They say every man's got to have something to live for, a reason to get up in the morning. Mine is hating my boss Fortunato and planning to get revenge on him.
Fortunato is the CEO and founder of the company I work for, a modest billion-dollar company called Organ Depot. You might have heard our tagline: "Where an arm and a leg won't cost you an arm and a leg."
We grow and manufacture organs and other body parts and provide them to customers in need of such parts, which can be paid for with several million in cash upfront, or you can pay it off over time by signing a contract to work for Organ Depot for the rest of your natural life. (Or for one of our subsidiaries, such as the Reckless Self-Driving Car Co. or Chainsaws Unlimited.) It's good, honest work and I have nothing against the company itself.
No, all my hatred is reserved for Mr. Fortunato. It's funny because I used to worship him. He was the epitome of self-made success. Through brains, daring, ingenuity, and hard work he was able to turn a small fortune into a large fortune. He was the man I aspired to be.
That was until he gave me my performance review.
As I looked at that one word on the report I became so enraged that I temporarily lost the ability to see. I turned toward where I thought he was sitting and, boiling with fury, opened my mouth to let him have it.
"Thank you so much for your feedback, sir," I said cheerfully and with great personal dignity. "I have always idolized you and I welcome the opportunity to learn and grow from your guidance. I know I am not entitled to it, and I completely understand if you don't have time to provide it, but if you are so willing, could you offer me further feedback as to how I have earned this rating?"
"Montresor, my dear boy," said Fortunato, as he always addressed me, and every other manager, even though I am ten years older than him. He beamed magnanimously. "There is nothing to be alarmed about. As we've always emphasized, the 'satisfactory' rating should not in any way be taken as a disparagement. Getting the second lowest out of our ten possible ratings levels means you are doing a perfectly adequate job carrying out your expected duties."
"But sir," I said, "I have always aimed to exceed expectations."
"Perhaps one day you will!" he said kindly.
It was then that I knew that he had to die.
"Thank you very much, sir," I said. "I can't tell you how grateful I am for this growth opportunity."
"You're welcome," he said with a beneficent smile. "You know, I think I see a little bit of myself in you. Trying so hard. If only you could manage to couple it with ability and intelligence, who knows? You might go far."
It wasn't difficult to figure out the plan. He was very proud about his sobriety and bragged about it at every opportunity. He had not only kicked one, but two addictions - video gaming and collecting Funko Pops - which he would bring up in every all-hands meeting and speaking engagement as an example of what he had overcome to become successful.
Everyone knew that. It wasn't until I had a talk with his disgruntled personal assistant that I realized this was the key to my revenge.
"Everyone makes fun of him for it," said Darby, or Darcy, or whatever his name was, "but you don't understand how serious it was. He was playing Minesweeper night and day. He forgot to eat or sleep - he even pissed himself. I had to buy him new chairs every week."
"You mean Minecraft?"
"I mean Minesweeper," said Derby, "the game that came with Windows where you try to click on squares that don't have mines in them. He'd never be able to figure out Minecraft."
"And the Funko Pops?"
"He bought every single one that came out. He didn't know what 95% of them were from. When I brought him a batch that had a Boba Fett he said, 'Well look at that! They made one out of those drinks the Asians like.' Then he asked me to get ten more in case one of them had a defect that made it more valuable."
"Well, I guess with his money he can afford a hobby like that."
"The money wasn't a problem," said Derry, "but his entire house ended up full of them. He sent his wife and kids to their summer home because he needed their bedrooms to store the Funko Pops." Derry took a drag on his candy cigarette. "She's still living there. She got it in the divorce."
He shook his head. "I know people pretend all the time to have been addicted to something dumb that you can't really be addicted to, so they can tell you boring stories about how they overcame so much, but working for that man I realized something." He pretended to put out his candy cigarette. "I realized that you can develop a self-destructive addiction to anything if you're really committed to it, and I have never seen anyone commit to it like that man."
"What does he do for fun now?"
"Same crap as any rich guy," said Denny. "Golf, giving inspirational talks about himself, looking at memes and cat pics."
"He likes cats, does he?" I asked casually.
"He likes looking at cat pictures," said Danny. "He's allergic to actual cats."
"That's too bad," I said. "That's too bad."
Ten years later I was granted an exclusive audience with Fortunato at the private company cafe. The good one, for executives.
"Well, well, well," he said, shaking my hand heartily. "Fifteen years of satisfactory work. I've never seen that level of commitment to consistent mediocrity."
It didn't hurt anymore. I was beyond that. The goal was in sight.
"Well, sir, I have to admit I might spend too much time on my outside hobbies."
"Ah, work-life balance," he said. "Good for you. What are you into? Sports? Model airplanes? Competitive eating?"
"As a matter of fact," I said, "I've been working on genetic engineering in my spare time. And I've actually made a little present for you." I reached into my coat and pulled out an adorable grey kitten.
"Mew," it said.
"Oh!" said Fortunato, his face a mixed bag of affection and terror. "Oh I'm afraid I'm horribly allergic to -"
"No, no!" I said. "This cat is completely hypoallergenic. I've spent the last 10 years creating the perfect hypoallergenic cat, and here he is. I call him: Mittens."
Gingerly, hardly daring to hope, Fortunato reached out and took the kitten from me. "Mew," it said again, and began rubbing its little face against his hand.
"Awwwwww," he said, melting completely. "He wikes me!"
"Oh, hardly, sir," I said, and Fortunato shot me an odd glance until I said, "It looks to me like he wuvs you."
Fortunato melted again.
"I have a cat bed and some cat toys at home, if you want me to bring them over later," I ventured.
"Oh, please do," said Fortunato. "Widdle Mittens should have everything he needs. Isn't that right, widdle Mittens."
When I showed up at Fortunato's house later that night, I saw he had already purchased a cat tree and twenty bags of cat food, "just in case he doesn't like the one I got."
"Oh thank you so much," said Fortunato, taking the cat supplies from me. "Widdle Mittens will appreciate this so much."
"So he's adjusting well?"
"Oh, yes," said Fortunato, pointing to the cat tree, where Mittens was practicing his jumps. "But... I know this is silly, because he's got me after all, but I just feel somehow like... well... like Mittens might be a widdle wonely if you know what I mean."
"I didn't want to presume," I said, "but now that you bring it up, I do happen to have..." and here I reached into my coat and pulled out a calico kitten.
"Awwwwwwwwwwwww!" wailed Fortunato, almost collapsing to his knees. "What a widdle cutie pie! I shall name her... well, since she's going to be Mittens' friend, how about... Booties?"
"Sure," I said, shoving the kitten into his hands.
Fortunato was in tears. "It's been so lonely here ever since Sharon left," he said. "But now that I have Mittens and Booties, it's like we're a family again." He scooped up both of the kittens in his arms. "I will never ever let anybody hurt you, my widdle cutie pooties."
"Mew," said the kittens.
"Anyway, I gotta go I have an appointment," I said, and I left.
The next day I sat at my desk and didn't do any work, as usual, and sure enough, Fortunato appeared shortly after lunch.
"Say," he said, "my boy, you don't happen to have any other kittens, do you?"
"I got you," I said, pulling out two kittens in each hand from my coat.
It was almost a week later when I found myself out on the patio, taking a smokers' break with the smokers, although I myself did not smoke. I just liked the smell. Also it was a free break.
A fragment of conversation floated over to me.
"It's been slow," said Dandy, who had recently given up candy cigarettes for real ones. "Real slow. Fortunato hasn't been in for days."
"Oh?" I said, drawing nearer.
"Yeah, he took a couple of half days and then he just stopped coming," said Davey. "He had me cancel all his meetings. I've been twiddling my thumbs like a maniac."
I left work early and allowed my Reckless Self-Driving car to take me over to Fortunato's house. The car's autopilot allowed me to rub my hands together fiendishly and cackle the whole time while only hitting two pedestrians, none fatally in my opinion.
I knocked on the door. The door opened and I saw, not Fortunato, but Brant, his best friend and chairman of the company's board. I looked past him to see various other board members and Fortunato's ex-wife, Sharon, who was crying.
"Yes?" said Brant, regarding me with some uncertainty.
"My dear boy!" cried Fortunato, spotting me. "The kitties are doing beautifully, beautifully! Look at Socksies! He's gotten to be quite a jumper!"
"Are you responsible for this?" asked Brant suspiciously.
"I... gave him a few kittens," I said with a shocked look on my face. "Is something wrong?"
"He hasn't been coming to work," said Brant. He gestured toward the room behind him, which was full of 10 cat condos, shelves of cat toys, and about 20 cats. "He's been spending all his time pampering these... cats."
"It's happening all over again!" sobbed Sharon.
"I suppose you didn't know," said Brant. "But Fortunato has a bit of an... addictive personality. And if we don't do something, this cat problem will spiral out of control. That's why I called together this intervention."
"Oh!" I cried tragically, having made my way inside the room by now. "If only I had known! Fortunato, I am so sorry!"
"My boy!" said Fortunato. "You have nothing to apologize for! My dear friends are overreacting. At my stage of life it's good to have some companionship, and I'm certainly well off enough to support them."
"You haven't been to work in a week," said Parma, another board member or executive or something.
"Oh!" said Fortunato, waving his hand dismissively. "I just need a little time to get my friends adjusted to their new home. I'll be back in the swing of things next week."
Next week passed, and then the next, but Fortunato did not return to the office. I could see the board was preparing to take things into their own hands as they called all employees to an all-hands and described the situation, asking for volunteers who could provide good homes for all of the kittens.
I slipped out and made my way to Fortunato's house.
"My boy!" he greeted me warmly through the window. "No, no!" he said, as I made my way to the front door. "It's blocked. You'll have to come in through the back window."
I did so and found that the whole house had been transformed into a cat ecosystem where hundreds of cats ruled. The walls were covered with carpet and sisal, and a brilliant but insane architect had custom designed a veritable cat city of platforms of every size and shape, connected by ladders and scratching posts. The front door was now blocked by a formidable cat fortress.
"Do you think this might be a bit much?" I asked, faking concern quite admirably.
Fortunato looked shocked, almost dropping the kitten in his arms. "I'm just trying to make sure my furry little friends have the best life they can," he said. "It brings me happiness. I thought you of all people would understand."
"Oh, I don't want to tell you what to do at all," I said quickly. "But everyone's been very worried about you, and the company needs you quite badly."
"Yes," said Fortunato, looking guilty. "The company... I feel so bad for all the extra work I've put on the executive team..."
"Well, they've come up with a solution if you like," I said. "They've found somewhere to take in the cats, where they will be safe and well cared for, and you can go visit them any time."
Fortunato looked dismayed. "Take my... babies away from me?"
"They'd be very well cared for," I repeated. "It looks like a really well-funded place, great equipment, shiny new trucks. I'm not familiar with the organization but I think the logo on the trucks said... Soylent?"
Fortunato recoiled. "Get... out! Get out!" He advanced on me so violently that I tumbled back out the window.
"To the panic room, my pretties! My pretty kitties! Oh yes you are a pretty one, yes you are. To the panic room! Full security alert, voice authorization Fortunato beta delta chi..."
I could still hear him reciting Greek letters as I returned to my car, a smile breaking out on my face. I pulled out to a discreet spot around the corner and watched the house lock down with bulletproof blast shielding just as Brant and the board arrived, were warned over an aggressive PA system, and then tear-gassed.
I lowered myself down in my seat as Brant ran by me, flailing in panic. Yes. He was never setting foot in that house again.
Two weeks later I was over at his house. Me, he was willing to forgive. After all, who else would bring him more cats? He was waiting eagerly at the window, almost completely pressed in on all sides by cats.
"Are you sure you have room for these guys?" I asked, holding up the cutest kitten I had yet developed.
His eyes melted. "Oh but how could I not?" He tried to reach up for it but his hands were pinned down by the flood of cats surrounding him. "Er... just put him right there," he said, nodding his chin toward the windowsill in front of his face, probably the last remaining catless spot in the house.
As I put the last cat in front of him, sealing him in he said, muffled, but clear, even through all the meowing: "Montresor... thank you."
"No," I said. "Thank you."