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Company Man

Andrew Kozma's fiction has been or will be published in Drabblecast, Grievous Angel, Albedo One, and Third Flatiron. If you like this story, you can support his fiction-writing habit via Patreon.

Sam was a company man. He drank the coffee provided. He used his designated parking spot. He always said yes to whatever was asked of him. For kicks, we asked him to kill the next person who walked through the door.
When George walked through the door, Sam killed him.
We were surprised. Not completely surprised, as Sam was a company man. He drank the coffee provided! But still.
After all, George was a big guy. He was the kind of guy whose muscle shirts had muscles. His moustache could stop a truck. His voice was so deep you had to get down on the floor to hear it. And he was nice.
And now he was nicely dead.
As always, Sam cleaned up after himself. Fifteen minutes after he punched a hole in George's heart with a fountain pen, all the blood was cleaned up, the body was in the storage locker resting on twenty reams of paper, and Sam was wearing a new set of spotless clothes.
To be frank, we were impressed. All except for Frank.
"He drinks the coffee provided," Frank said. "He drinks the coffee provided!"
We were impressed, but Frank wanted more.
We wanted more.
The workday was shot. We stood around the office like worker bees without a queen. Only Sam sat at his desk, efficiently moving papers from his inbox to his outbox. He drank the coffee.
Sam was doing accounts, just as we all should have been doing accounts. Names and numbers tallied up, cross-checked, added, divided, given notations, spreadsheeted, the results wrapped in comforting jargon, and the finished result set aside to be filed by the file clerks who were clustered around the doors to the room waiting for the fallout from George's death.
Sam beckoned to the nearest file clerk and that poor, thin man shambled over. His eyes were bigger than his mouth. His skin was as pale as paper.
In truth, he didn't look all that much different than Sam. Tall, thin, with biceps you could fit your fist around, Sam was, as Frank would say, inconsequential. But now he handed his large outbox pile to the file clerk to be filed. The file clerk grabbed the papers, and at the same time another clerk dropped another pile into Sam's inbox. With each account he settled, Sam sat a little straighter. His skin developed flavor.
"He is a force of nature," we said.
"He is a force of business," our bosses said.
"He is a farce," Frank said, then turned to Sam directly. "I have a favor."
Sam looked up. His lips peeled into a smile.
"Can you make us some coffee?"
Frank laughed. We all laughed. Sam didn't laugh.
Sam stood with the fluid grace of a snake and walked back towards the office's tiny break area. None of us followed, but we imagined him inside the small gray room standing before the coffee maker, prepping the coffee grinder, checking the fridge for cream and throwing out what's spoiled because something is always spoiled and Sam is the kind of man who keeps what's spoiled from ruining everyone else's day.
Above us, through the glass ceiling, our bosses watched, their faces pressed to the floor.
Sam was taking a long time. Frank looked around at all of us, a smirk on his face. He shrugged, as if to say what did you expect? The time clock punched out seconds, then minutes.
Sam called to Frank for help. After all, he couldn't bring out coffee for everyone by himself. And Frank, confident Frank, Frank who talked about the women he loved with the utmost respect, Frank walked back to the break area. He flashed us a grin just before he went in.
We figured the scream was from spilled coffee. We decided the sounds of chopping were due to remodeling. We understood the loud grinding was exactly what it sounded like: coffee beans being ground down into coffee. The grinding went on so long we began to grind our teeth in sympathy. At five o'clock we left with the grinder still whining in our ears. That night we dreamed we had coffee instead of blood and when we were tired, we slit our wrists and drank.
In the morning, we arrived to find Sam already at his desk. He was a company man. He had dressed every desk with coffee. Frank was nowhere to be found.
We sat at our desks. We stared at our accounts. We drank the coffee.
It was horrible, but we drank it anyway.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Author Comments

I'm no longer sure where "Company Man" came from, though I suspect it had to do with just that phrase: company man. A company man is someone who'll do anything for the organization he works for, without questions, without regrets. And this story simply plays out what happens when such a person is lost control of by that organization. Who takes responsibility for what that person ends up doing? And if no one stops the company man, is everyone who works there responsible?

Shut up and drink your coffee.

- Andrew Kozma
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