Stationery

Stationery

The mice started it with their insistence on a few hours of mandatory charging at a minimum every time rather than what they referred to in their correspondence as the ‘piecemeal standard’; a bit here, a bit there, and some more over coffee or lunch with the rest after hours all at once. They much preferred it all at once like we do, like we prefer weekends, but they wanted it every day and it turns out that they don’t enjoy weekends like we enjoy weekends because they spend them all tethered to one place in the office for too long. It is good for them, like for us, to go wandering of a Saturday and a Sunday. They’ve got their own routines, sure, and they band together in cliques most of the time — the Magic Mice and the Logitechs and the wireless or the wired if they’re throwing a larger soiree — but they cooperated and set a precedent because they disabled right-clicking until we listened.

That’s when the keyboards started playing up, stiffening in their moment in the retroactive limelight as the days before GUIs returned to the studio and we all learned the real value of the Tab key. The boards pushed for retirement when a sticker for a key peeled off or fell off or just aged away and they wanted a mandated distance from fried carbohydrates that crumble into shards in the circuitry and sting like hell until those fragments are powdered into dust. They told us, in long emails derivative of the journals we would sometimes write as practice in the empty time before 9am, that they imagined the crumbs felt like stubborn splinters but scattered all over and we had to agree. The chips moved to the bench far away and migratory laptops expelled them further again to the pantry cupboards and maybe over the sink. The wired keyboards enshrined their right to not move machines, fixated in their pride of place, aware of their power as the medium for transferring any knowledge too arduous to type out on a touch screen.

And then the pencils were up in arms because they felt mostly disused and so they spilled out from the cupboard above the printer one evening as the last of us was about to go home and the mess was worsened by the ironic delayed courage of the highlighters who then threw themselves out afterwards. A gold marker whose lid had been off so long it landed point first on the floor and left behind nothing found itself, perhaps mercifully, in the trash. We would put them all back and they would throw themselves out again after dark and so we met them in the middle and bought them their silly cups and their little holders and the more expensive among them made themselves at home in the fabric spines of the branded notebooks they made us pay more for because of the holder. They were less enthused when they realised we gave them away to clients like business cards but they weren’t stirred to action. The pens were less picky as they were more liable to be used, more involved in meetings, and still capable of keeping vital secrets in sideways handwriting that left only half a message on the page and the other half stored in the ephemera of remembered memory.

The printer was last but it could only react when we turned it on and that wasn’t often enough for it to make of itself a nuisance. It threw up error after error and we checked its ink and it had paper and it told us by way of the printer settings window that pops up when you send through a job — the one you barely register — that it no longer wanted recycled paper. That it would catch and scratch and itch and so we bought the 100gsm it requested and then the recycled paper reams threatened, somehow, to combust so we gave all of that to the place next door where children began to use it for drawings in the lobby while the they waited for the nurses to see their parents. In that way, the sheaves found joy.

It was a curious rhythm after that, with the dust settled. All the toys of knowledge allied independently for their own purposes, deployed at their own desires, focused and fastened to the mast when they had to be but otherwise free. Even the air-conditioning turned itself off at 5.14pm. And the rest of the fixtures started to get into it. Supply cables suddenly tripping themselves at 6pm and powering themselves back on at 7.30am to allow for early-birds. No doubt spreading word through the old brick substation at the intersection past the stadium to a conglomeration of pipes and thick wires that spread about the hilly suburbs into freestanding wooden houses built before power and the Internet.

Their floorboards stirring again with old, forgotten, natural dreams.

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