Is that you, baby... or just a brilliant disguise?

So my buddy Jix Casey and I were sitting at our customary cafeteria table yesterday at work, talking about next year's football season. Jix is a Chicago fan. I like the Seahawks, mostly because they have a really cool helmet emblem.

Apropos of nothing, Jix glanced over my shoulder, sighed heavily, and shook his head. "Check out Dimbulb," he said, disgust in his tone.

I turned and looked that way. For the past several days, I'd noticed some vaguely familiar New Guy in the cafeteria, sitting a few tables over from Jix and me. He dressed in a loud plaid suit with a polka dotted bowtie, wore Groucho glasses and a pretty obvious wig. I'd first noticed him two or three tables away from us, sitting with a couple of the other people who work in the same section as Jix and I. Over the course of the week, he'd seemed to be gradually moving closer to us.

"That's Dimbulb?" I said. I honestly hadn't been paying that much attention.

Dimbulb is a guy Jix and I know. He only got hired here because Jix switched to my department over a year ago, and the boss of Jix's old department was desperate to fill Jix's position. Even after Jix's transfer, his old boss had been heard to lament that he knew he'd never find anyone as good as Jix, but he needed to fill the position, even if it was with second best.

We'd tried to be nice to Dimbulb at first. He wasn't a bright guy. His sense of humor was rudimentary at best, and he wasn't exactly a sparkling conversationalist. But some of our co-workers liked him okay, and Jix and I try not to be any more unpleasant than we have to be. So we'd been friendly to him when he came around our cubicles. When he'd admired several of the Hot Wheels cars I had on my computer monitor, and allowed as to how his kids loved stuff like that, I'd dug into my spares and pressed several extras on him, along with a lot of surplus pieces of track his kids could run the cars on. When he'd seen the drawerful of old paperbacks Jix had at his desk, and mused about how he'd always wanted to read Jack Higgins' THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, but never had the chance, Jix had insisted on loaning him a copy of the book. We didn't like the guy much, but like Buckaroo says, we don't have to be mean.

Things had been a little weird with Dimbulb right from the start, though. We'd been introduced to him by Jix's old boss, of course. But shortly after that, he'd started hanging around with us in the cafeteria and on our breaks, wearing this ridiculous disguise... not the same one as he had on now, but very similar... plaid bowtie, polka dotted sports jacket, different color wig, horn rimmed glasses, fake mustache. He'd claimed to be someone entirely different, yet on one notable occasion, he forgot to take off his name badge. Had it clipped right to that dumb ass jacket. Jix pointed that out and this guy was horribly embarrassed. He couldn't explain why he'd done it. He didn't know. But he was very sorry and he'd never do it again. That's what he said, anyway.

Jix and I had shrugged it off at the time. Jix's old boss has been pretty hostile to Jix and me since Jix transferred out. We figured maybe Dimbulb was trying to be buddies with us without pissing off his new supervisor, or something. It seemed gutless, and more than a little weird, but what the hell. We decided to accept Dimbulb's apology for the sake of civility and move on.

But it's a small shop where we work. Word started to trickle back to us. Apparently, this guy was mocking us to other co-workers behind our back. Laughing it up about my stupid little toy cars, and advising them with a snide little snigger that I was a failure both professionally and in my personal life. He was saying a lot of unpleasant, uncalled for things about Jix, too. So right about then we started to refer to him as Dimbulb between the two of us, and next time he came around, we made it pretty clear he wasn't welcome to hang with us any more.

And now... "You're right," I said, staring intently at the newly disguised Dimbulb. "I don't know how I missed that. What the hell is he doing?"

"Working his way back," Jix said. "He's establishing relationships in disguise with the other people who eat at the tables around us, so by the time he gets over to us, we'll be used to his new fake identity and accept him when he finally sits down at our table again."

At that point, Dimbulb threw back his head and gave his distinctive, horselike bray of laughter. "Oh my god," I said. "He can't possibly think he could have fooled us for long."

"I don't think he's that bright," Jix said. He took out his own name badge and showed it to me. "Otherwise, he'd realize that with the new tracking technology in these badges, any of us can figure out who he really is just from the pings he leaves whenever he comes into our section of the shop. It's not like this is the early 90s any more."

So I raised my voice. "I honestly can't believe he's THAT stupid," I said, loud enough for everyone in the cafeteria to hear me. "Trying to fool us again the exact same way." I wasn't looking anywhere near Dimbulb when I said it.

Dimbulb flushed deep red and leapt to his feet furiously. "I'm not, I'm not, I'm NOT!" he screeched. "I'm not trying to fool anyone! I just wanted to change my wardrobe!"

He turned to the guys he'd been eating lunch with. "There is a CERTAIN TABLE," he said huffily, "that I will NEVER EAT AT AGAIN. I just wanted to buy some new clothes. I'm not trying to deceive ANYone."

He started going from table to table, repeating this. He even sat down and wrote up a sign -- NOT TRYING TO FOOL ANYONE JUST BOUGHT SOME NEW CLOTHES -- and taped it to his lapel.

Jix got up. "Where YOU goin'?" I demanded.

"I have to go apologize," Jix said. "To all these people... this is all my fault. If I hadn't transferred to your department they wouldn't have to put up with this."

See, this is what Jix is like... innately generous, and takes responsibility for his actions even when he's not at fault, and he always tries to fix things for other people. It's why he's my best friend ever.

"It's NOT your fault," I told him. "It's Dimbulb's fault. He's a grown up. I have no idea what his damage is, or why he's so obsessed with hanging out with us, especially when he talks so much trash about us behind our back... but these are the consequences of his behavior, not yours."

Jix just shook his head. Dimbulb, meantime, was continuing to go from table to table, insisting that he hadn't been trying to fool anyone, and there was a certain table he would NEVER eat at again.

"I just don't get it," Jix said, finally, sitting back down. "What the hell is his problem?"

I shrugged. "I think he's just retarded," I said, turning back to my lunch. "Hey, the Jello has little marshmallows in it today."

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