The Eastern Wall: A Short Story

Michael Pachter stood in his office. It was a large, well-appointed room, something any professional might aspire to. The shelves (mahogany) lining the northern wall were filled with books. Tomes on law and business, of course, but mostly books on the ever growing video game industry. Michael was proud of his collection, and prouder still that it wasn’t just for show. He had read them all, many of them multiple times.

He was less proud of his desk (oak). The piece was fine, exquisite in fact. The spiraling columns at each corner of the desk were hand-carved, as were the intricate, floral tendrils that framed the face of each drawer. The hanging, circular handles were bronze, tarnished on the edges but still gleaming in the middle where Michael’s hands regularly made contact. Each drawer would slide effortlessly and silently when opened, filled though they were with the tools of his trade – pens, legal pads and an honest-to-god accounting calculator, the kind that printed out its sums on honest-to-god paper.

Yes, the desk itself was something to be proud of, but the mound of papers on top was not. News articles, meeting minutes, industry reports – the papers were stacked so wide and so deep that Michael couldn’t even see the desk blotter (leather) underneath. For a moment, Michael wondered if the decline of his beloved honest-to-god paper, and more importantly the rise of computers, had damaged the blotter industry. He would have an intern look into it, just for fun.

For now, he had important work to do. He turned his attention away from the desk, and toward the eastern wall of the room. The wall was made entirely of windows, allowing Michael to greet the sun every morning, a feature he quite liked. Anyone would. Taken on its own, the eastern wall could accurately be described as “glorious.”

Yet, despite all of this, despite the opulence of the desk, despite the accumulated knowledge on the shelves, despite the splendor of the eastern wall, the room’s most prominent feature was a white board.

The board stood in front of the eastern wall, and its use – the board’s purpose – somewhat ruined the carefully crafted aesthetics of the room. Scattered about the floor, surrounding the white board in a large pile, were pie pans. Scattered about these were innumerable crumbs and chunks of crust. Traditional, sugared, graham cracker, the occasional Oreo, store-bought Pillsbury – Michael wasn’t picky. More disturbing than the pans or the crust, however, was the festering, globular conglomeration of pie fillings that surrounded the white board, covered the floor and coated the magnificent windows. It was the berry fillings that first caught the eye: blue-, straw-, rasp-, boysen-. The jellied fillings caught the eye, perhaps, because they so resembled viscera, jarring the observer and invoking fear over some sort of accident. It was no accident, of course. Michael did nothing accidentally. It was messy, yes, but methodical.

He stared at the white board, knitting his brows and kneading his hands. Written with a black, dry-erase marker, some words were just visible beneath a congealing, yellowish mass – had it been banana cream or lemon meringue? Michael couldn’t remember. Regardless, the words beneath were his real concern. Under the muck, he could still make them out:

battle royale is coming

Michael approached the board, bits of crust (phyllo) crunching under his shoes (Italian). He licked a finger, extended it to the board, and swiped away the thick, black letters. He drew back his finger and looked at it for a moment. He licked it again and smiled: lemon meringue.

Turning back to the board, he pulled a marker from the tray, uncapped it, and stuck the cap studiously into the handle. He shifted his weight from side to side, thinking. He folded his arms and rested his chin in his hand, nearly giving himself a black marker mustache in the process. The office would have loved that. After a full sixty seconds had gone by, he reached out to the board once more and scribbled a few words. Michael replaced the marker’s cap and put it back into the tray.

He swiveled around and took three long steps away from the board. Being an exceptionally tall man, he was easily twelve feet away from it now. He swiveled again to face the board. To his right stood an immaculate pyramid of pies. Michael made a mental note to thank the interns for dealing with the bakery boxes. He had learned that little niceties made for a happier office environment. Faint whiffs of steam rose from the pyramid. Some of the pies must have been fresh. The smell might have been intoxicating, were it not for the decaying horror of the eastern wall.

Michael lifted a pie (French silk). Its silver pan glinted in the sunlight, which filtered to a sickly red as it penetrated the crystallized berry fillings that covered the windows. He hefted the pie, testing its weight, and looked at the newly written words across the room:

nintendo switch to dominate holiday

Michael hefted the pie once more and, like a pitcher on the mound, brought his hands together, lifted a knee, twisted his body, and hurled the pastry home. The pie struck the board dead center with a sickening smack. It stuck fast, pan and all – always a good sign.

It would have to come down, of course. Michael always insisted on removing stuck pies – “winners” – himself.  You can only ask interns to do so much. Besides, it was more efficient if he did it himself. After all, there was still work to be done.

It was barely 8:30.

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