Gird Up Thy Loins like a Man

It’s a small sign, tasteful, plain letters written in the corner of the window:

fire flood windstorms

Inside there’s nothing, or next to it, just a desk and a lamp and some chairs. There are no computers, no files, no pictures or diplomas hanging on the walls, no magazines wilting next to a rubber plant in the corner. They don’t need any of that, couldn’t use them if they had them. All the important work goes on outside of the office.

The man named Sheridan sits behind the desk and waits if he has no appointments, which happens most days. He doesn’t do anything, doesn’t read or listen to the radio or build little sculptures out or paperclips, he just waits. If he wasn’t breathing you could take him was a mannequin, an abstraction of an office worker in an abstraction of an office.

He comes to life when he is talking to a client. “Anything you want,” Sheridan promises. “Anything at all, we can do.”

Their clients are all old men, all long-bearded and avuncular. Their eyes don’t miss much. “Hurricanes,” they say, and give such and such a place, latitude and longitude, amount of damage, lives lost, weather patterns. Hurricanes are big this year.

“Yes, sir,” says Sheridan. “Right away, sir. Very good, sir.” When the old men have left the field team comes in, long wings glistening with oil. Sheridan gives them their orders and they slip out the window one by one, hooting mournfully like owls in the desert.