Transcendent Guide to Corporate America: Guide to the Guide #5

In Troddy,” the theme of transmigration peaks as we begin a twisted version of the classic tale of a poor son leaving home to realize his nascent ambitions. In this world, the line between person and object is hazy, and our narrator finds that with his innocent pluck he can will his soul into certain objects around him, starting with a tree in a city park, a park bench, and then a watch worn by a man sitting on the bench, a man with a girlfriend, a man with mysterious purpose and power that our narrator is drawn toward. Troddy goes home with him and learns that the mystery his host, Rod, is concealing is some kind of criminal cyber operation. He also learns that Sally, the man’s girlfriend, on whom Troddy is developing an inevitable crush, is on the verge of discovering the same secret. Troddy enters the man’s computer to find out more, but can only figure out that something terribly wrong, even deadly, is happening or has happened. In the rush of his discoveries about the world and first love, he will do anything to save Sally from the danger that she is just realizing she may be in. In a heedless act of bravado, Troddy emerges from the machine world to confront Rod, only to be punched in the face. He survives the criminal’s fury by willing himself into a component of Rod’s stereo system (this is set in some alternative version of the 90s, when cyber crime was a term no one knew yet and people still used stereo components). The component, broken like Troddy, is brought to a repair shop, and in the kind of coincidence permitted (perhaps required) in coming-of-age fairy tales, Troddy finds himself returning to consciousness on the repair shop shelf next to the intercom unit that contains his father. As father and son try to reconnect, they are scooped off the shelf, thrown in the trash and ultimately dumped at sea. Alone but revived, Troddy sees a speedboat coming and prepares to will himself inside it and resume his pursuit of power and glory.

In submitting for publication the Transcendent Guide to Corporate America, my collection of stories about work and life in the corporate era, I recently wrote a detailed description of the book for Northwestern University Press. It turned into a story-by-story summary about how themes in the stories relate to the general themes of the guide. I thought I'd present them here, one story at a time. This is the fifth. (This is also the first piece of fiction I published.) As for what the individual stories are actually '"about," you're on your own.