Thursday, January 7, 2010

Maybe I seem a bit confused...

Yet another random idea for a short story. It's so weird that this keeps happening, normally I fail at short stories. Hope you like it :)

Everybody's just a Stranger

The sun rose, as always.
I woke up the wrong way around, as always.
I hit the snooze button with my toes, as always.
I missed the second alarm, as always.
I wolfed down a piece of bread for a half a breakfast, as always.
I whipped through the drive thru on the way to work for my caffeine fix, as always.
It wasn't strong enough, as always.
I was nearly late, as always.

However, something broke my well constructed monotony.
Normally this would be welcome, but even monotony is better than what followed the first of so many blunders, mishaps and ugly little lumps of hurt that would crash down on my slapdash little life.

I switched on the washing machine that sits on my desk pretending to be a computer and went off to check if I had any mail. Fifteen minutes later it booted up and as soon as it did I started wishing it had not.

Thirteen emails.
Normally I'm facing a huge workload if I get two!

So after slogging through eight of them, it became clear that the paperwork I thought I'd finished perfectly adequately last night was completely scandalous.

I totally didn't understand what I'd done, until the entirely un-lovely number ten explained to me the detail of my horrific, gargantuan slip up.

On my assessment form of a harmless old man, who had been widowed for eight years, was living alone in a house much too big for him and offered me a cup of tea no less than fourteen times, I had suffered a near fatal brain failure.

Where I intended to write 'forgetful tendencies' I wrote 'homicidal tendencies'.

Needless to say, my coworkers were worried.

This was going to be fun to unwravel and justify.....
So I took a deep breath, a big swallow of coffee and began the endless process of correction.

I saw some hugely frustrating and depressing clients, filled out my paperwork (meticulously I might add) and was just finishing the last one as my least favourite human being approached my desk.

Susie, the office gossip. And not the bubbly-overly-happy-tries-to-be-everyones-friend type of gossip, the incredibly-bitter-unbelievably-spiteful-i-know-what-you-did-last-summer-and-if-you-don't-do-this-for-me-I'm-telling-your-boss type of gossip. Simply horrid to be around.

It goes without saying that she was one of the first to find out about my cringy mistake.
And the first to rub it in to my face.

'So, homicidal huh Jenkins?'
Thats the other thing about Susie, she calls everyone by their last names, like she's your principal or something.
There is no way I'm replying to her, Susie should have a sign on her forehead that says 'Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of water cooler'
'Better make sure you fill those out, or we'll have the police arresting oldies left right and centre. I must say, I'm not sure how you'll find a way to trump accusations of homicide, but I'm certain you will.'
Still no comment, no comment, no comment.
Never expose your open sores to a vulture, never let a leech see bare skin.
'Next you'll be writing that they tried to grope you, when you meant they tried to give you a cup of tea!'
Finally, she gives up with a snigger, and leaves to harass someone else.

At last I can breathe again.
I ruffle a hand through my hair and double check the paperwork.
I'm just finished running my ACME brand fine-toothed comb through the last page when I hear footsteps approaching, and assume the worst; that Susie is returning to circle me again, waiting for me to die.

But I'm wrong, its worse than that, its my boss.
'Beth, we need to have a word.'
By a word, he means death sentence.
'Certainly Mr. Healey'
He does not tell me to call him Steven, this bodes very badly.
'I assume you are aware of the uhh...incident in your paperwork from yesterday.'
'Yes I am, and I must say that I have gone to all lengths to rectify the situation, and Mr Reynolds' records are now completely clean and accurate.'
'Good, but a patch-up job is not enough to make your mistake go away.'
Nod, don't say anything just nod.
'Imagine if you had been ill today, or on leave. We would have had no choice but to assume your report reflected your visit, and that would have gone very badly for Mr Reynolds.'
'I understand that Mr. Healey, and I'm so sorry, I don't know what happened'
'Well you need to find out Beth, and make certain that it never happens again.'
And is if this wasn't menacing enough, he had to add the soul-crush blow onto the end.
'Or we will be forced to reconsider your position here.'
Nod, just nod.

After what felt like a double eternity, 5:00 pm rolled in, and I rolled right on out of there.
Usually, I wait around for a while to try and avoid the worst of the traffic, but I couldn't bear another moment, so I thought 'bugger it' and jumped straight in the car.
I caught a lucky traffic light on the way out of the car park, but right there my luck ran lower-lakes dry, grid lock, complete and utter grid lock.

As I was creeping along being beaten by snails, I got a message on my phone. Now, I know better than to check it while I'm driving, I've already been pulled over and had a warning for that once. Even though it was peak hour and I wasn't even moving, I knew that today of all days would be the one I'd get a ticket for it, so I let it beep.

Finally, exactly 57 minutes later at the end of my 'ten minute' drive, I stumbled into my flat, dumped my bag on the bench and shoved some miscellaneous left-overs into my 1820's microwave. As I plonked down on the couch with what appeared to be curry of some kind, I remember my message. Scrambling through my endless maze of a handbag I finally retrieved my old-as-my-great-grandmother-and-about-as-reliable mobile phone.

One new message.
Oooh yay, from my boyfriend! It's about time something nice happened today.
im done
Done with what? Painting his patio maybe? 'Cos that would be very exciting, and the promise of a christening party even more exciting.
So I texted back Done with what? and shovelled more leftovers into my mouth waiting expectantly for his reply.

w/ u

Suddenly the curry turned to boulders in my stomach.
with me? He's done with me?!
r u 4 real?

The seconds spent waiting for a response felt like years, and all too soon, my baited breath caught a fish. A big, fat, ugly, soul destroying piranha of a text message.


Suddenly time passed not only at normal speed, but about twice that, as the next few seemed to pass in a big revolting blur.

cant we tlk about this?

made up my mnd

wt did i do?


thn y?

fnd sm1 els

And as soon as I read it, I could see her.
Blonder, thinner, smilier, smarter, easier to deal with, richer, more fun and more everything than me. She played piano, just like I do, but better.
She paints oils, like me but better.
And she models, on the side.
Just because she can.
She's got a name like Chloe, or Amy. A popular name.
The kind of name that sounds like a soapy actress, or at the very least a soapy character.
Not like Beth, which sounds like its popped straight out of Austen to ask for a cup of tea and advice on how to crochet a doily with only the hair from a clydesdale horse.

And when she speaks, she sounds exactly like Susie.

It takes the doorbell to wake me out of these horrible day-mares, and I'm hoping for a friendly face like I have never hoped before.
No such luck.
With rollers in her hair, slippers on her feet and a scowl on her ancient, wrinkled, semi-bearded face my neighbour Mrs Birch greets me, asking me to turn down the television. Just like she always does.

But unlike normal, she sees the anguish in my face, and in a split incomprehensible second, she is holding me like she would her own grand-daughter, and I am weeping like a little girl who's lost her dolly.

And somewhere along the line as she made me a hot chocolate and sat me down, instructing me to spill the beans, I realised something.

Surprises are not good or bad just because they are surprises. We all get our fair share of bad luck, and more than our fair share of chances to be someone else's bearded-lady surprise.

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