Mandy Nubole sat in her isolated cubicle at the end of the hall, desperately waiting for her last seven minutes of web design to pass. For every hour she worked, mandy allowed herself ten minutes to check her e-mail, her sales on ebay, and her favorite blogs. Mandy wasn't a slacker or anything-- she did her work to the best of her ability and did not dawdle or procrastinate. It was just that studies showed that people were more productive if they took fifteen minute breaks every hour. Mandy appreciated the value of science and studies, so she took her hourly break, though fifteen seemed a bit excessive.
Mandy was the technology expert at Mifflin, so she was in charge of making sure all the computers in the building were working, as well as connected to one another and the outside world. For the most part, her job was pretty routine, just checking to make sure all of the connections stayed connected and the bugs stayed debugged. Her rather clueless boss, however, sometimes assumed that anyone who was good with computers would know how to do anything computer-related.
Which explained why Mandy was now trying to figure out web design. She knew nothing about html, but she had fifteen tabs open on Mozilla Firefox, and she was learning. Still, trying to do something totally foreign was mentally draining, and she looked forward to her short break.
When the clock at the bottom of her computer screen switched silently to 2:50, Mandy was ready for it. She opened another tab and started her break checklist. She always started with her e-mail, in case there was anything work-related in her inbox that needed addressing.
Her first two e-mails were memos meant mainly for other people, the third was friom her aunt, reminding her abouit their coffee date Thursday, and the fourth and fifth were spam from the online book club she'd just joined. The last e-mail was something unexpected. It was from her former coworker, a neurotic man named Robert. Robert had worked at Mifflin for about two years before the incident that had led to his severance. Mandy had often sat silently in her desk as he tried to explain what was wrong with his laptop. He had been the closest thing to a freind that she'd had at Mifflin, and not because she particularly liked him, but really just becaues of the sheer amount of computer problems the thin, nervous man had had. Still, she'd liked him, and eventually she would look forward to his entertaining visits.
Robert, she could tell, was a nervous talker. To him, every silence was an awkward silence, so he did his best to avoid them with small talk and his own observations about other people in the office. Mandy thought it was interesting how much he learned and cared about the people he worked with, though he did not ever assign them names. He described people using adjectives, not names, and spoke of specific people and events generally, as if they were just animals in a zoo, to be observed nonchalantly from afar. As she opened the email, she casually wondered if he gaver her a name in the story he kept track of in his head.
Like an answer to a question, Bob's e-mail began: "Mandy--"