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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fractured- an incredibly short story


         I know Mr. Charles doesn’t like me.  You can see it in his beady eyes and the way his lips curl ever so slightly when he stops by my cubical.  He won’t look straight at me.  How can he when the hostility just oozes from him like putrefied garbage?  Thumbs locked under his braces, he rocks back on his heels and you can hear the breath hiss out of him.  A viper about to sink his fangs.  And he asks such inane questions.  “How is the project coming?  Is your wife going to attend the office Christmas party?”  Like he really understands my project, or really knows my wife.  That whiney voice is a dead giveaway.  He should be shot and I don’t mean metaphorically.
         I’m working on the same project I’ve been working on for the past two weeks.  Every Monday morning and every Friday morning, I send a full complement of charts and graphs that fully explains the situation.  It isn’t easy, but of course he wouldn’t know that.  He always calls me, right after the meeting he has on Mondays and Fridays with Mr. Fimburt, and he always implies my work is somehow incomplete.  Next time he comes in my office, I’m going to gut him.
         “What are the results we can expect if sales drop less than one percent in the quarter?”
         “Graph three, sir.”
         A pause, a shuffling of paper.  “That graph is of somewhat limited value.”
         “It’s the one you asked for.”  I told him the graph was useless when he asked me to make it, but of course he ignored me.
         Pause.  More paper movement.  “Perhaps we should rethink the relevance of putting projections and hard number columns on the same page. It’s confusing.”
         “I can easily separate them, if you’d prefer, sir.”  It was my idea to separate them in the first place.  His tongue should be ripped from his head.
         On and on it goes.  Half my life is re-answering questions and rearranging the same figures on new charts, in the futile hope of penetrating his fogged mind.  Fat chance.  I tell you, the man doesn’t like anything about me.  It’s true I got a hefty raise, but that was only because he couldn’t very well turn his back after all the things I’ve done for the company.  No, my raise was just to cover his own backsides.  He thinks I’m fooled by it, but I’m not.  Not even for a minute.  He’ll soon find out how unfooled I am.
         And the bit about the Christmas party?  What a crock!  If I asked him, Mr. Charles wouldn’t know my wife’s name if I branded it on his chest.  I may do just that.  He’s met her at least four or five times!  Where does the company find these cretins and why do they put them in charge?  I remember Mr. Charles’ wife’s name.  It’s Emily.  Not that I ever call her Emily.  I always call her Mrs. Charles, but at least I know her Christian name.  I know his children’s names and his street address and his home phone number.  Once when I was in his office and he kicked off his shoes, scattering them all over the place, I glanced down and noted his shoe size.   Oh, yes, I know lots about our Mr. Charles and he can’t even remember my wife’s first name? Harriet.   Not an especially tough name to remember is it?
         Come to think of it, Mr. Charles may not even know my first name.  He always calls me mister, then pauses to look at the nameplate on my desk.  He’s shifty and hides it well, but I can tell what he’s doing.  He’d probably deny that.  He’d probably lie.  My first name is Jerry, just so you don’t have to thumb through your Rolodex or type my last name into your computer.  I’m paying you enough that you should at least remember my name.  See, I even know how much you make per hour.  It’s more than you know about me.
         I saw the picture of your wife on your desk and it’s signed ‘Rita.’  The soles of your shoes are worn.  You can obviously afford a new pair, but you just don’t have the time.  Am I right? So, do you even remember what I just told you?  Do you know my wife’s name?  Emily?  Very poor.  That’s Mr. Charles’ wife’s name, numbskull.  You’re not paying attention.  I could tell earlier.  Do you know you shift in your seat a lot?  You’re a squirmer and squirmers don’t usually pay attention.  You know what they say:  if a person can’t remember something it’s because he’s trying hard to forget.  So, maybe you know my wife better than I think you do.
         Look at that!  You dropped your pen.  Very significant if you ask me, and your wafer thin, half-smiles don’t change my opinion one iota.
         Paranoid?  When you call me a name it’s just a weak attempt to change the subject.  You may not think it's important, but I find it not only important, but personally insulting.  You don’t like me, do you doctor?  Well, get in line.
         Here’s another tough question for that giant, doctor brain.  What’s my name?  Jerry?  Very good.  Very, very good.  Maybe I’ll remember to send you your check after all.
         Do I make you nervous?  God, my collar is tight.  Just reach over here and loosen it. Well, answer my question!  Do I Make You Nervous?  The question isn’t that difficult.  Ha, ha!  You’re more nervous when you drive to work.  Very funny!  Do realize you’ve picked up your water glass twice without taking a sip?  What does that tell you?
         What do I think about my wife?  What the hell kind of question is that?  And by the way, I’ll thank you to call her by her name.
         Well, she’s very intelligent for one thing.  She has a Ph.D. and don’t think for a minute she ever lets me or anyone else forget it. Oh, I know the name of the university all right, but it makes me want to puke when I say it, so I won’t say it.
         The other day she told me, “Getting an advanced degree was a burden, but it was worth it and I thank you everyday for putting up with all I had to go through.”  That’s a laugh.  It’s just another way she has of belittling me because I don't’ have Dr. in front of my name.  But, you already know about that, don’t you DOCTOR!
         She’s published in some high-powered journals and got her picture on the cover of Newsweek magazine.  I mean it wasn’t the whole cover.  She was with a group of twenty-five or thirty people.  There she was.  Big, bold smile.  That smile hides a lot.  Ask me anything you want to know about her.  IQ?  Shoe size?  Favorite foods?  I could tell you all about those little trivialities.  Just don’t ask me about sex.  I won’t talk about that even if you are a doctor, you pervert.
         Well, you’re right.  This hour is supposed to be about me, not about that crone I’m married to.  She can get her own shrink and don’t think she couldn’t talk his ear off!  Talk?  That woman makes Larry King seem autistic.
         Why do I call her a crone if she’s beautiful?  The eye of the beholder and all that for one thing.  For another, she hates me.  Hate may be a tad too strong.  The woman is so vapid she’s incapable.   Hate, I mean real hate, takes time, energy, concentration, and most of all emotion.  When it comes to my wife, her bucket of energy and emotion is as dry as an AA meeting.  Anyway, she dislikes me.  That makes her very, very ugly, at least where yours truly is concerned.  I wouldn’t make love to her on a bet, even though she’s always begging for it.  Oh, yeah!  Well, I mean, she doesn’t come right out and say it, but a man can tell, can’t he doctor?  Those chance encounters in the laundry room when she just happens to be hanging up her delicates?  Not a chance.  She’s too ugly where it really counts, on the inside.  She’s got a nice figure, pretty well rounded, if you know what I mean.  But, I just can’t do the deed. 
         Oh, I know what you’re thinking, but there’s nothing wrong with the old equipment. The woman dislikes me, with a capital D-I-S.  Would you make love to a woman whom you know can’t stand you?
         So, doc, when are we going to make some progress?  I’m waiting on progress and at the rate you charge, progress should be riding a bullet train.  You say you want to ask a few more questions?  There always seem to be a few more questions.  Long on questions, short on results is what I’m saying.  You ever been castrated, Doc?  Just wondering if you’d like to know what it feels like.
         Mr. Charles? You keep changing the subject.  I can’t believe I need to go into more detail.  More useless trivia.  You know, I’m starting to get the idea that you’re not any more fond of me than he is.
         You think I might need a referral?  To whom?  Another shrink?  I don’t care whether you like that term or not.  This isn’t about you; it’s about me, you moron!  Besides, after the nut cutting, you won’t care one way or another.   Sounds like another racket to put somebody else on my payroll.  What the hell do I need with another doctor?  And these straps are really getting tight.  I’m starting to feel like Venus de Milo.   Loosen ‘em up, meathead.  You really do dislike me, don’t you Doc!  Have you been talking to my wife, or maybe to Mr. Charles?  What the hell are you doing with that needle?


  1. Is this the Jack Nicholson soliloquy they cut in favor of the Nurse Ratched shower scene? Or maybe a first draft of a screen-play for Dilbert-the Movie?

  2. Ras, you're a wonderful writer, so you know the drill. Impossibly obtuse ideas and characters come out of a night of complete debauchery.

  3. Maybe next time we write in the prelude debauchery, thinly veiled within the fiction, of course....