Deep in the wooded vales of red state America, December is hallowed not just for hunting presents, but also hunting deer. Lo, the season opened on a Friday. Clayton’s consulting firm declared it Camo Day in celebration.
Employees festooned themselves and their office in their brown-and-green finest. Some posted deer horns and small taxidermic animals in prominent locations. While this particular company stopped short of installing a shotgun in the kitchen, just in case a bear happened along, it was still the most redneck of wonderlands.
Clayton could even swear he smelled hunting musk as he moved through the floor, trying to get back to his desk after an exhausting code review. And everywhere he looked, camouflage-print duct tape lingered like traces of scat: patching a hole in the carpet, propping up the back of a swivel chair, cradling a leaky ceiling tile …
Both tape and musk led to his manager Buck’s office.
“How you doin’, Clayton!” His voice boomed out from the office like a blunderbuss’ payload, halting Clayton in his tracks. “How’d that code review go?”
Clayton peeked in to find Buck applying a piece of camo duct tape to a patch of ruined drywall behind his desk chair. He ignored the scene to reply, “Fine. John has some changes to make, but nothing major.”
“Good, good.” Buck rubbed a fist over the newly applied tape. “Don’t mind me, I’m just taking the initiative to fix a few things around here.”
Clayton debated whether to say anything. In the end, he couldn’t help himself. “Uh, all that stuff you’re fixing probably needs more than duct tape.”
This prompted Buck’s ringing laugh. “If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough!” Finished with the wall, Buck turned, yanked his laptop out of its docking station, and began wrapping the camo-colored tape around it.
Clayton really knew better, but again couldn’t help himself. “What are you doing?”
“Decorating my laptop!” Buck replied.
“But … you’re covering the vents,” Clayton managed around his shock. “It’s gonna overheat.”
“It’s winter and it’s cold out! This thing’ll be fine.”
“Win—you’re taking it outside?” Clayton faltered.
“Out to my hunting blind! I’m cutting out early to get a jump on the season.” Buck reached into his pocket. Out came an obnoxiously sized lock-back knife that he used to slice a gap into the tape layer, allowing him to open up the laptop.
“Why bother working remotely?” Clayton asked. “Just call it a week.”
“The usual BS quarterly meeting is this afternoon—of course.” Buck rolled his eyes. “Gotta join the WebEx and at least pretend to pay attention.”
The WebEx would handle both video and audio for the meeting. Clayton imagined the deer would take a dim view to budget projections, but Buck’s laptop did have a mute button.
“Happy hunting, champ! I’ll have my cell phone in case you need anything.” Buck packed his laptop, then gathered his coat and a cooler that was almost certainly full of beer.
In the end, Clayton couldn’t complain about a manager-free afternoon. He returned to his desk, dug into his work, and all was well.
A few hours later, his desk phone rang. Buck’s cell.
Clayton internalized a curse and picked up the phone. “Hello?”
There was nothing on the other end at first aside from scuffling, and a string of very not-internalized curses from Buck.
“Boss?” Clayton prompted.
“The damn thing’s a brick!” Buck cried.
“What is?” Clayton asked.
“It just shut down on me!”
“And the damn meeting’s still on!” More scuffling noises from Buck’s end. “Hopefully everyone’s too busy snoozing to notice I fell off the WebEx. Hang on, I’ll be in the office soon!”
Clayton didn’t bother stifling his groan, but managed to hang up before it escaped.
Twenty minutes later, Buck stampeded into his cube, cooler and laptop in tow. He dropped the camouflaged computer onto Clayton’s desk, shaking out his hand. “Sumbitch shut down on me out of nowhere!”
Clayton felt the waves of hot fury radiating off the laptop when he stuck his hand near it. “It overheated, like I said. You blocked the fans that keep air circulating through there,” he explained. “We gotta get this tape off.”
“Nah! If it’s hot, we just gotta cool it down, right?” Buck opened up his cooler and pulled out a half-melted bag of ice. He then turned and dropped said bag directly onto the laptop.
Clayton’s jaw fell. Should he bother to say anything? No, it never helped.
“While it’s cooling off, I’ll need your computer to log back into the WebEx,” Buck said.
Clayton suppressed his instinctive panic. “You have to leave it here. No ice or camo. I’m done for the day, and I’m not touching any more work until Monday! Deal?”
With a collecting breath, Clayton logged out, then stood to gather his belongings. “There you go.”
Buck clapped him on the shoulder. “Happy hunting, champ!”