Gutt sat at his desk and watched the animated radar images of the approaching storm. It was a big one; he would have to leave early to stay ahead of it. At that thought he felt a twinge. Someone was going to try to foil his attempt to leave early. He felt it in the same way that a lesser man might feel he had left the lights on in his car. It gnawed at his innards, and his palms began to sweat as he hastily began to lock his things away. Before he could log off his computer, a nuisance strolled into his cubicle.
“Say Gutt, could I borrow your stapler for a minute? Mine is broken.” The nuisance said slowly as it reached for the stapler. Gutt sensed this was not his true opponent, but merely a pawn sent to stall him. He knew it, but he was trapped by the intricate web of circumstances created by his enemy and could only watch as events unfolded. He sat helplessly as the stapler closed on the carefully arranged sheets of paper. He cringed as the staple broke free and pierced the first sheets. He had been taken advantage of, violated, and the nuisance had used an excuse of all things, as if circumstances were out of its control.
“Whose fault is that?” Gutt blurted. He knew he was playing into the hands of his enemy, but it was necessary. The nuisance had to be taught a lesson. There are no free lunches. Clean up your own spills. Confess when you have done something wrong, no matter what the consequences.
“Mine actually.” Admitted the nuisance as though it were of no importance. It continued to speak in a hypnotic drone. Gutt could tell it was trying to gain the upper hand, and carefully considered his counter move. “Not that it has anything to do with anything, but it is a funny story. You see I was going to staple something to your forehead, but when I opened the stapler the top just broke right off, and it wouldn’t line up to push the staples through. I think someone might have dropped it.”
That last sentence grated on Gutt’s nerves. The unspoken accusation made bile rise to his throat. “I didn’t touch your damn stapler.” He spat. “It’s not my fault you can’t take better care of your stuff! Don’t try to lay the blame on other people.”
“Of course you didn’t.” It replied slowly and calmly, still dragging on in that sandy tone. “I made no accusations, and am not interested in who broke it or how.”
Gutt suddenly realized where this conversation was going. His mind raced as he played out his alternatives. He knew what the nuisance really wanted and he would fight it all the way. Gutt was not a pawn!
“What I am interested in is getting a new stapler.” It continued. “Could you order one for me?”
A sidelong glance at his monitor reminded him that the storm, which was his primary concern right now, was moving and he was not. “Why do I gotta be the one to order everything for everybody? Can’t you get off your lazy ass and place your own damn order.”
“Well, for starters,” droned the nuisance, “it’s part of your job description. You are also the only one who has experience with the new system right now.”
“Whose fault is that?” Parroted Gutt. He felt ill. He was losing control of the situation. His plans turned to fog in his mind, obscuring any way out of the morass his enemy had created.
“I suppose my own for doing work instead of attending the training.” Admitted the nuisance with just a hint of a smile on his otherwise flat affect. “Now are you going to order my stapler or not?”
“I got a big order to send out tomorrow.” Gutt sighed, dropping his shoulders as though his burden had been increased ten-fold. He knew he had lost the battle, but not yet the war. “I’ll add a couple extra staplers, but this is the last time I’m doing your orders for you.”
“Thanks Gutt!” said the nuisance as it backed out of Gutt’s cubicle. “You’re a real pal. While your at it, could you add a couple packs of colored pens to that order ?” And then it was gone. Gutt fumed. Why did he let people walk all over him like that? And the pens; the nuisance was just rubbing his nose in it with the pens. He went over the battle step by step to see where he’d gone wrong. He’d made all the right moves, but his opponent was too clever. No, he thought, just lucky! Next time will be different.