Author: Thomas Tilton

I was five minutes late to work, which meant an extra 1/10 of a mile on my MPH for the day. But I didn’t care.

It was the day after my birthday. I was nursing a killer hangover and had contemplated calling in sick, but that would mean a demerit and a full 0.5 mile increase on my MPH for the week. I’d practically be at a running pace. No way I could maintain that and make my calls.

I swiped in at 8:05 and was immediately greeted by my co-worker Nate with a smarmy “Well look who decided to show up today!”

Grimacing in greeting, I stepped on my treadmill, starting at a reasonable 3.2 MPH.

“Seph was looking for you,” Nate said. “I told her you were in a meeting with Lancanshire.”

Lancanshire was the big boss. He loved to pull people off the treads for impromptu meetings in his office/racquetball court.

“Thanks, Nate,” I said.

Smarm factor aside, Nate wasn’t a bad guy. He was one of those people who loved to say “Cold enough for ya?!” when it was freezing outside, or “Hey, stay dry!” when it was raining. But besides that, he was a decent person.

So was Seph. But like Nate, she had her quirks. For one thing, her name. Seph was short for Persephone — a lovely name, I thought — but monosyllabic names were in fashion, the kind you could bark across a playing court to either encourage or jeer your opponent no matter how exhausted or played out you were. So one day Persephone asked us to start calling her Seph. I guess she was hoping it would give her a leg up at the company.

Seph also wore ankle weights, a trend started by a few of the hungry young executives who wanted to show management that not only could they work comfortably on treadmills, they also wanted/needed an additional challenge. After work, Seph hit up the gym they all went to as well, hoping to demonstrate her eagerness and indefatigability.

I logged into my email, not surprised to see at least a dozen messages from Seph crowding my inbox. Often she just typed something into the subject line and hit send.

I dialed her extension.

“Seph here.” She was breathing heavily.

“It’s me,” I said. “What speed are you on? You’re almost panting.”

“More than you could handle,” she exhaled. “How’d it go with Lancanshire?”

“Huh? Oh, I mean, fine. Just a little humiliation on the court before coffee,” I said.

“Hey, don’t be modest! He only does that when he feels threatened by someone.”

“Why can’t we all just work in cheerful collaboration?”

“Blasphemer! Anyway, I was trying to get ahold of you to see if you wanted to join the hospitality committee.”

My heart sank at this. An invitation to join the hospitality committee could only mean one thing.

“Who died?”

“Amir in accounts payable.” Amir. We weren’t close, but I knew the guy. He once told me he had lost faith in his religion some time ago, but that he still practiced Islam at work to get off the treads a few times a day. I liked that.

“No way,” I said. “Count me out. Everyone knows the hospitality committee is where people go to die. People are either on the committee for life or die trying.”

Just then a hand clapped my back. I swear I could feel the oily palm through the layers of my clothing.


“Hey there, guy. I hear there’s an opening on the hospitality committee.”