Bring Your Soul to Work Day by Christin Rice

“Announcement:  Thursday, March 12th is Bring Your Soul to Work Day.  As with Bring Your Child to Work Day, we welcome all to participate but also kindly remind you of our company policy that productivity must be maintained.  We will have regularly scheduled activities throughout the day for those souls who choose to participate.”

Alex studied the memo in the copy room with a little tremble.  She’d just started at the company three weeks ago and was still fumbling her way through the politics on the office floor.  Noticing the office manager entering the room, Alex sorted and re-sorted the papers in her hand.  It would never do to look un-busy.

“How are you today, Randall?” she asked.

“Fine,” said the office manager with his back to her.  He was putting supplies away.  Randall was exceptional at making people feel less important than he.

“Uh, so…” Alex continued to fiddle with the papers that she was done with.  She’d read a book about how to do well in the corporate space—My Life in Cubes.  It made the point again and again that it was necessary to always “connect” with others, especially key players like the office manager.  “So,” she continued brightly, “Bring Your Soul to Work Day!  Is that an annual event?”

Randall’s shoulders rounded as he turned to glare at the memo tacked to the message board.  She thought she heard him growl.

“Yes, unfortunately,” he finally answered, brushing fake dust from his white pants.  “The office gets trashed, I end up with two or three notices on my desk to hand over to the chief at the end of the day, and no one is ever grateful.  Nor do they ever RSVP the proper amount so the catering is always too much or too little and who do you think has to hear about that all day?”  He pointed a thumb at his crisp white shirt.

The point of “connecting” was not to upset the other person, so Alex made a comment along the lines of “Oh dear, I’m sorry,” and fled the room.

Back at her desk, she picked up the next loan document for review.  It only took about two minutes of looking at it for the words on the form to blur.  She shook her head a little and began again.  This week alone she’d gotten six paper cuts already and it was only Tuesday and she kept losing her place on the page.

“Alex,” a stern voice interrupted.  “Do you have a minute?”  Without waiting for an answer, Steven perched himself on her desk, making her scoot her chair back so she wasn’t quite so close to his diabolically strong cologne.  Her cube was miniscule, the size of most end tables, with just enough space to breathe deeply and exhale often.  Steven had a stack of papers in his hand.  “Do you see these forms?”

“Yes.”  She wasn’t blind.  They were only a foot from her face.  She could have reached out and licked them if she wanted to.

“These are forms that you reviewed.  They are all wrong.”  Steven slapped the papers down on a desk and pointed to box #42C.  “This here needs an initial by the client.  These need to be approved by the end of the day which is getting closer every second.  I suggest you hurry.”

“Oh god, sorry, so sorry!” she muttered.  “I’ll start right away.”  She gathered the papers and peered at the miniature blank box on the sheet.  #42A and B were complete but the teeny box that was #42C was woefully empty.  It had taken a week to finish reviewing the forms in the first place.  She’d have to call the analysts right away.  Steven left and she hit redial to catch the last analyst she’d spoken to.

“Carmen Miranda’s office,” a bubblegum voice answered.

“Oh, I’m so sorry—I don’t know how what happened.  I have the wrong number.”

“No you don’t.  You never have the wrong number when you call me.  I’m the right number.”

“Yes, but I wanted to call George Larimore’s office.”

“I don’t think you did.”

“Well, no, I know I didn’t call his office.  Because I called you somehow instead.”

Alex heard a smile crackling on the line.  “No, honey.  I mean, I don’t think you really meant to call him.  He sounds dull.  I think you were hoping for something else entirely.”

After a moment of shallow breathing, Alex finally stuttered, “I should go.”

“Oh, darling.  Have you learned nothing from the last few moments of your life?  What you should do and what you really want to do are clearly at odds right now, aren’t they?”

Alex blinked at Randall rushing past her desk and then back to the pile of paperwork in front of her.  “I’m sorry, goodbye.”  She thought she heard the mysterious woman say, “Darling, don’t be sorry,” before she hung up.  Shaking her head to clear it, she thumbed through the filofax, the tacky retro filofax full of analysts’ phone numbers she’d been given on her first day—analysts who yelled at her daily since she began with the company.  She found George Larimore’s number.  She very carefully punched in the number, double-checking before the final digit.  It rang.

“Carmen Miranda’s office,” said the same voice as before.

“What?  No,”  Alex cried.  “What is going on?  I checked the number.  It worked this morning.”

“Well sweetie, clearly things have changed since this morning.”  The woman’s voice was the picture of patience, if voices could be pictures.

“I don’t understand,” Alex said, feeling defeated by the telephone lines.  “Wha—”  But she couldn’t even finish the sentence.

“Oh Alex, don’t fret.”

“Wait, how do you know my name?”  Alex whispered fiercely into the phone’s receiver and slid to the edge of her seat.  She scanned the office behind her to see if anyone was watching.

“Why darling, Caller ID of course!”  The woman laughed.

“Who are you?” Alex asked, wishing she was better at faking politeness.

“How kind of you to ask.  I ask myself that question three times before breakfast.  Ah, sometimes it’s not until the third cup of coffee that I remember.  I, my dear, am a manifester of life.”

“A what?  No, who are you?  What is your name?”  She stopped herself before yelling “What the hell is happening to my mind?” which was the question she really wanted answered.

“Name?”  the woman asked, sounding disappointed.  “My name is Gaelic,” she said flatly.

“Nice to meet you, Gaelic,” Alex chirped in response automatically.  A sound like wind chimes erupted from the phone as the woman laughed.

“No, it’s Gaelic: the language.  I can’t tell you my name until the moment is right.”

“What?  Listen, I’m just trying to get my job done here.”  Alex balled up a sheet of paper that was sitting innocently on her desk.

“Well dear, I’m afraid to say there’s never just one thing going on at any moment.  While you were talking you were also breathing and thinking, and probably sitting.  So getting your work done was hardly all you were doing.”

Alex’s voice dropped an octave. “Seriously, what is going on here?”

“Oh, I know dear, I know,” the woman with the Gaelic name cooed.  “It’s always hard at first.  But it will become clear soon.  You’ll see.  Right now, I need you to do something for me.”

“What?” Alex asked, not entirely sure she wanted to know.

“I need you to take a memo.”

“A memo?  About what?”

“My my, so impatient to know everything.  Darling, there are so many wonderful questions to live with.  You’ll know what the memo is after you take it, now won’t you?”

“I guess so,” Alex pouted.  Really, was it too much to get a straight answer?  Looking at the forms on her desk, she was overcome with the desire to be completing them instead of talking to the confusing woman who seemed determined to frustrate her.

“Okay then, ready?” the woman said brightly.  “Once upon a time…”

“Wait, stop!  That is not how you begin a memo.”

“Well, darling, it is if you begin them correctly.”  She cleared her throat and began again.  “Once upon a time, at three o’clock on a Tuesday it was determined that all employees should reset their imagination three times daily while at work: once in the morning, once at noon, and once over coffee at half past two.”

Alex’s hand hadn’t moved over the blank page she’d felt obligated to pull out at the word “memo.”  “What?”  She’d used that word today more than any other in her life.  “I can’t write that.  That’s not a proper memo.”

The woman snorted.  “And since when did you become the authority on what is and what is not a memo?  It’s not a proper memo yet because you haven’t taken it.  As soon as a memo is taken, then it becomes a memo.  There’s a system for these things.  Pay attention.”

Rolling her eyes, Alex wrote down what she could remember of the memo.  “Did you say half past two or three?” she asked wearily.

“Two, dear.  Three would be much too late.  No good then.”

“Whatever,” Alex muttered, while writing down the “correct” time. “And what is it exactly that you want me to do with this memo now that I’ve taken it?”

“Well, you’re to send it about, of course.  Put it where you saw the Bring Your Soul to Work Day memo.”

Alex sat straighter in her chair.  “How do you know about that?”

“Why, I sent it of course.  Having a slow day are we, dear?  Feeling a bit dim?” she chirped.

Alex was about to register her offense when she spotted her boss coming down the aisle.  She automatically picked up the pile of forms and shuffled them in an urgent looking fashion, and made sure she was overheard politely on the phone to say, “Certainly!  Of course.  Right away!”  She thought she saw a half smile form on her boss’s face as he passed her cube.

“Well,” the woman on the other line said, sounding pleased.  “Glad you’re finally on board dear.  We’ll talk later and you’ll let me know how it goes.  Ta!” she sang, and before Alex had time to respond the sound of dial tone blared in her ear.

“The nerve!”  Alex spat.  She looked down at the dictated memo and was about to crumple it into a ball for the waste basket.  She sighed instead and noticed the clock on her computer read noon.  “Once at noon…” she spied on the page.  Reset your imagination?  What did that mean?  Was it like resetting a clock?  Or a button that you pressed?  Well, whatever it meant, she spied the entire contents of the office spilling out for their lunch breaks and knew this was her only window to hang up the memo undetected.  She pressed it to her body and tried her best to look casual.  She tiptoed to the copy room and quickly pinned it up next to the Bring Your Soul to Work Day memo.  She looked at that one again, now realizing that someone else in the office must have talked to the strange woman.  They might be able to tell her what was going on.  If only there were a way to find out who that was without sounding like she’d lost her mind, which at this point was an absolute possibility.

When everyone came back from lunch (she ate at her desk, too frightened to leave), Alex listened for clues that anyone had seen her memo.  She didn’t have to wait long.  Randall, the office manager, zipped by her desk muttering “Reset my imagination, my ass.  How ‘bout you reset my paycheck to add another zero or two.”  People shuffled in and out of the office supply room, lingering more than long enough to read the memo, and left again either unfazed or unaware.

Alex got back to her paperwork.  The next time she dialed out to reach an analyst, she got through.  She felt triumphant, and just a little bit disappointed.  But at least she was also able to get a bit of work done.  One of her books was adamant about making sure you created a sense of accomplishment each and every day.

Three hours later, she took a stack of finished paperwork to her boss’s office and knocked timidly.

“Come in,” he gruffly instructed.

“I’m done with these, sir,” she said and placed them on his desk.

“Is that all of them?”  He peered at the stack over his glasses.

“Almost.  I’m waiting for a few more phone calls back.”

He grunted and drove his nose back into the work she’d interrupted.  She stood there for a moment waiting to see if he would address her.

Finally he took off his glasses to glare at her, and said, “Is there anything else, Alex?  Because if there isn’t you really should run along and finish up the rest of this pile before the end of the day.”

Alex slowly walked back toward her desk, but felt compelled to head into the copy room to see if any additional messages from the universe or that crazy lady had arrived.  She pretended to be looking for staples, opening cabinet doors as she worked her way closer to the memo board.  There was a new posting: an advertisement of kittens for sale.  The sign announcing a litter of unwanted animals would have been perfectly normal except for the way the mouth of the momma cat turned down in saddest frown.  Alex tried to break herself away from the ridiculous board but felt stuck.  Seeing no other way out, she tore one of the phone number slips attached from the poster and ran back to her desk.

Quickly, before she could talk herself out of it, she dialed the number from the slip.  Clearing her throat, she looked around to see if anyone was watching her as she waited out the dial tone.  The voice of a woman who had obviously been smoking her whole life came on.

“Yeah, what do you want?”  It graveled into her ear.  Shocked by normality, Alex went mute.  “Hello?” the voice said.  Alex cleared her throat as if in sympathy for the vocal chords on the other line.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said.  “I was calling about the kittens.”  Now that it was out of her mouth she realized she hadn’t even really seen what they looked like, so absorbed had she been by the mother cat’s frown.

“Hang on a minute.  I’ll have to get Luanne.”  Alex felt like she could smell the ash emanating from the other end of the line.  She sighed while she waited, a bit perplexed at herself, but curiosity tugged convincingly.

“Well hello, honey,” the same voice from this morning sang in her ear.  “I had a good feeling about you.”

“Wait – how are you – wait!”  Alex slammed her hand down on the table. “You’re telling me your name is Luanne!!”  Of all the things that had occurred that day, this might be the most ridiculous.  “How is that even Gaelic?”

“I told you you’d discover my name when the time was right, darling.”

“Yeah but…your name is Luanne.”  Alex blinked hard, as if the snapping of her eyelids might help the connection from brain to reality.

“Now sweetie, you’ve progressed really well today.  But one thing is missing.”

“What?”  It was hard to squelch the pleasure of finding she was progressing well.  Perhaps not at work, she thought ruefully, but at least in whatever weird venture was befalling her.

“What’s left is to decide.”

“To decide what?”

“Ah, there you go getting impatient again.  You will know what to decide after you decide what your decision is.”

Alex gave her head a little shake.  “What?”

“Exactly.  You’ll decide on the what then.”

“When?”

“When you’ve figured out what your decision is.”

If she’d had anything to eat or drink recently, Alex would have sniffed it to see if she could detect any drugs.  Perhaps she’d been split in two and the other half had gone and done shrooms.

“Are you ready?”  Luanne asked, sounding at once twinkling and maternal.

“For what?  To decide?  I don’t even know what we’re talking about, how could I be ready?”  The clock above her desk struck 4:45 and she’d not completed anything else that afternoon.  Suddenly the sense of doom and possible termination beat down on her.

“No, dear.  That will happen when the sun falls behind the moon and the bluebird crows.  I mean, are you ready for Take Your Soul to Work Day?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do.”

Luanne’s voice broke into a cackling laugh.  “Silly, it doesn’t get much more obvious: you bring your soul to work.  Listen, give me a call tomorrow and tell me how it goes.”  Alex thought she heard an air kiss before the dial tone hit.  The clock clicked five and her cube-neighbors filed out past her desk.  She sighed and picked up the first unfinished file, knowing anyone she needed to call to get the missing info would be gone for the night already as well.  She’d have to start again tomorrow and work as fast as she could before her boss got the chance to talk to her.

 

That night was restless and useless for sleep.  She kept dreaming of paperwork and felt the cat’s disappointed eyes on her.  It was a relief when the alarm went off and she could finally give up the charade of sleep and drag herself into the shower.

Her favorite photo of herself hung in her bedroom by the door.  It made her smile to look at it so she tried to remember to notice it, especially on weekday mornings before leaving for work.  It was like giving herself a hug goodbye and saying “Have a good day, honey” to herself as she walked out the door.  The photo was from when she was three years old.  In it she had two tiny braids on the sides of her face, an enormous drooly grin, and her mother’s recorder.  That photo was the first of numerous others of her posing with instruments: the flute; the clarinet; the violin; two unfortunate months of the ukulele.  Everything she tried she liked and there was an ease about learning.  It was so easy in fact that she gave up early, when she was fifteen and she’d became self conscious of the way her thighs looked in the spandex band uniform.  There was too much pleasure in it for her parents and her teenage heart had crusted over.  She wasn’t happy after, but then neither were any of her fellow high schoolers.  She assumed the time for happiness was over.  She only kept one of the instruments: a small brown plastic recorder from the sixth grade, the same year she got braces and had her first kiss.

She shared her apartment with three other women.  Their schedules almost never intersected, or when they did, it was over hastily made noodles in the kitchen or ice cream in front of the television.  Alex spent the balance of her time poring over corporate self-help, manuals on how to live life that she read in her room for fear of the discovery that she cared that much about success.  Occasionally, she would go to concerts, the kind that were so large she could be lost in the crowd.  Small venues and small artists made her feel claustrophobic, as if cutting close to a wound safely healed.  Work was often a relief from the sense of missed opportunities.

As she drove into work that day she realized her hands were shaking and she hadn’t even had her coffee yet.  She was certainly more nervous than she’d ever been on the twenty third day at any other job.

When she arrived at her desk, coffee now in hand, it seemed that more than any other kind of day it might be, it was a casual day.  She spotted a woman in a flowery sundress and wide-brimmed straw hat.  She saw a man in overalls and large black boots.  She caught sight of another man dressed entirely in lavender.  It was only Wednesday, so casual Friday it was not, and even Fridays around this office were really dressy with a side of relaxed as opposed to truly casual.  She felt overly formal in her gray slacks and black button-down shirt.  All the manuals cautioned against optics: they advised to always consider what others saw when they passed you in the hall.  After five minutes of observation and not detecting any backlash, she unbuttoned the top button of her shirt and even rolled up her sleeves.  Twice.

She thought she heard her cube neighbor talking to herself and then realized that actually she was singing show tunes.  At first very quietly, and then eventually escalating to a booming crescendo until she sashayed past Alex’s desk flailing jazz hands behind.  When Alex popped her head out at break time, she heard a man sobbing.  Seeing it was Randall in the copy room, Alex tentatively tiptoed into the room to ask if she could help.

“No, this is how it’s supposed to be.  It’s just this day.  Everything about it.”  He was stuffing sheet after sheet into the fax machine while glaring at the table overflowing with uneaten catering in the corner.  “Why couldn’t I work in a normal office?”

“I know what you mean,” Alex said softly.

“Do you?  Do you know?  You’ve only been here for a month.”

“Three weeks actually.”

“Three weeks!” he sputtered.  “Try being here for three years.”

Alex had to admit to herself that she desperately hoped she would not be here even in one more year, so she just shook her head consolingly.

Cubicle walls are not actually made for privacy so the conversation down the way from her desk was completely eavesdroppable.  She heard Janice in accounting say: “You have the world’s most annoying voice.  Ever.  Every time I hear it I want to die.  And then I want you to die.”  Janice told this to Charlie in a non-ironic nasal voice.

Charlie replied matter-of-factly, “I hate my voice too.  It’s why I never call home.”

“Well that’s just sad,” said Janice.

Alex cringed.  Randall was the only other person who seemed to not be enjoying the day as much as she was not enjoying it, except for perhaps Charlie.  As for everyone else, she’d never detected quite as light a mood on the floor.  Bodies moved around her in a way that almost resembled weekend life.  Voices raised and dipped in cadences that felt natural and buoyant.  She sat back in her chair, lulled by the sounds.  When her phone rang her heart spasmed.

“Hello?” She was so caught off guard that she forgot to add the company’s name to her greeting, or even her own.

“So, how’s it going?”  Luanne, the enigma.  Alex felt a sense of comfort in the now-familiarity of her voice.

“Well, so far it seems like everyone’s in a better mood.”

“Yes, that’s usually the first step.  It’s a relief really.  Or a game.  And you?  What does your soul look like today?”

“Are you asking me what I’m wearing?” she asked.

That same tinkling laugh reverberated in her ear.  “No, silly.  I don’t give two cat hairs what you’re wearing.  Did you even try to bring your soul to work today?”

“What does that even mean?”  The comfort of hearing Luanne’s voice gave way to pure annoyance.  She felt picked on.  She was just trying to pay her bills, get through life until she figured out what she was actually supposed to be doing.  It sure seemed like everyone else got away with that, why shouldn’t she?

“Ah, well….”  Luanne twisted her voice into a tease.  “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

Before Alex could snap back something equally immature, Steven appeared at her desk, tapping his foot.  “I’m gonna have to call you back.”

The moment she shoved the receiver down, Steven began talking.  “What is the meaning of this?”  He shouted, thrusting paperwork into her lap.

She lifted the form close to her face, recognized her signature in the sign-off slot as her own, though every other line was filled with hieroglyphics.  The next form was completed in pig latin and once again her signature appeared at the bottom.  The one beneath that had some form of Chinese characters, and her tell-tale slanted moniker.  They were as scrambled as the contents of her brain at the moment.  It had taken dozens of calls to get the right information in the first place.

“Oh dear.”

“Oh dear!  Is that all you can say?  These clients are waiting for money we can’t possibly give them because their paperwork is illegible and your only comment is Oh Dear?”  His face turned magenta and his whole body quivered.  “I’m beginning to wonder if this is the right place for you.”

The image of her unpaid credit card bill on the side table in the cramped entrance to her apartment flashed before her eyes.  “No!  This is the place for me.  I’ll fix these right away.  I have no idea how this happened….”  She looked at the unreadable documents.  It seemed like each character was moving ever so slightly on the page, as if reconstructing themselves into yet another indecipherable form. She kept herself from yelling “Stop it!” at them, but only because Steven was standing there.

He growled.  “You have until five pm today to have these fixed or you should not return tomorrow.”  Giving her one last terrifying glare, he pivoted on his heel and left.  It was only then that Alex saw the tiny Capuchin monkey in his back pocket.  The monkey smiled a mocking smile and threw poop at her.  She ducked just in time and it flew into her neighbor’s cube.  The show tunes came to an abrupt stop.

“Shit,” Alex muttered.  The universe seemed to be messing with her.  She remembered completing those forms in English—in legible, evident form, and now they scowled up at her in a cacophony of insane characters designed to make the reader feel their mind peel away from them.  “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.”  It seemed the only appropriate response.

Randall walked by and said, “You think you’ve got problems.  Try having to clean up the mess that was Annabelle.”

Alarmed, Alex stood and looked over to Annabelle’s cubicle.  She saw the outfit that Annabelle had been wearing lying on the cube floor, a puddle of garments and undergarments.

“What happened?”  Alex asked.

“Streaker,” Randall said dryly.  “Last I heard she was running to Mexico via the cafeteria.”  He shuddered.  “The mental image of that just helped me stick to my diet.  At least one good thing came from today.”  He walked on, holding the dustbin distastefully.

“Randall,” she called to his retreating back.  “Did you bring your soul to work today?”  She furrowed her brow while asking this overly personal question.

Randall snorted.  “I don’t believe in souls.  To me this day is a flagrant waste of time for self-indulgent people who never really get work done anyway.”

“Huh.”  She was terrified to ask, but thought the only possible straight answer she might receive that day would be from him.  Her book said that to be organizationally savvy one must learn what is appropriate to reveal at work.  Different environments call for different levels of revelation.  But there weren’t any instructions on how to navigate a day like this in her manuals.  “Well, so if you did, what would it look like?”

“If I did what?”

“Believe in souls.”

If I believed in souls what would they look like?”  He seemed about to blow her off but instead dumped Annabelle’s clothes in the trash and considered the question.  “Well, as I recall the preacher from when I was little, he always tapped on his chest when he talked about his soul.  So I guess I always just kind of saw it as a pair of lungs with wings attached, flying around playing a harp.  Pretty fucking gross if you ask me.”

“Hm.  But it does seem like everyone is enjoying it though, doesn’t it?”  She sighed and got back to her paperwork.  Randall looked at Annabelle’s collection of mini ceramic pigs that she kept on her desk and with a quick sweep of his arm, whisked them all into the garbage.

What would her soul look like if she brought it to work?  Hard to say.  She didn’t exactly grow up in a family that valued work for anything more than for the paycheck.  Other than the food and shelter it provided, work seemed like something you counted down the minutes at until you could escape to the weekend or the next vacation.  Her dad yelled his complaints against his boss, his co-workers and the conditions, nearly every dinner she could remember.  She had been wise then, and knew the only way she’d get out of it was to never grow up.  She tried desperately to stay small.  When her shoes began to pinch, she didn’t mention it until her big toe betrayed her, bursting through the front and her mother dragged her off to the shoe store.  When she washed the dishes, her daily chore, she snuck sips of the coffee left in her parents’ cups to stunt her growth like her father threatened it would.  But the years advanced, each with a yellow cake and chocolate frosting that chronicled her failure to stay small.  Her brothers went away to college and became day traders.  She went to the local community college and then transferred to State, two hours away from her childhood home.  Her mother has gone deaf in her right ear.  It was as if the absence of Alex’s music had taken her mother’s right eardrum with it.  At one time her music had brought her parents joy, the kind of joy that structured their lives with class concerts and band appearances to attend.  Despite retirement, each night over dinner her father still found at least one thing to complain about.

Looking at the paperwork on her lap she imagined the years of things she’d come to complain about stretch out before her.

She hit redial.  Luanne picked up immediately.  “Well, honey, how’s it going?”

“This is stupid,” said Alex.  “This whole day, this whole job.  This whole crazy thing.  It’s just stupid.”

“Well, I don’t know about that.”

Tears blurred her view of the paperwork on her lap.  She caught her breath when she noticed the words coming back, becoming clear, becoming the words she had first placed on the form.  She blinked quickly to clear the tears and the words went back to normal—or the normal that was actually abnormal and illegible.  “Huh,” she said.

“What is it, dear?”  Luanne asked.

Alex sniffled.  “Nothing.  Nothing, I just need to finish this paperwork and go home.”

“Hm.  Yes, well dear, struggling against the inevitable can be exhausting, can’t it?”

Alex smirked at the phone and said goodnight.  She took a tube of correction fluid and began to apply it to the form before realizing there wasn’t enough white paste in the world to make this mess go away.  She started over with new forms and forty-five minutes later her hand ached and she was halfway through.  The office cleared out and the air of gaiety left with it.  She faxed what she had to the analysts for signatures and avoided passing Steven’s door on her way out.

 

 

She woke the next day and fumbled into the kitchen.  The ritual of placing bread in the toaster and layering butter and jam made her feel gloriously safe.  She sat at the kitchen window and ate her breakfast.  A man walking to work passed by outside, whistling the Liberty Bell march.  She rose, braided her hair into two braids that hung on the sides of her face and packed the recorder into her purse.  Taking a deep breath, she went to work.

She sat down at her desk and peered at the pile of paperwork.  The office around her had gone back to its usual low hum of displeasure.  Nervousness kicked at her stomach.  She pulled the recorder from her purse and began to assemble it.  Sneaking one last glance left and right, she blew very softly, making the faintest note.  A page fluttered.  She played several notes.  The words on the page danced.  She began a haunting song she’d made up when she was a child when she still made time for something as frivolous as writing songs.  The words twirled on the page and when the song ended, they landed, suddenly back in perfect English, legible and restored.  She could hear some whispering nearby so before she lost her courage she began again for the next form, this time playing a Christmassy tune without holding back any of the volume.  The recorder was plastic and not exceptional in design and the sound was not perfect.  But it felt deeply familiar, like recognizing a lost friend among a crowd of strangers.

“What is going on here!” yelled Steven.  Anger radiated from him like steam on a highway.

She set the recorder down and handed him the forms, all now complete.

“These are done,” she said.

His face went from purple to gray and then almost back to normal.  “Hrmph,” was all he could manage, before turning back to his office.

Alex grinned and picked up the phone.  Luanne answered.

“Well honey, how goes it?”

“I found it.  I found my soul.  I brought it with me to work.”  She heard a squeal of delight on the other line.

“I knew you could do it, dear.”

“Yeah, well, I’m a little late to the party.  Bring your soul to work day was yesterday.”

“No dear, that’s just the party.  Like a birthday, you know: you only celebrate it once a year but that doesn’t mean you’re not alive all the rest of the rest of the year, now does it?”

“I suppose that’s true.”

Luanne clucked in her ear.  “If you ever forget it again, just give me a call.  I’m always here for you.”

“Thanks, Luanne.”  She said goodbye and hung up.  It was morning and time to reset her imagination.  She played taps and went to get a cup of coffee and connect with Randall.

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About the Author

Christin Rice’s work has appeared in Pif, SoMa Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Magnitude, the Taj Mahal Review, and performed with LitUp Writers, Quiet Lightning and Bikram Writing.  She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, NC and a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.  Having recently escaped Corporate America, she is a happy resident of San Francisco, a Litquake committee member, and blogs at www.christinrice.com.

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