With a Swiss Army knife and a tub of cream cheese, you could escape from this room. MacGyver would already be gone. He wouldn’t wait to be told he’s redundant. Nobody does what he does. No one else has his ideas. MacGyver cannot be outsourced.
You were told to sit here, to sit here and wait for your boss to arrive with the out-of-town HR rep in tow. A specialist with his own bag of tools like the interrogator who shows up to make MacGyver talk, but the rep is here to keep you quiet. Severance pay, non-compete clauses, non-disclosures to sign. They won’t just fire you but will hack you apart until you can’t work anywhere. They’ll swallow every idea you’ve had working here — good, bad, or otherwise — and all your ideas still to come, and they will digest them as if their own. And digestion leaves only one thing behind.
This room is a bear trap and you were lured in, so dazed by complementary coffee and bagels you didn’t notice your leg had been clamped. MacGyver would not have been caught, but if he let himself be — for the sport — he’d dislocate the trap’s iron jaws with WD40 and a sprig of juniper berries. He wouldn’t wait to be told what he has no need to hear. MacGyver doesn’t fall into traps and he doesn’t leave a friend in one, either, and if you can’t call MacGyver a friend after all the hours you two have spent together, you don’t know what the word means.
Look around. Take it in. There’s something here you can use. All you need is an idea and the right tools to put it to work.
A filing cabinet, unlocked; slide stiff wire hooks from its green hanging folders.
A potted plant thick with thorns; wrap a flexible branch twice with paper so you can bear down and break it without drawing blood.
A pen, spring removed. Wobbly wheel of a chair and black cord of the conference call phone, stout enough for the weight of a man. A window and five-story drop; that way out is tempting but MacGyver says no.
The AC panel is locked but a paperclip would take care of that. Spreading discomfort in the cube farm might do the trick, might buy you some time to escape. Heat put on them is heat taken off you.
You could attack first, find something heavy to swing at the first face to appear in the doorway, but that isn’t MacGyver’s way so it won’t be yours and the guards in this building have guns.
A fire alarm. You could pull it and be on your way, but for that they would follow you home and a trail is the last thing you need. A clean breakout is what you’re after, leaving nothing behind but a hole.
Your tie. Take it off. It was cheap anyway. Tie the thin end to the door’s handle and the thick end to your… no, that won’t work, the door opens in. Ball it into your pocket. You may find a use for it later.
What would he do? What would he use? By now he’d already be out but he wouldn’t have been here at all. He’d be playing hockey, working with kids, taking a nap on his boat — you think you could live on a houseboat like his. On a houseboat your time is your own. When someone demands you turn up at a meeting, you float away while they wait.
He’d have blueprints for trashbag hang gliders on hand in his head, never on paper where bad guys might get a glimpse. His ideas his are own; he doesn’t disclose because he doesn’t want to, not because he isn’t allowed. No matter how fine the print and how buried it is in a contract signed how long ago. No cries of proprietary knowledge lay claim to his mastery of baking soda and vinegar, phosphorous and empty milk cartons, saving the day and getting the girl and holding on to what’s his. Pete Thornton’s in charge but he isn’t the boss of MacGyver, so don’t let your supervisor and his HR hit man be the bosses of you.
If MacGyver were here he’d go straight to your desk, straight to your computer, and he’d pull the hard drive with his teeth and a pocket-sized chainsaw of rubber bands, pucks, and a spoon. He’d rescue your files and erase any copies elsewhere in the building and even the ones kept off-site. He’d roll up the poster of himself from your cubicle wall and be gone before he could be fired and decades of work would go, too. To sell it or use it however he liked. There are no questions asked of MacGyver. He doesn’t wait like a bag of old trash to be tossed. He knows how it is to put aside marriage and children and every idea of what life would be like to work late nights and weekends and holidays, too. And he’s too good a friend, he’s seen you through too much to let you do that any longer.
Your phone is no Swiss Army knife but it’s got a few tools, so sync with your computer and fill it with files. Then let loose your rainy day project and leave it simmering in the system while you walk away, chewing on backups and digesting files wherever your name turns up. As if it had never been there. Tuck the poster under your arm and leave the rest of it behind.
Walk like he would: cool and slow toward the elevator. Leather jacket you tracked down online half-unzipped just so and time slows while you savor the slow-burning explosion left in your wake, like a scene from the opening credits because your new season is starting.
When your supervisor runs red-faced into the view between closing doors, when he yells your name, let him run, let him scream, let the elevator sink toward the lobby where you will revolve through the front door like a phoenix. It’s only a few steps from elevator to exit, past the guards at their desk so you’ll need to walk like you mean it, like your boss didn’t notice your exit and you don’t know how this episode ends. Like MacGyver is waiting at a bar near the docks to share a beer between friends and relive your greatest escapes. Like there’s an extra bunk on his houseboat.
Steve Himmer’s stories have most recently appeared in Hobart, Los Angeles Review, and Emprise Review. He has a website at www.tawnygrammar.org.