The Amount of Fingers and Toes at This Company is Disgraceful

“I’ve been depressed and immobile for months, so nauseated by the quantity of fingers and toes I supervise. How do you think it feels to lay awake adding them up, the weight of the number pressing me into my mattress, suffocating me? When you manage employees, each problem is multiplied for its impact to the collective firm. Twenty wrinkled extremities per person. Nine-hundred employees. Eighteen thousand writhing skin sacks crammed with bone and blood, all my responsibility. Twenty per person? Why? Tell me. Why?”

The vice presidents gathered in the executive conference room stare into the table.

“Sarah. Go.”


“Tell me why each of our employees needs twenty fingers and toes.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Justify the number. Every expense must be justified.”

“I don’t consider fingers and toes–“

“Pack your things. I need employees who solve problems, not ones who increase confusion and perpetuate inefficiencies.”

“I’m fired?”

“Yes. Greg. Go.”

“Sir, I believe we’re all in agreement that some aspects of our work are out of our control, including–“

“Just because we’ve done it this way in the past is no excuse to continue. We have to rein this in before it becomes a bigger problem.”

“Rein it in?”

“Do you not understand how sad I am?”


“Get out.”

On a folding chair in the corner of the room, I keep my mouth shut and take notes. A summer intern plucked from obscurity to observe. The president does not know I exist. I should stay in my lane, keep my head down. But I was raised to do the right thing.


“Who’s that?”

“If you’d permit me, sir, I’d like to speak on behalf of your employees.”

He narrows his eyes, but allows me to continue.

“I agree that eighteen thousand digits is a condemnable figure. All those fingers and toes burden the staff not only physically, but mentally as well, as each item is one more obligation to inventory and clean and maintain. We should start with an assumption that employees need zero fingers and toes, and then permit each one as required for the needs of the business. The staff you’ve assembled in this room are faithless cowards addicted to the muck that clogs the machine. I believe adaptability is one of the many incredible traits of the human species. I am confident that we can maintain productivity with a 50% reduction. When we eliminate every other digit, efficiency will dip briefly during an adjustment period, but within weeks we will be back to where we were.”

The VPs seethe. They leer, grit their teeth.

But the president points at me. His dour face shatters and he erupts with laughter, gasps in air like they’re his first breaths. “To meet a man who understands…” he says, his big chest quaking. “You’ve saved me from the depths.”

From a cabinet he withdraws a steel cigar cutter. I walk to his side and take it from him, vowing to simply do my job; to act on what’s best for the business. In the men’s restroom I find a dirty blue bucket and bring it to the conference table, where the VPs moan and wail and hit me in my side and my neck and my mouth, but my righteousness is stronger and I subdue them long enough to get every other finger and toe through the gory snipper. I reduce total digit count by half, filling the bucket until it’s good and heavy.

The boss sends me to each regional branch — first class flights, hotel suites — to stalk the floors with my bucket and tool, cauterizing wounds with my sister’s hot iron hair straightener. The employees tell each other about me. They hide and they hit me. They strike me with keyboards and lamps. They try to choke me, to electrocute me. But in the end, I get them all. A monitor crack to the back of the skull is painless when one knows his convictions are pure.

Over and over, I fill my bucket. At the end of August, revenue’s dipped just 4% while fingers and toes are down by 50.

I return to campus and add those statistics to my résumé, typing one key at a time with my cost-effective claws.

I Gum Up My Calendar With Nonsense and Dreck

I gum up my calendar with nonsense and dreck to throw my colleagues off the scent. Keep the goody-goody Rottweilers sniffing, wondering where the hell I am, wondering why the hell I’m so busy. No, I’m not free for a quick call at two; no, I’m not open Thursday between three and five; we need to cancel the weekly, and next week’s, go ahead and cancel the series because my calendar is bogged with brine and gristle. Can you not see these calendar events drowning me? I’m gurgling for a minute of air beneath this turgid mud. Look at my calendar. Look at it! I am buried under those overlapped layers of gunk and yuck, screaming in the peat from dawn until night. Who is in these meetings? Colleagues you do not know. Senior management. VPs. The gunge is sardined with executioners who demand my presence now. No, we cannot speak for five minutes about the assignments I was supposed to do four weeks ago that are causing significant delays for the rest of the team. I am late for three simultaneous meetings and must hold my breath as I submerge myself in the slop.

I spin away from my boss violently, flounce out of her office and down the hallway, then the next, backtracking to launder my movements and confuse the Rottweilers until I enter the restroom and lock myself in a stall, where I sit for the remainder of the day with my pants at my ankles, eavesdropping on the comradery and bonuses and promotions happening at the team party on the other side of the vent. My legs tingle and sting then go dead numb as I scroll the orange and blue shingles on my oozed-up calendar. My beautiful meetings with phantoms, this quilt I pull over myself, the warm sludge into which I sink, my muck and goo in the gears.


They all hate me.

The results of HR’s 360 feedback report weighed heavily on William. The twelve marketing professionals he managed considered him a domineering, soulless grouch. He made them uncomfortable. They were afraid of him. He closed the email.

William sat in his office with the door shut for the rest of the afternoon watching emails appear that he did not open. Layoffs loomed. The 360 review was part of upper management’s decision making process. That morning, William had been certain he’d survive the cuts. He’d thought he was in line for a promotion. He was a decent man and good at his job. But now he felt himself trudging towards the firing squad. Since Sarah left him, he could barely afford the house and the alimony. If he lost his job, his Senior VP life would erode into that of a destitute beggar in a matter of days.

He opened the HR report again, scrolled to the anonymous quotes. “During meetings he isn’t fun. It would be nice if he showed a sense of humor.”

Since when do you have to be a comedian to manage email marketing campaigns?

He shut his computer down and packed his briefcase, stepped out of his office, and watched his team working silently in their cubicles. Before, he’d seen them as dedicated employees focused on their assignments. But now they looked like prisoners. Frozen, tense, captive. He waited for someone to ask why he was leaving at 3 o’clock, but no one dared.


William’s sighs echoed off the tall ceilings of his hollow living room. He sat in his recliner, the only piece of furniture Sarah hadn’t taken, haunted by a quote: “I think we’d all be better at our jobs if the work environment was a little looser. More like Jimmy Fallon.”

The team posted good numbers and the higher-ups seemed happy with them. But could they be performing even better? Was William’s stern personality holding the team back? The kickoff meeting with Nakahata International was on Friday. A major new account. William’s final test.

He turned on his television and watched Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube. Jimmy was charming, engaged, enthusiastic. He slung jokes casually, always with himself as the butt. The guest was showcased and celebrated and if a gag was on anyone, it was on Jimmy.

William paused the clip and stood to look at himself in the one mirror Sarah had let him keep. “Your hair looks great, Becca,” he said in a gooey voice he’d never heard before. “What wig shop did you buy it at?” He frowned and sighed. Why did his attempt at humor come out so cruel? He rubbed his face, tried on a Jimmy smile reaching for mischief and glee. “That’s a great question you ask, John. Might I suggest you Google it before wasting our time?” He shook his head. “Google it,” he tried again, but it was still off. It had the rhythm of a joke, but William wasn’t sure what was supposed to be funny about it. Again he seemed vicious. His smile looked perverse.

He sat in his chair and stared at the paused Jimmy, accepting that he could not be the humorous host his team wanted. But a recommended clip caught his eye: 48 MINUTES OF LOCAL NEWS BLOOPERS. He pressed play, and his spirits rose. He forgot his troubles and laughed at the flubs, pratfalls, and accidental sexual innuendos. These anchors were just like him: they weren’t there to be funny. They weren’t trying to be. They were doing a serious job, and through honest mistakes they managed to cut tension and unite their crews with infectious laughter. And the moments that elicited the biggest response and the most cohesive bonding were when a news anchor passed gas.

He considered the tactic.

William had never found flatulence funny, even as a child. It was nothing but a byproduct of common digestion. But now, when observing the act from this desperate angle, he saw that the humor lay in the sudden appearance of something grotesque and primal in a buttoned-up situation. It was the contrast, the reminder that underneath our slacks and ties, we are animals. William calculated that an unexpected fart had the maximum laugh potential, and it would not require his ability to sell a joke. The stunt would be humiliating and disgusting, but his career and his livelihood were on the line. He assessed the risks, and he decided to pursue it.


William lay on his side on the hardwood kitchen floor, surrounded by drained chickpea cans and jugs of milk. He pulled his knees to his chest, huffed in gulps of air. He’d been straining for hours without success.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d passed gas. His seventh-grade efforts to stifle the urge had been too effective. He’d lost his ability. Mechanical aid was necessary.


Early Friday morning, William drove deep downtown, to a neighborhood of gun stores, and knocked on the ancient glass door of Bindlebink’s Magic and Joke Shop.

“You don’t want nothing in there,” said a derelict man laying face-down on the sidewalk.

“I’m desperate.”

“You ain’t that desperate. He brung me here in a truck.”


The man didn’t reply, and after a minute without a response to his knocks, William turned away.

But the door squealed opened and a white-haired man who seemed to have been electrocuted many times looked at William and said, “I know what you need.”

William followed Mr. Bindlebink, tip-toeing around mountains of dusty boxes, then into the dark and dirty basement, where Mr. Bindlebink reached into an old oak barrel and withdrew a tangled mass of cackling wires running out of a football-sized battery caked in chalky corrosion. To William it looked, and sounded, like a buzzing hornet’s nest.

“Pull your pants down,” Mr. Bindlebink said.


“For the audience to feel, it must seem real.”


“Our ears are fine-tuned instruments. We know where flatulence originates. The placement must be accurate for the gag to sell. And when you sell the gag, your audience will smell and gag.”


William untied his shoes and slid them off, unbuckled his belt, and pulled off his slacks. He folded them and set them on a crate of rubber chickens.

“And your underwear,” Mr. Bindlebink said.

William slid down his briefs, hiding his penis and testicles in his hands. Mr. Bindlebink shouted, “Bee!” and smacked William’s hands with a long flyswatter, causing him to reveal his genitals. Bindlebink hooted laughter while William turned red. “Up you go,” Bindlebink said, ushering William into stirrups on top of a crate of rubber dog turds.

William lay back and spread his legs in the stirrups, exposing his private parts. Mr. Bindlebink slid on a welder’s mask. William was unsure if it was one of his jokes or if it served a legitimate function. Bindlebink delicately threaded wires up and down William’s ass crack, taping them in place, securing the round speaker module over William’s anus hole, and cinching the battery around his waist. The wires buzzed and sparks crackled into William’s skin. Bindlebink finished his work and William noticed the man was ungloved.

“To mask the sound, your clothing must compound. Yes?”

Bindlebink led William to fitting room where he layered him in suit after suit at progressively larger sizes until he had seven on, the fart machine’s buzzing was silenced, and William felt like he was bound in a body cast, roasting in a rotisserie.

Mr. Bindlebink handed William the ignition switch. “Careful,” he told him. “The surprise works but once. If you get greedy with the switch, you’ll be weedy in the ditch.”

William realized it was nearly 9 o’clock and he didn’t have time to clarify what the hell Bindlebink was talking about. Late for the kickoff meeting with Nakahata International, he tried to pay, but Mr. Bindlebink insisted no payment was necessary.

William stepped over the man on the sidewalk, now dead, returned to his car, and sped towards work, his sweat soaking through his many suits. He sniffed and choked, the suit smell reminding him of a gas station.


“Pardon me,” William said as he entered the Nakahata meeting. “I was taking care of some important business.”

He was panting, hot pink, and dripping blobs of sweat onto the conference table. Under all the suits, his movements were short and stiff. He felt the six men from Nakahata and twelve members of his team glare at him while he shuffled into his chair.

The group wondered why William was so wet and so red and so bulky, like a water balloon ready to pop. No one said a word. The room was tense, severe. Ripe for comic relief.

William gripped the ignition switch. He leaned back in his chair, propped his shoes on the edge of the conference table, and angled his anus and its speaker towards the group.

“As I was saying,” Charlene said.

William clicked the ignition.

“My husband passed away last night,” Charlene finished.

A patently false fart — tinny and digital, a recording of a recording of a recording — wheezed onto the table.

William’s froze. The Nakahata men looked repulsed. “I’m sorry,” one of them said to Charlene. “But would you mind saying again? We couldn’t hear over whatever it is your boss is trying to do.”

Charlene choked back tears. “My husband passed away last night.”

William sat stiff, mouth gaping, face red, his legs and ass spread. He felt the implosion of his career and life roaring over him.

“We are so sorry,” Carol said, hugging Charlene and shooting William a furious glare over her shoulder.

Desperate, William pressed the ignition again and the same low-resolution fart played. Peter rolled his eyes. No one laughed. No one’s spirits were lifted.

William cursed Mr. Bindlebink and his bad machine. He lowered himself down from the table and dropped his head into his hands, crying. As he wept, one tear dropped onto the red nub of the ignitor, seeping down through a crack.

A third fart.

“I swear to god I didn’t do that,” William said.

But the team didn’t hear him over the whoosh of the blaze firing out of William’s ass, lighting his pants and pants and pants and pants on fire. In an instant he was an inferno, each of Bindlebink’s kerosene-soaked suits multiplying the flames.

“Jesus Christ,” he wailed, stumbling circles around the conference room failing to put himself out. “Help!”

The fire set off the fart machine, and as he screamed and writhed on the floor, more farts cackled out of his ass. Bigger ones. Wet and hefty, dynamic and real.

A Nakahata man smiled. Then another.

Greg from William’s team laughed.

And from there, the laughter spread to each team member surrounding William, until even Charlene was doubled-over gasping between exalted chortles while William convulsed on the floor, screaming as his skin and bones charred.

My team loves me, William thought as his own smoke filled his lungs and his vision faded.

The fire department scooped up William’s comatose body, and his team secured the Nakahata account.

No one was laid off.


“Hey, hey, did someone bring a duck to work?” William said, stepping into the office for the first time in nine months. The staff looked up from their computers as he lifted one leg. He pressed the ignition switch. A reedy fart crackled.

Carol gasped. Charlene vomited in her mouth. The others shielded their eyes from the gruesome sight of William’s head-to-toe blood-purple scars. He looked like a molten creature, undercooked and overcooked all at once. A fugitive from Hell.

“Come on,” William said, tap-dancing while clicking off more farts. “I’ve tangoed with death and now I know life’s all about being a goofball, cutting it up, joking–“

Greg, the digital assets coordinator and a former college linebacker and a deeply religious man, charged at William, screaming that he was a demon, and tackled him through the 11th-floor window. His body sank as the staff howled laughter.

William crashed into the bed of a pickup truck that roared to life and drove downtown.

Greg squinted at the logo on the side — Bindlebink’s Magic and Joke Shop — and thought it sounded familiar.