Oliver Chasegrincher, middlest middle manager of the Demon Resources Department, lowered himself carefully into the chair at the head of the conference table. The chair squeaked anyway. Oliver breathed in the slow and mea- sured manner described in the ninth chapter of the ninth binder of the manual Your Job Is on the Line Too: A Guide for Doing the Stuff Your Bosses Can’t be Arsed to Do Themselves.
“Thank you all for coming.”
Oliver attempted to make eye contact with each of the sev- en figures seated at the table (as described in binder eight), but wound up looking awkwardly at the ceiling.
“I want to begin by saying that upper management values your work very highly. Very highly. But the annual figures arein,andtheyhavenochoicebutto...Wait...Werethere supposed to be doughnuts at this meeting?”
Five accusing fingers pointed at the seat to Oliver’s right. “Hey! I’m just doing my job!” Gluttony protested.
“YOU ALWAYS EAT ALL THE DOUGHNUTS!” Anger slammed their fist on the table.
Sloth jerked awake, pointed at Gluttony, then lowered their head back into their puddle of drool.
“I want doughnuts!” whined Envy.
“Okay, everyone, let’s not make this harder than it already is,” said Oliver. “The figures are in and they are not good. We overexpanded. We course-corrected. But we did not recover from that overexpansion, unfortunately.”
“You may remember that I pointed out that 216 Deadly Sins was a few sins too many.”
“Yes, thank you, umm, Pride, is it? Thank you. They reduced the number back down to you seven, but profits are still not where they need to be. So, unfortunately, cuts must be made. But I’m sure you remember the last all-hands meeting? Satan promised no one would be getting fired. So no one is getting fired. Hooray!”
No one else hoorayed. This lack of enthusiasm was not covered in the manual.
“So, umm, yes, no firings. They’re just going to do a bit of reorganization.”
Oliver snapped his thin fingers. A colorful chart appeared in the air behind him in a flash of light and a puff of sulfur-scented smoke.
“By combining Lust and Gluttony with Greed, we will cut our overhead by nearly 30 percent, as shown here.” Oliver pointed to a red line on the chart that didn’t actually connect anything but was red and therefore looked very important.
“What can I do to make you change your mind?” purred Lust.
“I won’t eat all the doughnuts again, I swear!” implored Gluttony.
“Greed, you will be the dominant sin, overseeing Lust and Gluttony.”
“I’m getting a raise for doing that, right?”
“No raises, but with one sin doing the work of three, it certainly looks like you’ll be putting in some overtime.” Oliver almost whispered the next sentence. “Unpaid, of course.” Oliver closed his eyes and snapped his fingers again. Lust and Gluttony disappeared.
Greed’s body blurred and phased in and out of existence, then snapped back into focus with a splutt sound very much like the sound of a bird flying into the sliding glass door of a Florida beach rental.
“Oh,” muttered Greed. “I feel all tingly. And I really want to screw a doughnut.”
Anger threw back their chair and lurched toward Oliver. “SATAN PROMISED WE WOULDN’T BE FIRED, BUT THEN WHAT DO YOU CALL THEM DISAPPEARING?”
Oliver looked to the ceiling for help, but the ceiling was not helpful. “Well,” he said quietly, “Satan is the Prince of Lies.”
“It says so right on his business card.”
Anger roared in Oliver’s face.
“Okay then, moving on,” Oliver said loudly, as Anger roared all the way back to their chair for the sole purpose of throwing it across the room. When they stopped to breathe, Oliver quickly said, “You will all be moved into cubicles on the eighth floor, effective immediately.”
“Working in a cubicle farm is beneath me!” wailed Pride.
“It fosters collaboration,” Oliver yelled over the roaring. He stood, the chair creaking obligingly.
“Upper management wants to thank you all for your coop- eration,” he said in a voice that he hoped was loud but calm. “Please contact DR for help moving into your cubicles. Thank you, and goodbye.”
Four of the Five Deadly Sins filed sullenly out the door. Anger roared all the way down the hall, eliciting stares from the four figures entering the conference room.
Oliver coughed nervously into his closed fist. He started to sit, eyed the chair, and opted to continue standing.
“Thank you all for coming. I want to begin by saying upper management values your work very highly. But the annual figures are in, and they have no choice but to make some cuts. But I’m happy to remind you that Satan has promised that no one is getting fired. Hooray!”
Oliver paused in the silence. Still no hooray. He gestured to the meaningless chart.
“So then, here is our plan for your reorganization into the Three-and-a-Half Joggers of the Apocalypse.”