On the holiest of hump days, Ash Wednesday, the entire office was speculating about Otto’s assumed ashes.
The ambiguous dark smudge on Otto’s typically pallid forehead was first noticed by Tim in Customer Service who placed a call to Rhonda in public relations to ask if she had seen Otto’s forehead. Rhonda hadn’t, but she told Tim to ask Bogdan, who sits across from Otto in the accounting department. Bogdan confirmed the existence of the smudge at 9:23 a.m., but informed Tim that some two months ago Otto came in with a faint smudge on his temple that turned out to be the result of some early morning charcoal sketching, so the forehead smudge was not definitive proof that Otto’s presumed Christianity.
While Bogdan and Tim puzzled over whether or not Otto was pursuing art or salvation, Jocelyn passed Otto in the hall and thought he was wearing a half-hearted Pig Pen costume. She immediately went back to her desk to see if she had missed the office’s Peanuts Character Costume Day, but quickly confirmed that it wasn’t on the calendar until later next month. Glancing fondly at the green Peppermint Patty costume folded at the bottom of her file drawer, she gave Elisa in sales a call to see if she knew anything about Otto’s religious affiliation. Maybe she’d get lucky and find out he’s Jewish. Her mother might actually like Otto. Elisa told Jocelyn that Otto had always impressed her as a Buddhist, but she couldn’t explain why.
While the entire office quietly speculated about the origin of the markings on his head, Otto was headed to an eleven o’clock meeting, vowing that he might actually get some work done after lunch. Cedric and Jerome knew Otto was usually running late, but the last thing they expected was for him to arrive late to their meeting with a distinctive mark on his forehead. Cedric and Jerome had been in meetings all morning—encountering no other ash-bearers—and had forgotten all about Ash Wednesday as a result. They spent the next hour with Otto politely rubbing their foreheads and raising their eyebrows suggestively. Otto had heard the rumor going around the office that Cedric and Jerome were involved with an underground Botox ring, but he didn’t think there was any truth to it. Cedric and Jerome seemed like upstanding guys that value lawful cosmetic enhancements, yet here they were giving him the universal gesture for back alley forehead Botox. Despite their best efforts, Cedric and Jerome couldn’t get Otto to wipe off his forehead, and all three parties left the meeting feel differently about one another.
Leslie was in the kitchen watching her leftovers spin in the microwave when Otto came in. He grabbed a plastic knife from the drawer, and that’s when she noticed his forehead. Ash Wednesday was always a difficult day for Leslie, but it wasn’t because of Catholic guilt. Leslie’s path to marketing automation was not easy as the daughter of Ignis Burnes, cremation tycoon of the Northeast. Leslie could identify ashes anywhere, and Ash Wednesday was always a difficult reminder of everything she left behind to pursue her dreams.
“You never struck me as a religious man, Otto,” she said, stopping the microwave with five seconds left.
“Well, I really don’t like to advertise it at work,” Otto said, pulling his phone out of his pocket and showing her a photo. “What do you think?”
Leslie glanced at the screen. It was a charcoal sketch of Jesus Christ.