip. The doctors kept saying how lucky I was to have collapsed in such a well-populated area. Apparently if it had gone untreated over night I may well have died. But what the doctors were really interested in was my cosy, comfortable throw. When I finally offered it to a particularly insistent toxicologist, he just shook is head and said, “You just really don’t understand anything about your throw, do you.”