Roger entered the lobby in his courier’s uniform, carrying a cardboard package. “I’ve got a parcel for Jacob Ellis. Can you sign?”
Tina the receptionist chirped, “Oh, you can hand it off to him yourself. He’s standing right there. Ivan?” She called out to a tall, pale, white-haired man in a dark suit who stood by the copier.
“Sorry, what? Him?” Roger stared confusedly at the pale man.
“Yes,” Tina confirmed impatiently. “Carlos!” she trilled out. “Come sign for your package.”
George glided over softly, his shoes making no sound on the hard black tiles. He scribbled on the clipboard, took the package, and disappeared silently around the corner.
Puzzled, Roger looked down at his itinerary, but couldn’t locate the tall man’s name. He stared after him, wondering how he had vanished so swiftly. Then he looked helplessly to Tina and caught her glaring at him. He opened his mouth to ask a question but found no words for it. Then he opened his mouth to ask what question he should be asking, failing again. He became aware that his hands were moving in awkward directions that he was not choosing.
Tina sighed in a way that expressed contempt of the most professional and courteous kind. The chirping quality was no longer in her voice. “I am aware,” she said, in a tone of deep tolerance being put to the test, “that some people have difficulty in the presence of an albino. Just because Mr. Chen has no skin pigment, it doesn’t mean you have to act like you’ve just arrived from Mars.”
“But—but—” Roger fumbled for speech. “What was his name?” He looked down at the completely illegible, vaguely symmetrical signature on his clipboard and thought it resembled a butterfly, or possibly a bowl of flowers. “What was his name?” Roger repeated, uncertain whether his voice could be heard.
“Mr. Jackson?” Tina asked. “His name is Christopher Bartle. He’s worked here for years. You really should try to control your reactions. You look ignorant. Albinos are perfectly normal, and he’s probably a lot smarter than you, too. He certainly has better manners.”
Roger realized his mouth was open again, his tongue and throat squirming but failing to produce words. He pushed his chin up with his hand, then exited as hastily as possible.
Tina never told Mr. Suarez about the courier’s rude behavior. She took pride in protecting him from such distractions. If a visitor was so poorly raised that he couldn’t act normal in the presence of an albino, then that was his problem alone, and nothing to disturb Mr. Howard’s workday with.