The Relative by Brent Powers

My Relative always wore a white dress shirt that didn’t fit and quite often a bow tie also. The effect was very pompous but I don’t know if that was what he wanted. I think the whole thing had to do with monsters and transformations of some sort.

Anyway the fool would start walking along the tracks each morning between the high weeds and that’s the way he got to his office. I followed at a safe distance so he couldn’t see me. I was playing at being a private detective or something. In this work it is important to be surreptitious. I think that’s the word. Anyway he never saw me, or he pretended not to. He just kept walking along determinedly to work. This was a high building without any windows except for the big one in his office way up high which he used to view ducks in the pond below. The office itself was spare and functional. A desk. A computer. A modest girlie calendar which he changed when he felt like it. At this point the calendar said it was a few days ago. The girlie picture had been there for some weeks. She carried two buckets and stuck out her tongue.

From the time he was a boy my Relative had been singled out for accomplishment. He had thought to become one of the Great Train Bombers only he soon got the point that he was conspicuous. Then he turned his mind to becoming Robert Redford and combed his hair accordingly. This hair, however, was of a dark shade, while Robert’s is glorious blond and remains so to this day. Finally he took the path of least resistance and inherited the Family Business which was conducted in this building overlooking the duck pond. The only advantage to his high position was having the only window. That’s how my Relative saw it anyway.

So spying on him all these years from my helicopter I realized that he did little with his work life. He just sat at his desk and looked at the ducks. Occasionally he would make a gun shape with his hand and take aim at them and go POP! Or he would set about giving them names. The fat one was Thadeus, she of the sprung ligament was Mildred, the mottled and dour faced and nearly featherless little creep was Clarence of Africa. There were many others, so many in fact that he forgot their names from time to time and had to set about finding new ones. He did not resent this addition to his labors but welcomed it for providing more adventure to his work day which, as was often pointed out by the Master of Business Administration, one of his few visitors, seemed to be comprised of negatives, of things not done.

For example, he made no effort to discover the nature of the work force, which seemed to be large and cheerfully alienated but he had no idea what they did, and showed even less curiosity with regard to their working conditions. Were there toilets? Were these same properly equipped and sanitized with aerosols? Was there a break room which could also serve for lunch? Was there in fact a cafeteria or something that would sell lunch for chump change. Were there, perforce, contract food service providers whose salaries could be exaggerated on tax forms and written off as a business expense right along with all the pencils and clips and printer cartridges which were pilfered? Did the work force smile and throw paper airplanes? Was there a reasonable amount of sexual harassment that was fun to deal with at in house courts martial? Were there the babes and beefcakes that allow for this, and sufficient numbers of greasily horny executives of both sexes to make any charges stick. I once made a note to check up on all these things but never did because of my failure of nerve.

Also he took no position on Company Policy. Whenever the Form was delivered to his office by the revolving secretary he simply colored in all the squares with pretty inks. The Company Policy therefore remained equivocal, wishy-washy, indeterminate, a sort of ho-hum affair that gathered dust and fly specs at coffee stations. No one read it, certainly. They just did their work and bitched and gossiped and made scapegoats of various people and fought amongst themselves and made attempts to determine the psychology of the Company CEO. Nothing changed, nothing would. It was reported outside the building that inside was a “pretty good place to work.”

Mainly, he had no idea what the Company was there for, what service it provided, what product, if any, that it manufactured, why it existed at all, where the money went, indeed where it came from, why he had so much of it, some had less, some (the Totem Animal, for example) none at all. In fact it never occurred to him that such questions could enter the mind and cause precipitation or something.

The list goes on but I shall not bore.

So, each day for several years I followed him up the tracks and, at a certain point, when he got to the building and opened the door by means of his official card key, I held my position behind some trucks. I then found my way to the helicopter provided by the Agency, revved that sucker up and got it screwing its way into the vasty air. I then proceeded to circle the building until lunch time, when I landed on a nearby emergency field and took my lunch of ham and cheese on rye and a root beer float with a Jim Beam back. Afterwards I refueled my vehicle and took to the sky again.

Ah, the sky. What can I say? Well, say “Ah.” It is accomplished.

Come evening, when my Relative left for home, I followed him back there using the same route. However, at a certain point in our journey, I took a short cut in order to get ahead of him so that I could be waiting by my reflector telescope when he entered our grounds. Ostensibly I had been busy all day observing the patterns of solar prominences in order to tell the future. Being the family oracle, this was my expected occupation. No one had any idea what my true calling was. In order to provide the expected service I had taken out a lifetime subscription to National Prophesy and cribbed things from there when asked for advice by family members.

However, this made for a gap in my understanding of the Relative’s complete daily history, for during the period in which I employed the short cut to keep him ignorant of my surveillance my Relative was entirely free. Unwatched and free. Now, even though this could only amount to moments of time, fifteen of them at most, much could be accomplished of which I would remain in ignorance entire. I took little note of this fact, none at all at first, for what can a guy do in so little time and with so few resources to hand? Well, he did have his briefcase (whose contents were innocent enough: a sandwich and an apple when he left, these absent when he returned; some papers, a book of common prayer, sometimes a magazine from his birth year), certainly nothing with which he could work much mischief. Ah. The cell. I had forgotten the cell. A man can make calls, death dealing calls, of course. A few numbers punched. Some terse words. And his cell had wireless internet connectivity. Oh, dear. Oh, dear. And would I mention this in my report? Dare I?

Well, I dithered some. I was obliged to drink myself to sleep on occasion. But ultimately I assimilated that fifteen or so minutes to the general blur of my Relative’s doings.

Which indeed was my UN-doing. For it is by such ignorance that I find myself here, in this blind universe, in this very fallen time.

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