Borden crept into his cubicle on the twenty-first floor. An envelope sat on his desk. He trembled as he opened it and read. It could only be bad news.

“Hey, Borden, you’re late again,” the secretary said.

Borden couldn’t move. The blood roared in his ears. He stared straight ahead.

Because of the current financial situation your employment has been terminated as of today. Please report to the Human Resources Department to complete your exit interview and final paper work. We wish you luck in your future endeavors.

Sincerely, the Management.

The bastard didn’t sign it. “Baboon brain,” Borden said.

“What did you say?” the secretary said.

She stiffened in her chair as she saw Borden’s red face, but she relaxed when she looked at Borden’s body. I don’t have to worry. Mr. Fat and Flabby couldn’t hurt a fly. She smiled at Borden, and he growled back.

“Nothing. Do you have a box I can use?” Borden said.

“Sure,” the secretary said. She had seen this scenario play out many times. Nothing fazed her. She gave Borden a cardboard box. “Do you need more than one?” she said. Of course he doesn’t. He’s another useless guy who gets a good salary while I do all the work. This office would fall apart without me. She forced herself to keep smiling.

“Nope,” Borden said.

Borden pulled out his smartphone. An impish grin popped onto his face. He swiped and punched an icon. It will take thirty seconds to load, and it will loop until I stop it.

He threw his possessions into the box and closed the top.

“You have to go to Human Resources before you leave,” the secretary said.

“I do not have to do anything,” Borden said. He threw his ID card onto her desk.

“Bye, Borden,” the secretary said. Good luck finding another job, you little shit.

Borden didn’t answer.

Borden began to pound the box lid like a drum. BOOM, boom, boom. BOOM, boom, boom. He glanced at the secretary’s worried face and grinned. He banged out more beats. BAM, bam, bam. BAM, bam, bam. Borden counted down out loud. “One, two, three, four,” he said.

Borden leaped from a footstool onto the table in the middle of the room. With a dramatic gesture he ripped his white shirt off, revealing a black T-shirt emblazoned with a lightning bolt. As soon as his feet touched the tabletop, music began to blast out of speakers on the wall. Guitar riffs shredded the air.

A transformed Borden began to strut. In perfect time he sang with the music. An angry anthem reverberated through the room. The thump of the bass made the entire building shake.

The secretary spoke into the phone. “He’s crazy. He’s playing air guitar and singing,” she said in a whisper. She heard a gasp on the line from the boss.

Borden snarled and continued his frenetic dance. Heads popped up from cubicles around the floor. Borden’s flabby body kept the rhythm with a strange grace. The staff watched as Borden played crashing chords, wind milling his right arm and following with a savage thrust of his arm into the air.

“Tell everyone to keep down. He may have a gun,” the boss said. “I’ve called the police.”

Borden hopped off the table onto the carpet and continued to thrash away. He cradled and caressed his cardboard box, coaxing it to greater heights. The secretary’s jaw dropped as she saw Borden stalk in time to the music while making his way to the elevator.

The guys and gals in the IT department watched in awe. “Borden is a god,” a skinny guy said.

“Did you know he hacked the building? Everything is live online,” a chubby guy said.

“Where? Let me see,” the skinny guy said.

The IT staff crowded around a monitor and stared as Borden strutted back and forth. “I don’t believe it. He’s trending on Twitter,” the skinny guy said. He shook his head in admiration. “Borden did it. He hit number one.”

The elevator came, and Borden continued playing and dancing all the way to the ground floor. When the door opened, Borden had a blissful smile on his face as he emerged. A line of policemen in riot gear stood outside the building, watching and waiting.

Borden pranced, sang, and hammered his imaginary guitar as he moved across the open space. The searing guitar music that boomed through the lobby energized Borden, and he picked up the pace. Step, strut, slide. Smash, sear, salute. Borden owned the crowd.

The police captain cautioned his men. “As long as he keeps dancing let him go. We have to get him out of the building,” he said.

“He’s not a bad singer,” a red-haired cop said.

“Shut up and get ready,” the captain said.

Meanwhile, upstairs the boss screamed at the guys in the IT department, “Stop that damn music now!”

The thin IT guy shook his head in admiration. “Borden spawned hundreds of processes. We can’t kill off the zombies. We tried rebooting the servers, and it didn’t have any effect. He’s in the cloud, and we can’t stop him,” he said.

“You’re as incompetent as Borden,” the boss said.

The IT guys snickered.

The chubby IT guy whispered, “He sure made you look like an idiot.”

Back in the lobby Borden made his way to the front door. His rolls of fat jiggled in time to the beat, and he didn’t miss a note with his vocals. The security guards and others who filled the lobby began to clap and nod their heads along with the song.

“This is better than when U2 played on the roof,” a guard said.

A female security guard batted her eyes at Borden. “And he’s cuter and dances better than Bono.”

Borden paused at the door for dramatic effect. He gave a few final savage licks to his air guitar, and he stepped through the revolving doors.

They hit him as soon as he emerged. In seconds an officer had zip ties around his wrists and knees on Borden’s back. Borden smiled as the officer pushed his face onto the concrete. “I did it,” Borden said.


Two hours later Borden emerged from the precinct headquarters. I can’t believe they let me go. The cops loved my singing, and they kept watching the video over and over while they booked me.

He took a deep breath and walked over to the park. Everyone knows I’ve been canned. I’m carrying this stupid box.

Borden saw a Dumpster, and a smile lit his face. He crouched and held his hands out as if ready to receive the ball. “It’s fourth down and the Jets have to punt,” he said.

He tossed his cardboard box into the air and gave it a booming kick. As the box soared over the edge, Borden did a victory dance.

Borden turned and saw benches full of men and women in suits watching him. They nodded and nudged each other and pointed at Borden.

“The hell with ’em,” a man shouted.

“Keep dancing,” an old man yelled. “I saw you on the Google.”

Borden turned, head high, and walked away from the park.

Thoughts began to pop into his brain like kernels of popcorn in hot oil. What will I tell Helen? I hope she didn’t see me on the Internet. How will we pay the bills?

Borden found an empty bench and sat for ten minutes. The angry honks from cab drivers and the rat-a-tat of a jackhammer calmed him in a strange way. He gazed at the street in wonder as vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians engaged in their daily dance of death.

The musky smell of a tattooed woman’s perfume brought him out of his trance. Borden sat up straight and placed an alert, confident expression on his face. I better start saving money. I know, I’ll walk up to Penn Station. The fresh air will do me good.

His phone rang.

“Borden, this is Dr. Jani. I need to speak with you. Can you drop by my office today?”

“Sure, Doc. I can come by now.”

“I’ll see you soon,” Dr. Jani said.

Ten minutes later Borden rang the buzzer and entered Dr. Jani’s office. When the cute receptionist saw him she stifled a giggle and looked down at her papers.

What’s with her? I bet she saw me online. Great, everyone knows I’m a fat loser.

He approached the counter. “Hi, I’m Borden Duffield, and Dr. Jani asked me to come in.”

The receptionist bit her lip. “I know you. Have a seat. The doctor will be with you shortly.”

Borden sat and picked up a National Geographic magazine. At that moment a man walked into the office. As he checked in with the receptionist, Borden watched him with fascination. He must be over four hundred pounds. Borden cringed when he saw the sweat-stained armpits of the man’s shirt. I wonder what it’s like to be that overweight. The man finished and turned to look for a seat. Borden put his head down. Oh no, please don’t sit next to me.

The man scanned the room, noted all the empty seats, and gave him a smile. Borden screamed in agony inside as the man wedged his giant buttocks into the narrow space between Borden and the wall. Borden sighed and went back to his magazine.

He flipped through the pages. Wow, I would love to take Helen there. The images showed a beach in Tahiti. Tanned beautiful people lounged while they sipped on drinks. I’ll wear my flowered swim trunks, and Helen will have on her pink bikini. Borden stared into space with a big grin on his face.

A loud belch from the man next to him woke him from his reverie. He glared at the big man.

“Mr. Duffield?” Dr. Jani said.

Borden looked up and saw his doctor. She had dark skin and delicate features. He noticed a frown on her face. Did I do something wrong? He followed her into a room, and she shut the door. “Doc, how did my tests come out?” Borden said. “I lost my job today, so things can’t get any worse.”

Dr. Jani looked at the portly man seated on the bed. I hate this part of my job. “Borden, you remember that I asked you to get a CT scan and blood tests?”

Borden nodded.

“There is a problem.”

“What do you mean?” Borden said. “I know I eat too much fast food. And I drink too much. I promise I’ll exercise and eat better.” Borden laughed with a tinge of bitterness. “I’ll have lots of time now since I am unemployed.”

Dr. Jani shook her head. “It’s not that, Borden. You have cancer,” she said in a gentle voice.

Borden stared at her. “I don’t understand. I’m young. The test must be a mistake. Can you do it over?”

“There is no mistake,” she said. She withdrew a sheet of paper with a color image. “This is a scan of your abdomen. The mass you see is cancer. It originated in your pancreas and spread.”

Borden felt like someone had punched him in the gut. “But cancer can be treated, right, Doc?” He looked at her with hope in his eyes.

Dr. Jani peered down at her papers and spoke. “Unfortunately, Borden, your cancer is locally advanced. It has spread. My best estimate is you that have between eight and twelve months to live.”

Fifteen minutes later Borden found himself outside in the sunshine. He walked across the street and sat on a bench. I didn’t see that coming.


Borden gazed at the street. He saw a human kaleidoscope. People of all colors, shapes, and sizes, forming shifting patterns, never standing still. Suits, aprons, and overalls cover the lucky ones. Why can’t I be like them? They are lucky to have steady jobs. I bet they have nice families at home and comfy apartments.

Borden walked on. He saw a pizza place, and his stomach growled. I should get a slice. He opened his wallet and closed it. No, you can’t. You have to eat healthy. You don’t want to feed the cancer, and you need to save every penny. He walked by the pizza pies. His stomach whimpered in protest. The faces of the people inside glowed with pleasure as they folded their slices, tilted their heads, and took cautious bites. Borden watched mesmerized as diners spun out long strands of cheese and struggled to lower them into their mouths with some modicum of dignity.

He passed through the East Village. The people here dressed scruffier, but they had smiles on their faces and laughed as they spoke to each other. He watched the mailman dodge dog crap and piles of garbage as he dropped off letters and parcels. He envied him the security and simplicity of his life. Why can’t I have a job like that?

The food smells got to him. He passed burger joints, hot-dog carts, chip shops, cafés, and bakeries. He could hardly stand it. Keep moving, you fat bastard. The doc told you to eat low-fat foods.

Sweat ran down his brow, and his chest heaved from the exertion by the time he arrived at the train station. Borden looked at the homeless guys sprawled on the sidewalk. I wonder if they ever had jobs.

A gray-haired man with a sunburned face gave Borden a pleading look. Borden stopped and pulled out his wallet. “Here, buddy, get a good meal,” Borden said as he placed a five-dollar bill in the outstretched hand.

“Thanks. You have a good day,” the homeless guy said.

“You’re welcome. Don’t give up, whatever you do,” Borden said to the homeless guy.

Borden swore he saw a twinkle in the guy’s eyes. I bet he knows I lost my job. Soon I’ll have my own piece of cardboard on the sidewalk, and he knows it.

A tingle of satisfaction rippled through Borden. I may be a loser, but I’m not an asshole. What is it with me? I lose my job, and now I’m Mr. Generous. I never give money to these guys. Most of them are fakers, anyway.

Borden straightened up and walked toward the entrance to the train station. People swarmed around him in every direction as they raced toward the stairs or out to the street.

Usually I rush for my train, but now it doesn’t matter.

Borden stared at the steps that led into the train station. It’s a Mayan pyramid. I’m one of the guys on the altar. The priest slashes open my chest and rips the heart out while it’s beating. They never describe what happened to the victim afterward. I guess they carry the guy back down. Borden held onto the greasy rail as he took each step down into the cauldron of writhing bodies in the station.

A blast of hot air from an overhead vent startled him as he reached the bottom of the stairs. I’m entering the pits of hell. Of course they can’t put the air conditioning on. The fat cats who run this place and get six-figure salaries don’t care if an elderly person or a child gets heatstroke. I bet they are watching me sweat right now, while they are sipping a gin and tonic in their offices.

Borden sighed as he saw the glow of a neon sign. One for old times. But what about Dr. Jani’s advice? She said if I reduce my drinking it might slow the spread of the cancer. Fuck it.

Borden entered the pub. Every stool had an occupant. The wooden bar held gin and tonics, martinis, Bud Lights, and pints of Guinness. Stacks of cash sat in front of each man. Everyone stared at the baseball game on the television screens.

“What will you have, darling?” said the barmaid. Her voice had an Irish lilt. She winked at Borden. He’s tubby, but cute.

“A pint of Guinness, please,” Borden said.

“You want to start a tab?” the barmaid asked with a wink.

I shouldn’t. But what the hell, I won’t be back for a long time, if ever. “Sure, thanks,” Borden said.

The barmaid began to pour his beer. Every few seconds she glanced at Borden and gave him a sexy smile. He watched as she filled the glass halfway and set it aside.

That’s why I love this place. They know how to pour a Guinness. He admired his pint, raised it to his lips, and sipped. Borden put his elbows on the bar and stared at the baseball game like everyone else.

How can I tell Helen?

The barmaid took every excuse to move past Borden. Why won’t he look at me? I see he’s married; that doesn’t stop most of them. The barmaid slammed a plate of chicken wings and a shrimp cocktail in front of the guy next to Borden.

Borden could smell the sauce from the wings, and his mouth began to water. On his other side a man in a suit ordered a cheeseburger and fries. He couldn’t stand it any longer. “Miss, can I see a menu, please?”

The barmaid winked, gave him a plastic menu, and set up a placemat, napkin, and silverware. Borden knew he shouldn’t spend all this money, but this would be his last time here, at least until he got a new job or keeled over from his cancer. “I’ll have the clam chowder in the bread bowl, Buffalo wings, and the shrimp cocktail,” Borden said.