Berg heard his new colleague out in the hall speaking to someone. This same colleague sat on Berg’s search committee and was a “redoubtable fixture in the department.” At least, that’s how the administrative assistant put it to Berg earlier in the main office. Then the colleague chortled out in the hall. Berg didn’t recognize the other voice, her caws passing for laughter, he guessed.
The colleague poked his head through Berg’s office door, then brought the rest of his giddiness into the small drab space.
“I came by to congratulate you on your new gig,” the colleague said and crossed his arms. “This filled position mid-semester is a godsend.”
“I appreciate that,” Berg said and stood up. Then he realized hand shaking wasn’t in the cards.
“I wanted someone else, but my fellow committee members were all, ‘We love, Berg. We love, Berg.’”
Berg picked up a pen from his small desk as if to write something down that came to him, something worth remembering.
Furthermore, the colleague said, “I say, it is a tragedy that this was the only available office space. A veritable refrigerator box, and windowless to boot.” His facetiousness amplified. “Outside my prodigious office windows are portly evergreens, their needles dappled with pearls of ice. Next to these majestic pines are a colony of sylphlike aspen trees, the last of their golden leaves flitting like tiny flags.”
Berg had placed his books into the narrow built-in bookshelf, leaving boxes strewn all over the floor. The colleague pushed aside one of the empty boxes with the toe of his loafer, examining the small library.
“Not very eclectic.” Then he fingered one slim book. “However, this one is a varied choice. Let me borrow it?”
Berg hesitated. “It’s out of print,” he said. “It’s the only one I’ve got.”
The colleague squeezed the paperback into another space, between two elephantine volumes, on a lower shelf. A tight fit.
“You’ve a lot to learn, my friend,” the colleague said.
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) and the short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review.