Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Romanian Job

I looked over at Tumbleweed intensely viewing his computer screen. "Hey you know it's against the paper's policy to look at porno at work, bro'." Tumbleweed looks up then replies, "They're just friends of mine." Curiosity gets the better of me. I jump out of my chair then walk over to Tumbleweed's computer to have a peek. Tumbleweed clicked through a number of scantily clad pictures of a couple of women though none showed any naughty bits. "Damn candy ass. Nice. Who's the ladies?" Tumbleweed explain how he met them over the internet and that they were living in Romania. "You looking to buy a Romania bride there Tumbleweed?" Tumbleweed is never really sure how he should respond to me. He weighs his words carefully. The wrong answer could be turned around making Tumbleweed play the fool. "No not really. We're just friends is all." This causes Me to raise my eyebrows and laugh. "I wish I had friends dressed like that sending me pictures. Did they ask for your credit card number or offer you any Nigerian opportunities, bro'?" Now Tumbleweed is really not sure what to say so he remains silent for the time being. I continues poking fun at Tumbleweed. "Hey this isn't just a cover is it. You know? For the gay thing." I say under his breath so only Tumbleweed could hear me. "You're the gay one Tom." Tumbleweed blurts out causing  people nearby to look over and giggle.  I put one hand on his hip and reply, "So you're saying you are gay? Or just bi-curious?" "I'm not gay Tom. You're gay." Tumbleweed again defends his sexuality. I wink at Tumbleweed and gives him the okay sign. "I'm not gay, Tom."

Dave worked at his computer but he got that uneasy feeling. Something wasn't right. He looked over his shoulder and realized Randy was standing silently just behind him. Immediately Dave starts to check his back for kick me signs, spurs on his heels or other practical jokes. This was a sound move whenever Randy was found hovering behind a person. It took a few Randy pranks but now Dave knew the deal. Anytime Randy was around you had to be on your guard. For example Randy was standing behind Dave one day and made a buzzing noise like a fly as he touched Dave's ear from behind while he focused on his computer. "Knock it off Randy." Dave ordered but Randy made another fly buzzing sound then touched Dave's ear once again. "What's a matter Dave?" Randy inquires. "Afraid of a fly?" Dave trying to get some work done says, "No." He goes about trying to ignore Randy who touches Dave's ear once again but this time Dave pays him no mind and does not react. So Randy makes the fly buzzing sound one last time and touches Dave's ear from behind then returns to his own desk. Dave having paid Randy no mind continues riding ads onto the pages. Unfortunately for Dave he did not realize how cunning Randy could be. Randy knew the first couple of times he buzzed Dave and touched his ear that Dave would give Randy the brush off. Then once Dave stopped reacting, hoping Randy would just go away, he touched Dave's ear one last time pretending to be a fly - as far as Dave was concerned. What Dave didn't realize was that Randy had ear ringed him. This is when Randy took a small strip of paper and curled it into a ring. Then he rolled a piece of tape into a circle so it would stick to both the paper ring and whatever else the ring was stuck to - like Dave's ear. For the next hour or so Dave walked around the floor past lots of snickering coworkers. This wasn't as bad as it might have been as Randy only single ear ringed Dave as opposed to a double ear ringing. Still, one could look rather foolish with even one large paper ear ring taped to the ear. Randy walked by Dave's desk a couple times saying, "Do you hear a ringing in your ears?" To which Dave stopped working for a second to listen then replied, "No. I don't hear anything." Randy presses Dave once more about the ringing but Dave has to finish closing his section and doesn't have time to fool with Randy. He goes back to working on the computer. Then, perhaps as a result of the tape irritation Dave scratches his ear and feels something. He pulls his hand back only to find a paper ear ring wrapped around his finger. He is momentarily perplexed until he hears laughing behind his work station. He whirls around in his chair and sees Randy, Alan and half the floor giggling at him.

Once Dave was sure he hadn't been victimized by Randy again he asked, "Why's up?" Randy replied, "Have you heard about Tumbleweed's upcoming Romanian adventure? He had not so Randy filled him in as it appeared Tumbleweed would have preferred to escape town without answering any "probing" questions from Dave or Randy. However since vacation time was involved and Randy was his supervisor the cat was out of the bag. Apparently Tumbleweed was going to spend two weeks in Romania with his two internet negligée ladies who appeared to be around twenty years old from Dave's reckoning. Neither Dave nor Randy like the sound of it and joke the ladies could be a guy named Boris. Despite the warnings, real and ones just for laughs, Tumbleweed took off for Romania with a couple bags and his credit card with the five thousand dollar limit. The two weeks he was gone went by quickly. Tumbleweed having the most seniority always got the lion's share of the paste up work each night. So when he was not at work it meant the other paginators had to work twice as hard to close the paper on time.

Dave got to work remembering tonight was the night that Tumbleweed would return from his Romanian sex vacation. He was going to get screwed one way or another and Dave was curios to hear which it would be. As Dave walked by Chris's desk Chris motioned for Dave to come over for a second. "Dude. Watch this. I'm going to coup de chaired Tumbleweed." This perplexes Dave who repeats Chris' new expression. "Coup de chair...what the hell is that?" Chris bent down pointing to the six legs that support the chairs that each employee gets to sit in. He pointed to the end of each chair leg roller. "What I did was pop off one of the wheels on his chair. He can roll this way or that everything operates normally..." Chris explains as the two watch Tumbleweed doing just that when suddenly Tumbleweed rolls the wrong way and momentarily disappears below his cubicle wall. "Looks like he just roll the wrong way." Chris whispers as Tumbleweed reappears from behind the cubicle wall with a confused look on his face. He looks down then sees the missing roller where Chris had left it nearby his sabotaged chair. He stoops down picking up the missing wheel then stands upright again holding the wheel in his hand. Tumbleweed starts looking around only just realizing that this may not actually be a naturally occurring phenomenon. As he looks in the direction of Chris and Dave they both look away innocently. Chris starts to whistle. Normally, the thing a person who just committed a practical joke would do is try to blame the attack on some other innocent third party - Randy for example. That way you could get two practical jokes for the price of one as the victim of the original prank then retaliated against the wrong person. Randy especially enjoyed these false flag attacks.

Chris and Dave both squatted below Chris's cubicle so they could laugh without Tumbleweed noticing. "That's pretty good, Chris. How'd you come up with that?" Chris smiling replies, "It was Tom's concept. When they move any way the chair moves normally except... When the deposed sitter moves in the direction of the missing wheel they get toppled. Hence the tag, coup de chair. He did it on my chair and you really get the feeling when it starts to go that you are falling - but only two inches before the leg with the missing wheel hits the floor. We did Randy's chair too." Dave smiles. "When? You mean now?" Dave has a wide grin appear as the two stand up and begin watching Randy. Randy rolls back and forth but does not fall over. Dave is beginning to wonder what is wrong with Chris's prank when suddenly Randy disappears from view behind the cubicle. He immediately springs back up with his hands on his hips and a "what kind of shit is this" expression on his face. He looks down at his chair and evidently seeing the missing wheel on the floor by his chair where Chris left it he bends down and retrieves it. The two jokers start to laugh as they see Randy mouth the words, "Son-of-a-bitch." He begins to look around for the culprits causing Chris and Dave to dive below the cubicle wall hiding their guilt. They were still squatting there as Randy walk around the corner with his arms folded. He knew right where to look. "I thought so." He said with disgust.

Ronny didn't mind practical jokes but they better not delay the close of the paper. Randy is standing over Chris and Dave who sit up finally. Chris starts prepares his things to leave for home. "What? You boys see a mouse down there where you were stooping? You know about this?" Randy asks holding up the wheel from his chair. "Looks like one of them there rollers for them fancy chairs we got here." Dave comments innocently as the two do their best to keep straight faces. "You can't damage company property, man." Randy warns as Chris gets up to leave. "They'll fire you." Before passing by Randy, Chris pleads his innocence as well. "Beats me boss. Maybe Tumbleweed did it."  Chris throws his bag over his shoulder then leaves for the day. He was departing with a signed taped on the back of his bag stating, "Warning - Domestic Terrorist." He should have known something was amiss as he heard laughter from various people as he passed them through the halls while exiting the building. Apparently he got all the way home before his wife once again asked about the sign. Only then did he come to realize Randy had already counter attacked him for the coup de chair affair. Dave wondered what would be his fate as well though not technically duplicitous.

Dave began working on his section and looked over as Tumbleweed returned to his desk from getting a diet coke from the machine. "Hey it's that wild and crazy guy from Romania." Dave remarks as Tumbleweed sits down popping open his drink. Then remembering his earlier mishaps it was standard that Tumbleweed remember to recheck his chair to verify that is has a full complement of wheels. Then he looks up at Dave. "Hi Dave." He says to his coworker and starts laying out his sections of the paper. Dave wants to hear about the trip and says, " was the vacation?" Tumbleweed replies, "Good." But Dave want's to know more than just that and asks, "Did you get any...vitamin P." Tumbleweed comments vaguely, "We're friends Dave. It's not like that." It's clear to Dave that there is not much to talk about or Tumbleweed doesn't want to talk about it. Dave notices Randy looking at him. Randy drags one finger across his throat signaling for Dave to cut out the line of questions. So Dave drops the inquiry and goes about closing his section. Still he is curious to hear how things went in Romania.

Later in the evening once Dave has closed with his sections he walks over to Randy's desk. "I'm closed." He comments then sits down in the chair next to him. Randy takes note but continues finishing up his nightly report. Then he looks back over to Dave and say in a low voice, "Did Tumbleweed say anything about his Romanian vacation yet?" To which Dave replies, "I asked Tumbleweed but he didn't seem to have much to say. Why?" A concerned look comes over Randy's face then he continues. "I figured he wouldn't tell you. They cleaned him out. The Romanian chicks max'ed out his credit card." Dave interrupts and wonders aloud, "Did he at least get laid?" Randy replies rolling his eyes, "Oh he got screwed alright but not like that. Apparently the two girls kept dangling the snatch and the possibility of some kind sex with them and kept asking him for gifts during the whole trip."  Dave just shook his head. "He was left jerking off again. Damn shame. Damn shame." Now Tumbleweed had an over priced condo, a huge car note and a credit card he took to the limit. Things would not get any better for the boy either and it would become more and more obvious as time passed. The same should be said of the paper as well.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Mi Caro es Mi Caro

Dave pulled up his car and idled by the curb. Several other cars with workers at the paper had already begun standing waiting for the rush hour parking restrictions to expire at 6:30 PM. Technically the night shift had to be at work at 6:30 in the evening and a ticket for parking early would get the owner a $100 fine - a good deal of money for an average digital paginator. But the physical realm of the possible was that around 6:27 PM there were enough cars illegally parked as far as the eye could see so that by the time the enforcer made it to one of the cars of people working at the paper it would be well past 6:30 PM. So workers would park at 6:27 PM or so and head inside the paper. In fact the only time anyone got a ticket it was mostly Tumbleweed. These were not his tickets but rather, discarded citations found in the street by Dave, Randy or one of the other notoriously infamous practical jokers working in advertising. The first four or five times it happened it shocked Tumbleweed until he read the ticket and realized it was for someone else. Eventually the joke no longer worked until more devious methods were employed. Randy found a ticket that had the written-in information washed and sun bleached out. Randy filled in Tumbleweed's car and tag information then gave him a rush hour violation even though Tumbleweed was certain he had parked legally as it was a Saturday with no rush hour offenses even possible.

Dave appearing to come to Tumbleweed's aid grabbed the ticket and shouted, "You don't have to pay for this. I'd just tear it up since there no rush hour on Saturday's." Dave acts as if he'll rip the ticket causing Tumbleweed to grab for it.  Both pull and the ticket rips. Tumbleweed screamed at Dave fearing he'd defaced government property which caused everyone in on the joke to lose control and begin laughing. Even still Tumbleweed checked with security about the ticket. No one in advertising could ever say if he actually paid the ticket.

Tumbleweed got his revenge, at least on me. He waited months after being cited for a fake infraction then came to work early and found my car park in the neighborhood where parked in the afternoon. As fate would have it was late that day overstaying the amount of time legally permitted and was already in fear of getting a ticket anyway. As approached my car I saw the little pink ticket and screamed, "God dammit!" I snatched the ticket off the windshield and threw it to the floor of my Celica. I drove to my evening parking spot on L Street and parked as usual waiting for rush hour to end. Finally I grabbed the ticket off the floor to see how much he owed and read the words "Got You" written across the ticket that Dave had written to him a month earlier. I laughed realizing Tumbleweed had gotten me good on alright. I was also happy I hadn't actually gotten a ticket.

As 6:30 pm nears a car pulls up from behind then another. This pries Dave back into the present. He looks at the dash clock, sees it's now 6:28 PM so he shuts off the car and gets out. He notices Tumbleweed getting out of a car but not the Neon. Dave walks back towards Tumbleweed. "Hey Tumbleweed, where's the Neon? Why are you parking here and not in your space" The two walk towards the building and Tumbleweed starts to explain. "I'm saving money by giving up my space and slumming here parking with you guys now. The head gasket blew in my Neon so I traded it in. I was going to ah..." They walk into the building and stand by the elevator when Dave interrupts. "Head gasket! You blew the head gasket? How'd you do that?" The elevator doors open and the two walk in as the doors close behind them. "Friday night they were running a sobriety checkpoint and the line was so long that waiting in traffic my car overheated." Dave interrupts Tumbleweed again. "Wait. Why didn't you just shut off your engine and let it cool down?" Tumbleweed after hesitating a moment when the elevator door opens and Don one of the daytime paginators enters, begins to answer. "I didn't want to draw any attention to myself during a sobriety checkpoint. You know what I mean..." Then Don asks, "You drinking again Tumbleweed? That's going to ruin your liver." He starts to respond to Don  who is laughing loudly now but before he can get more than ah out of his mouth Dave asks another question. "Hey Tumbleweed, didn't you have like another thirteen payments on that Neon and she would have been all yours?" "Nine." Tumbleweed corrects Dave. "Nine more payments." Dave having formerly sold cars says to Tumbleweed. "You must have been upside down big-time!" Tumbleweed replies defending his purchase, "Well the dealership gave me two thousand for the Neon. How about that? Pretty good." However his pride is short lived as Dave continues explaining the car business. "The dealer just added two grand to the selling price. They hit you with full list for everything and you got to pay more tax for the higher price too. Don't even deny you got undercoating. You get to pay high interest rates too for the car loan. Right? What's your monthly payment, dude?" The elevator doors open to their floor and the trio exit the elevator and they walk down the hallway. Tumbleweed's owner pride has crumbled into buyer's remorse. "Well?" Now Don demands to know having his curiosity aroused. "Ah..." Tumbleweed stammers and clears his throat before speaking softly. "Five twenty-seven." To which both Don and Dave simultaneously scream, "What?" Tumbleweed  starts to form the words again but before he can get them out Dave shouts, "Five hundred and twenty-seven DOLLARS? A month? Oh my God dude! You're getting reamed! How long you have to pay that note back? Did you have to put any money down?" Tumbleweed hesitated as he threw his things down to his desk. "Five." He mumble. Dave eyes brightened up. He replied, "Well that's more like it. You say you only had to put down five bucks?" Tumbleweed began shaking his head no but not saying a thing? "Five hundred down's still not too bad man." But Tumbleweed keeps shaking his head before correcting Dave. "Five years. The loan's for five years. I had to put two thousand down." This caused Don to laugh then remark, "Jesus Mary and Joseph, Tumbleweed. Did they sell you an extended warranty too?" Before Tumbleweed can answer Dave jumps right in for him. "Yeah! Sixty days or sixty feet...whichever comes first." Everyone but Tumbleweed laughs hysterically. Instead he was wondering again how he was going to pay his mom back for the down payment money especially after having to pay over five hundred bucks every month for the next five years. One thing certain though. He would not tell them he owed his mom two thousand dollars or they'd make fun of him during the entire night. He'd never hear the end of that.

The car payment, like the adjustable rate mortgage and condo fee increases all cut into Tumbleweed's once ample salary. The future would bring only more woes for Tumbleweed who kept looking for love in all the wrong places and this was costing him a fortune. But for me, I needed to figure out how to get a new whistle modification for his latest car.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

When Anthrax Attacks

Tumbleweed finished watching the latest news alerts about the anthrax. It turns out Dave's concerns were valid as anthrax and been mailed to the U.S. Capital, and it was rumored to publications like his papers. A postal worker who may have been in the post office that processed the letters apparently died from anthrax. As he left for work he worried that maybe the paper had been attacked by anthrax and that he might catch it and die. Just the thought of it gave him a chill down his short spine. He had rolled his window down to take advantage of the nice day, then thought better of it rolling the window back up again. Why make it easy for these Muslim extremist to infect me? Tumbleweed reasoned as he negotiated the local streets in his neighborhood then sped onto the highway. Just to be safe he'd keep the windows up until everything returned to normal again. FOX says one of the hijackers was given treatment at a pharmacy for what looked like a skin anthrax infection. Tumbleweed deduced from that report that Atta the hijacker they claimed got the infection was the one who was mailing out the anthrax probably just before hijacking the plane. Tumbleweed could not bare thinking about the dangers any further and turned his radio up annoyingly loud. It helped drown out any thought of bio attacks. As it was Tumbleweed's throat felt a bit scratchy and overall he didn't really feel great in the first place. Come to think about it he felt he might be getting sick.

By the time Tumbleweed was throwing his things down on the desk at work he was pretty sure he was getting sick. It must be a cold he reasoned while logging onto his computer. Maybe a bit of chewing tobacco might help he speculated momentarily then shoved some from his pouch behind his cheek. This caused a bulge by his jaw and the last thing Tumbleweed needed was more bulges anywhere. "Hey Tumbster." Tumbleweed turned around verifying that this was Dave arriving to work. Both noticed Randy sliding onto the ad ops floor a few minutes late but apparently safe from Ronnie who was still in a meeting again. "Hello Dave." Tumbleweed quietly replied to Dave who then began with the usual joking. "Good news buddy. I just saw where the Captain and Teneal are having a reunion tour and I know your a big fan." Tumbleweed interrupts briefly. "I don't like the Captain and Teneal, Dave." However, Dave ignores Tumbleweed and continues. "Who's your favorite, dude? You like the captain or are you a Teneal man?" "I don't like the Captain and Teneal, Dave." Again Tumbleweed mutters softly as talking with his scratchy throat was irritating though perhaps not so much so as Dave's teasing. He kept ribbing Tumbleweed. " will keep us together. Tickle Tumbleweed's ass with a feather." Tumbleweed doesn't appreciate Dave's version of the song from a group he swears he hates now and he removes the chewing tobacco from his mouth. "I don't like Captain and Teneal, Dave." Tumbleweed repeats his innocence then throws the saliva soaked wad into the trash can. Pity the poor clean up people, Dave thought then continued poking at Tumbleweed. "Okay, okay. You don't have to take your cud out to make a point. I get it. I get it. You're now saying you don't like Captain and Teneal. Is it because of the break up...the divorce?" Tumbleweed feeling worse from the chewing tobacco cold therapy replies, "No, no. It's that I. Well I think I'm getting a cold. The Skoal was irritating my throat...and I don't like Captain and Teneal." To which Dave responds, "You mean anymore. You don't like them anymore, right?" "No I mean I never like them ever and I hate that song." Dave complains then coughs a couple times his throat irritated from the talking. Dave notices and says, "Hey you do sound like you're coming down with something. You don't look good." Both of these layout computer ad jockeys momentarily go about their jobs which at times requires their undivided attention or it's Ronnie time!.

Tumbleweed sneezes twice then coughs several times. As is usually the case somebody nearby on the floor hearing Tumbleweed screams, "GET HIM OUT OF HERE!" Tumbleweed thinks about that postal worker dead from the anthrax then coughs again. Almost simultaneously as he glances at Dave who he sees pointing at him with his mouth wide open. "You got the anthrax. You got the goddamn anthrax don't you?" Tumbleweed responds, "I don't have anthrax." However speaking forces him to cough several times much as he tried to suppress it. Dave jumps up and eases away from his desk as Randy is walking past. "What going on?" Asks Randy just hearing the word anthrax. "He's got the anthrax, boss. Just listen to his cough." At that moment as Tumbleweed starts to speak he coughs first then replies, "I don't have anthrax, Dave." But Dave, eyes bugging out as he backs away further and pointing to Tumbleweed exclaims, "See, see what I mean! That's a damn anthrax cough, man." Randy goes right along with Dave. "Yeah that doesn't sound like any damn cold cough you got there buddy. Maybe you ought to go down and see the nurse."

At that moment Rodney, who was an older black man missing a couple fingers from a printing press taking them back in the seventies, sat down to his desk for work. Randy looks at his watch then at Rodney. "What's up?" Randy ask Rodney since he's almost half an hour late to work. But all Rodney heard was the tail end of the anthrax talk and says, "Tumbleweed's got the anthrax?" "Yeah. It looks bad Rodney. Tumbleweed has the anthrax" Dave breaks in with his faked concern. "The anthrax!" Rodney cries out immediately assuming it's a joke and play's right along leaning away from Tumbleweed. "Hey, have they said how long you has to live?" Tumbleweed starts to defend himself against the notion that he may have anthrax but he is not actually convinced himself as badly as he feels. He's more hopeful that's not the case. Before he can say anything Rodney continues. "Hey Tumbleweed are you contagious? Maybe you ought to confine yourself to only breathing in while around my workstation." The whole group, with the exception of Tumbleweed, begins to laugh. It's just a joke and everybody realized it. So Randy breaks in sounding like he's easing the tension for Tumbleweed. "Relax boy. You probably don't have the anthrax. What's the chances?" After a few seconds hesitating Randy finishes answering his own question. "Fifty fifty? Maybe 40 60 or 60 40? Who can say about these things?" Everyone but Tumbleweed grab another laugh which draws in others on the floor who are always ready for some amusement. One by one they come by to see what all the buzz is all about and once again Tumbleweed has to hear to story of his anthrax infection. The worst part was he was really starting to worry if it might be the case that he was infected with a killer bio-weapon. He felt more ill each hour as his shift progressed through the late night hours. The worse he felt the more Tumbleweed checked the Internet for anthrax stories. From reading these he discovered that postal man had actually gone to the hospital complaining of being sick. They check him over, gave him some medicine for the flu and sent him home. He died from the anthrax and there was even some audio of his phone conversations where the postman was speculating that he might indeed have anthrax.

As the paper closed one by one Ronnie would roll by each paginator's desk and give them the thumbs out sign meaning they could go home. This was an unwritten privilege the management used as a tool to get the paper closed on time. The top managers never realized these "slides" out of work early were going on mostly because the close times were so good and getting better all the time. As was often the case Tumbleweed's pages were still not closed. He was waiting on one ad that had to be reworked as somebody booked a 3 column by 6 inch ad for a two column slot. He really didn't need to be the last paginator out of the door tonight but as Ronnie gave Rodney and Dave the heave ho slide - there he was the last dawg standing - again. Normally he didn't mind as his dance card outside the paper had an open slots to say the least. Often Tumbleweed and others would stay after work hours to play Spades. Tumbleweed had both incredibly good luck at getting great cards but found ways to defeat his good fortune with inept play. It drove Randy crazy. Tonight he just looked forward to getting home and going to bed. He had quietly taken the joking advice of his coworkers and gone to the nurse hoping to allay his fears about getting anthrax. But alas she had already closed up shop and gone home. Tumbleweed never let on where he had disappeared to earlier in the shift or he'd of never heard the end of it.

The ad turned green as it popped onto his last page. Tumbleweed completed the required work to finish up and close his last section. Ronnie finally gave him the slide and he picked up his things that were already packed and he headed for the door. His throat was really sore now. Tumbleweed was running a fever as well. This was just a bad cold or the flu, Tumbleweed repeatedly assured himself. It's only a cold. It's only the flu. He silently cajoled over and over trying to see the humor. Yes it's funny he thought getting a cold right in the middle of anthrax season? "Why me?" He moaned. "Why me?"

By the time Tumbleweed eventually whistled into his assigned space at home he couldn't say this was just a cold or the flu. He was burning up now and his throat was on fire. Every time he swallowed it hurt. When he reached his condo door he had to fumble with his keys for a moment before he could get inside. His eyes were glassy and stinging. This blurred his vision somewhat. Tumbleweed threw his bag down and collapse on his bed in the next room. He knew he had the anthrax now. There was no doubt. He took a thermometer and after a few minutes of it dangling from his mouth it confirmed he had over 102 fever. Damn those terrorist bastards, Tumbleweed thought angrily. His fever he reckoned sarcastically was rather high for a cold! He wonder whether he should call for help. He coughed and tried to close his eyes. This caused them to sting and he reopened them. He thought more and more about that postman who died with the anthrax. This is how he must had felt. Then Tumbleweed wondered how long he would have if this were the anthrax. Perhaps he only had hours to live...perhaps even just minutes "Those goddamn terrorists." He complained once again. He really didn't like those Arabs now. He looked at his phone on the night stand. Should he call for an ambulance? No way could he drive himself to the hospital at this point he reasoned. He picked up the phone and looked at the 9 button. Tumbleweed glanced around his room seeing much of his video collection of porno scattered about his bedroom. "Damn!" Tumbleweed cursed his bad luck. He'd have to tidy up before calling for help. He set the receiver down again. The thought of getting out of bed now to launder the condo clean of pornography and personal general filth which he should have cleaned long ago but never had a reason to do so was too much right now to deal with. Tumbleweed wondered what would happen if he passed away. Who would find him? What if his mother or the media? What if it's the paper where he work? He could read the headlines. "Tumbleweed - Found Dead Amongst Massive Pornography Collection. Worked for the papers advertising department. Details on B5." Tumbleweed knew he'd have to scrub his condo clean of anything that would make him appear seedy in the paper. But he didn't have the energy at that moment to get out of bed. He lay there pondering and cursing his fate.  Several more hours passed. Tumbleweed's thoughts turned to all the things he might have done had he not been struck down by the anthrax. However, at five in the morning he noticed his fever had broken. He checked it. Ninety-eight point six. People with anthrax don't get better Tumbleweed realized as he knew at that moment he would live to fight another day. He drifted off to sleep having dodged the bullet. It was only a bad dream. Many people that night also came down with media induced anthrax around the nation only to discover, as did Tumbleweed, that it was just a cold.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More War Drums

Everything was changing in Tumbleweed's world. After the attack all air traffic was shut down. This brought an eerie quiet to Tumbleweed's world especially from his condo balcony where normally he could always hear planes roaring by towards National or perhaps Dulles airport. Sitting on his balcony after rising from sleeping alone, he felt uneasy about the blank skies. It was not normal. Tumbleweed loved normal - he craved it. Surprises, especially unpleasant ones, were very stressful. He sat drinking his first diet Coke of the day wondering what it all meant. No airplanes in the sky. He really needed this diet Coke because he didn't sleep very well. It was just too quiet. If the jets didn't start flying soon he wondered how he would get any decent sleep. He took another sip and his thoughts drifted. The day was beautiful and typical for a mid Atlantic September. Tumbleweed sat quietly drinking until finishing his soda. He crushed the aluminum can then chucked it towards the trash bin in the corner of the balcony. "Dammit! Missed again." He mumbled so only he would hear the swearing should anyone else be listening nearby on their balcony. He could sometimes hear people talking or arguing on their balconies so he reasoned they might hear him as well. But no one heard Tumbleweed. He made sure of that because he wanted no trouble from the condo board. The condo board had a million ways to make your money their money. Tumbleweed made damn sure he stayed way clear of those condo constables. His lifestyle was already being crimped to unpleasant levels as things had changed somehow, somewhere though Tumbleweed could not say exactly when. Tumbleweed was still making good money but it didn't seem to go as far these days. He hadn't been past the massage parlor in ages. His thoughts wandered off to several runs he made out of town to as he called it, "titty screw" this lady in Philadelphia. He was bonering up on the balcony just thinking about it though one could ever tell under his tremendous girth. Tumbleweed hears his phone begin to ring. He reckons that this will be his work or his mom. These are the only two calls that ring his phone other than holiday greetings from his brothers and September didn't have any holidays like that. Tumbleweed has no real friends outside of work. That's just the way it is for Tumbleweed.

This time it is work calling asking him to come in early. Tumbleweed eagerly agrees since he can really use the money. Beside this he has nothing else on his plate and always wants to please his bosses even though they barely take notice. Tumbleweed lived to hear the big boss Ronnie remark, "Good catch," whenever he stopped a write-off from getting into the paper. Sadly, most times Tumbleweed found himself sitting inside Ronnie's office with the door closed trying to explain how a classified ad page published with yesterday's copy where today's classified ad copy was supposed to be running. Try as he might only a bit of air would come out of his pudgy cheek, lips flopping silently across from Ronnie's desk. Ronnie's anger would build as he waited for Tumbleweed's explanation yet still no actual words flowed from his mouth. Only attempted words choked off but his fears before ever materializing into something Ronnie could comprehend. Finally he'd blow. "SAY IT! SAY IT! SAY IT!" Ronnie demanded just like Sam Kinison in "Back To School." Though Ronnie was not a large man his personality was imposing...on everyone. Nobody crossed Ronnie. Ronnie was a no nonsense director of operation for the advertising department. Previous directors had come and gone, recently one after the other. A full page telephone company ad would run opposite a page with one of their competitors adverts and BANG! One hundred grand out the window soon followed by Paul. a director of operations. Somebody had to fall on their sword. Perhaps the director would be retired. Maybe they would be laderaled into another position where they couldn't do much damage. In the case of Paul they laderaled him into another position rather than fire him. It was easier and Paul went to the Output Department that sends the finished pages to be printed.

Paul ran a much more relaxed department than Ronnie which probably contributed to his reassignment. He was an old country boy who drove a truck, went hunting and fishing whistling the tune Mayberry tune. He was a bit of a joker as well. Once Tumbleweed attempted to pull a prank on Paul by swiping his bicycle and hiding it. Well Randy got wind of it and turn the tables on Tumbleweed. He tipped off Paul who went and got the bike from where Tumbleweed had hidden it then stashed it elsewhere. After a short time Paul walks over to Randy's desk where he and Tumbleweed are chatting then tells his bit of misfortune to the two. "Well somebody stole my bike." Paul informs them in a drab, matter of fact manner. It was an award winning acting performance worthy of accolades from the snootiest of critics. "Yeah." Paul continues dryly, "I'm going down to security now to have them pull the video tape so we can prosecute the thief." Then Paul turns and leaves the floor. Tumbleweed smiles at Randy then leave to retrieve Paul's bike to demonstrate it was a big joke. However, when he returned to Randy's desk he was no longer smiling. Of course Randy figured he wouldn't be happy when he returned so he remarks, "What's wrong man? Hey where's Paul's bike?" Tumbleweed tries to talk but at first no sound that can be hear are apparent. "What wrong, man?" Randy asks again. "It's gone." Tumbleweed finally replies. "Gone? What's gone?" Randy inquires act so innocent in this conspiracy that ran to the top of Ad Operations. But Tumbleweed can say is the P sound at the beginning of Paul's name. "Pah, pah, pah." "PAUL'S BIKE!" Randy shouts. "You mean Paul's bike is gone?" All Tumbleweed could do is nod his head confirming exactly what Randy already knew. "What the hell do you mean Paul's bike is gone? Where the hell is it." Tumbleweed shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, "Gone." Randy continues the farce. "Gone? Where did it go?" Tumbleweed shook his head, put his palms up in the air and replied, "Gone." Then Tumbleweed realizes the video tape will show him taking the bike from where Paul had left it. "I'll buy Paul another bike." Tumbleweed moaned in agony now that his prank has taken a horrible turn for the worst. "I swear. I'll buy him another one. It was just a joke."

At that very moment Randy phone rang and he picked it up. "Ad Operations. Yes." I worried look appeared across Randy's face. "I see. Yes I will. Yes sir I will. Goodbye." Randy hung up the phone and sat there with his back to Tumbleweed for a few seconds to heighten the dramatic effect. Then he swiveled in his $1200 ergonomically correct chair in Tumbleweed's direction with his eyes cast downward. Slowly he lifted his head making eye contact with Tumbleweed and said, "That was Security. They want you to come to the 1st floor security station. They said to bring your Washington Post ID entry badge too." Tumbleweed choked up knowing what this meant. It was the end for him and his career at the Washington Post. He turned head cast downward in shame and slowly walking away leaving Randy with pretend look of shock at Tumbleweed's apparent run of bad luck. Tumbleweed leaves the Ad Ops floor, turns to walk around the bend to the nearby elevator. Then he grabs the elevator to the first floor and the end of his employment. On the first floor the Security Station is right there where the elevator doors open. When they did open that's where Tumbleweed found Paul sitting on his bike laughing. "Try to pull one on me." Paul said wagging his finger.

Before Paul, Bob Cooper had a brief stint at being director. Tumbleweed readied himself for work thinking about Bob who was the head of operations when Tumbleweed began working for the Post, then one day Bob was an ad maker picking up old ads and editing them for current ad runs. It was real grunt work for a former head of advertising. If a director could be busted down to ad maker overnight then nobody was safe from the ax, reasoned Tumbleweed. He knew he could be fired in an instant, paid a bit of money to agree to just go away. It was how the paper did things. This could be the punishment for making a mistake. However, if you were caught doing something really bad then security would escort you from the building after confiscating your ID badge. Putting on his pants both legs at a time, not being able to stand and put one leg in then the other without tumbling over, he thought about Brian who'd been recently fired. Brian had been feuding with a coworker and poured soda pop all over her keyboard to retaliate in a growing tit for tat escalation. She would yack on the phone all day and Brian couldn't even begin his work until she finished hers. So he was just paying her back. The trouble was the paper had installed those hidden video cameras and recorded the entire vandalization and Brian was gone. Then about a month later the coworker who was his nemesis retired meaning Brian could have still been with the paper if only he could have held out for thirty more days. This line of thinking was more than Tumbleweed could handle and he hurried to finish getting ready for work. There were just too many ways to be fired when Tumbleweed started to think about it. It was better to not think about it.

Tumbleweed hopped out to his Neon for the non stop whistle tour to work. Try as he might to not think about the things he could be fired for by the paper, he found his mind drifting back to the many ways to be terminated by the paper. It sure wasn't like the old days as Randy described them. Tumbleweed put on his blinker then looked into his side view mirror to merge into traffic. He should have looked to his left as well and he would have seen the Hummer right next to his Neon. "BEEP!" Tumbleweed swerved back to the right hitting the rumble strips that contributed to him getting a ticket, the fear of the encounter with the cop freshly etched in his mind. The hummer sped past Tumbleweed allowing him to get into the slow lane. His heart was racing as Tumbleweed was a timid person by nature. Tumbleweed would never be involved in road rage.  Tumbleweed did not like any drama in his life. However, working at the paper on a floor with notorious practical jokers pretty much assured that there would indeed be lots of drama in Tumbleweed's life. He was an easy target with his head down in the ostrich position. He even looked a bit like a young Sergeant Shultz and tried to know nothing that might get him into trouble. But keeping one's head down in advertising operations where the whole floor of workers were hurrying to complete their work to make the deadline then spend hours just hanging around for problems that by that point in time only happened rarely, was a foolhardy folly. Conditions were ripe for boredom fueled practical joking. Even Tumbleweed tried his hand at practical joking but sadly, the joke always led eventually to him.

Tumbleweed before long was crossing the Potomac soon to be at work. He rolled past the guards and into his assigned parking space. After a small tug of war he extracted himself from the Neon. Tumbleweed first stops by the soda machine for a Diet Coke then sits down and logs onto the network. The day shift is on the job this early in the production day. His night crew would not arrive for several more hours to work the graveyard shift. The day shift had one big advantage in that there were plenty of attractive females working in advertising sales and for the top honchos at the paper. The top people could have any secretary they wanted and they usually had a pretty one. In the sales department evidently it was decided that pretty women sold more adverts as the department was crammed full of them and the paper sold lots of ads. That was a historical fact. Tumbleweed could barely get a complete sentence out in front of one of these ladies, they were that good looking. The night shift had a crew that was more utilitarian than attractive. The day shift was flashy like Hollywood and the night people more like bureaucrat minions getting their little individual job done while never understanding the nature or big picture of big plan. Tumbleweed popped open his soda and took a sip. He noticed Ronnie walking by and nodded at him. Ronnie gave Tumbleweed a small thumbs up thanking him in his way for coming in early. Of course this made Tumbleweed's spirits soar into the top floor of the building where only the highest of the newspaper priests of publishing ever dare tread. Tumbleweed starts printing our proofs of any pages ready for publication.

After three hours go by Tumbleweed sees Dave walking through the cubical jungle on his way to his desk next to Tumbleweed's. All of the digital pagination people sat around together yelling orders, statements or questions to one another about the status of the paper such as when they closed a particular section or giving a heads up about a killed ad. Dave nods at Tumbleweed then throws his bag on the floor by the desk. "What's happening Tumbleweed?" Dave inquires looking at Tumbleweed who replies, "My names not Tumbleweed, Dave." To which Dave replies, "You want to be called Tumbleweed Dave? Are you doing something different with your hair?" "No." Tumbleweed says while continuing to print proofs. "You're blow drying your hair aren't you?" Dave accuses Tumbleweed who immediately denies the charge and responds, "I don't blow dry my hair, Dave." Then like an angry prosecutor Dave says, "Answer the question! Do you or don't you blow dry your hair sir?" Dave stands there with both hands on his hips waiting for Tumbleweed's answer. After several attempted responses Tumbleweed reiterates meekly, "I'm not a blow drier Dave." That causes Dave to comment, "I realize you are not Blow Drier Dave. You're Tumbleweed Dave right? And a blow drier! Admit it sir!" Dave demands to which Tumbleweed mumbles, "I'm not a blow drier." Dave asks, "Then how do you explain your incredibly pouffy hair, sir?" Tumbleweed starts to answer then blows the breath out without saying a word.

Tumbleweed has done everything he can do at this point in the shift so decides to surf the net for a spell to see what's going on. What's going on with the newspaper business is much of what they'll offer first thing tomorrow morning for a price, is available right now mostly for free over the internet. Tumbleweed reads all of the budgeting forecast projections and actual outcomes that were given out at the monthly meetings for the advertising department. The meetings were used to make everyone feel part of the team and they came in handy when the management wanted to mass threaten everyone. For example, when one admaker was caught creating ads while at work for another newspapers the employee was escorted from the building. At the next advertising meeting a generic warning went out to everyone not to produce work for the competition especially on their work computers. The staff also received accompanying mass email for transgressions recently perpetrated by just fired workers. Often a worker would simply not be at work anymore with no explanation. Dave also noticed William who sat across the floor about thirty feet from his desk. He was not at his desk for a few days and thought he must taking a few days off. Tumbleweed found his thoughts drifting back to William's empty desk several weeks later. "Wait a second." Dave mumbled to himself thinking William still not at work. So Dave checked with the most reliable source of covert information on the behind the scene workings of the paper - his supervisor Randy. Randy looked both ways and responded softly, "William decided to print out 150 copies of a color printout for his two boy's school project. Well you know how long it takes that damn color printer to printout even one color page - like two or three minutes for each page." Tumbleweed started nodding, understanding where this was going. "The trouble for William is that even though it was late at night some big wig in operations wanted just one color printout before heading home. William's print job was on about number 5 of 150. So the big wig tried to cancel William's print job in the que but only managed to restart it again at number one of 150. William was gone that night. You were here when it happened. Didn't you get the mass email about not using newspaper equipment for personal matters?" Tumbleweed thought about it remembering that he did receive such an email about the time William had disappeared.

Tumbleweed seeing an interesting story on the net comments to Dave, "There is a guy down in Florida who just died from anthrax." To which Dave responds in alarm, "Anthrax! How did he get that?" After scanning the article for a moment Tumbleweed continues. "It say's the man might have caught it in a swamp where he was just camping recently." Dave shout loud enough for the entire floor to hear. "WHAT?" Dave notices everyone on the floor suddenly looking at him and continues quietly. "What do they mean caught anthrax in the swamp?" Tumbleweed cuts and pastes the link into an email then sends it to Dave. "Check your email." Tumbleweed tells Dave. Dave opens his email then clicks the link. Reading it Dave begin shaking his head. "People don't catch anthrax in swamps. Swamps kill anthrax because the anthrax spores depend on dry conditions to exist like out on the great plains. Animals kick up the spore into the air and that's how people can get it. Also in leather processing factories I heard."

Nothing more was said about the anthrax at that time but what Dave was saying about this story come to haunt Tumbleweed? Time would tell and sooner than ever imagined. For the moment however both workers continued closing their sections - Tumbleweed unconcerned about the anthrax since no warning had been posted by the media or by the paper. Everything was pointing to an isolated naturally caused episode in a swamp and Tumbleweed hadn't been to a swamp. What scared Tumbleweed was Ronnie walking by and not having his sections closed on time. FOX had kept Tumbleweed up-to-date about one guy getting sick. Dave, however, was left puzzled and wondering as the story did not add up biologically speaking. All it took was a bit of surfing over the Internet in between closing his sections and Dave felt something really wasn't right about this anthrax story.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Tumbleweed Express

Tumbleweed drank down a cold fluoridated city ice water, as terrorists easily penetrated his nation's defense systems. It was apparent to him that his country needed him to get the Washington Post to press now more than ever. He finished his fluoridated, chlorinated elixir that symbolized how superior the American system was to all those Stanley countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and... What were those other Stan countries? He paused to recall he'd seen a story on FOX about there being a bunch of them all collected around themselves in the middle of the east somewhere. "Wasn't Iran right next door too?" He wondered aloud. "Jesus help us." Tumbleweed concluded though he was not a man who went to church on a regular basis - just weddings, funerals and Christmas Eve midnight mass perhaps. He felt believing in God was all he really needed to do to get into heaven if he was doing the right thing. Fighting terrorism fit that definition because what kind of people would murder thousands of Americans?

Tumbleweed was not so unusual from many other Americans in appearance and attitude. He was to say the least a portly man though not very tall. He had a good head of hair which he took pride in. His job was working for one of the last national newspapers not driven under by the internet alternatives and the truth. He essentially was an ad jockey shepherding ads onto the correct page into the correct position on that page but using a computer. Now that this was done on computer by a dozen or so people and not a hundred paste-up people using Linotype and paste-up boards, Tumbleweed felt lucky he was still working and not among those forced out. Those first buyouts were sweet however but they were meant for old men who'd been with the paper for decades. Most of them would not live too long anyway as they all spent so much of their working lives stewing in various poisons required to create a national newspapers in the olden days of the twentieth century. Cancer was big and Tumbleweed, though not realizing perhaps that it was their jobs that killed them, felt real bad for Tom and the others who had cancer. Tom took the buy out and was dead within a year. "I sure hope I don't ever catch the cancer." He muttered to himself. Whether that would be his fate he didn't focus too much or obsess about health issues. Beside being too fat he liked to chew tobacco but be drank diet sodas daily at his desk proving he was committed to getting healthy and losing weight. So heath was a balancing act in his mind. Do some healthy things, do some unhealthy things and it will all even out in the end. But that too was a far away time in Tumbleweed's mind. He only being 37 was in the prime of his life. A lot of good that did him as it had been years since he'd had an official girlfriend that didn't require a cash transaction at the end of the "date."

Tumbleweed played ball in college and was pretty good. Even back then he was a bit heavy but certainly in better shape than he was currently. He has been planning to get back into shape as well but time to workout was limited due to his job requirements. Working late and into the wee hours of the morning then sleeping away the day after watch a couple hours of on-demand porn left no time for exercise except those late night one arm wrist curls. But he speculated that once he found a girl and settled down he could spend those porn watching hours working out with both arms with real weights. Those needs would have to wait now that his nation was calling him. He knew he wanted to do something but had no idea what that might be.

Tumbleweed normally left for work after 5 PM but when he called the boss he couldn't get through. Apparently all the lines were jammed. However, he saw an opportunity to impress his employer. He figured lots of people wouldn't be showing up for work what with the terrorist attack and that included the day crew. The paper would be short handed so he finished dressing, then left his over priced condo for work and glory. He'd decided to get the condo a couple years ago after watching a program on TV said that buying a place would be a sound investment for his future. It was a slam dunk and you could only make money in Real Estate. He hadn't realized when he signed all those papers that the loan might actually go up since it was an adjustable mortgage nor did he realize he would be required to spend hundreds of dollars each month for condo fees. These were details he would come to realized soon enough because after a year of living there both his mortgage and fees went up and Tumbleweed was having a harder time making ends meet. Be that as it may he left his condo, took the ride down the elevator and got into his little Dodge in the parking garage. It only had 13 more payments then it would be all his. He drove out of his garage rolling the window down again hearing that annoying whistling sound coming from the front of his Neon. "What is that damn noise?" He muttered under his breath. Tumbleweed had even taken the car to the dealer to have them fix it but they could not solve the problem either. None of them realized that the malady lay in the wheel well of the Neon where I had taped a whistle like the referees use during a football game. The faster Tumbleweed rode the louder the whistle blew until he reached highway speed. At that point only the local dogs were driven crazy as the pitch became too high for humans to perceive.

September 11 was a gorgeous day for such a heinous act by some kind of terrorists. The ones responsible would certainly soon be discovered by the FBI Tumbleweed assured himself. They never miss catching their man when they want somebody. It's like the feds are actually inside the minds of the criminals themselves. Many times they almost catch them in the act or are onto them and nail them right before they can strike. It's like the FBI knows what their plans are before they happen he marveled. What the hell went wrong this time he wondered? Somebody must have dropped the ball on this one.

Accelerating down the ramp as his Neon bucked then sped onto the highway north he turned on the radio to check the news. The damn annoying whistling having finally stopped allowed Tumbleweed to collect his thoughts. The news was speculating the attack might be Palestinian. "Those goddamn Palestinians again!" He shouted to himself angrily banging the steering wheel then look around to see if the other drivers had notice that he was ranting alone in his car. Luckily none had as traffic was light. Saying goddamn probably wouldn't get him condemned to hell because no one heard him. So it really wasn't a sin in his mind if nobody but God heard it. Besides, he could of just as easily meant dam like the river and nothing in the Bible says you can't dam the river or people or whatever. Well he'd never heard about such a sin in the Bible though the federal government says dams are bad and need to be removed. His thoughts moved to dams he'd seen during his travels when he notices smoke rising from the Pentagon and lots of police and fire trucks before the scene disappear from his view as he rolled past on the highway. "Goddamn! What the hell is going on there?" He mumble as he reached the 14th Street Bridge which ran into Washington, D.C. The Jefferson Memorial came into view and he swelled up with pride just to be an American living in a free country. Tumbleweed's thoughts were interrupted by a police roadblock which he saw ahead at the intersection. He slowed his Neon and began to worry. Police always made him feel guilty. He couldn't help it especially after that DWI he got several years earlier. Pulling up he stops waiting for the approaching police officer to speak. "Where are you going sir? What is the nature of your business?" The cop demands with his hand on his holster. Tumbleweed hesitates momentarily collecting his thoughts not wanting to slip back into stammering like when he was younger and stutter everytime he got nervous. That could make him appear to be a terrorist and he sure didn't want that today. "I ah am go going to the wah, wah, wah, ah work." He began but stammering in a low voice. Jesus Christ he thought. I sound like a filthy guilty terrorist even to me. But before he could say more incriminating consonants the cops remarks, "Oh you work for the paper. Go ahead, get to work sir." Tumbleweed nodded then pulled away. When Tumbleweed arrived at the building he let out a sigh of relief. Then he ponder if the Post itself might be the next target of the terrorists.

He rolled past the security guards who nodded recognizing him wedged inside his forest green Neon. Tumbleweed parked in his assigned space thankful the whistling had finally stopped. He exited his little car then hopped towards work. Hopping is how he walked as he strained under almost three hundred pounds hung on his short frame. By hopping he could swing into a rhythmic walking pattern that used his momentum to propel his girth forward more easily. Tumbleweed swiped his electronic badge then opened the door to the building. He did his bunny bopping to the elevator, pressed the button and waited. When the door opened a dark skinned man was inside who might be a middle eastern or possibly even a Muslim person like an Iranian. Tumbleweed speculated silently and stepped warily to the other side of the compartment. The man smiled at Tumbleweed and he responded in kind but with a nervous twitch which he immediately began to scratch hoping to drive it away. Fortunately the man got off the elevator on the very next floor leaving Tumbleweed in solitude. He could relax now, at least to his usual perpetually frightened timid state of mushiness. Tumbleweed was especially nervous around the fairer sex. When he spoke to anyone with double X chromosomes he could scarcely choke out his words. As much as Tumbleweed weighed gravitationally speaking, he weighed his own words much more so before ever daring to say them out loud especially before a woman. Tumbleweed had very few sexual experiences for a man living over thirty years and most of those were commercial transactions. This left Tumbleweed starving for some kind of physical contact and it showed in the presence of women especially attractive ones. Many women got a sort of creepy feeling around Tumbleweed though most found him harmless and eunuch-like.

The doors open to Tumbleweed's floor and he hopped out of the elevator making his way towards his desk. As he walked down the halls he noticed not many people had showed up for work yet. Tumbleweed speculated that this was due to the terrorist strike no doubt. He sees that Randy is sitting at his desk, of course since he was working the day shift back then. As he passes, Randy says, "Hey Candy ass. The Pentagon terrorists didn't get you?" Tumbleweed walking past Randy replies, "That's not my name, Randy. What Pentagon terrorist?" Randy stands up to keep eye contact with Tumbleweed whose short altitude was rapidly disappearing below the walls of the cubical jungle. Curiosity gets the better of Tumbleweed and he stops and turns back towards Randy who begins filling in Tumbleweed. "Those terrorist son-of-a-bitches just flew a plane into the Pentagon. This is war baby." Tumbleweed realized that was the police activity he saw at the Pentagon when he passed the building driving up 395 on the way to work. "We're at war?" Tumbleweed asks. "They know who did it, yet?" Randy says, "Well the FBI is saying the ring leader's a guy named Atta son-of-a-bitch. They got video of him going through security and they found his rental car with details of the plan." Tumbleweed said no more, turned and finished the short hop to his desk.

Tumbleweed's desk and his general appearance were not conducive to snagging a lady - any lady. Right off the bat his keyboard and immediate Tumbleweed zone was speckled with little brown dots which were composed of his saliva encrusted with chewing tobacco. Unconsciously he grabbed for his chew, pulled off a hunk and jammed it into his cheeks as he sat down at his desk. Immediately, he logged on to the network computer then started checking the web for more news about the terrorism. "Thanks for coming in early, Tumbleweed. Start working on the Daily." Tumbleweed turned and confirmed it was the big boss in charge of all advertising operations, Ronnie. "You're welcome Ronnie," Tumbleweed replied in his timid nasal voice. He wanted to make some appropriate small talk with the boss about events but he was deathly afraid of Ronnie. Ronnie had a paper to get out and had no time for stuttering or other wastes of time. As Tumbleweed started the initial phases of opening his mouth to spend some of his just earned attaboy capital with the boss, his words became snagged in the pit of his stomach, followed by nothing but Ronnie disappearing around the corner. "Damn!" He mumbled under his breath. Tumbleweed loaded his pagination software that would allow him to jockey the various ads that were destined for the pages of the paper.

Laying out the paper wasn't a rocket science job but rather one filled with many details needing to be attended to as possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost advertising revenue hung in the balance. Get just one number wrong, like the 800 number that didn't ring the advertiser but a sex line instead, and that customer would not be paying for that ad. With the decline in the newspaper business the days of plenty were long gone for many papers but not the Washington Post. But taking a hit for not catching obvious errors could get you fired. So as if Tumbleweed hadn't enough things to be paranoid about, real or imagined, he was the last line of defense. He was the offensive lineman blocking screw-ups. Nobody knew you existed until your got flagged for a write-off. When the wrong ad, at the wrong time, with the wrong information published in the paper then heads could roll. He didn't want one of those heads to be his. Tumbleweed was having a hard enough time paying his bills now and surely didn't want to have to apply for a job somewhere else ever again for that matter. Just the thought of it sent a shiver down the length of his short spine. He hoped to retire at the paper like all the old guard who had just taken the buy outs to go away.

His software finished loading. Tumbleweed started to print proofs of the Daily pages that had all of the advertising copy ready to go. These were the pages that published everyday like the Main section, Sports, Business, etc. Other sections would be handled later in the day even though they would not publish for two days into the future. Still, not many people were on the normally busy floor. In advertising the paper employed artists, ad builders, copy writers, sales people, etc. as well as a crew of pagination specialists. All of these employees mostly worked on Tumbleweed's floor and could be seen busily walking back and forth doing their jobs. It was in reality a big advertising machine that manufactured ads then pop them on a computer conveyor belt for publishing. Normally, an ad would be grabbed from perhaps the previous Christmas. The copy about Christmas would be deleted and replaced with current holiday copy, saved and published to deliver current holiday sales for the advertisers. So "Happy Holidays" from Christmas got yanked and replaced with "Get a Sweet Heart Of A Deal" for Valentine's Day. The entire print advertising world revolved around holidays. September was normally the kick off of the busy season for advertising beginning with Back to School specials. This cycle continues through the first of the year then slowly dies off until summer when advertising revenue plummets. After all, advertisers have Memorial Day and Fourth of July until Back to School. Besides that everyone is at the beach and not reading a newspaper. In the paper, Merry Christmas had become Happy Holidays. This season's greeting would suffice for all religions, races and beliefs.

This shift was much harder than Tumbleweed might have imagined. Only Keith had shown up for work and just the two of them laid out the entire paper. Keith was a real laid back guy who was married to the ex wife of Redskin Dexter Manley. Unlike television that loses advertising revenue during these sort of crisis moments like 9/11, newspapers actually increase revenue. The networks cannot cut away from live coverage of the burning towers for commercials or viewers will simply switch to another channel. But newspapers swell with pages giving deeper coverage of current events on the world stage. Advertisers jump at the opportunity to get their information in front of a million readers. Of course this is not so for all advertisers. Tumbleweed had to be reminded that all airline ads and travel ads had been killed for that day and until further notice. The airlines would need time to figure out how to gracefully convince people that the skies were  friendly once again. Fortunately everybody on the advertising conveyor belt before him had done their jobs and no airline or travel ads made it to the pages. All of the space reserved for these ads had other ads filling the space or promotional material describing how knowledgeable, fair and unbiased the Washington Post was according to the paper naturally.

Tumbleweed pulled out the ad space holders for all of the killed ads and filled them appropriately with replacement copy. All that was left of the large pizza he'd ordered was the box and greasy wax paper. His trash can contained a number of the wads of chewed tobacco he'd gnawed through during the day and evening shifts. He was making some big overtime bucks and he smiled thinking about it. He sure could use the extra money. Everything was getting more expensive these days for Tumbleweed. Though he was perpetually low on money, he managed his funds foolishly. Instead of preparing a sensible mean at home to take to work, he ordered takeout every night during the shift. Naturally, with no real personal life and only a few family members like his mom and brothers, Tumbleweed had plenty of time to make sandwiches. Instead he chose to get the fatty, salty takeout with plenty of calories and little nutrition. However, he always got a diet coke with his order to at least give the impression that he was trying to lose weight. Tumbleweed had not taken a sip of soda with actual sugar in it since he was a kid. Aspartame had been a God send to him. Zero calories and very sweet. He drank three or four every night at work always from the vending machine of course. Bringing a six pack from home would have cost much less but then he'd have to carry it and everything. Besides, while making the trip for the aspartame soda often it gave him the opportunity to grab a salty snack saving time. He wanted nothing getting in the way of having the time to do his job correctly so he rationalized these were necessary job expenses even if the IRS didn't see things this way. He sure didn't want to be called into Ronnie's office again to explain why for example the same full page ad published with a big empty box where the graphic had dropped out. "DIDN'T IT EVER OCCUR TO YOU THAT NOBODY IS RICH OR DUMB ENOUGH TO BUY AN AD WITH A BIG EMPTY BOX RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT?" Ronnie screamed. When he made these demands from behind his closed door it meant for Tumbleweed that everybody in the shop and across the whole advertising operations floor could hear Ronnie screaming. No...Tumbleweed definitely didn't want to go there again so the caffeine in the coke seemed a good investment to protect him from having to go to Ronnie's office. Also, without the jolt of caffeine and aspartame Tumbleweed soon started get a headache. He didn't want that distracting him.

The day had been a blur to Tumbleweed. He found himself whistling down the abandoned streets of Washington towards his Alexandria Condo. He thought about everything that had occurred during this historic day. Two skyscrapers filled up with people had been destroyed by hijacked airliners with Muslim terrorists. Another plane hit the Pentagon that was still smoking as Tumbleweed drove south towards his condo. Then there was a fourth plane that had crashed. He would come to learn that one of the passengers led a revolt against the terrorists. He was even a gay dude recalled Tumbleweed. It was covered extensively by the paper of course after being released by the network news. He said, "Let's roll."  The paper would write that passenger drove the plane into the ground rather than let it be used against America as a missile. Once he viewed the coverage, Tumbleweed thought that's the kind of courage he wished he had more of. Just the thought of flying that plane to your death made Tumbleweed forget he was driving down 396 and his car eased off the road hitting the rumble strips. This shocked Tumbleweed back into his reality and he swerved back onto the road - his cars wiggling wildly for a few brief seconds. Unfortunately for Tumbleweed the Virginia state trooper by the emergency turn-around popped on his headlights followed by the scary ones on his roof. The cruiser darts onto the road after Tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed immediately swerves to the side of the road and slams on his brakes stopping by the guard rail. He does this so rapidly it cause the state trooper to overshoot him and the police cruiser comes to a screeching halt, backs ups and pulls in behind Tumbleweed now beginning to tremble a bit. Twice in one day being caught by the cops was very painful for one so emotionally weak and timid. The cop exited his vehicle with his hand on his weapon and approached Tumbleweed's Neon. Tumbleweed had both hands still on the steering wheel in the Ten Two position. The cop gets to his driver side window and motions for Tumbleweed to roll his window down. "Good evening sir. I noticed you swerved off the road just now. Have you been drinking tonight?" Tumbleweed replied, "No, no sir. I just got off work at the paper and they don't allow any drinking on the job." Tumbleweed tries to keep his answers simple to avoid looking suspicious. However, the cop doesn't like his answer finding it to be smug rather than just honest as was Tumbleweed's intent. "May I see your license and registration sir," the cop demand shining his flashlight down at Tumbleweed's eyes looking for the telltale signs of intoxication. Fortunately, this time would not be another DWI because the last time scared Tumbleweed away from ever drinking alcohol ever again. He even started going to Alcohols Anonymous though now it was more about meeting people than staying away from booze. Tumbleweed unhooked his safety belt then began digging for his wallet. Extracting this small piece of leather from beneath his amble bottom was a formidable struggle and was one Tumbleweed never would attempt unless forced by circumstances. He gave one good yank but the wallet flipped up out of his hand causing all of the contents to spill out on the floor including his license. "You want to step out of the car sir." The cop ordered sending a cold chill down Tumbleweed. "Yes sir." Tumbleweed agreed then opened his door exiting his car. The trooper shined his light into the Neon then began sorting through the papers on the floor until finding Tumbleweed's license. He grabs it and leans out of the car shining the light on the ID comparing the picture to Tumbleweed. He looks at the picture then at Tumbleweed several times making sure they are one and the same person. "Is your registration in your glove box?" The trooper asks Tumbleweed who only nod yes. "May I retrieve it from your car, sir? You have nothing to hide right sir?" Tumbleweed says, "No sir." Then realizing he might be misunderstood as saying the cop could not look in his glove box clarified his meaning. "I ah mean yes sir. You can look in the glove box but no nah no sir I'm not hiding anything." The cop leans into the Neon and after a moment returns with the registration. He is visibly annoyed with Tumbleweed. Perhaps it's the trash strewn car of Tumbleweed's that has the police officer on his ass like this Tumbleweed wonders. "Extend your arms out to the side, tilt your head back and touch your nose with your left then your right index finger." The cop orders Tumbleweed while demonstrating the maneuver himself. Tumbleweed does as he is ordered several times then looks towards the trooper for further instructions. "Okay sir," The officer continues as he stands on one leg. "Stand on one leg like this and count to ten." Tumbleweed stands on one leg and begins to count. "One, two, three..." But standing on one leg is not something Tumbleweed practices on a regular basis and he starts to lose his balance. He drops his raised leg back to the ground steadying himself. "Having a problem standing on one foot sir?" The cop asks an embarrassed Tumbleweed who isn't drunk. He's just fat. "No sir, officer." Tumbleweed replies sheepishly. "Should I try again?" "Never mind." The cop says. "Try this instead. Put your left heel in front of your right toe like this and walk in a straight line to this spot here. Then pivot, turn back and return to this spot toe to heel." After the cop finishes his demonstration he waits for Tumbleweed to complete his task. Tumbleweed goes though all the steps and finally returns to the original spot. "How's that sir?" The cop frowns and replies, "I told you to start with your left foot first. You began with your right foot. Are you having difficulty understanding my orders?" Tumbleweed is really getting paranoid at this point. "Ah, sir. I just made a mistake. I ah..." The trooper looking really annoyed angrily responds, "Never mind sir. Blow into this as hard as you can." He hands Tumbleweed the little breathalyzer tube. He grabs it and begins to blow. "Blow, blow, harder, harder." The cop orders. After a few seconds the cop grabs the device from Tumbleweed and holds it up to read the results. "Get back into your vehicle, sir. I'll be back with your license and registration." Tumbleweed asks, "Is the tester saying I haven't been drinking?" The cop in an annoyed voice states, "Remain in your vehicle, sir."

The officer returns to his police cruiser. Tumbleweed sits in his Neon not understanding what is going on. He doesn't realize he angered the cop by pulling over too fast causing the cruiser to overshoot him. Then being twice what he should weigh only made the cop have even more contempt than he would have felt towards him on this late night. What was really bothering the cop was perhaps his wife had had enough of his brutish bossy behavior and had left him earlier that day for another man. Who knows? Somebody would have to pay for this adultery and it looked like it was going to be Tumbleweed tonight. It seemed like an eternity but the cop eventually exited his cruiser and returned to the side of Tumbleweed's cars. "Sign here sir." The cop ordered handing Tumbleweed his ticket. He was to be sighted for failure to pay full time and attention to his driving for running off the road in front of a cop whose wife perhaps had just left him for some other man who was probably doing her right now. However in actual fact, Tumbleweed had no idea why this cop was victimizing him late at night in this manner. He didn't like it but felt it was normal for the cops to act this way because they were only trying to enforce the law. He signed his ticket and handed it back to the officer who tore off Tumbleweed's portion returning to him. "Have a good evening sir." The cop spoke in a tone that said he didn't really give a damn about Tumbleweed or the evening in question. "Thank you sir." Was all Tumbleweed could say grabbing his ticket. He laid the ticket on his passenger seat, started his Neon and pulled back onto the highway. He was relieved not to be going to jail. When he pulled into his underground garage and parked he finally took a peek at the ticket. "A HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS!" He screamed then notices there would be points as well put back on his license. Dammit, he thought to himself. The points from the DWI had just expired. The hundred fifty dollar fine was bad enough but he had not realized his insurance would be going up as well because he had inadvertently permitted his car to drift off the road in the middle of the night. He shoved the ticket into the glove box and returned to his abandoned condo. He put on the cable and began watching FOX to see if any further news about the terrorist attack was being aired. Normally this was his porno watching time but Tumbleweed rationalized that his sex life would need to be put on hold until he could see how dangerous it was going to be to work from now on. He worked in an office building as well. Somehow, watching the news couldn't hold his attention especially since these same reports he already aired numerous times. Soon he fell asleep.