Mark walked to the east exit and stopped at the glass doors. He tapped his badge to the card reader and a tiny light switched from red to green. He pushed the horizontal bar and stepped outside, the conditioned air following him into the real air. His shoes scuffed the gravel which led away from the building and split into a Y.
He chose counterclockwise to walk the grounds. The shade of the building tried to keep him. But he picked up his pace and the building and its shade fell behind. He had escaped, into a bright clearing. To his left the northwest pond appeared, afternoon sunshine reflecting onto blinding ripples. The sight of water poured through Mark’s eyes and into his mind, dissolving his work thoughts.
Felt strange on a Sunday. Empty parking lot. Empty building. No one else on the corporate campus. They were all home, or somewhere else, enjoying the sunny and warm weekend. This is not where Mark liked to be, but he wanted to prepare for Monday’s meeting. Relieved now that he had finalized the fifteen pages of talking points and exhibits, he needed to be here just an hour more while inside an inkjet printer sprayed color onto the pages.
The red gravel crunched under his shoes as he increased his pace. He fixed his eyes downward as he thought one more time about the material. Did he leave anything out? No. This task was done. He had given it the clarity the VPs expected. Confident, he looked up and freed his mind of work thoughts. He now could see the blue sky, the tree tops, and the green field. But the landscape seemed unnatural within the corporate fence. The company maintained the grounds too well. Did the squirrels get performance reviews? His was scheduled for Monday, immediately after the presentation.
Looking far ahead to the left of where the narrow ribbon-path disappeared into the trees, Mark saw the pond’s neat edge of white rocks, and what looked like a gray plastic bucket turned upside down. Next to it was a small Y-shaped branch propping up a slanting pole, its line running taught into the water. As he got closer to the set-up he began to hear tinny music from a transistor radio. It was the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water.”
And I ain’t got no worries, ‘cause I ain’t in no hurry, at all.
Fishing? Strange. Must be a maintenance guy. Mark felt his walk spoil. On a Saturday or Sunday, if he had to be here, he wanted to be alone. Now he would have to interact. But there seemed to be no one else around.
He followed the path into an area with trees on both sides, the pond’s edge disappearing behind and to the left. This part of the path became shaded. The tall trees–ashes, oaks, and elms–were close together, blocking much of the afternoon sun. Squirrels bounded, crashing through the dried leaves. Birds fluttered low, from branches on one side to the other. A garter snake slipped across the path. If this had been outside the fence, it could be creepy. But this was corporate property, fenced in. During weekday lunchtimes this trail attracted a lot of walkers. The employees loved their time outside the building, like prisoners given a few minutes in a courtyard.
Mark was passing the one-mile sign, the circuit’s halfway point, when he saw something. He had seen deer here a few times, but this wasn’t a deer. He stopped and peered to his right, away from the direction of the pond and the building, into the deeper section of the woods. He started to make out what looked like a gray tent, and bent over in front of it, the back of a green camouflage jacket. The back of a man, on his haunches, lighting a short charcoal grill.
The man looked up and noticed. His greeting was of pleasant surprise. “Hey Mark! What are you doing here on a Sunday?”
Woodman? Mark couldn’t believe it. He was both relived and surprised to see someone he knew from the product development area. “I’m working, Woodman. What are you doing here?”
And as if he was here every Sunday, Woodman replied easily, “I’m fishing.”
Woodman stepped from the trees to the path. He wore weathered blue jeans, and his open jacket showed a clean t-shirt. The blue ball cap he wore had no emblem. His brown eyes looked warmly at Mark through designer eyeglasses. “How’s the project going?” Woodman nodded in the direction of building.
“It’s starting to come together. The presentation is ready for Monday. It shows the overall design and the rollout plan. I’ll also ask for funding.”
Mark expected Woodman to be pleased. Instead he was straight-faced. “There’s something wrong with it.”
“The presentation?” Mark became frustrated.
“What do you mean? There are always lot of issues at the beginning of a project.”
“This is different, Mark.” Woodman’s face became serious. “If this new product goes in the way the new V.P. wants it to, the company will be breaking the law.”