Franklin looked over the knick knacks of his life and noticed himself staring out. He sat back in the chair, pushed away from his desk, looked at the pictures neatly laid out before him, the grey stapler, the computer monitor, the chipped cup filled with pens and pencils; and realized, in a manner deep and profound to him, that these disposable trinkets were really the sum of him; the numbers in the equation of his life.
He looked up on the beige walls of his cubicle, at the plaques that he had received over the years commending him for making the various sales quota's, and such; the largest of them was for never using a sick day, for which he also received a nice bonus. Back then he thought that he could drag himself to work with the plague if he had to. Just then, however, nothing in his life motivated him to go on.
His attendence record was destroyed after he ignored searing pains in his side and his apendix burst. His lawyer had wanted him to sue, and somehow the company caught wind of that and cancelled all bonuses based on attendence as a pre-emptive measure, making him quite unpopular with some of the long term enployees who used to go on their vacations each year on the bonus. Most of them had to quit vacationing, he included. Not that he would have done anymore than get drunk on cheap beer and watch movies.
After his apendix exploded in his gut, he caught numerous infections, and ended up having to lay in the hospital for almost two months. Laying in the metallic grey and white room in his paper pj.'s with nothing around him to remind him of who he was, he had felt the same sense of loss that was sweeping through him that morning and convincing him that his life was falling apart. Before the hospital, eight o clock meant this job, nine that one... there was a purpose to his existence, even if it was just making him money he did not even neccessarily need anymore. With no office to go to, he became that sterile, lysol scented room... a creature that he did not recognize. A thing that ate and spewed, ate and spewed.
Whittlecuts comes by his cubicle, nods politely. Frank nod's back. In the office, everyone knew their place, he liked to say. Middle mangement made him basically the boss of most people in the company. He would never be made the head of the company, or ever really listened to in the important meetings. He knew this, and was just grateful he had been able to go as far as he did. He had no faith in himself at all. Indeed, he had no self to have faith in. He was merely a sum of what the corporation wanted him to be; from them he got his hair cut, car, manner of speaking, choices of restaurants, where he vacationed --he had become just like the herd of adults that he had despised when he was a kid.
Now looking back, he can see that no one, not one kid he knew., grew up to be the usual answers from kids about what they want to be when they grow up. No firemen, astronauts, presidents or even nurses.
The town he lived in was where he was born and he knew everyone there. Just four hundred people in a small space out in the flat fields of Ohio with huge homes built by McKill's Company, and they all looked the same. Brick red. Period. Every house in the town. The front windows and porches were alleged to be where the houses would all be different. At least that was what the brochure said. They were being careful to sell lots where the buyers could not see anything similar to their house; and no one noticed at first, not with all the tree's that had been planted, as well as the privacy walls up around people's lawns. The price was so good that they sold out in a few days, mostly to realitors. Some had already turned over their properties and gotten rich.
He seems to hear David Byrne singing in his ear, "This is not my beautiful house." It had seemed that way since his wife, Phyllis, passed away. He had come into work just a week after the funeral. That was all his vacation days. They would have gave him a leave of absence, but he had no idea what to do with himself other than cry. With her gone, who he was seems more in question than ever. He liked the person he was with her. She had been enough for him. He was on the sunset side of middle aged, balding and grey and bespeckled... without youthful beauty, he felt barely visible to others. They treated him like an old man. He was more than that. He was once young like the kids in the cubicles on the floor below his, and now was older --having that kind of life knowledge should have made the twenties something kids curious. No. He didn't eat alone because there was always someone else there like him, alone and just eating.
He reaches down and opens the left hand drawer of his desk. His skin looks thin on his aged hands; it is almost transparent, shows his blue veins pulsing underneath. He takes out a hand held recorder and a black .38. He writes on sticky note -- MY LAST WORDS, puts it on the recorder and starts talking. "Hi. Sorry to leave this mess in the office. I had no alternative. I did not want to make my house unlivible for my daughter. My will, made out a few years ago, gives her the house. I am sorry for what I am doing. I left this body long before this, in some ways. Became inhuman in small ways. Stopped seeing the person pouring me coffee in restaurants. Learned to ignore any and all distractions from my purposes in life -- including my children. I gambled that religion and money would see me through anything, but now I know there are no saviors and you can't buy love. That my pain seems endless. I no longer will roll the stone up the mountain, or let any birds eat my organs. That's all folks."
He puts the gun on his temple. Feels the cold circle of the barrel on his warm skin, closes his eyes and squeezes the trigger. Behind his closed eyelids, he sees the bullet hitting the side of his head, smashing through his skull... His head hurts like hell and he is still alive...
He passes out.
Franklin woke up in a hospital where he stayed until he was stable enough to ship to the psychiatric ward. His doctor prescribed Xanax and Prozac. He stayed in the hospital six months, became physically disabled and qualified for two pensions.
The rest of his life he spent seeking out books he loved, vistas in nature, great art... He was his surroundings, that they had said was true in the hospital. For the next thirty years, Frank became something of an eccentric, bought an RV and traveled all year long. He met another woman eventually, and felt grateful to be alive... and almost grateful that he shot himself. He never forgot the day in his cubicle noticing what he had become, and the thought kept him moving from the Niagra falls to the Everglades to the Smoky Mountains and the Pacific ocean. . . and yes, for once in my tales, he lived happily ever after.
THOU SHALT NOT STEAL THE WRITINGS OF JOHN SCOTT RIDGWAY... YOU CAN EASILY GET PERMISSION FOR A NON COMMERCIAL REPRINT BY CONTACTING MY EMAIL.