Fiction

Long Walk

The old truck roared under the strain as it crested the last hill, it’s battered and rusted hull blent into the desolate landscape, just like one more derelict piece of junk left to deteriorate in the windswept plain. In the distance hills rose in a ring around the valley, seemingly within reach, but a full days walk in actuality. As the truck shuttered to a stop, the whistle of the wind came into focus, an overwhelming wail, streaking across the short grass and dried mud. It was cold out as evidenced by the small clumps of scattered snow and the frozen water in tire tracks. He opened the door of the truck, pushing it through several sticking points, the creaking noise being carried off by the wind. His tattered boots and faded jeans did little to block the piercing wind and he shivered a little in spite of himself.

Walking rapidly away from the truck he headed toward the broken wooden shack which stood nearby. There was a time it had been relatively weatherproof, but that time had been long ago, and no one had bothered to keep it in good repair. The grass grew right up to the edge of the building and as he got close he noticed some of it had recently been trampled down. He paused for a long second, his jaw flexing and unflexing, a disturbed look on his face. Whatever inner conflict had caused him to pause quickly passed and he charged towards the broken door of the broken building. Flinging the door aside, he disappeared into the dark hole. A second later he reappeared, carrying a small wooden barrel. Dropping the barrel on the ground he grabbed a nearby rock and bashed it to pieces. Digging through the broken wood he pulled out a long thin metal rod. It was smooth and polished, cleanly cut at each end. It glistened, even in the dull light of the winter morning. Muttering to himself, he jumped to his feet and then froze, coming over the rise in the distance was another truck. It was large and looming, newer than his own, with tinted windows and oversize tires. He paused for only a moment, then turned and started to run as fast as he could. The wind howled past his ears and caused his eyes to tear up till he could barely see which caused him to stumble and trip over the uneven frozen ground. He resisted the urge to look back, but kept up a dead run towards the distant hills. He came upon an old barb wire fence, stopping in order to duck underneath, he stole a glance behind him. No one was there. The new truck was gone and so was his own. He recalled how he had left the door of the truck open and the keys in the ignition. The wind whistled and howled, the grass whipped around his legs, the metal was cold in his hand, it was 30 miles back to the main road. He headed towards the hills.

The Girl At The Beach

The girl sat on the beach and gazed out at the horizon, a long blue line stretching from left to right, fading away as it passed the limits of the human eye. In the foreground a few fishing trawlers slowly plied the waters, their nets like giant wings stretched out to either side just like a giant ungainly bird. The waves broke where the water met the sand, sand so fine it looked and felt like sugar, “sugar sand” the locals called it. Up and down the beach people were scattered in small groups, each group trying to maintain their distance from the next, causing new arrivals to hike progressively further to stake out their own plot of sand with enough buffer from the adjacent group. This wasn’t the kind of beach where people went to lay side by side like hot dogs on a grill. The beach was vast, and outside of the highly trafficked areas a few miles up the coast. When the tide was out, the beach seemed as wide as it was long, that is to say – limitless.

The sun baked down on the sand, on the beach, on the waves, on the girl. About 10 yards away from the girl, a small crab popped its head out of a hole it had dug in the sand. It looked warily around, searching for the least sign of danger at which it would dive back down and reappear 5 minutes later only to repeat the cycle once again. The girl didn’t notice the crab, she was now flat on her back with her eyes closed. Next to her was a beach bag with a half empty bottle of water protruding from the top. The bottle was covered in condensation and the label on the bottle had started to peel away as a result. A slight breeze stirred the top of the beach bag, the girl didn’t move. The crab poked it’s head up for the 5th time, the girl didn’t move. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked, the girl twitched her toe.

A quarter mile down the beach, two surfers sat straddling their boards in deep water, waiting for the next set. Their feet lazily hanging beneath the water, like tempting morsels for a passing shark. They had been surfing for the past hour, and the current was taking them steadily down the beach until they could barely see the pile of clothes they had left on the beach. They talked about surfing and about the beach and about their mutual friend Brian. Realizing they were thirsty, they paddled back towards shore, half-heartedly attempting to catch some small waves on their way in. Hitting the beach they put their boards under their arms and started walking towards the pile of clothes they had left, the leashes on their boards trailing behind them. As they drew nearer, they could see the girl laying on the beach next to their clothes, almost on top of their clothes. The two girls sped up, their boards banging against their legs as they went. Approaching the other girl, the two surfers hailed her with a greeting to which she slowly raised her head. “Those are our clothes” one of the surfers said. The other girl looked at them for a moment, “Oops” she said, “I thought the owners had drowned”, and with that she lay back and closed her eyes. The two surfers looked at one another, then at the other girl, but the other girl didn’t see them because her eyes were closed. The two surfers grabbed their things and hurriedly pulled them on, and tried to put as much distance between themselves and the other girl as possible. The other girl didn’t move. The crab poked it’s head up for the 10th time.

Sam’s Stairs

Sam sat down on the first step of the stairs leading to his apartment. He reached into the solitary breast pocket on his t-shirt and pulled out a half empty pack of cigarettes. Absentmindedly he slapped the butt of the pack into the palm of his right hand a few times and flipped the lid open. “Better pick up a new pack of smokes” he thought to himself as he stretched out on his perch.

Sam loved the stairs to that apartment, they provided the perfect seat to gaze out at his slice of the world, small as it was. Not much really went on, but you couldn’t tell Sam that. Everything was of interest to him. The neighbors leaving their house to go to work, the ambulance wailing by on its way to the scene of another shooting, the mailman toiling through his repetitive day, Sam thoughtfully focused on each one, his attention only being broken by the next seemingly trivial item passing through his field of view.

The pizza delivery guy was what really got his attention, it was always interesting to Sam to see which of his neighbors was too lazy to cook dinner that night. He could almost tell the day of the week by the amount of pizza his neighbors were purchasing. Monday’s and Fridays always had the most pizza delivery’s, Saturday the least. Sam usually ordered pizza Sunday.

Sam had spent his entire life on the road, on the go, never living in one place longer than a few weeks. Now things were different. He hadn’t left the block on which he lived in two weeks. Sam knew he would die on those stairs, and really he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Right now though, death was far from Sam’s mind, he slowly drew another cigarette out of the pack, gave it a quick glance, and lit it up.

The crazy neighbor kid from up the street ran by on another one of his afternoon jogs, sweating and puffing as he inhaled the smoke from Sam’s cigarette. “Crazy kid” thought Sam, “What’s he running from?”. As he thought about this, Sam got up from the stairs, and slowly strolled around the corner of the building where he lived. It was now time for another of Sam’s daily rituals, watching his neighbors arrive home from work. He would stand in the parking lot of the building and idly eye each one as they drove up, parked, picked up their mail, and walked up the steps into their respective apartments. Sam knew exactly what time each one would be arriving, remembering things like that was something Sam had always been good at. The neighbors were unnerved by Sam’s constant presence, but they never told him so, and it never occurred to him that people might not like being watched.

After a few minutes of watching, one of the neighbors who Sam knew as “Rog” drove up and parked, arriving exactly 4 minutes earlier than usual Sam noticed. Rog got out of his vehicle and in a surprising variation from his routine, approached Sam. “What’s he doing?” Sam thought to himself as Rog drew near. “Thought you might like these” Rog said as he tossed a pack of Sam’s favorite cigarette brand towards him. “Found them on a park bench downtown”. Sam looked at the pack and pack at Rog, “Thanks” Sam said gruffly, unused to receiving favors. “Hey, glad to do it” Rog said as he turned toward his mailbox. That evening, Sam didn’t have to go out for cigarettes. He stayed home and sat on the stairs. That evening, Rog had pizza delivered.

Like Any Other Day

BRRRRRINNINNNNNNG! The alarm felt like a kick to the head. He rolled up and turned it off. It was 4:30AM. Skipping the shower, he pulled his stiff and faded Carhardts on and stood up. He stumbled across the room and hit the light switch, the dim florescent bulb flickered to life and began to buzz. Stooping down he grabbed the shirts he had peeled off only a few hours earlier and pulled them over his head. The base layer was a yellowed synthetic long sleeve, over which was a faded blue t-shirt with two horizontal reflective bars on front and back. He looked around the small room, at the crumpled bedding on a camping cot, at the broken AC unit sitting in the corner, at the tattered Backstreet Boys poster hanging on the wall. Leaving the light on, he walked through the dark kitchen and out into the warm spring air. The 6 month old Ford Super Duty spun to life, and before putting it in gear, he stuffed a large wad of dip between his bottom teeth and lip. Roaring into the local gas station he left the truck running as he walked inside. Two minutes later he was back outside with a Cliff bar, two 16oz Rockstar energy drinks, and a fresh can of dip. The sticker on the back window of the Ford said “Gamakatsu”. He spun the truck out onto the highway for the hour drive into work. As the miles poured under the new tires, he thought about the night before, the week before, the years before. There wasn’t much to mark the time. Work had been steady, and he never turned down an overtime hour in his life. In fact, the last year he had averaged 55 hours a week. This Saturday was just like any other, another day on the job. As the city came into view, the rising sun passed behind the looming structure on which he had spent most of his waking hours for the past two years. The cranes and concrete forms 300 feet in the air gave it the look of an offshore oil platform, thick and wide at the top, stark and unmoving against the orange to yellow to blue sky. He didn’t see any of this however; he pulled the truck into the empty parking garage, taking the same spot he took every day. Taking the last few swigs of one of the Rockstar’s he threw the can into the bed of the truck, stuffed the full can into the jacket he pulled off the passenger seat, and turned toward the jobsite, joining the trickle of others just like himself, just like any other day, just like any other year. It was 5:45AM, and he took a second dip out of the fresh can.

Stereotypical Employee Profiles: The Golden Boy

- Stereotypical Employee Profiles is a recurring feature on PowerOgre.com.  It’s meant to be a humorous look at the different personalities we all work with. These profiles are a complete generalization and not based on specific individuals. Read on.

The golden boy is that most frustrating of co-workers, the employee who can do no wrong, the boss’s favorite, and next in line for a meritless promotion. The golden boy is usually young, not older than 35. The golden boy may not be the worst employee, but he is certainly not the best. He is usually very smart, knows it, and uses it to his advantage accordingly. The golden boy is famous for not preparing for presentations, leaving important work till the last minute, and using his charm to schmooze through situations where he may be unprepared. The golden boy can typically be found in the break room talking about his latest achievements of which there are many.

The golden boy is an excellent athlete, and uses company functions to prove it. Whether it be a basketball game at the company picnic, the company golf tournament, or the team building exercise at the bowling alley, the golden boy is sure to dominate all athletic endeavors. This is not lost on the boss, who considers the golden boy a shoo-in for upper management based on his athletic talents alone.

The golden boy often seems to stumble into success. He takes an “under the radar” trip to Starbucks, and ends up running into an old friend who turns out to be a potential client for the company. He puts off working on a project until the last minute, stays all night to finish it, and winds up getting praise from the boss when it’s noticed that he worked late.  The golden boy is always unintentionally in the right place at the right time. He is famous for falling backwards into success.

Maybe we could all stand to learn a thing or two from the golden boy. Work smart, stay late when you have to, maintain relationships, always look for ways to be in the right place at a critical time, and be good at sports.