The first time Manny Furious remembered seeing Lemon Crush was on their first day of work. They had both begun working at the Rio Frio Medical Center in mid-spring, Furious, as a “Family Networks Education Recovery Deliminator ” and Crush, as something referred to as a “Behavioral Analytics Systems Intervention Information Coordinator.” Furious would never quite figure out what a Behavioral Analytics Systems Intervention Information Coordinator did, and he would later come to assume that Crush never did, either.
Anyhow, it was the first day of work, and they were required to attend an “All-staff” meeting, wherein about half of the 300 or so employees of the medical center were packed into a conference room to listen to their bureaucratic overlords dispense their demands for the next month or so.
The CEO of Rio Frio Medical Center was literally an empty suit—a stout, waddling empty suit. Red tie, gray blazer and slacks. Not invisible, mind you. Not a puppet or illusion or even a phantom of any kind. It was literally just an empty suit. And when it spoke, its voice was just as empty. There was language there, words even, but there was no real sound. It was almost as if communication were telepathic… but not quite. It was like the flavor of distilled water–it’s there, you can taste it, but you can’t really describe it. It’s an empty flavor. That was the Empty Suit’s voice.
When it walked in to that day’s monthly staff meeting it was flanked on either side by its two flunkies: On his right, a tall blonde wearing a pantsuit, a buzzcut, and a welded on smile, and on his left, a mid-40s bureaucratic eunuch with glasses and a strong chin. Neither flunky ever ceased smiling, even when the empty suit was announcing the yearly round of budget cuts and job cuts and pay cuts. For every employee, that is, except for himself and a small cadre of his most valued ass-wipes.
After they were done explaining the economic doom and gloom, they announced that they were going to complete this month’s raffle. But first, the staff had to get itself into the proper mood, and to do so, the empty suit and its flunkies made a major announcement that they were sure was going to change the way work was done…forever.
“From this day forth,” the empty suit stated, “Work will no longer be known as work. It will be known as ‘fun time.’ Say it with me—FUN TIME.”
The crowd of employees droned listlessly: “Fun time.”
The empty suit became immediately displeased with the effort and somehow instantaneously manifested a bull-whip from out of the ether. He swung the whip and it snapped with disapproval.
“Say it again,” the empty suit demanded. “This time like you mean it.”
“FUN TIME,” the employees moaned again, this time slightly less listlessly.
“That’s better,” the empty suit declared. “The winner of this month’s raffle is Judy. Judy, you can pick up your mug after the end of your second shift.”
“Jesus,” Manny Furious thought to himself. “This is insane. Am I insane? Is this real?”
During this attempt at self-appraisal, he happened to glance over at Lemon Crush. They were both both standing in the back corner of the conference room, with about a dozen other new hires. She was three arm-lengths away, her face frozen in terror, as though the Empty Suit hadn’t been an empty suit at all, but, instead, had been one donned by a gorgon.
Even in that state, though, he was thunderstruck, not just by her beauty, but by a subtle vibe that emanated from her being. He couldn’t explain it, not even to himself. It wasn’t so much a glow, or an aura. It was more like a magnetism. As though she had had her own gravity. And he felt himself falling into it….
Until she unfroze for a moment and looked back at him. Her gravitational pull subsided, and he realized the entire upper half of his body was leaning in her direction as a flower that bends toward the sun. His eyes got big with the realization of how ridiculous he must look. He averted his gaze quickly, straightened himself back up, dusted something imaginary from his shirt and returned his attention to the bureaucratic horrors of the Empty Suit, the Smile and the Eunuch.