Monday, August 31, 2009

Life at the Mountford Institute

"The problem was-"

Mountford smashes him in the face with a coffee mug. Blood and teeth seem to be everywhere, but this is no doubt an exaggeration, and a good example of how we often mistake the personal for the universal. It's a way of insulating ourselves from an unfeeling and random universe. The sort of universe that's populated by arbitrary and unpleasant types like Mountford.

He'd been in a mood lately, the kind that was difficult to get a handle on, but probably boded ill for all. He'd taken to wearing straw boaters and oversized college sweatshirts. At first there had been hope that this was an endearing quirk beginning to manifest itself, a sign that maybe Mountford was some sort of human thing at heart. But a few weeks went on and Mountford remained his deeply unpleasant self. It came out that the sweatshirts had been trophies collected by a particularly perverse serial killer —they called him "the Lord of the Islet of Langerhans"— and had come into Mountford's possession via an unsavory private auction. They had never been washed, and everybody suspected they never would.

The hat was much more insidious. Apparently one of the interns had had the temerity to compliment it. Mountford went berserk, pelting the poor serf with slaps from his bony hands, and nearly drowning him in a torrent of spittle and abuse.

"This hat? This hat, you shit-steeped primate? [slap] You think this hat is nice, you placenta-fed ectomorph? [slap] You want to compliment it [slap], you workshy syphilitic? [slap] You think I wear this hat to get compliments [slap], you boy with bats in his bowels? [a backhanded slap here, with Mountford's spurred knuckles used to full affect] You couldn't be more wrong, you droopy foreskin of a half-man. I wear this hat to make me look like an asshole. So when someone compliments me on it [slap], I know for certain [slap] just how much of a craven [slap] vermiculous [slap] toadying [slap] urinal cake of a man I am dealing with. [another vicious backhand here, hard enough to draw blood] You disgust me."

The intern was in the grip of what would later turn out to be the first of many grand mal seizures. Mountford, never one to waste words (or invective anyway), delivered the rest of his rebuke in the form of kicks and spit, eventually muttering "Get it out of my sight" before stalking off to his office.

After that the illusion was broken, and Mountford's sinister aspect rose again. He roamed the hallways of the building for hours, glowering at everyone. It wasn't unusual to find him napping ostentatiously in the men's room, pants around his ankles, stall door open. The yes men on staff nodded sagely and pointed out how this was just like LBJ, but they were a minority. Everybody else was unsure. More than one person whispered that they had caught Mountford stealing small and valueless personal items from their desks. Often he made no attempt to hide his crime, as if daring them to call him on it.

Pain was also the order of the day. Beyond the poor intern, Mountford had begun to make physical abuse his go-to management technique. The top level of executives were constantly dealing with bruised and broken coccyges as he handed out literal ass-kickings left and right. A stream of admins came and went, rarely lasting a day in the face of mistreatment. Even the overnight cleaning staff felt the effects. Beyond the strange stains they had to deal with, there was something palpable and depressing hanging in the air.

So when Mountford smashed yet another subordinate in the face with yet another coffee mug knocking out yet more teeth and spilling yet more blood it was hardly a notable event. Even Mountford himself was finding it all a bit much, though of course he'd never admit it out loud. A new tack was needed.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me. You were saying something about a problem?"

It was a noble effort but all he got in return was a stunned stare and silence. He realizes that pulling back from the historic levels of unpleasantness exhibited in the past few months is not a simple thing. The course of things can't be changed that abruptly. He's going to have to play this smart if he wants things to get interesting again. And in a moment of inspiration that could only be called Mountfordian, he remembers that delegation is the heart of leadership. He summons today's admin into the office, using the old fashioned intercom that he refuses to decommission.

"Hold this," he says, handing her the boater. She takes it with sweaty hands. He pulls the sweatshirt over his head and hands it to her.

"Put it on."

She wavers for a moment, horrified by the unwashed condition of the garment. But Mountford is imposing and times are tough, so she puts it on.

"Now put the hat on."

She does so.

"Not at an angle, you animal. It's a hat for civilized beings." She adjusts the hat so it sits perfectly straight on her head.

Finally he hands her a fresh white coffee mug. She compulsively tries to drink from it, but it's empty. Mountford shakes his head.

"Now then. You, on the floor," this to the bleeding man who hasn't moved since Mountford's apology, "I want you to know that things are going to be different around here from now on. Times are changing. So stand up. Now why don't you tell this innocent young lady the thing you were going to tell me. Something about a 'problem,' I think?"

The man is terribly uncertain. His eyes move from Mountford's to the admin's. She looks terrified and unreal, like a paper doll in a tacked on hat and sweatshirt. His eyes move back to Mountford, who nods encouragingly. He even adds a toothy smile and a double thumbs up.

It's the most horrifying thing the man has ever seen.

"Go on, tell her!"

"We, uh, we found out what the flaw with the Waterloo project was, The problem was-"

"Stop there!" Mountford shouts. He grasps the admin by the shoulders and pushes her towards the man.

"Now then sweetie, bash this loser in the face with that mug. Do it for me."

She feels Mountford's breath on her neck. She worries that it will leave a scar.

"Mr. Mountford, I-"

"Do it!"

She shrieks and flings the mug away from her, only incidentally towards the desired target. It grazes the man's forehead. No obvious physical damage is done, but the shock of this new attack is too much for the poor man's system and he slumps into unconsciousness. The girl bursts into tears and runs from the room.

Mountford goes back to his desk,contemplating this new tactic. Done right, not only would the staff be terrified of him, they'd be terrified of each other too. It's a marvel of efficiency. And honestly, he can't be everywhere at once. Not yet, anyway.

1 comment:

Julie Powell said...

Ah, Mountford, I've missed you so....