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It was a brilliant Friday morning.

Dry grass blades gleamed despite their obvious imperfections and the hard-working field mice all froze as the crows fluttered in. The fat beasts flung their shadows onto the ground, their bodies following as they cackled and strutted to center stage.

Someone important was missing.

“Where’s Ezekiel?” Zachariah cawed.

“Not certain!” Hezekiah cawed back. “Should I ask one of the mice?”

“No point! We’ve trained them not to make eye contact!”

“What a splendid idea!” the newest Crow, Steve, piped in. “Do you suppose we could start without him?”

“Good heavens no, Steve! Didn’t you attend Flock Sensitivity Training?”

“No!”

“That won’t do at all! It’s mandatory! Once the meeting adjourns, Zachariah and I will have to escort you to Avian Resources for Remedial Coaching!”

A work shuttle bloated with humans hummed by the field on a side-road. The vehicle was trying very hard to pretend that the huge corporate logo on its side didn’t make it seem deeply impersonal. An occasional set of eyes, ones not gazing inward to contemplate better ways to apply effective communication skills in both their professional and personal lives that day, stared longingly at the wide open field. Several blocks away an aesthetic campus neatly executed with rows of trees and tasteful shrubbery anticipated the vehicle’s arrival.

Meanwhile, as the shuttle and its cargo plodded on, the missing component of the mid-field management meeting swooped in. Not only did he swoop in, but Ezekiel also clutched a small plastic cup that once contained 3/8 of an ounce of creamer in his quivering beak. His eyes blazed with enthusiasm.

“You are late!” Zachariah complained.

“Yes, definitely late!” Hezekiah piped in.

“Late!” Steve shrieked. “Late, late, late!”

A mouse that was within earshot, and listening despite eavesdropping being explicitly prohibited per the Field Employee Handbook, cringed at their disapproving tones.

Ezekiel disregarded the speakers and the eavesdropping rodent and plopped the rigid container neatly onto the ground.

“Irrelevant!” Ezekiel proclaimed. “I’ve done it!”

“Done what?” All three birds questioned in unison.

“I’ve found the answer!”

“The answer to what?” They replied.

“Employee motivation!”

“And what is the answer?” Zachariah asked.

“Yes, what is the answer?” Hezekiah parroted.

“Answer!” Steve shrieked. “Answer, answer, answer!”

“It’s right there in front of you!” Ezekial answered.

Steve shuffled around the object, cocking his head to one side and then the other. He had no idea what it was, but he was also the new guy. Not just the new guy, but the new guy being escorted back to Avian Resources for Remedial Sensitivity Coaching after the mid-field management meeting adjourned. There was no way he was asking more questions.

Ezekiel paused for dramatic effect and waited.

The group remained silent.

A multitude of seconds bled quite painfully into minutes, and still he waited.

The other three crows preened uncomfortably.

The eavesdropping mouse, who was dying to know the answer, solved their problem. “Excuse me, bosses, and please do forgive me, but what is this thing?”

Zachariah, secretly relieved, paused to glare daggers at the rodent and threaten to eat him during his next Field Performance Evaluation.

Regardless of the source, Ezekiel was satisfied. He puffed his chest and pointed a dark, dramatic wing at the pretty, shiny thing.

“Creamer!” he cawed.

All eyes remained blank. The mouse twitched its tail, wanting to run, but also desperate to learn. Surely knowledge was power.

“Forgive me, again, for the intrusion,” the mouse squeaked, his whiskers all a-tremble, “but what is this Kreem-Ur. What is its significance?”

“It’s an incentive!” Ezekiel shouted to the heavens, his beady eyes narrowed for dramatic effect.

“An incentive?” The rodent asked.

“Yes!”

“What is an incentive?”

“That’s the best part!” Ezekiel stomped his feet and circled the cup. “An incentive is a strange magic that makes employees happy!”

“But how?”  asked the mouse, who still didn’t understand how this Kreem-Ur worked. “Does it eliminate overtime? Can it lower our Health Insurance Premiums?”

“HOW?” Zachariah shrieked in disbelief. “Do you DARE to question magic, mouse?”

“This will go on your permanent record!” Hezekiah shrieked.

“No bonuses!” Steve threw in for good measure.

“N…no, bosses,” the field mouse squeaked, backing away from the four sets of clawed feet. “Magic is magic! Obviously! There is no understanding, only appreciation!”

“Good,” Zachariah announced, “a team player!”

“Team player!” Hezekiah shouted.

“Team!” Steve echoed, not wanting to be left out.

“Not a word to the field, mouse!” Ezekiel cautioned the rodent who continued to back away. “Formal communications go out at the end of the day!”

“It’s a very big deal!” Hezekiah weighed in. “Avian Resources will want to swoop by!”

The mouse turned and shot across the field, eager to spread the news.

Steve watched the mouse leave, suddenly feeling depressed. Rumor had it that every time Avian Resources got involved, half the field was eaten. If half the field were eaten, then the lowest bird on the totem pole would have to facilitate field candidate interviews.

Steve hated field candidate interviews.

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