Bourbon Penn 8

Further Findings on the Cults Surrounding Gerald White's Chair

by Wyatt Robinette

The passing of Office Building 43's Unnamed Executive raised dozens of questions. Who gets his office? What about his position? Is his secretary up for grabs? What are they going to put on the tombstone? And so on.

One of the more curious items left behind was a file folder marked CLASSIFIED. The new Unnamed Executive found it in one of the locked drawers of the old Unnamed Executive's desk. The new Unnamed Executive's first order was to open the file to public scrutiny. Not everyone thought it was a good idea. They said, "If the Unnamed Executive didn't want us to know something, we probably shouldn't know it." The opposition said, "No, this is good. We want our Unnamed Executives to be open and honest. This is the stuff we need to know."

The file contained nine in-house interviews about Gerald White's chair. Even though they were printed on office forms that hadn't been used for a decade, there were a few workers who nodded and thought, "I remember that. That was a weird interview." But since all nine of the employees whose interviews were released had either been fired or relocated, the remaining interviewees' stories were, at best, speculation and rumor.

The forms' numbering hinted at more interviews (hundreds, maybe even thousands more), but whether the new Unnamed Executive found the file as is, with only the nine interviews present, or hadn't released the full file was a heated subject of debate. Many believed the new Unnamed Executive was pulling their legs, teasing the building with the possibility of an open and honest Unnamed Executive while reaffirming their worst fears. They pointed out how some interviews were more complete than others. A few responded to interviews that came before them. One was scribbled on a Post-It Note. And if there had been a key to the questions and their numbering, it was lost.

• • •

Interview: #0098654
Subject: Marcus Hunt
Title: Accounts Manager
Floor: 27

Question: #1
Answer: I saw Gerald White's chair on a cold morning in September. The sky was grey, and dark rain clouds hung below the top of Office Building 43. I sat on a bench, smoking in the Outside Smoking Area, when the chair and then Gerald turned the corner. Men in suits stepped out of the way, lowered their umbrellas, and stared at him. The thing was unbelievable. Huge. From where I sat I could see five levers below the thick leather seat. This was around Fourth Quarter Performance Reviews, so everyone showed signs of stress, you couldn't help it, but Gerald was exceptionally underdressed. Without his lucky bowler cap his face looked drawn out, thin; his half-buttoned shirt flapped in the wind; one of his clunky brown shoes was untied, and, as he slipped on the wet pavement, the chair roared up in the face of a young executive, who, without removing his cell phone from his ear, hopped to the right and dodged the fat spinning wheels by inches. Gerald apologized and lowered the chair's legs to the cracked concrete with a smug, satisfied smile, which really bothered me. Even though he looked like one of the workers from the sub-levels, he was happy. When he saw me, he wiggled his bushy eyebrows, wiped drops of rain from his forehead, and pointed at the chair. He approached quickly and put his hand up for a high-five. He said, "Mondays, get some!" Our hands met with a wet slap. "Oh yeah!" he said, pushing the chair to the revolving doors. I couldn't help laughing. And that was as far as the chair got. The legs and arms extended far beyond what the revolving door allowed. As I went in, I saw him struggling with the side door used for deliveries; his face was red and sweaty and he kept checking his watch. It was obvious to everyone except Gerald that the chair wasn't going to fit. The look on his face as the elevator doors closed was so sad. It was easy to tell he had high hopes. The chair was going to save him. It was going to help him get that raise. Now it was going to make him late. I didn't see him do it, but I never saw the chair in the office, so I'll bet he abandoned it on the sidewalk. It wouldn't surprise me if he kicked it over and punched its underside. So, if I was you, I wouldn't look in the building. It's not here. I've looked everywhere. Spare yourself the time and energy. Gerald's the only one who knows where it is, and he was fired months ago.

• • •

Interview: #0099572
Subject: Henry Drexler
Title: Project Accountant
Floor: 45

Answer: That's a lie. Gerald got his chair in through the freight elevator in the back alley. If you rode the elevator with him, which I did, you would've heard him brag about it. He said, "It barely fit, but now my chair and I know what it's like to have our own personal elevator."

Question: #6-A0012
Answer: Everyone wants it. And, by now, everybody has a story. Some of them are pretty elaborate. No one knows the exact truth, but the chair's supposed to have powers. I haven't seen it but, supposedly, it does the work of whoever's sitting in it.

Question: #3
Answer: Like, when Gerald sat in it, he could nap the day away, and when he woke up, all of the work he needed done, was done. If you thought he was lying, he'd refer you to his cubicle buddy. He'd say, "Go ask Howard Gregory. He'll tell ya. He knows what's going on. He sees me sleeping and the work getting done."

Question: #12
Answer: I thought it was a lie. Something to think about other than death or whether or not I like my job and coworkers. Then I saw the security footage of Gerald leaving the building after he was fired (it's quite legendary around here). He doesn't have the chair. He has a mad look on his face and he's holding a cardboard box with rolled-up calendars and motivational posters poking out of the top of it. But, I repeat, no chair. Even odder: the footage from the camera trained on his desk, which is some of the only remaining video of the chair, glitches and jumps to static when Gerald exits the building. When the cubicle twists back into focus, the chair's gone.

• • •

Interview: #0101729
Subject: Philip Jacobs
Title: Intern
Floor: 36

Question: #22
Answer: Shouldn't you know that? One of you guys should know that. No. Hmf. I thought you dorks fired him. I'm just an intern. Does this light need to be so bright? This feels like an interrogation. Is my job on the line?

Question: [no question]
Answer: From the cold look on your faces I'm going to assume it is…OK.

Question: #22
Answer: Gerald was fired because he slept through all seven of his performance reviews.

Question: #26-A007
Answer: No, you see, he got seven because he was completing a shit-ton of work. Double to triple the amount he was before. So, understandably, the jerks running things were more patient, and maybe just curious, to meet him. They didn't though. He slept through every meeting.

Question: #1
Answer: Am I gonna get something out of this?

Question: #136
Answer: I don't know, something like a paycheck, a permanent position. A chair would be a good start. I've been using an old file box, and I know times are tough but come on. Howard Gregory keeps removing the files and the top caves in. Last week, he replaced them with a ruler that he propped up with printer manuals and erasers.

Question: #1-A001
Answer: OK, OK…I almost saw his chair do something weird, once, I think. I worked late, which means 5:15, and I forgot my windbreaker in my cubicle and had to run back from the bus stop to get it. Even though when I left the offices had been filled with all sorts of dumb people, and it was bright in that stale way fluorescent lights are, the place was dark and empty when I returned. A fax machine beeped and the water cooler burped. That old nineties screensaver of pipes growing longer and more complicated twisted across all of the computer monitors. That scared me. Also, usually, before I left, shit, before anyone left, we turned off our computers. One day Howard said, "Michael, turn off all the computers before you leave." But that night it felt like they were waiting for me. I grabbed my windbreaker quickly, but when I turned to leave I saw three deep indents in the grey carpet. They started by the corner Gerald worked in, turned at my desk, and headed straight toward the supply closet. The door was closed but I could see a faint light, like the glow from a working copy machine, pulsing in the bottom crack. Even though I was already scared from the screensaver, I knew if I didn't investigate I wouldn't sleep all night. As I approached, the wheel tracks in the carpet deepened and twirled as the tires spun in circles. I didn't think anything of them until I was three feet from the door. I heard a crunching sound, like plastic was being chewed, but not by a human or animal, by something made of leather and metal. My stomach dropped and I pulled my hand away from the door handle. I turned and was about to run when I heard the door creak and something big wheel away in a hurry. When I turned, the door was open and the light was on. A second pair of tracks zigzagged out of the supply room, cutting across the other strip of carpet that led to it. Inside the room, broken across the checkered tile floor, was the base of a chair. Not Gerald's, some other one, most likely, by its small size, a secretary's. It was cracked and missing all of its wheels. They looked like they had been chewed off. The seat and back of the chair were missing, too. Etched in one of the armrests were weird bite marks, like something without teeth was trying to eat it. I immediately sprinted to the elevators. Was that good? What's that worth? Do I get a chair now? I'll tell you something else if you don't believe me.

• • •

Interview: #0000051
Subject: Howard Gregory
Title: Senior Cross Check Analyst
Floor: 36

Question: #2
Answer: Yes, I worked with Gerald White. Thirty-sixth floor.

Question: #44
Answer: There's one on the fifty-ninth floor and another in the sub-levels, I forget which one.

Question: #62
Answer: Yes, sir. I was his cubicle buddy. I mean: we shared a cubicle. Yes.

Question: #1
Answer: Now I feel bad. I should have put a stop to this rumor before it started. As you know: his chair doesn't have powers. That's silly. It wasn't even comfortable. It was the same exact chair everyone on our floor used. He was scared that if it stood out too much it would get stolen. So he found the exact make and model and ordered one he could call his own. It took him a while. The model was old and the company making them went out of business years ago.

Question: #144
Answer: Well, sir, he did some of it, but not a lot. I completed a majority of the work that was credited to him. I know I should have come forward sooner but, right now, I doubt anyone would believe me. But I did a lot of the work. The majority. Sir.

Question: #188
Answer: Why? He was having problems at home and needed the raise. I don't have a family and can live well off what I make. I thought it'd be nice.

• • •

Interview: #0184219
Subject: Bret Harris
Title: Client Escort
Floor: 74

Question: #133
Answer: Sects have broken out. Floors forty-four through seventy and sub-levels thirty-two through sixty-three are warzones. Hardly any work gets done. Contracts are sent out late, if at all. Boys delivering five-gallon water jugs are sent away with torn T-shirts and bruised lips. The faxes and memos are nothing more than threatening lists. Once, when the copier on my floor was being used and, because of time (without going into any boring details I'll just say it was super important I copy what needed to be copied), I had to go to the seventieth floor. On the glass of the copier was a memo written with blood and hair. I've learned to steer clients away, but I guess it's always been beneficial to keep what we do from the ones that pay us.

Question: #188-C036
Answer: What it boils down to is this: One side wants the other to admit it was Gerald White from sub-level forty-one that brought the chair in, not Gerald White from the thirty-sixth floor. And the other group wants the other one to admit it was Gerald White from the thirty-sixth floor…you get the picture.

Question: #201-P001
Answer: On my floor, if you want anything faxed, you have to greet the secretary with, "Gerald White's chair is a stool, and that's the truth." If you want coffee, you tell the interns, "Gerald White's interns did his work for him." I don't think the secretary or interns believe a word they say. I think it's a play to grab power, or at least a little bit of my dignity.

• • •

Interview: #0201002
Subject: Shelly Franklyn
Title: Executive Assistant
Floor: 80

Question: #1
Answer: A new theory claims the chair has already been found, and, even worse, whoever found it, doesn't know they have it. A big part of the chair's power is: the sitter has to be asleep. That's what's known. We don't know the trade ratio. How much work is completed by a twenty-minute nap? How about a two-hour nap? What if I just doze off but don't really fall asleep? Can I trick the chair? What if I pretend to be asleep? Do I have to sleep the whole day? Is it a pass or fail type deal? Could I train it to do work while I work? Now at least one out of every two workers is sleeping. One person sleeps while the other watches and sees if any work gets done.

Question: #582
Answer: I don't know who, but they must be high up and really ticked off, because for the past couple of days we've been testing it. So far, no luck, but this is a big building, right? It might take a while, but we'll get to the bottom of it. What else are we going to do, work?

• • •

No Interview # or Subject Data given. Written legibly in short, boxy letters on the front and back of a blue Post-It Note.

You could burn all of the chairs. You could stack the thousands of chairs from this building around the fountain in the Designated Reflection Area and let us watch from our office windows as they went up in flames. A few people might get back to work. It wouldn't stop people like me. And I'm the majority. We know, if everything is true: the chair is indestructible.

• • •

Interview: #0209340
Subject: Ethan Connors
Title: Junior Manager of Marketing
Floor: 68

Answer: Is this about that stupid chair that's supposed to have powers?

Question: #224-A890
Answer: Christ. You know, some people like to work. What you should find out is what it takes to make someone so pathetic and desperate to believe such nonsense. That'd be interesting. That might give some interesting answers. Grown men and women — people who should know better, people who make six and seven figures — are looking for a chair like it's the Holy Grail. It's sick. And what's sicker — get this — I'm in the minority. I have to pretend and play along with a couple of my superiors, but that's normal (in college, I pretended to be Catholic to impress my favorite professor). But think about it: how shitty must things be for a person to ignore all logic and reason and believe a chair will do their work for them? Or, even worse, what makes them think a chair will save their life? I don't know. If you find out, contact me. Here's my card.

• • •

Interview: #0400021
Subject: Robert Jackson
Title: Human Resource Leader
Floor: 14

Question: #1
Answer: Gerald White was never employed in Office Building 43. According to all paperwork: Gerald White is a ghost. But, if you're like me, you know that isn't true. You know that if it were, you two wouldn't be on the other side of this table asking me questions. You'd suspect the missing paperwork is a cover-up, further evidence that the rumors are true: Gerald White's chair is somewhere, and no one is sitting in it.

Wyatt Robinette lives in Tucson, AZ. He was raised by Gila monsters. Some of his work has appeared in The Handshake, Hair Trigger 34, and The Outlet. Don't let him bite you.