Tagged: short story

Story Time Saturday, featuring an excerpt from A Million Little Boxes – a work story. 

I had no real idea what I was doing.  I mean, I had a loose grasp of the general concepts, but the  actual execution was a different beast entirely.  The company tinkered with their methods and procedures so often that it was nearly impossible to keep up.  True proficiency was a fucking pipe dream.  Just when you got used to doing things one way, BOOM, they decided to change it up again…and for no good reason.  Their feeble and half-handed attempts at ‘training’, if that’s what you want to call it, were just a ridiculous ruse.  I literally had no idea what I was doing, and spent the bulk of every day winging it…and I did it for years.  Talk about disheartening; it’s the most depleted feeling inching your way to five o’clock blindly, in the dark, not knowing what the hell you’re doing.  For years.  Even after it’s been explained, because their explanations amounted to a fresh pile of zebra shit.

  There’s a great line at the end of the movie ‘The Usual Suspects’, where Kevin Spacey’s character states “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”  I’ve gotta say, convincing this joint that I knew what I was doing, that I was a stand up, functioning employee, ranks up there with the greatest. 

Story Time Saturday, featuring an excerpt from A Million Little Boxes – a work story.

When would I decide that enough was enough? Had I determined what enough was? Or when? What was my threshold? My breaking point? How much would I have to endure before I realized that I’d had it up to here? It had been years of the same old, years of stringing together reason after reason, excuse after excuse, line after line. Coaxing together a thin fabric of a façade that masked my true purpose, a purpose that had lain dormant for God knows how long. It was once asked if dreams deferred wither and dry up like raisins in the sun; I often wondered that same question. 
 What happens to dreams when they’re cast aside like old laundry into an old darkened corner? Do they begin to smell? Do they rot? Do they grow hairy mold? Or do they just die…regretfully, painfully, scornfully, and utterly unforgiving of the person that relegated them to that less than golden fate? Do we blame ourselves? Do we blame ourselves as the result of our jobs? Or is it all one giant soup that we’re all stewing in, bubble by bubble, until we reach the boiling point that sends us oozing over the edge of the pot and into the unknown? Maybe there in that zone lies the reason behind it all…the purpose that we all so desperately seek…the one that very few of us have ever truly lived enough of in order to assist the rest of us schlocks that were too afraid to step out and live. 

A Million Little Boxes – a work story (excerpt).

The trials of being me:
 “Damn, a year’s already gone by.”
“Fuck, I really can’t believe I’ve wasted two whole years at this place.”

“Yo, please kill me if I make the three year mark.”

“Hey man, for real, throw me off a fucking bridge if I make it here four years.”

“Like seriously dude, something’s seriously wrong with me if I make it to five years.”

“Wow, three months from now will be my six year mark.” 

“Well I’ll be damned. Six fucking years.”

So begins the current situation. Keyboard clicks, telephones ringing, clunky fax machines humming their disjointed rhythms, random chatter, overcooked professionalism, clichéd power phrases, false motivation, no incentives, wilted prospects, dried up ambitions, phony smiles, fake promises, and utter loss of concentration await. Deep breaths.

The Passing At Highway 10, part 26.

BOOM…BOOM, the door thundered time and again. I only wished that it was thunder, although the rain still came down like a typhoon outside. The rattling of the door, the patter of the rain, and our heavy breathing were the only sounds in that kitchen. We were breathing like asthmatics, we were all so damn shattered. You know how it is in the movies, where the heroes are always calm and cool and kicking asses with expressionless faces? Yeah, it ain’t like that in real life. We sure didn’t look like Hollywood tough guys back there. That booming was working my brain into a frenzy, and I could feel its effects in the trembling of my hands. I’d been scared before, sure. Many times. But never like this. I guess it didn’t matter how many fuckers there were out there, as long as we could hold them off for as long as we could. It didn’t matter right now, the reasons, the meanings, the who’s, the why’s, or the what’s. All that mattered was making it until the morning. Shit, just making it through the next few hours. Fuck it, I thought…I’d rather be a sitting duck in here than somebody’s damn buffet out there. At least for a while…at least until we could figure this thing out. We need a plan. We need a plan, I kept telling myself. 
My mind raced as the three of us reached the cabinet at the same time, a heavy beast of old steel, and pushed our weight against it. I hadn’t even bothered to ask the other guy what his name was; my brain wasn’t processing courtesies, but I noticed his hands kept slipping off of the steel like they were coated in butter. Sweaty palms. “Push”, I whispered into the darkness, and we heaved and shoved inch by inch, foot by foot, until it reached the door. We gave it one last grunt for good measure. Hell, if it took three of us to drive this thing fifteen feet, then it was gonna take an army of those bastards outside to knock it down. I’d wanted to breathe a long, deep sigh of relief, but all I could muster was a stuttered few breaths. We did it though. The front doors were chained, and the back door was blocked. We were officially sitting…or dead…ducks. We held onto our weapons and made our way back to the bar.

The Passing at Highway 10, part 25.

You couldn’t have cut the tension with a fucking chainsaw if you tried, it was so damned thick. My mouth was as dry as a pile of dead leaves, and yet my palms were as soggy as an old dish rag as we padded our way slowly and quietly to the back of the place. The thunder raged like a thousand explosions outside, and the whole thing reminded me of the Fourth of July. If only it were. Maybe all the thunder would mask our footsteps and chatter and movement from the things outside…or worse, maybe it would hide their movement from us. Those fuckers had to know we were in here. Or did they? How safe were we, locked away in here? Was it a sanctuary or a mouse trap? We shuffled our way through Sam’s tiny kitchen, a place where I’d dined on many a random night, and I could feel my feet slide a bit on the grease drenched floor. “Hey guys, grab something outta here”, Sam uttered quietly, and motioned to a counter full of old kitchen implements. Knives, spoons, big forks, and other assorted cutlery glinted slightly in the darkness of the kitchen, and I grabbed a steel tenderizer so massive that looked like it could have pounded a t-bone into a veal cutlet. It looked like Thor’s hammer. I smiled at the thought of that, the first quick smile I’d had since we left Harvey’s.

The thing just seemed huge, but shit, if all I was gonna have to work with was some damned kitchenware, then by God that’s the thing I’d want to use to smash a few skulls. It was more than enough. I watched the other guy grab a butcher knife, and Sam had been holding the same baseball bat that he’d had in his hands since we busted all frantic like into his bar. “Listen”, I whispered into the wet, drippy darkness, and all I could hear for a brief moment was the quickened breathing of my two companions. Then we heard it again, the only reason that we were back here in the first place. It hit the door like a mack truck, it seemed, a banging so loud that it split the quiet of the kitchen of the room in half, making our ears ring. Whatever it was, we were adamant that the fucker was NOT going to get inside. “Whatever it was”, I repeated in my head, as if I didn’t already know what God cursed horror was lurking beyond the door handle. “Whatever it was”…I wish to God that I didn’t know. BOOM, it went again, and all three of us froze. BOOM. “Sam, you got any chain? Rope?”, I blurted out as quietly as I could, and I could see, even in the dimness of the room, that Sam’s nerves were getting shaken loose with each slam of dead flesh on that damned door. Those fuckers knew we were in here, but how many were out there? We were fucking blind in this building. Sitting ducks. “SAM!”, I made a point to shake him hard, back into the sting of reality. “We gotta seal this fucking door, Sam, and right now”; my words slipped out in little silent slivers. “T-t-there’s a cabinet over there”, Sam managed to mutter, “T-the cabinet right there…you guys help me move it.” We all three rushed over to the corner where it was. A big assed old steel monstrosity…maybe it would do the trick…for a while. It was all happening in a blur, and I couldn’t tell the banging on the door from the booming thunder outside anymore.         
 

Monotony – A Story – Part 10

“That’s a nice little combination you have there”, she impishly suggested as she scanned the contents laid out neatly on the register. Well, seeing that there were only two contents sitting there, they weren’t that damn hard to miss. There they were, my now glaringly odd looking purchases, standing out like two sore thumbs that had been crushed disastrously by an errant hammer; like two criminals that just got busted red handed, and now had the cop’s bright ass flashlight beamed directly in their faces. Just like boom, flooded with blinding spotlight, right there. Bullets and sleeping pills. At least she smiled when she said it. “Yeah”, I managed to stammer out as I was jarred back into reality by the warm, sticky sweetness of her voice. I was subtly elated at the fact that she spoke to me, and the gentleness in her tone just lulled me right in like an invited guest. Well, elated and surprised and highly caught off guard was the truth of it. But I couldn’t just stop at a mere “Yeah”. So when I recovered from the initial shock, I attempted to elaborate on the source of my curious shopping. “Looks a bit weird, doesn’t it?”, I joked, with a nice little laugh to try to smooth out the proceedings. “I wouldn’t say weird”, she went on, “now questionable? That’s the word that I’d use”, she stated with a pleasant smile….one that I seriously could not stop looking at.        

Monotony – A Story – Part 9

I met her at a checkout line while buying a box of 9mm ammo and a bottle of Tylenol P.M. Yeah, that’s right; bullets and sleeping pills. Looking back, it had to have appeared as somewhat of an oddly curious combination. She strolled into my aisle, all freshly beautiful and radiant and mysterious, initially oblivious to my existence. I’d spotted her earlier, looking intently at the beauty products as I passed by and did a double take and subsequent slow down. I paused to pretend as though I was reading a box of cereal while I briefly gawked surreptitiously, but decided to keep on going once my eyeballs had their fill. They were hungry, and she fed them well. Besides, I really did have some shopping to do. A friend and I were going shooting that weekend, and I’d gone to the store to pick up a few boxes of ammo, and as a result of having slept like pure shit for what seemed like weeks, I’d also discovered the magnificently dreary prowess of Tylenol P.M. That stuff had proved to be a godsend; without it, I was up all night. The zombies that I’d normally been dreaming about? They must have been missing the hell out of my flesh. But there she was, just two feet away from me; she reminded me, in just the first glance, of all the things that I’d always wanted. All the little perfect, daydreamy shit I’d envisioned over the years, all the imagined moments, carefully cultivated images, and dream induced qualities were right there in front of me in full glory. Five feet something of just pure rainbows and sunsets. I couldn’t help but to stare…fuck it, right? Why put a painting on the wall if it wasn’t supposed to be looked at? At that moment, I thought “Why else is a beauty like that created?” So I looked, and of course she noticed me looking, and I felt a slight tinge of embarrassment as she scoped my suicidal looking purchases sprawled out on the register, bright as day.

The Passing at Highway 10 – Parts 23 & 24

We both blurted it out at the same time before we realized that we’d spoken over one another, “What the hell is going on, Sam?”, Sally and I both asked in unison. My hands were still shaking from the shock of what I’d done out there. What the hell would the consequences be? I was a fucking murderer now…I mean, I killed a man…men. But wasn’t it self defense? I had to do it, right? Before I could finish the horror of that thought, Sam was offering us a drink, and walked us over to the bar. We gratefully followed. Five or six people spread out from the shadows and quietly greeted us from a distance, all patrons that had been drinking at the bar when it was attacked by the kids outside; now prisoners in this mess that we were all entangled in. They all looked fucking shell shocked. We greeted each one with a hello and a nod and took Sam up on that drink, and he twisted off the cap and took a long slug of whiskey. He explained how the night began as a normal night…what night doesn’t begin as a normal night, right….and how a guy came in bleeding and screaming and frantic out of his mind. Behind him were two or three friends that had carried him in, pleading for somebody to call the cops. The guy was apparently pretty busted up, so Sam got on the line and dialed the sheriff, and two deputies showed up not long after. “It was a mess, Frank”, he kept saying, then trailed off into silence. “They um, they bit Bobby, Frank”, he said, before he trailed off once more. “The sheriff, you mean?”, I had to ask, just to make sure we were on the same page. “Yeah”, he replied…”Those kids out there…they…they uh….they ate him”.

The words hit me hard, like a fat-fisted sucker punch to the gut. I didn’t know what to say to that…I mean really, what the hell was I supposed to say to that?   I couldn’t bring myself to actually say what I was thinking…what I kinda knew to be true.   You see, in the movies, they always seem to know exactly what to do, how to handle shit, how to react, how to think…and they’ve got all the right shit to say. So I stood there for a second, well, it seemed like hours, just trying to take all of that in. I tried to digest that mess of a comment as best as I could, and it kept replaying in my head like that shitty song on the radio that plays over and over. “They ate him”. It spun in my head again and again, round and round, and I couldn’t help but swig the hell out of my drink at the thought of it all…and just as soon as I’d finished, I pounded another. Maybe just hoping that it would slam some sense into my mush of a brain and calm the shaking of my hands. I noticed then that I was breathing heavy like some fucking exhausted animal. One more drink…just something, anything to clear the fog outta my head…thick, heavy fog…that kind of dense, ominous mist that you’d see in a scary movie; the kind you couldn’t see two feet ahead of…the kind that let you know that something bad was coming. In the movies, they always say stuff like “those things”, “those creatures”, and they question a situation like this as if they’ve never seen a fuckin’ zombie movie before. Zombies though? There was no doubt in my mind that that’s what was going on. But was the shit real? I mean, c’mon…how? This is real fucking life. How do you wrap your head around fuckin’ zombies? I glanced over at Sally, who was throwing questions at Sam and the others. I noticed that she hadn’t touched her drink. She’ll have a clear head at least. Shit, we’re all gonna need clear heads if we wanna survive this thing. It’s funny, it was almost as if I was asking a question rather than making a comment when I mumbled to the others, “zombies.”

Monotony – A Story – Part 8

So here’s the deal; how many times have you been at your desk, pretending to work of course, daydreaming of another life? How many of us sit in the gardens of our own little secret worlds, scheming of creative ways to shake things up? Dreaming of ways to just flip the script and start over? We don our masks every day and face the world with our pretend selves…most of us tend to fake our smiles, fake our enthusiasm, and fake our brains into believing that we’re all on the same team. We all do it; the customary nods, smiles, and hello’s, the traditional talk about the weather and the local sports teams and what not, and the quintessential remarks about how we all can’t wait until 5 o’clock. It’s all the same; it’s the universal language of things. It’s as if we are all actors, and to be honest, the great bulk of us could truly win Oscars and Golden Globes for our performances. We’re all actors, and we’re scarily good at it. We are all performing on a daily, acting until five o’clock, acting through meetings, acting through the bullshit until we can reach our little safe zones, wherever that may be. Yeah, I get it. It’s like we’re following a script; we’re all different pages of the same book, and not one of us has any idea as to how the story will end. It’s a very thin veneer. Part of me would rather take on that horde of stumbling, slobbering, reanimated flesh that I was dreaming about than spend one more day…one more second, even…typing meaningless entries into that meaningless database.

Monotony – A Story – Part 7

Birds darted and soared outside in slow, steady spirals and graceful zig zags. My cubicle faced the window, which was heaven and hell all rolled into one. Staring out into the blue skies was a revelation that reminded me of the unfathomable depth of the world, and that the world still breathed…and, through it all, that I was still alive despite the paralytic effects of my surroundings. It reminded me that beauty was a real thing, a very honest concept, not just a figment of imagination and magazine ads, or movies, commercials and television shows. It was a reminder that I was most certainly not meant for the off-white box that I was in. On the flip side though, having a window seat was pure, uncut hell, because it was also a sickeningly painful reminder that I was very well shackled to a cube wall like some dungeon prisoner in the old cartoons or comic books, all hairy and ragged and barefoot and threadbare. I felt as if I were that comic book detainee, tethered to some imaginary world where numbers ruled, office politics reigned supreme, and management was as crooked as a bad case of scoliosis. Either way, it was awesome to see the clouds float by and the birds soar outside every day.