Friday, August 17, 2012

Caffeinated or Decaf? Dealing With Multiple Legs

I was sitting quietly at my desk, working diligently, when, a shadow fell across my papers. A large looming shadow - spindly, yet sinister. My eyes opened wide and I looked at the strange dark shape oozing across my desk pad. Then I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see the evil that was making the shadow - lurking by my left temple, mere inches from my head. Creeping down the corner of my overhead was an arachnid of monstrous proportions. Not a tarantula, but of slighter build, but no less sinister for its slenderness. Its Uncle Bens Long Grain & Wild Rice-size body was rimmed by 8, 3-inch legs, each rising and falling in a strange, synchronized rhythm. It stopped and turned, staring into my eyes. I leapt from my seat, sending my chair shooting out behind me. I looked around wildly for something, anything to defend myself from this monster. Finding no blades, axes, hammers or flame-throwers I had to settle with a stack of paper. I hefted it in my hands. It had some weight. It would do the job.

I leaned forward and flapped the stack of papers toward the thing to knock it down to a place where I could more easily squish it and it dropped down with an easy grace, bouncing slightly as each leg flexed to absorb the shock of landing, much like a land rover hitting a pot hole. It scuttled a few inches and I took a swing. But alas, there was too much crap in the way. It managed to protect itself in the curve of my sunglasses between the folded bows and the lenses. It stayed there for a moment, peering out of the lenses at me, magnified and darkened by the lenses so it looked like a huge dark jungle-spider, the kind that eats birds and small monkeys. I could see a slight rise and fall of its body as it bounced on its many legs – laughing at me.

I dropped the stack of papers, but  could see right away that it was futile. The papers were propped up by the nearby phone, leaving plenty of room for a long legged beast to escape. I beat at the top of the papers, trying to squash them flat. The hand set clattered onto the desk, pens and pencils scattered. And the beast skittered out from beneath the papers and made a beeline for the family photos. Whether it was trying to threaten those I love, or just trying to hide I don’t know, but it disappeared behind a silver frame. I panted heavily, my heart thudding in my chest like a panicked bird trying to escape a too-small cage. I stared at the photo for a moment. The picture did not move. No legs or fang-filled mandibles appeared around the edges. I continued to watch the frame. It continued to do nothing. Then it occurred to me that there was a space at the rear of the desk – just enough space for a tiny body and 8 flexible legs to cram itself down. It could be stalking me across the rug from beneath my desk right now. I took a step back, scanning the floor to see if it was even now stalking me from an unexpected position, flanking me. But all remained quiet.

However, I knew that I couldn’t just sit down and begin working again. Despite the fact that it was no long in view, I knew it was still there, lurking, waiting for the opportunity to slink out and pounce. I briefly considered leaving the office and working from home, but knew that I would have to return someday. And when I did, it would be there waiting. And if it wasn’t I would always and forever wonder when it would make its reappearance. So I stood my ground, albeit shakily.

Then, with a deep breath, I picked up a fork, not to skewer the monster should it reappear, but to attempt to uncover the beast without risking touching it with my bare skin. I carefully moved aside my rock collection. I knocked my stuffed kiwi bird out of the way. I pulled my tiny kaleidoscope to safety and pushed my barrel of monkeys out of the way. I knocked my spare sunglasses aside. And then, steeling myself, I hooked the top of the frame and pulled it forward. And there was the beast - lurking behind the frame. It rose up on its rear legs and hissed, a deep, terrifying sound that reverberated through the stacks of paper on my desk, sending them rustling and crackling like a pile of fallen leaves. Venom oozed from the tips of its lethal fangs. And just when I expected it to charge it turned and ran up the wall and across my bulletin board.

I grabbed my heavy stack of striking papers and struck! Bang! I dropped them and leapt back. After all, the beast could have leapt onto the back of the papers and could even now be scuttling up toward my fingers, fangs at the ready. As the papers landed, sliding across my desk I saw the quivering remains squashed onto the papers of my bulletin board, sandwiched between ‘Security Codes’ and ‘Testing Checklist”. I breathed a shaky sigh of relief, not taking my eyes from the beast lest it rise again. But it didn’t. It was still, legs askew, one pointing off to the left, several dangling down and one pointing straight at me in accusation. As I watched, the accusing leg dropped silently to my desk, never to rise again.

For several minutes I stood, staring at the leg and the lifeless corpse, just breathing and trying to stop the shaking. It was over, done. The beast was stilled and all was quiet again in the cubicle. But could I continue to work? My eyes roamed nervously. What if there were more? Was this just a mercenary working on its own? Or was this just the scout, searching ahead before the rest of the army followed behind? I stood for several more minutes, eyes scanning the fuzzy cubicle walls, the mottled rug on the floor, the drop ceiling and vents overhead and thanked the gods that the vent grill was not directly overhead, but was off center. I felt a tickle at my leg – nothing. I moved some papers gingerly and jumped. Nothing. An itch on my arm – nothing. Then I grabbed my empty coffee cup and backed slowly out of my cubicle, glancing behind to make sure nothing was trying to trip me.

As I brushed nervously at every twitch and tickle I contemplated my coffee. Should I get caffeinated or decaf? Caffeine could prepare me for further onslaught - prepare my nerves, muscles and brain synapses for an upcoming battle should it be necessary. But if it wasn’t necessary, I would be hopped up on caffeine, nerves jangling as I tried to concentrate on work, eyes darting back and forth, searching for the unwelcome invaders. I finally settled for a half-caff. If there was an approaching army, I would at least be half prepared and if nothing else, could skedaddle with the quickness of an Olympic runner. And if there were no further surprise attacks, at least I wouldn’t be bouncing around my cubicle like a rubber ball in wooden box.

But I expect, for the rest of the day, indeed, for several days, if not weeks, I will be jumpy and nervous, anxiously hoping I don’t have to do battle again.

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