The Company has been bought by (of all things) a smaller nimbler company that specializes in software for financial organizations. The Founders are kept on, but most of the staff is phased out, transferred to other subsidiaries, or else out-and-out fired. I am one of the lucky handful1 that is kept and integrated with the new-old staff of the old-new ownership’s original staff.
One evening, I am working late. My new boss’ boss2 shows up (he usually doesn’t come into the office at all) and he notices me from under the umbrella of his scowl. Outside his (inner?) office there are shelves–five or size rows of shelves. And on each shelf is a row of tiny bottles huddled neatly together. And inside of each bottle is a tiny cork (or cluster of corks packed in). And on each bottle is a hand-written label with a year and the name of a place. I take one of the bottles, remove the cap, and inhale. Whiskey?
The boss notices this, catches me. I hastily return the bottle but instead of exploding with rage, he smiles warmly, almost fatherly. He explains that he has noticed me, has noticed my work. He steps over and pats me on the shoulder and then does something with the bottle. It grows into a full-size version of the bottle and he sets it on the top of the shelf next to two snifters that had appeared as well. He pours us each a two finger dram. He also produces two cigars. A safe rises up from out of the floor and he enters the combination on the old fashioned tumbler wheel. He pulls out a stick of… dried poppies? And something else. He grins and calls them “something special and maybe a little illegal”; then he drizzles/crumbles some of each substance onto the cigars and lights them, handing one to me.
While he is preparing the cigars, I catch a glimpse of the whiskey bottle. It has Cyrillic letters on it, and the font treatment is a bold sans-serif in white with a flourishing red cursive beneath.
We sit on a couch and talk. After a while, the whiskey is gone (he pours more) and the cigar has burned down to a stub in my hands. I burn my fingers on the stub but try to cover up the singing of my fingertips. He asks me how everything was. I explain that the cigar was good (though all it really seemed to do was make my throat raspy) but that most of all I enjoyed the whiskey. And was it Russian? And was it from CostCo?