The man in the green suit eyed him lazily from the other side of the desk.
“Don’t speak.” The man said.
Frank opened his mouth to tell him to screw himself but nothing came out.
“So, you’ve been assigned to the workshop. You’ll be working on floor three-one-five-seven, row B. You’ll work there till you’re forgotten. Now, any questions?”
Frank opened his mouth again.
“How eloquent…” the man in the green suit muttered. “You’re dead. You’re here to work.” He tossed a red little hat across the desk onto Franks lap.
“What the hell is this?” Frank said.
“Your uniform. He likes it.”
Frank looked behind the green man through a large glass window. Men and women in little red hats stood in lines along assembly belts. One woman was crying.
“Who?” Frank asked.
The man took a breath, “Santa Claus”, he said, cringing as though preparing for yet another bite of broken glass.
“Fuck off,” Frank said, smiling.
The man did not smile. He sighed. “Look, it’s like this. Santa exists because people believe in him. But, it’s like if you believed in a cake but had no ingredients to make one but then a cake shows up on your table. The ingredients had to come from somewhere. So, you’re the one of the ingredients.”
Frank still hadn’t stopped smiling. “Does that actually make sense to people?”
The man in the green suit shrugged. “Sometimes I say soup, which actually works better.”
“Uh-huh…” Frank frowned, “So, what now?”
“Now you go.”
“Right.” Frank stood up. He dropped the hat on the desk.
“This was weird,” he said and walked out. The world spun twice and he nearly threw up. He opened his eyes. In front of him a conveyor belt ran. Small gears sat next to little red plastic balls all along the belt like cookies on a tray.
Heavy metal music blared through the air. Frank looked around. Next to him, across from him and for as far down the line as he could see, people stood. They picked up a gear and a red ball, popped the red ball in the center of the gear, and placed it back on the belt.
“What the hell?” Frank felt the top of his head. He snatched off the little red hat. He tossed it down on the belt and walked away. The world spun twice and this time he did throw up. Everyone groaned.
Frank opened his eyes and he was back in front of the conveyor belt. He felt the top of his head. The hat sat, nestled in his thick hair, mocking.
“It’s no use,” said a voice. Frank turned. A large hairy face smiled back at him. He was picking up gears and balls and fitting them together without even looking down.
“What is going on?” Frank asked.
“Didn’t that prick in the green suit explain it to you?” The big hairy man asked.
“He said something about cake.”
The big hairy men chuckled. “It was soup for me.”
“It made no fucking sense,” Frank said, beginning to anger.
The big hairy man shrugged, “none of this makes any fucking sense. But then again, has it ever?”
Frank felt the helpless anger growing. He watched the big man deftly pop red ball after red ball into gear after gear.
“Stop doing that!”
The big hairy man laughed. “You’ll be doing it soon. That’s the real sick part of it all. They actually bore you into menial labor.”
“Well, they can fuck themselves.” Frank crossed his arms and stood, recalcitrant.
He stood for days in brooding silence before picking up a little red ball. He rolled it between his fingers.
A few days after that he picked up a gear. He held them both for a long time. Then, he popped the ball in. It felt oddly satisfying.
The big hairy man clapped him on the back.
“That’s the spirit,” he said.
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