Mark just wanted to be home. He had come into work on a Sunday to make tomorrow easier. And he accomplished what he had wanted. He finalized the presentation materials and submitted them to the color printer. He could have waited at his desk for the exhibits to complete printing, but instead he walked the corporate trail. In the wooded part of campus he discovered former coworker, Woodman, fishing the pond. Recreation inside the corporate fence? There had to be more to Woodman’s being there.
“So come on Woodman, what are you doing out here?”
“I told you, I’m fishing.”
“And the grill?”
“In a little while I’ll eat.”
“And the tent?”
“After I eat I’ll turn in for the evening.”
“Turn in? You’re camping? Out here?”
“Camping makes it sound temporary. I’m staying out here.”
Woodman reached his arms partway from his sides. He turned at the waist, and looked contentedly around at the corporate woods. He smiled with acceptance and said, “This is my home.”
“Woodman, you live in Lake Zurich.”
“They foreclosed my house, Mark. The bank’s got it now.”
Mark’s brown eyes became sincere. “Sorry ‘bout that Woodman. I didn’t know. But come on, where are you really living?”
“I told you Mark. I live here.”
“But what about Nancy? Don’t tell me she’s in the tent.” Mark said this with a smile and a bit of a laugh, hoping that Woodman would quit the joke.
Woodman dropped his head and shook it slowly from side to side. “No, she’s not in the tent.” He looked up at Mark. “With everything that’s been going on, my losing my job, us falling so far behind on our payments. We were fighting every night. Real fights.”
“Sorry about that Woodman. Sorry I mentioned Nancy.”
“It’s okay, you didn’t know. Anyway when the bank changed the locks she went to her arborist, and I came here.”
Mark tried to keep everything straight but thought he’d misheard something. “Arborist?”
“Yeah. The woman she’d have over to care for our trees. Nancy didn’t like the way I did it. She said I fell off the ladder too much.”
“She ‘went’ to her arborist?”
“Yeah, she lives with her now. In a double-wide trailer in an unincorporated area not far from the house.”
Mark watched Woodman wipe his eyes.
“But why are you here? Why aren’t you in an apartment or something?”
“Here is free. It’s helping me catch up on my payments.”
“The company lets you stay out here?”
“We have an agreement.”
“An agreement? The company and you?”
“Well, Justice and I.”
That name surprised Mark. “It’s Justice who’s letting you stay out here?”
“Yeah. And no one else is to know about it.”
“Justice is the most play-it-by-the-book guy in the company. Why would he let you stay out here?”
“Justice wants people to think he plays it by the book.” Woodman’s mind seemed to suddenly switch tracks and he pulled from his vest a folded paper, as if just to make sure it was there. He just as quickly returned it to his pocket.
“Mark, remember what happened a couple years ago at the Christmas party? And that complaint that was filed against Justice by the woman who managed the help desk?”
“Yeah, the legal department interviewed everyone who had been there. I was surprised after it all that Justice kept his director position. Why do you bring that up?”
“By letting me stay out here, Justice is returning a favor.”
“At that time I was postmaster of the company e-mail system.”
Mark sensed a long story starting. “Woodman, I have to get back to the building, and to get home to where I live.”
“Just another minute. The key to that woman’s complaint was a few e-mails she said Justice had sent her.”
“I remember the rumors about that.”
“But there was no evidence of the e-mails. She didn’t print them or save them.”
“I remember that the office was split about who was telling the truth.”
“She was.” Woodman said as a matter of fact.
“What? How do you know?”
“I saw the e-mails.”
“On the system,” Woodman paused, “as I deleted them.”
Mark’s eyes widened and his mouth opened, but he didn’t respond.
“Like I said Mark, Justice is returning a favor by letting me live out here.”
“You call living out here a favor?”
“It beats paying rent or a mortgage.”
“But Woodman, you’re good at…at whatever it is you do. Why don’t you just get another job and get out of here?”
Woodman looked as if he had expected Mark to know. “But I do have another job.”
“What? Look Woodman, I gotta get back inside. Maybe I’ll see you another time.”
“I’ll be here Mark.”
Woodman turned and disappeared into the trees. Mark walked away at a fast pace, a pace that turned into a run.