Harold Raines and the Power Puma

"Have you met the puma? It's the puss perfect prize of our private pound."

Harold Raines looked around his new cubicle and then up toward his tall, round boss, "No. You employ a puma?"

"Correction, Mr. Raines. The puma employs us. Follow me."

The boss' suit, tie and slick sliding slacks slunk from the office carrying his overweight corpse in a clean corporate wrap.

He led Raines through a petticoat junction of sterile cubicles manned by eyeless automatons. All seemed gripped by paycheque fears and legal, capitalist blackmail.

Chocolate brown with wise winding eyes, Raines had never really wanted employment in a corporation. From his earliest memories, he had wanted to work in a swirl of firebombs and the U.S. mail. There had been no openings.

Stopping in front of a large black door, the boss turned to Raines, speaking softly:

"This is the puma's office. Before we go in there, I want to make sure you're aware: The puma started off in a cubicle too. He worked his way to this office with sweat and blood - you can do the same."

The door swung open in one motion of portent whine. Inside, the puma sat, poised on its haunches, behind a black desk. Brown bits of bone and gristle rested random around the room. The puma growled greedily.

The boss made the introductions: "Sir, this is Harold Raines. He will be covering accounts receivable, accounts payable and accounts of accounting. He will be making paper records from our paper files and preparing data on all our data. We expect Mr. Raines to increase productivity ten-fold. And document everything twice and then again in triplicate."

The Puma responded with raw power, attacking a taxidermed rabbit pedastelled to the left of its desk. "Wrrrrrow!" It screamed and hissed - claws extending into the rabbit.

Gesturing toward Raines, the boss continued: "He's brought a red file and a blue pen."

Raines hesitated, looking at the strange animal, barbed on top the stuffed rabbit. "Hello, Sir."

The boss looked at Raines: "I think he likes you."

After a swirling, stacked moment; the puma turned to Raines and pounced, claws outstretched with fangs bared.

Raines leaped, sliding out of the puma's office before it could pierce his skin.

The boss closed the door, "The puma holds conferences and company meetings on Fridays. He won't hurt you if he can't catch you."

Back in his cubicle, Raines tapped keys, drank coffee and wondered how a large, aggressive cat could maintain a profitable company. He leaned back and looked around him. There were three cubicles in close proximity. Occupied by Jones, Verona and Shire, they were the corporate confines of three longtime employees.

Jones looked as if he had fallen off a four by four and dragged ten miles along a gravel road. He was scratched and bloodied. Next to him, Verona sat - one arm dangling, barely attached by a piece of skin. Behind, Shire was little more than a stump of a man, limbs lost with his spirit, years before.

"You have to kill the puma." Shire whispered across the floor.

"What?" Raines was taken a back.

"Kill the cat, man." Jones breathed, hatred smothering his waffling voice like maple syrup.

"I just started. I can't kill the puma."

"Poach it. Trap it. Tranquilize it. We know the deal. The paycheques come anyway. The damn animal can't even sign a cheque," Verona commanded, gesturing with his one good arm.

The three men approached Raines and surrounded him. They were shaking.

Shoving his badly mauled face an inch from Raines', Jones spoke with passion: "You don't want to be around for that conference, Friday. The puma goes crazy. Goddamn it! The red cross has to sit in on our meetings, we lose so much blood."

Raines was losing patience: "I'm a data checker and an accounts accounter. I have a red file and a blue pen. I'm not a poacher. Now if you'll get back to work I have to write a bunch of numbers in this book and then cross check them with these letters and symbols." He paused.

"Look friends, I'm willing to break ground with you here. I'm willing to raise my hoe and till your damn field. Hell, I'd pitch fork my neighbour if it meant keeping the USA safe. We all get the mail. But if we don't have numbers we don't have payday."

Bleeding, his office mates backed away.

The day of the meeting, Raines sat beside Verona in the grey paneled conference room. On the long, oak meeting table there was a small cage, filled with various rodents.

One tiny window let the sunshine ride into the room, fighting for focal points on the tense tableaux of the table.

The boss addressed the company: "The puma has called us here today to discuss productivity."

"Wrrrooow!" The puma screamed, lunging at the woman taking minutes.

With rehearsed reaction, the boss opened the cage and threw a fat guinea pig at the carnivorous cat. He hoped to distract it and perhaps save the meeting's minutes.

Beneath the table, Raines could feel Verona tapping him with a metal object. "It's a tranquilizer gun," he began under his breath, "one shot and we can eat the bugger. Come on. Come on."

The sun switched satellite feeds and Raines saw static for a second.

The boss continued: "Pro-active productivity will bring about a huge increase in sales of numbers and names. If you work hard, the puma is prepared to give you shares in the company."

Onto the table, the puma pounced and posed pretentiously, gnawing on what was left of the guinea pig's carcass.

Verona stared at Raines: "Now! Now!"

Two red cross workers carried the woman taking minutes away on a stretcher.

Raines took the weapon from Verona. He stood and fired. The dart launched double depth, and super slow, striking the power puma's posterior. It reeled back, hissed and slumped onto the table.

The boss stood back. "No! The puma! The profit puma! Back to your cubicles." He stared at the dazed gunman, "Raines. You stay here."

The room cleared quickly and they were alone at the conference table. The boss looked over the sleeping puma and back at Raines: "I'm afraid you're going to have to take a private meeting with the vice-president." He paused, "You'll need this."

Shaking his head, the boss handed Raines a raw steak, "Have you met the Lynx?"

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