Tuesday, February 05, 2008

An Office Story--part 1

He called her Honey. She called him Old Shoe. He thought about this fact during the train to work, wondered if there was a sign of further trouble in this small detail. Honey is sweet. What is an old shoe? Comfortable, at best. Foul smelling, filled with holes and needing to be replaced at worst—if that was even the worst. But what could be done? The boundary of his life had long ago been drawn in indelible ink by a youthful hand—it had been drawn in the shape of a shaky and lop-sided heart.

The train stopped, he got off, walked the two blocks to the building he worked in.

It was potluck day at the office. It seemed that every other day was potluck day at the office and he had long since lost his enthusiasm for whatever carrot and broccoli casserole or cornbread stuffing his coworkers would bring. He did not want to mingle with his fellowman at the folding table by the coffee maker, making small talk about a TV show he had not seen or explain again why he had failed to bring any contribution to the feast himself.

So he sat in his cubicle and pretended to work. He pretended to work so hard, in fact, that one of his coworkers brought him a small plate of cornbread stuffing. “You’re working too hard,” his coworker said. “It’s an illusion,” he told his coworker.

He had a forkful of the stuffing to be polite and smiled, feeling the crumbs gathering in the corner of his mouth as he did.

“Tasty,” he said, though in fact it seemed to suck every drop of moisture out of him. It was impossible to swallow, and when his coworker left him and went back to the table, he spit the stuffing out into his waste paper basket.

Work ended. He stood on the train platform again waiting for the blue line to take him home. It was cold and snow was falling, but the flakes were small and inconsequential. A man dressed in rags and plastic bags was walking the edges of the platform, asking people who were not there for money, and then spitting and yelling “Sucker!” when the people who were not there ignored him.

The train came.

He got on and found a seat by the window. He was the only one on the car and he began to think about his Honey again. He wondered what she was doing right now. He wondered what she would say when he got home. He knew he would say: hi Honey.

If she were in a good mood, she would say: Hi Old Shoe. If she were in a different mood, she might throw the statue of the Virgin Mary at him—but several feet above his head in deference to their love. The Virgin Mary had long since lost her head, but other than that seemed indestructible.

The train lurched forward and the wheels on the wet tracks made the sound of a sigh. The man sighed with it—his own sound inaudible beneath the train’s.

There was something on the tracks, and then a power failure, and then trouble finding his car in the train station parking lot and then an unusual amount of traffic on the drive home so that it was a quarter passed ten when the man finally pulled into his driveway.

The house was dark. The front door was locked and he had to fumble with his keys and even after that found it necessary to shove against the door with his shoulder because there was something against it on the other side.

Immediately he imagined it was her body, that she had killed herself in some final act of defiance, and not being even satisfied with just that, had also positioned herself so that it would be hard for him to open the door. That would be just like her.

But it turned out to be the cushions of the couch stacked in a pile and a box of old newspapers. He called out her name, but not loud enough to actually wake her if she was sleeping. He turned on a light. The statue of the headless Virgin Mary was on the floor by her favorite chair as if she had been waiting for him. The house smelled like fried eggs and in the kitchen, shells were strewn about the floor.

Upstairs, the bed was empty, as was the bathtub, as was the old refrigerator box in the basement and a number of other places she sometimes liked to sleep when she was mad at him.

He considered calling the police, but they had never been very helpful in the past and he could swear the dispatch person was starting to recognize his voice and address. So he went to bed alone—still dressed in case she suddenly needed him.

As a further token of her displeasure, she must have changed the time on the alarm clock, because it was close to noon when he woke up alone and late for work.


Blogger Diane Vogel Ferri said...

I am captivated and waiting for part two.

5:35 PM  

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