By Patti Jazanoski
My buddy Tony saw it first. He came in early on Monday morning because our release date was the following week. As he was drinking coffee, testing his code, he glanced at the window and saw it: a hole the size of a dime. He stretched across his desk and touched the hole. Then he checked the walls, dropped to the floor and crawled around. No bullet.
That’s when I stepped in. He was on all fours, his butt in the air. He’s a smart guy but kind of chubby. I heard his wife is a good cook.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Someone shot our building.” He pointed to the hole.
“It had to be an accident. We’re on the second floor.”
We looked out his window above the trees that were planted last year when the building was new. Fifty yards away, cars tore past on the elevated freeway. People were still driving to work.
“I bet it was a stray from a drive-by shooting,” he said.
He called Security who called the police who sent two men over in tight blue uniforms. I’d never seen a gun before in real life and felt the urge to hold one: all that power. I stood in the hallway gawking until the cops shooed me away. They went into Tony’s office and questioned him, said he shouldn’t have touched the glass. After, they made one quick pass down our hallway.
Gang-related violence is what we all guessed, but no one could explain the missing bullet.
“It could have been me,” Tony said when I stopped by his office at noon. “If I was sitting in this chair when the gun went off, I’d be a dead man now.”
“It happened on the weekend. Probably Saturday night.”
“I worked Saturday.” He leaned back in his chair beyond the range of the hole. “It’s the principle. I’ve got a kid on the way.”
Back in my office two doors down, I stared at the freeway. Where were we, really? My San Jose was a steel and glass cocoon. We’d been working on this project for the past two years, 60 hours a week or more. I never walked these neighborhoods. All I could show for my time was a stack of specs, a printout of code, and a whiteboard filled with state diagrams scrawled in red marker. Still, the deadline was next week and stock options were on the line. I ate my sandwich and debugged my code.
All afternoon I kept my hands on the keyboard and one eye on traffic. When I stood for a break, I glanced at the parking lot, just as Tony’s car pulled away.
I went to his office. He’d wedged a wad of paper into the hole, as if that could save anything. I pulled it out and poked the hole. Damn: the sharp edge drew a thick line of blood. The cut stung. Blood oozed. No tissue in sight, I wrapped my finger in a shred of printout from Tony’s trash, and my blood seeped into the lines of code.
So, Tony was right. This job was destined to kill me.
I shut the door, wheeled the chair, and sat in line with the hole.
Patti Jazanoski’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review Online, Cimarron Review, Ploughshares blog, The Rumpus, Confrontation, The San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She earned an MFA from Bennington College and a degree from the University of Michigan. She worked as a software engineer in Silicon Valley for many years. For more info, visit pattijazanoski.com.