Big Daddy Cane made a billion in drone food deliveries and sits on the MoreCorp Board. His daughter, Candy Cane, is on the SKI Team. Whenever anyone talks about her, they mention Big Daddy, like his power or money will rub off on us by proximity. For me what’s reassuring about Candy’s relative closeness, however, is that it illustrates the futility of being a billionaire’s kid. What’s the point if you just go to an office over a toxic waste dump in Silicon and think up ProTips for a bonus you don’t need?
ProTip is Candy’s baby, a weekly nows-mail on wise text reduction. It’s created by her minions then rewritten into gibberish and sent out to the Clubhouse, with travel info and vacation selfies. If it wasn’t an earnest effort it would be hysterical. It’s a long tip, torture, extending until even I, who find words delightful, can’t stand it.
That’s why I don’t work on ProTip, though there’s pressure on me to do so. I’m in a pickle, as I need to please but fear blowing my cover, or a gasket, whichever, both. Wolf told me to make people feel good, to coo, and if Candy sends my stuff out all fux, cooing’s not what I’m going to do. One who knows herself has discernment, and I recognize that sentences are among my many weaknesses.
Working with Candy’s a risk. But resisting is too. She’s being weird, sending pings about feng shui, though she still won’t say hello in the hall. Candy doesn’t really talk. To the extent that she has discernible qualities beyond having an accidentally absurd editorial style, she’s tall and solid, like a horse, and always has a tan. Also, Candy has people, like Coke, who is on the case now.
He resembles the massive Coca Cola statue by the Plus Center — red, wide, tall and cylindrical. Unlike others here, Coke disdains his health and is never without a soda, appropriately. It would be refreshing if he wasn’t menacing and didn’t have pointy green teeth. “Top doges don’t like waves, Ellipsis.”
“They hire and fire us in waves, so maybe that’s why,” I reply, signaling with my hand that he should move. Coke’s leaning his belly on my standing desk, blocking the entrance to my pod, annoying Apple who is trying to enter ... and me. But I always pretend we’re having friendly exchanges, adding, “Waves are opportunities though, Coke. You know, in a surfing sense, so maybe ok.”
“What’s ok is doing Big Daddy’s little girl’s AOKs.” He grabs his soda off my desk, leaving a sticky brown ring, his signature, and steps into Apple’s way with his paunch, shoves him, tries to crush the can with his hand, fails, and throws it angrily in the recycling bin across the hall. The clanging echoes loudly in the Clubhouse.
“You ok,” I ask Apple as he enters our pod.
“A-OK,” he says with a grin and a thumbs-up.
It’s funny because AOKs, or Achievements Objectives Knockouts. That’s what this ProTip business is about. AOKs are employee personal projects considered for annual bonuses. They’re a big deal, discussed weekly, planned quarterly, and fulfilled accordingly to show more-more, the MoreCorp special sauce. AOKs come in all forms, from mentorship programs to visionary spreadsheets to nows-mails and presos. Some plan parties while others create vid or gaming clubs, attend Pet Petters or charity lunches. Whatever’s awesome and shows more-more is AOK and rewarded in greenies. Or so I hear — I work for MoreCorp via MidCorp; this is just what Coke says.
He’s back after an hour. “Donuts!” He shoves one in his mouth, sprinkling sukrflaki all over my desk, puts down his drink, and admits, “Sweets are my weakness! Didja’ get one of these? They’re great! In the MK.” His jowls shake as he chews, confessing, “Honestly, Ellipsis, not here to talk to you about sweets.”
Coke sidles up to my desk again, lays a napkin down near his drink, and places a red velvet donut on it. Then, I swear on the Founders, he smashes it! The donut oozes pink goo, bleeding. Is this a metaphor?
“Ok,” I say, “I’ll do ProTip.”
“Great. I’ll tell Candy.” Coke leans in, his foul breath blowing hot on my cheek. “But, like, besides ProTip. Mmmmm. Had to flip a lot of your calls just now, so…”
“Well, the problem I’m seeing … is … ummm … you reading,” he speaks slowly, loud enough for Apple to hear if he wasn’t so engrossed in his property search (real estate’s hot in Silicon — everyone’s looking). “You know we’re phasing that out, right?”
Breathe. Count to ten. Don’t answer. I go through a quick checklist of instructions. Let him keep talking. The flashing red in my eyes passes and Coke reappears before me, leaning on the desk, stinking up the air with his breath.
He continues, “It’s just, trust the highlights. If the program flagged it, check it out. But babe! Don’t get hung up on meaning!” Coke smiles. “Sweetie. You leave that to the big doges.”
I count again, trying to summon my list of instructions. But now I’m pissed and it’s inaccessible. I hiss, “I’m knows prose, you know? Certified to write, not just text-ed. Creation and destruction — or reduction, sorry — it's all in my power.”
“You’re knows prose?” Coke’s backing away. “Oh no! I didn’t know.”
I’m glad he’s leaving but worried. We work for Prose Control, so that’s supposed to be on the down low, my prose. Also, Wolf told me to make people feel good and the dude does not look like he feels good. Plus, ProTip!
Yet days pass and all’s quiet on the western front. No more missives from Candy or visits from Coke, no summons to work on anything. Strangely, I start to miss the attention, and to understand the pain of favor and disgrace, the perfection of the middle path and no waves. It’s radio silence. I reach a higher plane and start thinking disgrace is not too bad, actually, when Ampersand Matrix pings for a sync in the Polar Corner.
The message comes from his avatar and namesake, Ampersand Matrix of the sci-fi vid classic, Colored Pills. My team lead’s use of the handsome avatar gives the impression that he’s dashing and may account for the disappointment a real encounter always leaves.
Today, unfortunately, Ampersand also looks disappointed in me. He sighs deeply. Is that despair in his sleepy blues eyes? He’s sitting at a low plastic table designed to look like a flat-topped glacier, on a plastic block of ice in the polar-themed room, which is very white. “Sit down Ellipsis.” Ampersand points to the ice block across from him. “Gotten some information. Gonna do you a favor, full disclosure.”
“Ok. That sounds bad.”
“I wouldn’t say bad. Well, yes. Bad. I mean. Look. You’re very good. You and Wolf, mucho more-more. Super smartsy. I heart you and plus you, promise. But bad feels.”
I review recent exchanges for bad feels and wince. “Who? Who feels bad?”
“Candy Cane,” Ampersand says. “And you know her dad’s Big Daddy Cane. So bad feels are bad nows and now she’s sad. Ellipisis, I’m not mad but I’m not glad either. Sticking my neck out here. Should be filing forms with MidCorp.”
“Why? I said I’d do ProTip!”
Ampersand snaps his device shut, a sign he’s really focusing. He leans on the glacier. “Not to be cold, just here’s what to do if you want me glad. Candy Cane is, well … we all know who she is … And that when she’s sad it's bad.”
This is stunning, though it shouldn't be. When cleverness emerges there is great hypocrisy. Still, I recall the bathroom stall readings of The Positude about players and frowns and turning things upside down with response-ability, responding responsibly. And though I don’t know what for or why, I offer to apologize.
“I hate apologies,” Ampersand reminds me.
“Oh yeah. Still, Candy’s sad.”
“Do her AOKs. Not dictating. Just saying. Otherwise it’s forms with MidCorp. Really out on a limb for you here.”
“Yes. Thank you.” I give him the requisite thumbs up though he has not hi-5’d me. Ampersand’s face is in his devices again, fingers tapping, eyes blinking and winking. That’s it.
Beyond the Polar Corner, the Clubhouse is quiet and empty as usual. Back at the pod, Apple’s gone. But the team lead's tiny avatar image, the hero Ampersand Matrix in Colored Pills, is still lively, flashing on my slot screen. He's dressed all in black leather with silver space goggles, god fingers ripping electronic fibers to uncover the fabric of the universe and truth. If I was a billionaire’s kid, like Candy Cane, that’s what I’d do.