The “S” key stops working before half past nine. The Sea Monster doesn’t want to bother anyone with problems so soon, thinking they will infer that he’s inexperienced or difficult. Hard work. It happens just before he signs off an email, forcing him to rethink his valediction. “Yours Sincerely” is plainly impossible. He types out half of “Yours Truly” before changing it to “Regard” and wincing. His name is not achievable on a QWERTY keyboard (or any keyboard) so he’d adopted “Sam” for professional use. He changes it to John so as to bypass the unresponsive letter. “Regard, John.”
When the “F” gives up he leans tentatively towards the next desk and asks who to ask. Frank looks and scratches his greasy hair and shouts around the corner, surprising The Sea Monster with his casual loudness. Their manager comes grinning in a wary manner that makes The Sea Monster feel doubly useless and triply embarrassed.
Deborah, the manager, watches as he demonstrates the keyboard’s seven percent drop in effectiveness. She says nothing about the slime, but does not offer to touch the keyboard herself. When she suggests a replacement with a plastic dust-cover The Sea Monster knows she knows it is the slime that broke the keys. He agrees that a replacement is the thing, with a plastic cover, and she nods and smiles and they solve the problem without ever really discussing the problem at all, is what it feels like. He writes badly spelled emails for another hour until someone comes and plugs in his new keyboard with a plastic cover.
He is nervous now, even more self-conscious. The office seems quiet, and he wonders if it’s always this quiet or if it’s because of him. He wonders, assuming it is him, whether it’s just that he’s new or whether he’s uniquely objectionable. He imagines that they are looking at his matted and reeking pelt. That they can hear the bony pistons in his lower back grinding with anxiety. He grows intensely aware of the barnacles covering the undersides of his extremities, something that would never have occurred to him back home. Trying to concentrate on his computer screen, he sits rigid with the discomfort of simply being.
When lunch arrives he sees his co-workers huddle briefly, loosely, but certainly huddle at the far end of the room. Kelly, the blond accountant, moves back towards his table and asks with forced offhandedness if he’d like to join them for lunch. He says that he is meeting a friend close by, but maybe tomorrow, but thanks.
He leaves and walks in the opposite direction to where he imagines they went. After fifteen minutes he has passed fifteen sandwich shops but he’s almost dizzy from the morning and can’t pick one. He ends up sitting on a bench in the park in the slightly-too-cold sunlight. The trees and managed nature are calming. He is grateful for the park, at least.
By mid-afternoon The Sea Monster is overtired and his stomachs hurt. His mother calls at around four and he walks outside to take the call. He tries to be self-contained in his description of the day, but within a minute he’s lost it. Sitting in the stairwell, leaking quietly, he complains: “Everything’s different and it’s too bright here. I can taste nothing and smell everything. I want to come back. I want to come home.” The Sea Monster’s mother makes comforting noises and ignores everything he says, and hangs up somehow lovingly, and as he walks back into the office he feels cleansed, despite not having touched salt water since this morning.