Fiction · 09/07/2016

Eyepatch

The boss came in Monday morning wearing an eyepatch, but none of us asked him about it. He never liked discussing personal matters, and we were afraid of him anyway.

Herb wondered if it was rude to avoid asking about an eyepatch, and Mary said, “It’s a personal matter. How much more personal can you get than asking about an eyepatch?” But Herb then mentioned several things that were more personal, and Mary hinted that she was going to HR because Herb’s comments created a hostile work environment, but he knew she would never do it because then it would come out that we were talking about the boss’s eyepatch, and the boss would know Mary was one of the talkers.

“Maybe it’s decorative,” Karl said, and we all laughed at Karl, who later went to HR and complained that his coworkers were creating a hostile work environment. Still, he may have had a point. Someone wearing a black eyepatch looks like they mean business, and the boss wanted that look. He was one of those men that you didn’t realize was shorter than you until months after you met him, because his personality filled the room. Over the past two years he had destroyed seven computer mice (that we knew of) out of frustration, or for intimidation purposes, or both. Some said he had no life outside of work and that was why he got so wound up in his job.

Karl asked us if the boss was left-eyed or right-eyed, and we all laughed at Karl, and later Herb ended up in a sensitivity training session on a Saturday, though he found the available breakfast food there much to his liking.

Then one Monday the boss brought in his bulldog and set him on a blanket in the corner of his office, with a water bowl and a rubber bone. “Knute” he called him, though we were never sure of the spelling. Knute wore an eyepatch, like boss like bulldog. “Maybe it’s decorative,” Karl said. Mary said it would make sense that the dog was sick, and the boss was taking care of it, and the eyepatch was his show of solidarity with his dog. None of us laughed at Mary, because this made a lot of sense. Karl then repeated exactly what Mary said and waited for us to laugh at him, which only Herb did because he just couldn’t help it.

We all felt better about the boss then, seeing him show a caring side, even if it was only for a dog. He started spending a lot of time in his office with the door closed, probably watching over Knute. “We should do something to show our support,” Mary said, and then Herb suggested we all come in one day wearing an eyepatch. We weren’t sure whether he was joking, but Mary took it seriously, and Karl collected the money and placed an order online for the eyepatches. The boss continued keeping to himself and his dog.

Two days later the eyepatches arrived, but we decided to wait until the next day before wearing them so that we could arrive first thing in the morning with our solidarity right there on our faces. The boss saw Herb wearing one first, and just stared at his eyepatch before saying, “What is this?” And Herb then raised a fist and said, “Solidarity.”

Soon after the boss saw the rest of us wearing eyepatches, and his mouth opened and closed in that vivid way. Then he went into his office and closed the door.

“Did we do good?” asked Herb. At that point, opinions differed.

The next day we all found ourselves in HR meetings due to alleged inappropriate conduct, dress code violations, and for creating a hostile work environment. At first we blamed each other, but by the next day we realized that we all had the same intimidating and mysterious boss, and we were all in this together. We no longer laughed at each other. We no longer reported on each other (we no longer wore eyepatches either). Also, we’ve thought of getting a dog, and keeping it right here in the office where all of us can see it. And if we do, we sure hope that the boss takes it the right way.

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Peter D. Gorman grew up in Ohio and grew older in the corporate world. His stories have appeared in Fugue, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Keyhole, and Thema among others. He lives in the Washington, D.C. area.