A Few Nondescript Adventures
of Some Consequence

Fiction by Maya Jewell Zeller

 
*

Office Girl and University Hero go for a long walk, maybe eight days? Could be longer. University Hero says he weeps about competent pedagogy. Office Girl tries the locked door of a custom combine. No dice, she says, guess we’re not doing that thing today. University Hero remarks that he never has seen a beaver in the wild. Challenge accepted, says Office Girl, and conjures one from rain. That’s not quite what I meant, thinks University Hero, but he decides to accept the animal. And on the ninth day no one knows what will happen.

*

Office Girl tells University Hero a story of her weekend: So I go out for a run, and the bald eagle macks up on me, the owl ogles, the heron catcalls. A few coyotes leer about, their paws sticky with mud. I’m all Get outta my orange zone, but it’s true I have learned to appreciate a color to which I have previously had little connection. Orange as opposite of blue. Have I told you about my blues, how long I was blue? I wonder if all this has something to do with ovulation, my wearing-out pair of egg-makers. I delete all my old messages so we can make more. Flowers are barfing everywhere and we’re calling it beautiful. Sometimes I get a great notion to jump in the river. When I consider this, you’re there, flailing, the current like someone undid a dam, or several. I’m not mocking habitat restoration. I’m going to rescue you, but first I’m going to hold you under until you see God. Anyway, that eagle, still circling. Geez, giving me the eye. Looked up. Shrugged. Nice feathers, I said. What a tail on that one. Undid a few of my buttons. Really, I said to myself. Really. Wept at my own compliance. I have always had a weird thing for birds.

*

University Hero quickly begins to feel overwhelmed. Do you feel overwhelmed? he asks Office Girl. Office Girl looks up from her manual on Extreme Office Friendships and Other Strange and Unnamable Feelings. Yes, she says, but in a good way. See? Here in section sixty-eight-and-a-half, it says that it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed by a coworker you find wildly interesting. Hmm, says University Hero. I’m not totally sure you’re my type.

*

The next day University Hero apologizes. He says he only said that to see what she’d say. (She said nothing, and it was hard to read her silence.)

*

Office Girl makes University Hero a batch of pot brownies (she’s heard chocolate is an aphrodisiac, and she’s not above Making Things Happen that Need to Happen Eventually). She makes moonshine and minnows and sunshine. She makes the sky turn to day. She’s astonished that she can make so many things, and begins to wonder if she’s on something (is it University Hero?). Has she ever felt so refreshed? She looks in the mirror and shrugs at herself, and winks at herself. Inspired by the distant memory of childhood, she begins to pull random items from a purse: lamps, doves, a pair of chattering teeth. One of the items is University Hero—Hello! he says, Wonder and Joy, I didn’t know you were coming for me today. He unfolds his new wings. They unfold completely, like a moth that was never trapped in a jar. Hmm, he says, this was on my list of things to do. What? she says. Oh, emerge from the handbag of a woman with whom I’ve recently taken up, he says. With wings! Look how shiny! Hmm, she says. Well, you’re welcome.

*

Office Girl and University Hero have their HR meeting. A hawk sidles up, but they don’t see. The hawk holds a dead mouse in its beak as a peace offering, but they don’t react. (When did they stop noticing hawks?) The HR rep notes their lack of attention to the paperwork. University Hero keeps checking his phone for price points on white glue, for directions to Quiznos. What do you want, he asks Office Girl, not looking up from his phone. I want a nondisclosure agreement with an exclusive comprehensive benefits clause and option for retirement, she says. Not sure I can do that, says University Hero. How about a joke written on company stationery? Sure, I’ll take that, says Office Girl. Office Girl enacts a perfect headstand. I am not trying to impress you, she says. This is just how I feel today. University Hero yanks a tick out of his neck, says Huh, I thought I had a crick there. And I’m not trying to impress you either, he says. But could you please make sure there’s nothing else on the back of my head that might cause delusions? Office Girl complies without blinking. No ticks here, she says. University Hero purrs like a kitten. He roars like a lion. Office Girl is now the color of dawn. They seem to be unaware they’re still at a meeting. The HR rep says nothing. She types up their agreement on a leaf of skunk cabbage. She adds a note about keeping an eye on their behavior, in case it’s contagious.

*

Office Girl and University Hero go horseback riding, because they’ve heard people do that. For three hours they trudge along in boredom on the backs of two very dull mares, plodding along with the guide and the group, and the trail is edged in sage and then pretty soon in snakes and thorns. After that they enter a dark wood, and University Hero gives Office Girl a look and they both quietly dismount by clinging to the trees above them until the group is gone. Their horses don’t even notice they’ve left the saddles. Thank God we dodged that one, says Office Girl. Yes, says University Hero, God’s nonexistence notwithstanding. They link arms and begin the slow walk back to work. Their eyes glitter with what Plato termed anamnesis. The eyes of the snakes watch them, from the thorn bushes, with envy.

*

University Hero and Office Girl are walking under a rainbow. If I have any magic left at all, says Office Girl quite seriously, I want to work it on you. For this I fear there will be, someday, a sense of deep regret, though I hope that is not the case, and so far no regret yet. For now, I am willing to sacrifice even my coveted spot in the break room fridge. But we don’t have a break room, says University Hero. He flings a Frisbee out to the cows, who catch it between their yellowed teeth. Huh, says Office Girl, looking off into the dandelions. I wonder where I’ve been spending all my time.

*

Weeks later, University Hero gets drunk and writes a Sincere Letter of Real Feelings for Office Girl. He even has it notarized, but then he can’t remember where he put it. Office Girl never learns of its existence.

*

One day, Office Girl asks University Hero to get coffee, and University Hero says he doesn’t have enough time. They pretty much stop hanging out after that. University Hero appears nonplussed at work, but when he flies around in the dark, sprinkling forgiveness across town and turning people’s back-knobs, he weeps into his cape, leaving streaks of blue light across the night. Office Girl weeps, but only in public, where people begin to judge her, and it impacts her professional decorum. In private, she Art Monsters. She’s gotten very very good at embroidering decorative pillows. She can even make things out of pallets that result in looking nothing like pallets. She’s not sure why people want to do that, but there’s a huge market for it, so. She’s considered very seriously going by Office Woman, but “Office Girl” has kind of taken off in the blog world of DIY. Oh well, says Office Girl. Gotta live up to the branding! And: I can be a better feminist in my next life. Maybe I’ll also have some children. Can a person do both and be Happy? she wonders. I wonder what University Hero would think. He had some good thoughts. Like shadows that aren’t even shadows, but Real Things. Hmm. She misses him, but she doesn’t ask. That night, she thinks she sees an approving streak of light, like a starry bicycle or a cherry tree, near Orion. She reaches toward it, but it’s gone.

*

Far into the future, after years of not sleeping, Office Girl finally naps for a long time. When she wakes, she ultimately realizes her Special Powers, possibly derived from her time with University Hero. She considers looking for him, but now the recession has hit, and she’s forced to grow up and get a Real Job, away from the safety of the university. She begins to put “Office Woman” on her resume, takes a nine to five in the city, buys a new wardrobe, forgets everything that happened up to this year. The towering buildings offer her a place to hide from the shapes of sorrow in the clouds.

Maya Jewell Zeller is the author of Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts (Entre Rios, 2017), Yesterday, the Bees (Floating Bridge, 2015), and Rust Fish (Lost Horse Press, 2011). She teaches creative writing for Central Washington University. Though CWU is not the exact setting for “Adventures,” the characters owe their names to some ongoing collegial humor.