Current Occupation: Vice President of Marketing and Outreach
Former Occupation: Vice President of Business Development, National Program Director for Workforce Development, Acquisitions Editor, and Development Editor.
Contact Information: Daniel S. Jones lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and three children. In addition to a twenty-year career in a variety of education and technology companies, he also serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Xavier University. Mr. Jones won the 2005 AWP Intro Journals Prize for fiction with his anti-war short story, “Lysistrata, Kentucky.” He has placed fiction with Waxing Press, Controlled Burn, Bardsong, Oxford Magazine Fiction Series, Cincinnati Writers’ Project, and CityBeat Magazine. Mr. Jones holds an MA in Creative Writing from Miami University.
An Accidental Profession
Along the edge of my office windowsill, ladybugs lay dead like popped kernels of corn, red shells split open, wings flayed in flightless tranquility. It happens every spring. Cardinals slap their bodies against these sheets of glass, from ceiling to floor, to jab at the prey they see through the pane. Wings spank a frantic rhythm against the building, often six or seven red-crested birds at a time. Sharp beaks peck. Just twenty feet behind them, the once barren bushes already give way to budding green trees and lush, emerging earth.
Requests from the building’s cleaning service remain unanswered.
Coworkers stop by my office on their way to the instant coffee machine to witness the frustration of birds. Now and then they ask me about myself, how long I’ve been here, what I do, but I change the subject when I can. Like the birds, their lives are more interesting. As a result, I know much about them, personal things that no one in their right mind would share with a complete stranger. But we are coworkers, so I guess that makes it all right—that I have written it down to share, stories of the women and men who work for this company, their appearances and behaviors, the objects of their love and hate, their dysfunction, drunkenness, where people are having sex right now in this office building, who steals petty cash or supplies, and general gossip, of course.
Outside my window the birds perch and eye their delicacies before attempting again to crash through the glass. It is difficult, actually, not to compare them to the employees fluttering around the office. It is impossible not to notice, for example, how at impact their oily wings smudge the glass, whitish stains with patterns like fingerprints, or augury. How the ancients sliced birds’ bellies and read the future in slippery gray livers or how they watched the sky to divine holy will from the movement of birds. Emperors once caged fleets of pigeons and released them right-bound across their palace gardens to garnish good favor from the gods, left-bound flocks making for ill omens. From what I can tell, there was no interpretation for birds that dive head-on, only to collide with invisible blockades.
So what am I to think when two cardinals flutter against the window, beaks clutching oak seeds, now dropped to stab at a plusher quarry? That this office knows the most intimate details of its employees’ lives? How as coworkers we somehow feel entitled to know such things about each other? That these non-business-related details often find their way into an employee’s permanent, access-restricted record in Human Resources? How at night, I dream of budget numbers in endless columns—of birds on this windowsill, of a gun that I do not own, that I pick these creatures off one by one, but more will fly from the canopy, leaves tumbling from vernal branches, each one red, suspended for a moment, then sent hurling towards me and yet I keep firing.
I don’t know.
Wallace Stevens, the poet, worked his entire life as an executive for an insurance company and I often think of him while sitting at my desk, as I do now, birds tapping gently against my window, whether he ever fired someone or calculated a P&L (i.e. a profit and loss) analysis or attempted to squeeze margin (i.e. net sales minus the cost of goods and services sold) from tired, overworked portfolios. I only know about Stevens because of a poetry class I took a lifetime ago and I like to think he didn’t have to do such things. Anyway, I keep a copy of Harmonium on my office bookshelf, between The Ultimate Corporate Strategy Resource and The Fundamentals of Accounting. What would Stevens think to see or hear the appetites at work between these walls? That money too is a kind of poetry? Or perhaps:
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.
Our company attracts a variety of employees from across the country. As such, our sources, so to speak, are everywhere. If nature abhors a vacuum, then what our company hates is uncertainty when it comes to “private” lives. We are walking down sidewalks to eliminate it, peeking through windows to root it from coffee shops. We are picking up take-out orders and overhearing conversations and asking for more details than propriety might allow. We are paying attention in the locker rooms at our office’s workout facility. We are buying the drinks that make secrets spill and when that doesn’t work, we are making friends with the guys in IT to get access to email accounts, texting histories, instant messages.
It’s not unlike the Aeneid, where Virgil describes a goddess covered in feathers, swift of foot and wing, with a thousand eyes, a thousand ears, and a thousand mouths. That goddess is Rumor, so much more enabled now than then. But sometimes, I suppose, it’s much simpler than that.