When Carter got to work on Monday, he decided that now was the time to barricade himself inside his cubicle once and for all. For weeks, he had prepared himself to haul in lumber, bricks and mortar and all kinds of other building material, useful for such a project. And now—9AM sharp—he would finally begin to change his life. He had not felt so elated, overjoyed, and happy probably since the day he had decided to leave behind his entire family on a tiny island in the Pacific years ago. Moody teenage daughters, a demanding wife, slothful sons, and sniping, belittling in-laws were better off in a healthy tropical island, living off the land like natives, he had reasoned. He had traded a few trinkets for them, actually more than he had planned because the islanders were quite reluctant to take them off his hands.

But today, instead of doing things for others, he finally would do something for himself. He worked quickly, mixing mortar and laying bricks and walling up the opening of the cubicle. He only left a small hole, just big enough for a gun barrel. He was just beginning to frame the roof when the phone started to ring off the hook.

“Yes, what is it?” he yelled after he had picked up the receiver, intending to give the caller a piece of his mind.

“Mr. Carter, what is going on?” Maxine Holpermyer, his supervisor, hollered. “Everyone is up in arms telling me you’re building something in your office. Is that true?”

“Arms? What arms?” Carter shouted back. “They’ve got arms? Well, so do I!”

He was quite confident knowing that he had secured a cache of guns and ammo a while ago and had stashed it underneath his desk.

“What?” Mrs. Holpermyer acted as if she didn’t know. Changing the subject, she continued, “Well, what about that report? You’re supposed to have done it a week ago?” Mrs. Holpermyer asked.

“I shall dispatch it as soon as I can, ma’am!”

“Well, will that be today?”

“I can’t say for certain, ma’am…more than likely after the siege.”

“Siege? What siege?” Maxine Holpermyer replied acting perplexed.

“The Monday siege, the Tuesday siege, the Wednesday siege…”

“What are you talking about, Mr. Carter? Are you perhaps referring to our little custom, here in our firm, requiring you to surrender a pound of flesh?”

“Exactly!” Carter replied firmly.

“Well, this is strictly done on a voluntary basis, Mr. Carter. You know that. You don’t have to surrender anything if you don’t want to,” the supervisor replied, switching to a soothing, more comforting voice. “Although, come to think of it, looking at your records, you haven’t surrendered anything in a while, have you?”

“I’m a skeleton, Mrs. Holpermyer. I’ve got nothing left!” Carter yelled full of rage.

“Well, Mr. Carter, you know very well that it is not upon you to decide such things, don’t you? I’ll come by in a few minutes and will determine your status then.”

“You do that, Mrs. Holpermyer!” Carter shouted. “I’m ready for you!”

It didn’t take long for Maxine Holpermyer to show up, alongside her goons. This time, she had several guys from shipping in tow also. Lucky for Carter, he had just finished walling himself into his cubicle.

“This is ridiculous, Mr. Carter,” Holpermyer said touching the sturdy wall. “This is really not necessary.”

“Go away, Mrs. Holpermyer! I have nothing to give today.”

“You know as well as I do that someone in management has to examine you to determine…”

“Scram! Or I’ll shoot!” Carter hollered, shoving his semiautomatic rifle through the gun hole.

“Fine, suit yourself,” Mrs. Holpermyer said. “You can’t do that every day. I’ll be back.”

As Carter looked through his peephole watching them retreat, he noticed that Mrs. Holpermyer hesitated.

“Since I’m already here, Mr. Carter…what about that report?” she asked.

“I’ve got it only halfway finished, Mrs. Holpermyer.”

“That’s fine. You can give it to me tomorrow. But are you going to join us for lunch?”

Damn, he thought. That’s right—lunch. Of course, he had not thought of lunch. That’s when he was at his most vulnerable. He would be exposed. He knew he had only a few minutes till lunchtime. He needed to think of something quick. Should he just skip lunch today?