Man, my mind’s been all over the place recently. I’m doing so many things, but not really focusing on one long enough to finish it. Doesn’t help that I’ve got some really important thoughts going on right now. Feh.
I promised myself I’d do a better job of updating this space at least once a week, though, even if it means sticking in random filler. Here’s something I wrote once, while trying to shake off writer’s block. Yes, I write stuff to shake off writer’s block. Sometimes, the best way to shake off a funk is to keep going at it. Anyway, enjoy this intro to a story that doesn’t exist:
Robert Ericson was a very conventional man. He was of average height and average build. He had a very average job as a finance analyst for a local toothpaste manufacturer. He laughed and cried just as much as most everyday people, and always when the situation called for it. He did not enjoy his hamburgers with peanut butter and chocolate syrup. In fact, save for a rather odd fetish for caricatures done in the style of Mort Drucker, Robert was a perfectly average, unremarkable fellow.
Every weekday, he would wake up at 7:00a.m. on-the-dot. After a few minutes’ stretching, he’d yawn, rub the crust from his eyes, and head for the kitchen. He’d prepare himself some breakfast, the same dish each day – two pieces of slightly burnt toast, two scrambled eggs, a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice (the pulpy kind). On occasion, he’d mistakenly dip his toast into his juice rather than his coffee while reading up on the latest bit of toothpaste-related news on his laptop. On these mornings, the mouthful of cold, soggy, citrus toast would have been the most exciting part of his day.
He’d then hop into the shower, get some shampoo in his eye, rinse it out, and dress for work. He kept his car keys on the dresser next to his bed. After one last check to see if he left any fire hazards on, he scooted out his front door and drove to his very mundane job at the corporate offices of SMILE toothpaste.
Although SMILE was considered to be quite progressive for incorporating the big-toothed smile emoticon into their brand name, work at the SMILE offices was anything but unconventional. Day in and day out, middle-aged men in black and brown suits huffed and puffed around the office, while middle-aged women gossiped about the younger hussies they were most definitely sure were sleeping with the boss to get that promotion they’d been after. Younger men like Robert, for lack of huffing, puffing, and gossip, resigned themselves to their cubicles, staring for hours at the numbers on their computer monitors. At exactly five-o’-clock in the afternoon, everybody would breathe a sigh of relief, punch out at the punch-clock, and make their ways home.
In 2008, on a date Robert can’t quite remember, he had another one of his perfectly unremarkable mornings. He had no adventures with orange-flavored toast, nor did he avoid temporarily blinding himself with a dollop of Head & Shoulders. The keys were exactly where he placed them, and nothing could have possibly burned the flat down while he was at work.
He punched himself in at the office exactly 5 minutes and 22 seconds before 9:00a.m. He settled into his very cozy cubicle, turned his computer on, and waited patiently for his monitor to spring to life.
At 9:22a.m., Robert saw a middle-aged man huffing and puffing in what looked to be the direction of his cubicle. Paying the obviously-busy executive no mind, Robert turned back to his monitor, which had on it charts and graphs projecting the profits made from sales of SMILE‘s caffeine-laced “Lazy Mondays” toothpaste. To his surprise, he heard a huff coming from directly behind him, followed by a rather busy grumble.
“Ericson, is it?”, the grumbler said. Having nearly forgotten his own surname with surprise, Robert found himself stammering an embarrassingly-weak “Yes, sir?” The grumbler, a rather hefty man furiously looking at the clipboard in his hands, continued. “You’re handling the Lazy Mondays account, yes? We’re bringing someone over to relieve you. Turnover’s at 10:30a.m. We expect you to finish before lunchtime.” With a final puff, he walked away, still occupied with the mysteries that lay on the surface of his clipboard.
“What account am I being transferred to, sir?”, Robert called after him. The grumbler, never taking his eyes off the clipboard, gave a rather ambiguous wave in reply. John Morris, who sat in the cubicle directly behind Robert’s, peeked his head above the divider. “I think you’ve been fired, mate.”
Robert sank into his chair. John was most probably right. After all, Robert had been at the company for nearly four years, and had not once moved any closer to huffing and puffing around the office himself. Stagnancy was never a good sign at the office, unless you were a younger woman who just so happened to be the secretary of an unhappily-married executive. Realizing he didn’t have any credentials beyond the office that just fired him, Robert sank deeper into his seat, trying to fathom the incredible uncertainty of it all.
He had one glimmer of hope, however: denial. Surely he wasn’t being fired. The grumbler (who he now recognized as Mr. Charles Burlington, the head of Human Resources) never actually said those words. In fact, the only thing remotely connected to “fired” mentioned was that he was being “relieved”. That was a much nicer word than “fired”. It conjured up images of appreciation for all his hard work, of finally catching a break in this dreary office, and of paid vacations at Mr. Burlington’s summer house in Acapulco.
Then, as if guided by the gloomy carrot-on-a-stick of inevitability itself, John offered a commiserate hand to Robert and said, “Tough break, mate”. Robert sank so slow he fell off his seat.
Robert spent the next hour resenting everything in the office. He hated the glare of his monitor. He sat begrudgingly in a chair that offered little to no lumbar support. He detested the way that John called him “mate”, even though John was an Indian born and raised in the Philippines. He even hated the attractive young lady walking towards his cubicle, who was no doubt Mr. “Grumpy-Frumpy” Burlington’s secretary come to rub more salt into his wounds. It sickened him to hear the sweet lilt in her voice as she asked him, “Mr. Ericson?”
Keeping his eyes firmly fixated on the flooring, he growled back, “Yeah?”
“Vanessa Thompson, pleased to meet you. I believe you’re here to orient me on the Lazy Mondays account?”
Perfect, Robert thought, Grumpy-Frumpy gave my job to his mistress. He felt compelled to get a good look at the hussy who took his job by spreading her legs. Vanessa was fairly tall, with an athletic yet slender build. Her fair hair and blue eyes were the type to grace the sample photographs found in department store picture frames. Her lips, slightly cocked to the right in a half-smile, were pouty enough to make even the ladies want to nibble on them. A heart-shaped face tapered down to an elegant neck, which itself pointed the way to the slightest hint of cleavage. Her violet blazer hugged her body well enough to betray her hourglass curves, but still give off an air of professionalism. He very briefly imagined what she would look like if her forehead was too big and her nose too small. He coughed, muttered an apology no one normal could have possibly heard, and reoriented himself.
“Yes, um, yes… Vanessa, is it?” He was always forgetful when intimidated. “So you’re going to take the Lazy Mondays account?” “Yes,” she answered, “if you’d kindly orient me on it.” Robert quickly turned back to his monitor and closed his 2,500-word magnum opus titled Die, Burlington, Die, You Pompous, Insufferable Gorilla. It took him less than ten seconds to locate and load the enormous document he had compiled on Lazy Mondays sales, which took into account the number and prices of individual boxes of product sold in all stores, major and minor, in every market area with a population of 2,000 or more people.
“Yes, um, well, this is the Lazy Mondays report,” he stammered, “…Vanessa, is it?” Vanessa smiled, amused by the strangely charming idiot in front of her, and said, “Yes, that’s my name.” She leaned towards Robert’s monitor to get a closer look at the figures. She smelled like cotton candy, which was Robert’s third-favorite scent next to second-favorite peppermint and absolute-favorite slightly-burnt toast in the morning.
For the duration of the orientation, Robert didn’t really hear much of what Vanessa was saying. He didn’t really hear much of what he was saying, either. All that ran through his mind that day was that he had to find his way back into the office somehow.
Honestly, I think it could be better. I’m never really satisfied with what I write, though. Here’s hoping you at least enjoyed some of it.
UPDATE: Looky-looky, a second part!