All-Staff Meeting on Wednesday by Douglas J. Ogurek

Douglas J. Ogurek tells the story of Leslie Childs, intern at a strictly pretentious design agency, trying to fit in with her eccentric colleagues. 

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." - Mark 10:14

Celie Greenwood
Grade 1A - Reading
Ms. Blaise

The cat had a lot of orange. A lady was sad. it was snowing. Ms. Blaise you will like this storey bcause. You had a cat. When you were girl. The sad lady looked out the window. There was a bush. It had green lights Christmes lights. And a cat came out of the bush. The cat had lots of oreng. So oreng as oreng as. it was brite oreng. And oreng is my favrit color. Mommy says do not color the snow man oreng. But the snowman he looks that way now. Oreng in the sun. And the cat came out of the green bush. The cat had black and white too. The cat made the lady better. And the bush watches and it loves the cat and the lady. The cat loves you and me too.


Leslie Childs will wear this. Yes, she'll wear it to the all-staff meeting next Wednesday. It will set her apart. A conversation piece. These things help when you're meeting people.

Look at this bracelet, how it radiates against the black ceiling. Banana, apple, orange, strawberry, raspberry. See how the charms slope and swirl? And the melted snow makes them shine. So different from these walls. That wall over there, by the way? It's concrete.

Leslie doesn't wear makeup. Doesn't need it. Picture her in a painting, the kind you'd see fluting its colors through the lobby of a pediatric ward. She twists in a field that fizzes yellow and purple. Her dress echoes the white of the crests that improvise on a sea blue enough to daydream. Green skips from her eyes and her curls whirl.

This bracelet. It sings of jungle gyms and parrots. Quite a contrast from the "design trove." At least that's what |cleft| - please do not capitalize the "c," and don't omit (or worse, curve) those vertical bars - founder and CEO Harold Solventa calls this space. It's more like "design stove." Everything looks charred, and there's so little décor in here. Her coworkers' desks are barren, but Leslie's spiced up hers.

Look out the glass wall with Leslie. Five fifteen and it's already dark. She remembers her pink snowsuit. And those marshmallowy boots.

The tree-flanked courtyard, covered in snow, stretches to the backs of the buildings along Bender Drive. They all have white Christmas lights, except one: Bender Drive Daycare. One bush wrapped in green lights. That's where the bracelet came from.

The snow looks like paste. Leslie remembers paste. Do you? With that plastic stick and the pasty smell? Pasting things together?

It was across the courtyard that the bracelet had come, dangling from the mouth of the cat that hopped from the bush with green lights, and then sniffed and swerved its way over to |cleft|.

A calico cat. Its orange flecks, Popsicle orange, had ruptured the gray afternoon. She even picked it up. The body buzzed and smelled gentle, like warm bread. Maybe it'll come back. This evening, she'll get some food, some treats for it.

Shell Walch's right hand twirls above her head as she drifts into the design trove. Her eyelids, painted silver, bulge. She's on the phone. "I'm looking for something cleaner, something with clean lines. This is just too busy." Clean lines, and restrained elegance. Shell uses those two phrases almost as much as she "walches." Walching. That's the name a few people who aren't so fond of Shell give the affectless expression she often makes. It's the face you'd make if you went to a dinner party and the hostess served something robust (a Merlot perhaps) in a thinner glass intended for something much more subdued (say a Chardonnay).

Now, she sits on her desk, walches at an interior rendering of a new Eva Prate fashion boutique. Black cubes dangle from her wrist. Beneath her eyes are gray streaks. They look like pencil marks. Leslie wonders whether she should tell her. Probably not. She waves instead.

Walch walches at her, continues her phone critique. "Sophisticated. Sophisticated? It has to be more sophisticated. What you have here, it's not mature enough."

Walch dropped the "y" from her first name. That "ee" sound tacked onto the end of a name sounds juvenile. You lose credibility with that "ee." Shelly belly. Nobody will ever call her that again.

The junior designer on the other line: "We wanted to capture the energy, as well as the sophistication..." The green lights across the courtyard prod Walch. First, they break the Thawnly Heights ordinance. Worse, they don't harmonize with the image that she has spent so many years building at |cleft|. And this Leslie's blouse worsens it. If Walch wanted to see all this green, she'd go to a swamp.

Walch's hand conducts above her head. "Elegance, restrained elegance? You know? Restrained elegance? That's what I'm looking for. Look at the south façade. The lines could be cleaner on the south façade." Delicately she sets the drawing in the recycling box under her desk. "Cleaner lines, and more refined."

This intern keeps babbling. And here's this new intern interior designer... interior design intern. This Leslie. Lesleeee. Weeeee! How cute. She seems so familiar. A bit daft, but her father sits on the board of Barawe Cosmetics. Definitely a smart hire.

Buttressed by his Aegean Night (a color in Fadehbond's Dusk3 line) button-down, for he insists that quality clothing bolsters one's design competency, Ja (dropped the "son") Kilarch, senior VP of commercial environments, hovers into the design trove. He holds his black marble-inlayed ruler like a branding iron.

Walch interrupts the intern. "Gokay I have to go. A client? I have a client. Important client on the other line." She hangs up.

Kilarch walches at the courtyard, then holds the ruler over his eyes. "Snow is barbaric. I despise snow."

Walch's laugh scrapes through the trove, tumbles down the corridor.

It wasn't that funny, thinks Leslie. And that laugh. It sounded like that dog when it got hit by a car. Leslie was a kid. Black Mercedes, and the car kept going. Shell's eyelids look like metal balls.

Kilarch hovers back into the corridor. Walch, wondering where she's seen Leslie's face, lets her hands drift above her head. "Your blouse is certainly very... interesting... very green."

"Thanks. It's called 'Lime on Ice.'" Maybe Leslie should tell her about those streaks beneath her eyes.

"So sprightly." Marvella Wintersnake was that same color. Shell used to have this stuffed animal. The snow out there is beautiful. No, barbaric. Marvella was a magic snake that lived in snow and - look at that baby picture on Leslie's desk. Uck. Looks like a wad of chewed bubble gum. All babies look like that. And the frame: sparkly snowflakes and candy canes just spewing their colors everywhere. "Adorable. Is it yours?"

"No, no. That's my niece, but maybe I'll have one of my own. Someday."

Right, thinks Walch. So you can eliminate all intellectual toil and live off your wealthy husband. Leslie's twisting a repugnantly juvenile bracelet. Walch asks if it's a gift for Leslie's niece.

"Oh, no. It's mine." Why doesn't Shell wear any colors? "Just a little accessory."

For whom? A clown? Walch squeezes her own bracelet behind her back, and the cubes - they are black - placate her. So much more refined than that toy on Leslie's wrist. Refined and elegant. "Our policy. Corporate policy? You know, our corporate policy? Unfortunately, we prohibit photographs at workstations. A corporate policy."

Leslie places it in her drawer. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't..."

"We have this image, the |cleft| image? And photographs detract from it."

Actually, Shell's whole head looks like a bell. The way her hair swoops down?

Leslie's notebook sloshes over Walch's aesthetic acumen. Bluck. Wavy letters in a viral green slither over the paper. Should she tell this Leslie about Harold Solventa and the blue pen incident? No. Not today.

A bell, thinks Leslie. Definitely. Like the one the teachers used to ring on the playground when recess ended. The dog's shriek and that Mercedes logo, with its three blades, still scrape in Leslie's memory.


Blocks. Squares painted around your coworkers' eyes. They're that graphite color - maybe a little darker - that Shell had beneath her eyes yesterday. But this morning, they all have it. Those squares. It's nuts, but you do feel a little out of place with your "winter blue" eye shadow.

You're wearing a navy blue pantsuit. Maybe yesterday you went a little overboard with that green. Maybe... perhaps "Lime on Ice" was a bit too teenybopper for the |cleft| culture.

They're all wearing black too. And most of them have a gray symbol embossed somewhere on their clothing. A "T" with an upside down "T" floating above it. Kind of like a compressor.

The squares. They act like it's nothing. Maybe it's some kind of practical joke. You're the rookie, right?

You're reading a Harold Solventa interview in Tetragon magazine. They gave you a copy in your welcome package. The buildings he's designed are overcast, like the sky behind you. He gazes from the page. Almost scolding. You've seen that look. And the skin beneath his eyes pinches into ledges.

Mr. Plove. Second grade Mr. Plove. Definitely a resemblance.

A gray box highlights a quotation from Solventa: "We strive to infuse our designs with raw energy, to achieve an aesthetic solution that is simple and reserved, avoiding the grandiose and embracing the clean and refined to create an elegance that coalesces with the contemporary emphasis on efficiency."

You asked, but Mr. Plove wouldn't let you, so you, alternating between rocking and pinching your leg, held it, then asked once more, and after he denied you again, you held it until it felt like you were stuffed with quarters. The next day, they chanted, "Desk pee Leslie."

Your bracelet isn't quite as bright now that it's dry. Still, it will distinguish you at the all-staff meeting. You wonder whether the cat will return.

As Shell Walch - her hands cast spells above her head - enters the design trove, you place your arm beneath the desk. Her eye squares clomp toward you, and there's that logo on the cuff of her tunic sweater. You ask her about the black squares.

"Identity. You know, identity? It gives us a sense of identity." She brandishes a small rectangular tin. Its gray echoes the concrete peeking through the snow in the courtyard. Then she picks a glossy black rectangle from it. "Did you hear about the blue pen incident?"

You have not.

"Harold Solventa's assistant. She signed his name on something. A document or something. Signed it in blue." She inserts the candy, raises her hands. "Harold reprimanded her, then gave her a Sable Wedge. Sable Wedge. You know what that is, right?"

"A pen?"

"Right, Sable Wedge. A three-hundred-dollar pen, made of onyx. Black. It only writes in black. You can't get a Sable Wedge in blue. Or green. Black's more elegant."

And here are your notes, in green, frolicking all over your notepad. You slide your non-bracelet arm over it and ask about her candy.

Her hands do some sort of referee gesture, and her eyes close. The squares look like burial chambers for dolls. "Oh, no. Not candy. No sugar in these. Clove. You know, clove? These are Pillars. Clove-flavored. Harold introduced me to them. Harold Solventa? They have just a touch of clove. I have to special order, from Paris." She offers, but you decline politely.

You ask if Solventa's going to be at the meeting on Wednesday.

"No, unfortunately. He's in Youngsville, doing a site visit. For a facility he designed, a financial institution. Sophisticated. You know, sophisticated? Just a wonderfully sophisticated design. I'll show you."

An odor strong enough to stun children crashes down on you as she directs you through the |cleft| website. Then, on your screen, a disciplinarian of a structure tramples your backdrop of wild tiger lilies.

The plasma on your monitor buckles beneath her finger. "It's really a sophisticated building. Monumental. The monumental gray? Portuguese limestone and anodized steel." Anodized steel. That's what her face squares look like. "I love the clean lines and sharp edges. Very restrained, and there's a delightfully subtle veining pattern in the limestone." The finger gouges the plasma and the black cubes on her bracelet cultivate your lilies.

Tetragon. Those Pillars kind of smell like the magazine. That glossy clean smell? You ask who the client for this building is.

"Barclay and Straits. You know? Barclay and Straits Bank? They advertise on 'The MELT' classical FM? 'Barclay and Straits: The bank for discerning professionals?'"

You recognize the name, but you're not discerning enough to open an account there.

"Their vice president of operations is Floyd Delink. We work with him. Talk about a discerning professional. He's so well-groomed."

This afternoon, you spot the cat. It rubs against that same bush with the green lights. Its orange doesn't look as bright. The cat, more of a rust, swerves its way through the gray, and it holds something in its mouth. Something colorful.

Later, Shell's voice slips into the trove. "Terminates. Utilize terminates instead of ends. Terminates. It's much more elegant."

You don't see the cat out there.

Shell promenades in holding a glossy black book above her head. "Barbaric. I just despise this snow. It's barbaric. And bluck, that bush? The green lights? Just juvenile. The village has an ordinance about that. An ordinance? No colored lights. They're just too gaudy. Only clear lights."

A blocky R surfaces from the book's spine, then an I, an F, a T. She swaddles the volume for a moment, and then sets it on your desk. "Isn't this elegant?" Her fingers caress the complete title: RIFT: Contemporary Art and Its Tribute to Discretion.

You say you'll try a Pillar after all.

She gives you one, then flips through the book. "Here it is."

The lozenge excretes a face-mangling taste as the painting drips into you. A priest blows a pink bubble. He sprinkles holy water - no, it's green glop - on a congregation. Uses a toilet brush. Utilizes a toilet brush. Congregation members with rotted teeth sit on merry-go-round animals with poles that connect to the ceiling. Candy piled at the altar.

"Have you seen this? Holey Water? That's what it's titled. H-O-L-E-Y. Holey Water, by Mill Blankfield."

A touch of clove? More like a grope. You feel queasy. Is it the Pillar? Or the picture? You tell her you haven't seen it.

"Floyd Delink. You know? The Barclay and Straits fellow? He's adding a Vigor Grove to his residence. Sort of a gallery slash retreat space. And he wants this painting - he owns it - to inform the spirit of the interiors."

The spirit? What does he want? A black pit, with flames climbing the walls?

"Synergy. Synergy? You know, synergy? That's what he wants." Her fingers fold together above her head. "I might ask you to put together some concepts. To synergize with this painting."

You're the last one here. Have to make the right impression, show you're committed. You pet the cat in the courtyard, while through the cold hops the beep of a backwards-moving truck. The cat's patches remind you of tomato soup, marshmallows. Its black patches though... do they really fit?

The cat swipes at an icy sail in the snow, then pulls at it. It's a plastic baggie, with familiar contents: a red and silver merry-go-round, a pink dance slipper, a sapphire swimming pool. Game pieces from Elevate. Should that carousel be silver? You never thought about that as a child.

The cat sideswipes the glass wall as leisurely as the memories that visit. Elevate. You used to play it with your mom, dad, and brother. Some Saturday nights, right after church, the smell of popcorn coming from the kitchen.

Shell's book, with its polished cover, beckons from your desk.

The cat relishes the treats you give it. Fish-shaped spongy things that smell a bit like clay. You have to go: you're meeting some of your coworkers at a martini bar. They said this place only puts black olives in its martinis. And the glasses don't curve. What's the place called? The Lucid Dissolve. No hot chocolate there.

When you step back into the trove, Shell's book shows a blurred reflection of your digital clock. That priest had a toilet brush! You can't do the interiors for that gallery. You'll have to tell Shell. She'll understand, probably.

You place the baggie in your drawer, next to the bracelet. Through your mouth and throat reverberates Shell's Pillar. Perhaps you will try those again. Perhaps you can cultivate a taste for them. They are... what's the word? They are sophisticated.


The courtyard surprised Leslie Childs that morning. Two vertical black rectangles, probably marble, stood at its center. They looked like the book on her desk. Gigantic versions of its spine.

Holey Water. All weekend, it had dominated her thoughts. The bubble gum ballooning over the priest's face. The congregation, daydreaming, sucking on pacifiers, clawing at each other as they rode their carousel animals around an altar heaped with candy. And that toilet brush, flicking glowing green glop at them. What kind of person bought something like that, let alone dedicated an entire room to it? And how to let Shell Walch know how she felt about it? Shell joked at The Lucid Dissolve on Friday, but that was different: she had couple martinis in her.

Shell's laugh screeched through the design trove, and images of the toilet brush and Mercedes logo scoured Leslie's head and stomach. Shell, holding a black box above her head, strolled in. Her face - coal-colored bars stretched from her eyebrows to her cheeks - showed no hint that she was the source of the laugh, or that at the martini lounge, she had admitted to a childhood emergency room trip prompted by her ingesting part of her architect-father's black marker. How did she get those facial bars so perfect?

Shell looked out the window. "Look at those clean lines and crisp edges. A testimony. Those are a testimony."

Leslie said, "What are they building out there?"

"That's it. It's complete. Harold Solventa designed it. A testimony to the |cleft| image."

"Very elegant, and clarn... clean, I mean. Very clean." Leslie pointed to the book. "That gallery... the one with the painting?"

"Vigor Grove."

"Yes, Vigor Grove. I -"

"Dialogues. That's it. Dialogues of the Carmelites? You look like the singer, in the production I saw." The eyelids swelled out of the bars like burnt marshmallows, and she still held that box above her head.

"A musical?"

"Actually, a little more sophisticated. An opera."

"I've only seen The Magic Flute."

"Dialogues of the Carmelites. Blanche. The main character. You look like Blanche - the soprano who played her? - with your curls." Shell lowered the box, spiraled her index finger over her head.

"Then I hope she was one of the good guys."

"The set. You know, the set?" Shell set down the box. Oak, stained black, polished, with silver hinges. "This is for you, by the way. The set was designed with... just this restrained elegance. Very linear, and stark. A stark background and flooring."

"What was the theme of the opera?"

The lids raised slightly, then the hands slashed above her. "That bush. Bluck. That's the one with the green lights. You can still see it. Uck." It was visible beyond one of the black rectangles out there. "They'll ruin the sculpture. When they turn on those lights? Green lights like that, in Thawnly Heights. It's just juvenile."

"Speaking of glowing green things..."

"Ordinance, the village ordinance? It says only white lights in Thawnly Heights." Ceremoniously Shell's fingertips slid across the box. "Thawnly Heights has an image, of prosperity and... I encourage you to open this."

A black substance coated the bottom. It looked like wax. "...prosperity and class," Shell was saying, "and some of these people think they're in Smoothieville." From the box floated a smoky aroma. "...more concerned with their fruit smoothies than with image." The top of the box held three rubber stamps: a square, a short rectangle, and a longer rectangle.

Shell brought down her hands and feigned a baby voice. "'Image? Huh? Mmm. Suck suck. Strawberry-banana. What do you mean image? Suck suck. I like mango-peach. Mango-peach is good.'"

"It's like they can't think abstractly," said Leslie. "Can't concentrate on anything for more than thirty seconds." But smoothies were tasty, and good for you.

Shell scratched her neck and her hair bell tilted. "We give these to new employees. Consider it," the hands rose, "a physical embodiment of the |cleft| culture."

The black stuff felt velvety, and it stained Leslie's fingertips. This was the stuff they were applying to their faces. Using the stamps. "It's beautiful," said Leslie. "Very elegant."

"We're on a mission. You know, a mission? A mission to prevent Thawnly Heights from transforming into Smoothieville."

When Shell left, Leslie brought her face close to the compartment. The aroma. There was something persuasive about it. The members of this elite design group, strange as they were, saw Leslie as one of them. This cadre, whose projects persuaded from the glossy pages of design magazines, had invited her into its trove. And for them, this box held so much more than stamps and a fragrant black substance.

When Leslie closed the box and the aroma faded, she realized she never brought up the painting.

Later, after studying an article about a Mercedes dealership - it looked more like a mortuary - that |cleft| did, Leslie turned around. The green lights trumpeted from across the courtyard, while into the twilight faded the chimney-like |cleft| brackets. Concrete lesions stretched across the snow. Or was it the snow that infested the concrete?

And there, curling around one of the brackets, was the cat. Something dark dangled from its mouth. Did it twitch?

Melting snow plapped and skipped around Leslie when she stepped outside. One drop tapped her head, then surrendered its cold to her scalp. She saw what the cat held: a black squirrel. A live black squirrel. "Hey. Put that down. Put that down and I'll give you a treat." She shook the treats. Not many left. The cat released, then the squirrel scurried into the trees. Maybe the cat brought it to Leslie as a gift. Touching, yet barbaric.

She shook the last of the treats into her palm, then brought them to the cat. Behind the purring tapped protractedly a distant drip, like a cane ticking on marble. The treat container had a picture of an orange tabby batting at a ball of yarn. Rather cliché. The plastic cover curved into the shape of a cat's head. What was the point of that? And what was the point of fish-shaped treats? Cats didn't care about shapes.

The gift bearer's purr churned. Tattered dirty fur, and the patches that looked rust-colored yesterday now had a rotten apple hue. Cats were so swervy, curvy. Just not very clean. Better not touch it.

Leslie returned to her desk, then retrieved the fruit bracelet. She fingered the charms - they were coarse - and strolled to the concrete wall. It felt more refined, more certain.

From that perspective, the sculpture obstructed her view of the green bush. Why weren't there any square fruits? Or black or gray fruits?

Squirrels, black and gray. Those things were all over the place at AWU, scritching across the brick signs, and in the trees, scrunching and munching and scritching. No, scratching. Sometimes bark bits would rain on the campus quad.

The smooth concrete was simply more sophisticated than the fruit charms. A little girl probably made the charms. Leslie's blazer wasn't as gray as the concrete. The blazer was more of a squirrel gray. Leslie was a designer. So her blazer should have been darker, more like the wall, and Solventa's bank. What did Shell call it? Monumental gray.

The charms snicked as she jounced the bracelet. Squirrels weren't worthy of black, or even gray. They were too out of control. Too juvenile. They should have been something more reflective of their nature, something fluorescent. Fluorescent orange.

From: Harold Solventa
Sent: Monday, December 9, 2019 9:33 AM
To: |cleft| staff
Subject: rectilinearity

fellow designers:

as we strive to enhance our reputation for distinctive design that engages both the intellect and the emotions experentialy, I would like to offer a few reflections on the new courtyard installment. composed of solid Italian marble, the two pillars reinforce our devotion to an contemporary minimalist aesthetic, while achieving a rigorous geometry that underscores the efficiency of the technological era in which we live and work.

my expectation is that as you peer into the courtyard, the sculpture, which I have titled rectilinearity, will inform your own design decisions.

I encourage you to contemplate a very compeling question: how do we seduce our clientele? perhaps the answer lies within rectilinearity. the iconic and elagant nature of the piece respond to the characteristics of our ideal client: financially and professionally successful, with a finely honed aesthetic disernment.

moreover, when one sees the piece, one immediately grasps an understanding about the values and sensibility of |cleft|. suggesting refinment and sophistication, the polished black, coupled with the categorical linearity, connects our image with the simple, but by no means simplistic, aesthetic maturity that our ideal client strives to achieve, while simultanously capturing the austere drama of the most iconic contemporary statements, without diluting the concreteness (or in our case, "marble-ness") of the material from which it rises.

the union of geomtry and color (or lack thereof) also establish a synergy with modern technologies, consequently subtly reinforcing our allegiance to the prosperous side of the technological divide. it expresses knowledge, refinement, and dare I say? superiority.

why name it rectilinearity? because to name it anything else would be hypocritical, falling pray to the all-too-common malidy of architectural analogization. we must not compare our works to a blossoming flower or snow-clad hills or beads on a necklace or whatever the scapegoat de rigeur may be. instead, let us allow the work to convey its own message in its own voice.

finally, rectilinearity makes a statement about our faithfulness to our own aesthetic principals. the vast majority of design firms - perhaps a more accurate label is "drive-thru architects" - allow the client to decree the design direction, as if the client were the ultimat authority in all matters aesthetic. this is the equivalent of a patient prescribing their own medicine.

only by approaching potentiel clients with the utmost sensitivity to aesthetics can we continue to generate exceptional design. the ideal client is open to being educated in the finer points of design. thus, we cannot be too careful in the methodology that we utilize to present our designs. think of this in terms of color. assume the color "blue" represents what your client thinks he wants. then, when you present your design solution, the client suggests that it exudes far too much "red." by employing the subtel art of persuasion, you must find a way to appropriately frame your design. for instance, "red" is present in "purple," as is "blue." therefore, "red" and "blue" are intimately connected.

despite my initial plans, I will indeed be attending the all-staff meeting on wednesday. perhaps we can engage in a dialogue about the synergistic connections between rectilinearity and our design philsophy.

yours in sumptuous refinement,

Harold Solventa

Monday, December 9, 2019

I might get a new jacket. The one I have now isn't very old, but I feel a little embarrassed wearing it to work. All the other designers wear dark gray or black. Mine is green. Not a bright green. But sometimes it feels like it's fluorescent orange. I almost feel like I'm not professional enough.

It seems strange making this entry in black pen. Until now, I've always used wild colors. Purple, light blue, orange, green. I thought black was boring. But I'm starting to see that black is much more permanent, and more refined. It makes my other entries seem rather kindergarteny. Juvenile is a better word. Perhaps someday I'll get a Sable Wedge. Several people here have one. I held the receptionist's. It is very sleek, and elegant, and it writes clean.

Speaking of elegant, I've been contemplating HS's new sculpture. It praises clean lines with its... uck, I can't remember what he called it. It's kind of a minimalist homage to efficiency and technology and professionalism. And it even ties in our |cleft| logo, seamlessly. Most people probably would fail to appreciate it. I think it takes a taste that is more sophisticated.

This morning, I read an e-mail HS sent to everyone at |cleft|. It talks about the sculpture. He calls it rectilinearity. Categorical linearity! That's the phrase I was looking for! It praises clean lines with its categorical linearity.

I think I'm beginning to get a better understanding of design. I understand how color might take away from the seriousness of the design, and how curve detracts from exactness. Is the straight line more beautiful than the curve? Perhaps.

The e-mail said that HS will attend the meeting on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to meeting him, even though he kind of reminds me of Mr. Plove. They both have those ledges beneath their eyes. We used to say that if you want to hide from Mr. Plove, just stand by his feet.

I used to make sculptures in high school. With clay. My art teacher said that they looked like daydreams. Bright colors, and they'd glisten and warp like taffy... uck... I'm rambling. These entries need to be more structured.

Today, my coworkers' facial bars were even more prominent. They were about an inch thick, and they stretched from their hairlines down over their eyes and to their jaws. Even though I still think it's strange, I did dab some of the stuff from the black box on my eyelids. Just to show that I respect their culture.

I'm a bit nervous about wearing this bracelet on Wednesday. It is a cute bracelet. Just maybe a little bit too much for here. Well, no. I remember how much I liked it when that cat brought it. Shell has this black bracelet, black polished cubes. I'll wear the fruit bracelet, probably. Shell's cubes are onyx, I'll bet.

Today, I turned down a lunch invitation from Misty Weavert. I haven't seen her since graduation. The |cleft| team had bento boxes from I-Craten. I was about to bring up the Vigor Grove to Shell. Then this young man walked in. He works at |cleft| part time.

He had these plastic berries stuck all over his face, and all over his white shirt and white pants. Shell asked him what clients would think if they saw that. The kid's face turned red. The room was silent, and we stared at him.

He stumbled through an explanation. Something about a contest to encourage healthy eating at his community college. He said he called it "Berried Alive," then looked up like he was expecting a laugh. I thought it was pretty good, but I didn't laugh. Nobody laughed.

Shell just stared at him with that blank stare. Then she asked what he'd think if he only got half his next paycheck. He shrugged and tapped one of his berries. Shell went on. You come in here, and you do your job. That's half of what we're about. The image that we convey is the other half. And you're not in line with our image. So maybe I should only give you half your paycheck since you're only doing half your job.

He said he was sorry. Then she sent him home to change.

Shell could have been easier on him. It was for a good cause. But still, she's right about impressions. Image does make a difference. We are professionals.

After that, I didn't feel like bringing up the Vigor Grove. Not with all those people there. I still have to talk to her about that Holey Water though. I wonder if HS belongs to a church.

The snow has almost melted, I think. Today, the courtyard looked like a brain in the late stages of Alzheimer's. Those green lights on the bush are kind of sickly looking.

The cat brought me a pterodactyl today. It was large, and green. Just like every other pterodactyl you see in movies and books. Then it flew away. I didn't have any treats for the cat. The thing's starting to look kind of shabby. Cats are kind of like snow. The way they mold around things, and then disappear.

Not like HS's sculpture. Snow and cats will come and go. But that sculpture stays the same. It is permanent.

I have an appointment at Taut Edge in a few minutes. Shell recommended it. I may lose the curls, do something more contemporary, and refined.


They're not going to get this. Readers want consistency. They want predictability. This thing has neither. Doesn't make it bad.

I got held up at themepoint. Forced to switch POV. Educated readers might get it. But the average Joe? No way. The only reading he does each day is to figure out which bag of chips he wants. Probably doesn't even have to read for that. Green means sour cream and onion. Orange means barbeque. Grunt.

These kids bug the shit out of me. Especially the one in the fluorescent orange mask. Sledding down the hill out there. Three days in a row, and each day, he comes at this time. I want to work by the last light of day, but each time that orange plunges down, I lose my train of thought.

The POV and my relationship to the reader need to reflect the deterioration. But will readers give a shit? A consistent POV. That's what they want. Just like the repetitive simplistic crap they listen to on the radio. Bands play crap that a two-year-old could master. They make millions. Then there are the death metal bands that merge complex chord progressions and virtuoso solos - they even shift time signatures - to induce this cosmic solitude, which so few appreciate. The masses dismiss it as too extreme. No appreciation for technique. People are all gut, no brain. Not ready for this yet.

That orange mask just pecked at me again. Thing seems orange enough to crack the guillotine of a shadow that's creeping down the hill.

Maybe action's better. Maybe aliens, but I have to make it different. All these funky buildings... weird colorful shit bending and twisting like amoebas. Then one alien builds an earth building, rectangular, like an office building. The aliens see this thing, and they find it awe-inspiring. Then they build more like it. The aliens change. They get competitive. Less empathic, less flexible. They don't understand each other. They get more refined.

Mud streaks rip through the sledding path, and I feel spring coming. It's peeling off the cold, lacquering the earth. And the guillotine is winning. This could be your last day, kid.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A man hung a black trench coat next to other black and gray trench coats.

A woman sat behind a reception desk with a metallic rectangle embedded with "|cleft|." Two black bars that ran from hairline to jaw masked her eyes. "Looks like you brought the sunshine."

"Or maybe I brought the shadows."

She laughed. "What's the selection for today?"

Dark ridges beneath the man's eyes sloped as he looked at the mural of metal squares and rectangles behind her. "Poulenc. Dialogues des Carmélites. Starting with the third act."

Thirty-six minutes later, he entered an open space in which "Salve Regina" played. A concrete wall on one side, a metal wall on the other. The back wall, a glass curtain wall, offered views to a courtyard.

A woman - she was the only other person in the room - with the facial lines rose from her desk.

The man held up one hand and pointed at his earpiece with the other. " concern to you who I am. The Village of Thawnly Heights has an ordinance about this. Are you familiar with it? This ordinance?" He looked up and touched his forehead and a slash sounded over the music. The black ceiling had three rows of gray squares with inset lights.

The woman removed a tablet from a rectangular tin, then placed it in her mouth.

The man strolled toward the metal wall. "I'm not calling about your children. I'm calling about your lights. The ordinance - the one established by the village? - prohibits any colored lights." The slash again. "Do you know why that is?" His forehead touched the metal as he picked a curl of orange string off his tie. Black tie, embossed with a symbol: two parallel horizontal lines with a vertical line rising from the center of the top one, and descending from the center of the bottom one.

The woman occasionally glanced up from her computer screen. Her hair was straight and black.

"I assure you... I'm only a concerned citizen. A publication called the Chicago Line, which is highly valued in the business community, ranks -" The ridges thinned as he squinted at the floor behind the woman. "It leans neither left nor right." He touched the left side of his chest, then the right. "The Chicago Line ranks Thawnly Heights among the top... miss, I un... miss... it ra-anks Thawnly Heights... among the top five places to live in Chicagoland." He moved toward the woman. "So we have certain expectations, certain standards that allow us to maintain that ranking. Elegance. Sophistication. These are inherent in our culture, our values. And I'm afraid that your display..." the slash "'s a bit... ostentatious, falls short of those standards."

He compressed his lips and knelt before the glass wall. He picked a candy cane-shaped piece of glitter off the concrete floor. "The fact is that the lights, your green lights, are rather sophomoric. And I fear that they're blemishing Thawnly Heights'..." the slash "...image." He looked out the window. Two ten-foot-high bars of black marble bookended the courtyard.

He clasped his hands together. The slash. "Here is something for you to reflect upon, Ms? Ms. Spes. We want our children to mature, to grow into responsible, rational adults. And - dare I say? - sophisticated adults. And I fear..." He sighed, then punched a button on his phone. "That's it then?" He rose, still looking out the window. "Barbarians. These people are barbarians." The slash. "They're locked in the past, and they're trying to turn Thawnly Heights into a circus."

The woman, expressionless, pointed toward the sculpture. "Elegance... they don't... elegance? Elegance and sophistication. They don't get it."

He disposed of the glitter. "Those lights are an insult. An insult to our aesthetic discernment." He stretched his hand over the floor. "Perhaps I should have had children" the slash "make handprints here. Or installed a petting zoo in the courtyard. Come one, come all... to Thawnly Heights."

Her teeth showed and she emitted a high-pitched laugh. Her straight face returned. "Your sculpture out there..."

"rectilinearity. It's called rectilinearity."

"rectilinearity. Yes. The clean lines? I love the clean lines. And the restrained elegance."

"Alas, our Ms. Spes" the slash "insists on defecating on it every night, with her circus lights."

"Categorical linearity. They don't get it."

"It's like putting food coloring in a martini, what these barbarians are doing."

She laughed again. "I saw the bank you're doing as well. In Youngsville?"

He looked at the square planes above her.

"I feel it really conveys dignity, with the clean lines. The veining... dignity, the way it coalesces, with the edges? The sharp edges. And the authority appropriate for a financial institution."

"Very true. But you think. Not feel." The slash. "You think it does those things. Remember that." He grinned, then looked at his watch. "See you at the meeting."

The woman sat alone. Her monitor showed a façade of black metal panels and stone. Her facial lines aligned with the stone piers. A soprano, accompanied by violins and a periodic ringing, sang in French, and the woman opened a drawer, then removed a bracelet. It had fruit-shaped charms. She touched the berry, and it felt earthy, like brick. She remembered picking raspberries, on the edge of a forest. The way their fuzz tickled her tongue. The jolt they gave her taste buds. And the tough tiny seeds she'd grind between her teeth. She looked at the courtyard, then dropped the fruit bracelet in the wastebasket.

The slash sounded.

Outside, the sculpture and the concrete glistened.

|cleft| minutes

all-staff meeting - Thawnly Heights studio

December 11, 2019

Mr. Solventa distributed Eva Prate discount cards to all employees. The card enables the owner to get a ten percent discount on all apparel purchased at stores owned by Eva Prate and its subsidiary, Fadehbond. Mr. Solventa encourages |cleft| employees to use the card to support our relationship with the client.

Shell Walch introduced Les Childs, recently hired as an interior design intern. Ms. Childs presented several preliminary concepts for the Delink residence Vigor Grove. The concepts were inspired by the Blankfield painting Holey Water. Ms. Childs will refine the concepts based on input from Mr. Solventa and Ms. Walch.

Ms. Childs also volunteered to inform the Village of Thawnly Heights about the green holiday lights on the property of the day care center across the courtyard. An ordinance established by the village prohibits colored holiday lights.

Ja Kilarch shared proofs of professional photographs of the new Gonawe Academy for Gifted Students. Mr. Solventa instructed Mr. Kilarch to purchase only the photographs that do not show the students or other people.

Next month, Ms. Walch and Ms. Childs will present "Lines and Blocks" at a "design camp" for students at the institution.


  1. Very creative use of multiple POVs in this one--first, second, third, even a brief slip into the author's own thoughts. The over-the-top affectations of all of the characters are both hilarious and slightly horrifying. You could feel the individuality slowly draining from Leslie--Les--as she was slowly assimilated into the company's way of thinking. Very unique and entertaining.

  2. Playful use of language. I like Harold Sloventa's interjection, quite funny.

  3. I read this again because it really caught my attention...very intriguing surreal with the re appearing cat etc I still hate death metal but this is quite a fun and wild roaming style of a tale.