The Captain and the Equal Sign
Equal Sign leaned back a little further in the metal chair as the captain continued his verbal tirade. The seat was intentionally uncomfortable … handpicked by the captain from the worst batch of rejects the world’s most despised metal chair factory could produce so that anybody unfortunate enough to find himself seated in the captain’s office would have to suffer from a numb, achy ass right along side his bleeding ears and decimated sense of pride.
But Equal Sign’s ass had been in this chair so many times it was practically as warm and cushy as his childhood bed. It didn’t bother him one bit and the captain knew it.
That just pissed him off even more.
“Goddam it, Equal Sign! Wipe that smug grin off your face or I’ll wipe it off for you.”
Little droplets of spittle went flying right into Equal Sign’s face, but he didn’t change his expression.
“I ain’t grinnin’, cap.”
The captain loosed a curt, bewildered guffaw.
“The fuck you aren’t you piece of shit. I know water when it rains and shit when it stinks and I know a goddam smug grin when I see one and that’s exactly what you’re givin’ me right now.”
The captain slammed the palms of his hands against his desk, causing the towering stacks of backlogged paperwork stacked atop it to quiver with fear.
“I guess you’re feeling pretty damn proud of yourself, aren’t you? Aren’t you?”
Equal Sign took a sniff of air and said, “For what?”
The captain’s voice raised to a hyterical level. A dude three states over could have heard him.
“For the fuck if I know, detective! For whatever kind of grand mess you’ve made of my city. You’ve blown up half the town; arrested the daughter of one of the city’s most prominent businessmen; broke Einstein knows how many regulations; got your damn picture all over the internet news; I can’t even flip on the Facebook to check and see if my wife’s sister has dropped dead yet without seeing your goddam picture slathered all over everybody’s fucking updates. The mayor’s breathing down my neck and the pastor of every goddam church in the nation is calling me up to tell me I’m going to soaking in the warm shit of Satan’s anus for what you’ve done. You’ve made a mockery of this department detective. Made us all look like we’ve been sittin’ with our thumbs up our asses for years. Is that what you wanted, detective? Was that your fucking goal this whole time?”
Equal Sign laughed.
“Nope,” he said.
The captain fumed and stormed across the room to the window overlooking the whole of the Mathematics Department. With a quick jerk of the cord, he pulled the blinds open … or, more accurately, pulled them from the window entirely.
“You see all those hard working symbols out there, detective? Doing their jobs, playing by the rules? That’s called mathematics, detective. Plus sign out there has put in 30 years. Division’s pulled eight more than that and lost his wife in the process. All on the level; all according to the standard equations.”
When he turned back to Equal Sign, the captain looked exhausted.
“Do you honestly think you know more than they do, detective?”
Pushing up from the uncomfortable chair, Equal Sign calmed a few waves in the sea of wrinkles rolling across the front of his aging suit. He briefly tried to recall the last time he’d had it cleaned … a fool’s errand.
He looked the captain in the eye and said earnestly, “No sir, I don’t. That just ain’t me.”
Then he turned to leave.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”
“To do my job, sir.”
Equal Sign had his fist on the door handle when he stopped. Even though he knew better … knew he shouldn’t poke an angry bear just as it was about to roll over and go to sleep again, he couldn’t help himself.
“Captain,” he said, “You wanna know why the folks out there like me?”
For the first time since the detective had stepped through the door, the captain’s voice was less than a full shout.
“And why is that, detective?”
It was a good thing Equal Sign’s back to was to the captain, because that smug grin had stretched across his face again.
He said, “I get results.” Then, he escaped through the door before the captain could start yelling again.