In Recursos Humanos, García Ángel tells the story of Osorio, the head of the human resources department at a Kafkaesque corporation. Though suffocated by the monotony of his labyrinthine office and by the boredom of his marriage, Osorio finds relief in his own powers of sharp, satirical observation and in the play of his exuberant and ribald imagination.
Adding to these mental leaps, García Ángel periodically interrupts Osorio’s story with chapters of witty, digressive commentary. The ingredients the author lays his hands on demonstrate his capacity to tell transcendent stories enlivened by the humour and irony generated by descriptive scenes in an office, at home and in other everyday places.
An Excerpt from Recursos Humanos
Chapter 1 (excerpts)
Ricardo Osorio´s thoughts were fixed on the clock’s tick-tock. The fears, dreams and guilt that sometimes came walking or running, frequently synchronised with the clock’s mechanism, with the tempo of a military parade. For a while now, Osorio had been thinking obsessively about Angela´s tits, tick. Angela´s tits-touch, tock. Angela´s tits-taste, tick. Angela’s nipples, tock. Angela´s hard nipples, tick. How Angela´s nipples feel under my fingers, tock. When I lick them, tick. Angela´s round tits, tock, will make me strong enough to ask her, tick. Angela´s beautiful tits, tock. I’m going to think about them when I ask her. tick. Or maybe it’s better if I ask Angela when she is naked, tock. That way I can look at her tits and comfort myself, tick. Because this time I will ask her for sure, tock. I won’t get cold feet, tick. I’ll tell her at once, and that’s it, tock. The rest is up to her, tick. What is important for me is to not keep quiet like I did the last time, tock. Or feel bad about it, tick. That’s why I´m going to look at her titocks. And she will decide if yes, tick, or no. Fucktock! This fucktick clock is really loudtock.
When Osorio looked at it, the clock showed 10:24 a.m. and, in time with a rhythmical strike of the clock’s hands, Osorio kept trying to evoke Angela´s tits, but the thought evaporated with the overwhelming beat of the clock which was a wedding anniversary present. Fortunately, anyone’s presence was sometimes enough to make the clock’s tick-tock disappear. It was Elsy, Osorio´s secretary. Elsy stuck her head in Osorio´s office by the half-open door, and asked him bossily if she could come in.
When Osorio nodded, Elsy's weak female shape approached his desk. Elsy Cuartas was tall and hunchbacked. She had a hooked nose, old-fashioned glasses and long, clumsy arms. Her flabby tits and her assless back were wrapped in a dress which looked like it belonged to someone else. She was wearing cheap jewellery and such a perfume so sweet it could provoke looks of hatred. She was an old maid and though she appeared to have been in her late fifties for a couple of decades, she looked her age now.
“What’s up, Elsy?”
“Did you do something to your hair?”
“No, sir, it’s the same.”
“Come on, don’t lie to me,” Osorio continued maliciously. “You did something to it; you look more elegant.”
Elsy’s hair had curled into baroque waves since the early 1980s: She couldn’t have done anything to her hair. But Osorio performed his part well and made Elsy blush. It was his little game: try to embarrass his secretary even with this kind of provocative compliments, which were beyond any logic.
“Ok, sir, stop messing around and let’s get started. You have a lot of work to do today.” Elsy recovered with the usual strictness. She put her glasses on and started reading out the matters to be dealt with. “Disciplinary problem in the Candy plant…”
“Some graffiti made out of chocolate bars was found this morning on the walls, on the ceilings, and even in the management offices.
“And what do they say?”
“Some kind of love statements addressed to one of the canteen staff girls.”
“Martha Yaneth!” Osorio speculated.
His secretary looked puzzled.
“She’s the hottest one!” Osorio explained.
Elsy made an indecipherable gesture, and went through her notebook.
“There are 687 simultaneous holiday requests”.
“That must be because of the god-damned photocopy machines robbery. I must talk to Lozada so he will stop fucking around,” Osorio thought out loud.
“Fonseca was here again.”
Manuel Fonseca, from the company’s Legal Department wanted a raise. The Board of Directors had approved it, but Osorio wanted to make him suffer for one more week. In the meantime, he avoided him and sent him discouraging e-mails. That was one of Osorio´s little games, like making Elsy blush.
“Don´t pass me any of his calls,” Osorio ordered.
“But sir, he was furious when he came. He said that you were hiding from him. That you had to face up to the situation.”
“I’m not here. I left and I haven’t come back, and you don´t know when I’m returning. Leave him a message. You know how it is, Elsy.”
The secretary nodded and continued.
“The estimates for the company’s anniversary party…”
The date was getting dangerously close, and Osorio, who had a strong tendency to procrastinate, had not booked a place for it yet. Nor had he hired the musicians, the waiters or the clowns for the employees´ children. The same thing happened a few years ago. And, in the end, when he realised that it was impossible for him to get it all done, he went to talk to the Board. Osorio convinced them that because of the failure in the mid-year goals, the staff didn’t deserve a celebration. But they wouldn’t forgive him if he couldn’t organise the company’s fortieth anniversary party. That certainty turned into a cold feeling in his stomach, and dryness in his mouth.
“Shit, Elsy! Ask for estimates from the place we had last year’s party, and I will sign the authorisation”.
“Sir, remember that last year there was massive food poisoning with Lechona Tolimense. A lot of people ended up in the hospital.”
“Tell them what happened and that if this happens again, we will file a lawsuit.”
Osorio was a man capable of dealing with several issues at the same time. That’s why he had taken a quick look at some pending-to-sign letters and documents while talking with Elsy. Maybe he wanted to look at something more attractive than his secretary. When Osorio signed the last paper, he gave it back to her.
“It’s your sister´s birthday.”
“Send her flowers,” Osorio said while putting on his jacket and opening the door. He was a first-line guy, so didn’t like to stay behind his desk for a long time. He preferred to attend to his business personally and visit every single corner of the company. Besides, there was this stupid clock.
“Uh, one more thing…” Elsy stopped him. “Before you arrived this morning, a girl came looking for you. She didn’t want to wait or leave her name. She said it was ‘personal’.”
Angela, Osorio’s mistress and his wife’s best friend, came to his mind. Osorio wished she was the one who visited him that morning, but Angela was too old to be a “girl”.
“Tell me something, Elsy,” said Osorio as he was leaving his office.
“How did she look like? Was she hot?” he asked, and closed the door behind him, without listening his secretary’s weak complaint.
He didn’t really have a daily route planned. It depended on the matters to be dealt with or Elsy’s daily reports and other contingencies.