The fingernail was grotesque.
God, thought Herbert, it looks like an earthworm with a nude shell for a cap. His right pointer finger was the center of Herbert’s focus. The stubby bitten nail had a rough edge and tiny pieces of flesh sticking out on the lip of the cuticle.
“Herbert!” snapped Mr. Rigsbee, the man’s maddening boss. Rigsbee ripped poor Herbert from his trance only to bring him to face his boss’s blue suited body and oversized head, poking an unwanted face into Herbert’s claustrophobic cubicle.
“The activity report of all employees is due today at 4:30,” Rigsbee paused to sigh.
God, Herbert thought again, I really do hate him.
“You’ve had three weeks,” Rigsbee smiled.
He just smirked at me, the bastard!
“I look forward to reading about what you think you accomplish in an average workday.” With that loaded comment, the irritating boss left Herbert to wallow in frustration.
He flipped his head about mockingly, and cursed under his breath while turning in his chair to face the obnoxiously bright blue screen on his desktop computer.
I might as well do it now. He drummed is hand on the keyboard and squished his lips to one side of his mouth. Finally, he began to type.
On an average workday I –
He stopped there and tapped his finger on his mouth. The action inspired Herbert to begin to chew on his nails anxiously.
I hate writing.
He took a short break from nibbling only to look at his gross finger again and then used a mechanical pencil to scrape around the cuticle. A slice of dead skin fell on the faded green desk. Herbert smiled and continued his unfinished sentence.
On an average workday I pause to bite and pick at my nails about 53 times.
He glanced down to the discarded skin on the desk. As the man was about to pull his eyes away from the dead chunk of skin to delete his bogus sentence, he let out a surprised but suppressed gasp.
The piece of flesh, his piece of flesh, sprouted eight leg-like appendages and skittered across his desk underneath the mess of papers and file trays and then out of sight.
Did my skin just come to life! He paused, scatterbrained in thought. Hell, I might as well try it again. He picked off another piece of flesh, rolled it in between his pointer finger and thumb, and dropped it on the desk. The man squinted and stuck his head down towards the desk’s surface. He held his breath.
The damned thing did it again! Shit, another gasp? Herbert looked up to see Marla, his mousy-short-haired cubicle neighbor poking her long dangly neck over the stubby wall with a face of pure shock.
What now? Marla wondered, oh goodness why is Mr. Rigsbee so rude to Herbert? Sarcasm truly does no good in a conversation of civilized men, but Mr. Rigsbee is less than a civilized man. She giggled at that thought. I can be just terrible sometimes. Thank goodness I completed my activity report last week.
Poor Herbert seemed extra anxious this morning. He was biting his fingernails left and right on the elevator ride up. Oh but he is so attractive despite the nasty habit! One day the two of us would be sitting at the dinner table and I will playfully scold him for chewing on his fingers. Stop it Marla. She adjusted her glasses. I have a tendency to daydream fantastical things and I must repress such thoughts at work. Or at least wait until my lunch break. She giggled again.
Suddenly Marla heard a gasp from Herbert’s cubicle, should I check on him? Maybe he is ill.
She stood up from her healthy-posture office chair and stacked two full bulging binders on the floor so she could peek over the wall that Herbert and her share. He was staring at his desk intently. The woman immediately began to brainstorm witty jokes; this was an opportunity to grab his attention.
He began picking at a fingernail again.
Oh it really is unpleasant. Then he ripped off a piece of dead skin, almost triumphantly.
That’s strange, I’m sure he does that often enough that is shouldn’t really be exciting anymore. His forehead is creased intensely, that means he’s thinking. He’s staring at something, what is it I wonder?… Oh it was that a piece of his skin? It’s moving… growing…IT SPROUTED LEGS AND RAN ACROSS THE DESK!
Marla couldn’t contain her shock and inhaled loudly. Herbert looked up at her with the same expression of shock her own face revealed.