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You don’t realize how much useless shit you amass over a twelve-year period until you are forced to sort through it while your boss watches from the hallway. Everything seems frivolous. The newspaper clippings of ancient Dilbert comic strips. The foam rubber Cartman doll, his head squeezed into a tiny, plastic Dallas Cowboys helmet. The first-place ribbon for winning your ESPN fantasy football league four years ago, attached to the cubicle wall with a plastic red pushpin.

I keep very little of these trinkets and throw the bulk of it in the trash. I take particular care to bury deep in the wastebasket my notebooks, which are inscribed with pages and pages of  (now useless) notes taken in William’s office. I wonder if he will fish these volumes out of the trash and look through them, if he will find all the caricatures of him I drew? All the haikus I wrote about the pointless conversations we had? The longer he stands there watching me, the more I realize how useless I really was in this job, how no one in this building is going to miss me for even one minute. I’m an idiot. I’m thirty-four years old, for heaven’s sake. What the hell have I been doing with my life?

In the end I am left with only one box, rectangular in shape, maybe ten inches tall and fourteen inches wide and twenty-four inches long. Twelve years of life at this company reduced to a little more than two cubic feet of personal effects. The box looks like a cardboard casket.

“Ready?” William asks.

I nod to him, and together we head toward the main hallway. The box is heavy and I can’t reach for my name badge, which also contains a magnetic strip that grants entrance into and exit from the building. When you forget your badge, you have to drive to the security building and ask for a temporary one if you want to get inside. And it’s not like we manufacture intercontinental ballistic missiles. We make sprinklers. Lawn sprinklers. What’s ironic is the “secure” doors close so slowly you can tailgate someone into the building without them knowing it.

Then I remember my name badge has been turned off, so I stop worrying about this and wait for William to open the door for me. Instead he stops in front of the exit and looks at me awkwardly. I realize he wants to make a speech.

“Thomas, I’m sorry about this.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t been carrying my weight.”

“I want you to know,” he says, “that I think in the end this will be good for you. I know you hate it here. You don’t have any passion for this work and I can understand why. You have bigger dreams. Hollywood dreams.”

“Yes, well that’s no excuse for me being so unproductive.”

“Chase your dreams, Thomas. People will do anything for what they really want in life. Or at least they should.”

William opens the door with his name badge and I walk out of the building and into the morning sunshine. I’m halfway to my car before I remember that I’ve never mentioned anything to him about my screenwriting. In fact Dick Stanton is the only person here I’ve ever told, and that was just this morning.

So how the hell did William find out?

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