A RICH LIFE

I have always had a strong imagination. When I was a child, there were nights where I would lie in bed, waiting for sleep to claim me, with more vivid fantasies about knights and magicians than the dreams that would follow. On the walk to school every morning, I would picture the world coming to an end in a new way, just to pass the time (and, perhaps, in hopes that I could somehow make the school explode).

Until one day I realized that I had to move on. The perfectly detailed gun battles, the stealth missions against giant aliens, the jumps from thousand foot buildings with a parachute—they all were too little for me. I started spending my time on schoolwork. Instead playing clips of unwritten movies in my head at night, I passed out with a pen in hand and a notebook under my head.

I got a degree in finance, and was set up with a steady job. The office walls had that dirty, faded white color that looks simultaneously unfinished and ancient. Things were pretty good. During my breaks, I got a brief moment to myself to breathe. I usually spent this time picturing what it would be like if I were outside, but company policy was that all breaks not spent on the can were to be spent in the break room. Then it was back to the tip-tap­ of the keyboard.

And that was twenty-five years gone. Nothing changed. The occasional pay raise kept me feeling humble about myself, while the company’s profits quintupled under a budget plan I had proposed. They even offered me full health insurance coverage—and I mean FULL. They even scheduled check ups for me, I was considered that important to the company. Plus, the big guys said they could write off any costs anyway.

Then the day came where the check up didn’t go so well. It was an overcast day, with the sun just barely peeking out from behind the clouds. The doctors’ office was colder than it was outdoors. I came in for a routine check up, which I had once a year, and the doctor found a strange clump in my chest. The tests came back a week later, and they told me it was breast cancer. It had progressed fast, too, and was likely to begin impacting my health seriously within the next two months.

The company gave me leave—something that came marking both my twenty-fifth anniversary with the company, and the tenth year since they monopolized the market (of course, in America they can’t call it that, but the results were the same). I went to Spain, to Germany, and a load of other countries to try to clear my head. The head of the Euro branch of affairs found me a top-notch place to stay at, and I began to burn through my hefty savings.

One night, I took a break from the parties and the escapes, and went to bed early. I was nostalgic about my life. I had called family, friends, and even past co-workers about my conditions. My childhood memories of imagining things before bed came back to me, and I closed my eyes to picture myself in a meadow. It started well, but soon I had lost myself in a story about beautiful queens and valorous knights.

And it struck me that I had never been valorous. There was no adventure to my life. Sure, I was frequenting the top of the top in society, but the blow was hardly fulfilling anymore. There were no roadside breakdowns. No struggles. No victories. Just fun. So much fun, that it didn’t feel special anymore.

The next day I took a walk through the street market. An old couple was deciding between two vegetables, while a child ran from his parents in ragged clothes. They all had such smiles on their faces. They had made it. No, they weren’t spraying champagne into crowds of cheering faces, or sleeping with gorgeous models, but they had the heart-wrenching expressions just the same.

I walked my way up through a cobblestone tower with a name I couldn’t pronounce and looked out over the world. It was a misty day, with just enough fog to coat the horizon, but not so much to cover the city. They didn’t have ledge guards here—if you fell, you fell. And as I stood there, I pictured the life I could have had. I could have ditched that class, went on that hike, or went to that dinner. Maybe then, I wouldn’t be standing where I was now—rich, famous, and utterly alone.

And I jumped.

——

 

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DROPPED NUTS

Ok, I’ll take a break from 50 word stories for at least a week after this one:

Wandering through the park to work, I came across a dead squirrel at the base of a tree. He had slipped from a branch while retrieving nuts, and crashed headfirst into a massive root. His head had split open, and the nuts that had distracted him were soaked in blood.

——

 

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RETURN HOME

I really enjoyed writing my fifty-word story last week, so I thought I’d try another this week:

 

The walk home from the winter train station always feels like a Debussy song. Each step through the snowscape is like strolling on a cloud in the summer sky, despite the cold. When I cross the bridge, I can faintly hear them. In the reflection below I see myself smile.

——

 

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SUMMER READINGS

If I piled up the pyramid of books

that I promised I would peruse this summer

I would have a tombstone so great

that even Giza would be impressed.

 

But when scattered about in my room,

along the seats of my car, or still nestled

cozily on the shelves of the dusty library

they could hardly dwarf the statue of a gnome.

 

Which is why when I go to water the yard now

I see Eliot and Wilder standing guard,

reminding me how my time here is too short

to spend wasting away on this silly computer.

——

 

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RUNNING ON FUMES

Out alone on the desert road

in the humid summer sunset,

my car sputtered along,

seeking respite from the seething air.

 

Which is how I felt walking

through the bleak parking structure

between shifts at my second job,

on the way to Baron’s for lunch at 4:30.

 

Yet when I turned the key

and the car crawled back to life

I felt a rush of energy

knowing Willow would be there too.

——

 

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ELEVATOR ESCAPE

They had given me tickets to Bermuda as a departing gift, after I had told them I was done. I read over them several time, to verify there was no falsity to the tickets, but they appeared real enough. When I walked out, the click of the door behind me was a reminder that this was all too good to be true. No hitman leaves the industry that easily.

As I walked through the hallway to the elevator, decorated lavishly with red furnishings, I had an eye out for the betrayal. None came. I pressed the down button, and took a step back. The doors swung open a moment later, and a small man walked by me. He was inattentive, and nearly walked right into me. When I turned to let him pass, I saw a body appear down the corridor to the left. A massive, titan of a man, nearly seven foot tall and four feet across, was pacing slowly toward me. His suit coat was loose, but the shirt underneath was tight to his chest, and made it look like he was made more of steel than flesh.

The doors to the elevator opened, and I thought, panic stricken, that he might not be able to make it to me before they closed, so I stepped through. Dead wrong. He broken into a sprint, and as the doors began to shut, he barreled through them. His shoulders smashed the edges of the elevator where I had been standing a moment before, and when he stepped away the support bar was indented. My shock had frozen me for a moment, and the ding of the doors woke me with the realization that I was probably going to die here.

Fortunately, my body was not so frozen. Acting on muscle memory, I stepped behind him, and kicked out his right knee. He toppled off balance and fell to his knees for a moment. The pause gave me the chance to get an arm around his brick of a neck, pressing my chest tight against him to give as little room for breath as possible. When I pulled tight, to squeeze the life out of him, it was like wrangling a beam to a building. It only took him a moment to regain his footing, and as he stood up I felt my feet leave the ground. His arms went to his neck, and dug into my arm as a lion digs into its prey. I thought he might break my arm with his grip alone.

Somehow, I held on. When he began getting desperate, he slammed me back into the elevator door. Or rather, through the door. I felt my whole back snap and crack as the steel doors bent. Our bodies came tumbling two floors before the bottom floor. In a heave of pain, I scrabbled to my feet. He was still bent over, coughing as he caught his breath. I scanned the room, and found the stairway, then bolted for it. I heard him stumble to his feet behind me, and then suddenly the whole building seemed to shake as he took up the chase. I swung the door open, taking the steps four at a time, using the handrail to balance myself and redirect my momentum around the turns.

Two flights of stairs later, I reached the bottom. I had gained a bit of distance between us. A man that size was unlikely to be able to move quickly through such tight quarters. When I stepped into the lobby, I tossed my black coat into the trash can beside me, and ripped a deep red one off the coat wrack, along with a pale black hat. I stepped out onto the street, and melted into the crowd just as he tore into the lobby. That was the last time I saw him.

——

 

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A JOB WELL ENJOYED

Hello there!

I haven’t talked directly with my readers in a while, and speaking that I am writing this 16 minutes before it is supposed to go up, and I had no idea what to talk about, today seems like a good day to do that. And it is a great day to be talking directly with you all. We (mainly my father and I) just finished the major portion of our front yard redesign.

Which makes me want to talk about work from a personal perspective. While I was watering the grass we put in today, I was thinking about how a botanist (probably) loves plants, but may not actually enjoy the tedious aspects of the job; like cutting the rectangular grass so that it matches the rounded edges of the space in which it is being placed. Or maybe doing the mathematics to make sure you don’t over order grass.

Similarly, a teacher may love teaching, but in the remodeling of their room, they may find that it is less than enjoyable. I mean, there is a reason people look down on the mundane jobs of the world, like janitors, trash collectors, and day laborers. Their jobs have no room for passion really. They have little control, and the work they do is always terrible (not the quality of the work they do, but the requirements put on them).

Which is to say that our default nature is that we don’t inherently enjoy the mundane tasks of life. Which I guess is obvious, but at the same time, people talk about making the best of things. How do you make the best of something that you are programed not to like?

I honestly don’t know the answer, but I thought it would be an interesting question to pose. Let me know what you think!

 

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UNDERSTANDING (DIS)ORGANIZATION

Lets talk about being organized! The SCARIEST thing in life since sliced bread. Wait. That’s not how that works. Anyways, being organized is something that I am simultaneously great at and terrible at. And I mean TERRIBLE. Like I have books in four different places in my room, and none of them are where I keep my books to be read. I have things in my clothing drawers that are not clothes. Like organization is not my strong suit at home.

But then at work, I organize nearly everything more systematically and efficiently than anyone else on shift, and I carefully keep up that organization. If a staple is out of place, I’ll know. If the inventory gets messed up, I’ll know. I mean, I can’t really do anything besides complain about it, because I’m not the store owner, but I knew there was something going wrong.

So what gives? You think I would care about my living space more, right? Well, I think it has to do with a few different things. Firstly, I am more comfortable in my living space than at work. Less people to impress. That’s why any of us would. Secondly, I’ve lived here forever. FOR-EVER. I know every nook and cranny of this place, and so when you ask me where my copy of Hamlet is, I can tell you it is in stack one, versus when you ask where my copy of Beowulf is, I can tell you it is in stack two. At the store, if you ask me where something is, I have to go check to verify nobody else moved it before I tell you where it is, because working with co-workers is HARD (insert heavy sarcasm because it really isn’t difficult to work with co-workers as long as they just put things back and keep the room a little cleaner than before but NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO why would they do that. Ok, rant over).

Anyways, what do you think? Is your place spick and span, or do you have a well detailed map of the place in your head? Let me know!

 

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DOWNPOUR (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Unending

Tick-tock, ‘round the clock.

Do you ever wonder when

the world will stop?

 

Enjoy

There’s not enough time

in this short life that we live

to not eat good food.

 

Fantasies

While your mind wanders,

night sets in; but you can still

picture the sunset.

 

Yard Work

With dust in my pores

and dirt soaking in my hair,

I feel at home.

 

Downpour

Consume the hatred,

let it flow through you like rain,

but don’t drown yourself.

——

 

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DEFEATED BEFORE BREAKFAST

When I woke up, I was already defeated. The thick, mass of blankets pinned me down, while waves of lethargy threatened to drown me beneath them. My eyes felt hazy, as though I had awoke intoxicated by some unknown drug, and every muscle in my body seemed to whisper stay just a little while longer. Gravity itself pulled me back toward the warm confines of the bed when I finally rocked myself up.

And as I stumbled about my room, the cozy grooves of the carpet felt like roots, begging me to drink their nutrients and become a tree. The shivers of cool air whisking through the window cut me deep in my nudity, as if to order me back to bed. The same was true for the bathroom tiles, the shock of frigid water, and the hasty toweling off. I looked at myself in the mirror—might I mention that looking in the mirror in the morning is never a good idea. My salt and pepper beard was scruffy; I looked older than I was. Though, in truth, I felt older than I looked. Which meant, that morning, I could only conclude that I had no idea how old I was, but that “old” was certainly the correct descriptive word.

Looking in that mirror was the last twist of the knife though. It was like watching the walls of Constantinople crumble, or the Russian winter cripple Napoleon’s armies. I saw myself—my sunken eyes, my wrinkled arms, and my weakened knees—and the miniscule warmth in my heart was snuffed out. I picked up the phone and dialed some numbers.

“Hello?” A familiar female voice called out to me.

“Hi, Allie, it’s Jim. I’m not feeling well today. I’ve got a 103 fever, and I’m not going to make it in today.” I could hear the pause as she typed out a few things

“Well hi Jim. I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well, but didn’t you get the email?” There was a note of sorrow in her voice.

“What email?”

“Oh. Well they rescheduled you. You don’t have to come in until tomorrow at five.”

“Oh. Well thanks for telling me. When did they send out the email?”

“This morning,” my heart stung with annoyance as she spoke, “don’t you check everyday?”

“No. Do you?”

“Hmm well you should.” She sounded bored.

“Well, thanks for telling me that,” I said, “talk to you later.”

“By Jim!” then the phone clicked off.

I climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up. They had cooled since I had left them. At least my defeat didn’t actually cost me anything.

——

 

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