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Monday
Dec052011

Something

Formed from the tips of boredom, many people complain that once a day's hours have been complete they had done nothing. They went through an entire day without accomplishing any certain task they may have had in mind. Some are happy by doing nothing; others find this to be taboo. The naysayers believe that if we squeeze out some hours that are not filled by earning a wage or worshiping a dogma, we must keep busy and find something new to accomplish.

I say do what you please. If you feel like sitting on your Levi's, zoning out on another wavelength, and just filling the space your body occupies, then indulge yourself. Who's to say this isn't doing anything? By doing nothing, you are doing something. 

Alex Friedman took what may seem like nothing and created something. A person's actions throughout their day without a conflict or antagonist biting at their tail might not sound like an interesting story. Mr. Friedman not only proves that a piece of this nature is possible to write, it can also be a brilliant work of literature.

Nothing can actually be nothing.

  

I joined the heavy iron key to a ring. There were seven keys on the ring, this last one hanging awkwardly with its more modern brothers. Battered. Rusting. Useless.

I knew I was dreaming. I willed myself to wake.

The key to my front door is small, with a rounded head. I put a plastic label plate on it so that I could tell it apart from the one that opens my garage. The plastic bends further every time I turn it. I walked away from my house. I dropped the key ring into my pocket and I grimaced as the teeth of the keys dug into my leg. My key ring always ends up tearing through the pocket lining of my pants. Its the only reason I ever have to buy new slacks.

I retrieved my bike from the side of the house where I chain it. Carla, who lived next door, was in her back yard with her dog, Buck. The morning sun broke, golden, over the roof of her house. Days were getting longer. It was still too cold to go without a jacket. I waved to Carla over the chain link fence that separates our yards. She waved back when she noticed. Buck glared at me and shook his head. I really hate that dog. His squinting, wily eyes; his chamoisee coat- every detail of his being betrays his bastard dingo lineage. He'd eat a baby if he got the chance. Seen through the spaces in the chain link, the chipping white paint added to the illusion that Buck was some incarcerated exotic mongrel.

“Hey, Bob. Good morning,” Carla said.

“It is a nice morning. It's starting to feel like spring,” I said. I had slept with Carla two weeks ago. We had talked only a few times since. I'm not sure why, exactly.

“Did you patch that flat tire already?” She asked. My tire was burst when I had come outside one morning last week. Sudden rise in temperature outside could do that. So could dingo fangs.

“Oh yeah. No problem,” I said. Buck snarled at me. I tried to aim hateful thoughts at him. Nasty, half-breed, mangy animal.

“Have a nice day, Bob,” Carla said.

She waved and walked back into her house. Buck growled at me before following. I waved and began to bike away. Goodbye, Carla, I thought. I'd like to sleep with you again, but your evil dog hates me. And last time I did you seemed unimpressed. And I can't think of a movie to bring over.

 I bought a dog whistle on the way to work. It came on a key chain, so I attached it to my keys.

The day's first delivery was to a mansion that had been converted into offices. The package was a huge document, nearly a thousand pages of records and statistical reports. It is faster to send such a package by biker across six blocks than it is to share the document digitally. I will not be obsolete until networking people get their collective act together. They typically hate their jobs. This made me feel secure.

 I stood upon the mansion's sandstone precipice. The copper work adorning the front door was green with age. The door buzzer did not work. A note over the button requested I use the large, brass knocker. It was shaped like a fist holding a ring. It seemed newer. I wondered whether a brass knocker was more expensive than fixing a doorbell.

I pounded the knocker against the door three times. I waited twenty seconds so as not to seem rude with further, unnecessary knocking. Gaging time while waiting is a skill I have acquired while working this job. You hum- quietly but out aloud- as much of a recent pop song as you can remember. That’s twenty seconds.

No one answered. On a whim, I checked whether it was locked. A slender keyhole hung over the door's large, tarnished handle. I pressed down on the handle's thumb lever and the door opened. It didn’t creak. I imagine doors like that usually creak.

The lights were on. The room was well restored. A heavy oaken desk sat in the reception area. There was a coffee table and a few leather chairs set out upon the expensive plush rug. On the coffee table was a giant copy of The Photographic Encyclopedia of Beached Whales. I walked past the reception counter.

“Hello? Conscientious Couriers! I have a document delivery!”

My voice echoed briefly through the halls. No answer. Nothing stirred. I turned to leave. My supervisor would forgive me if I called in the delivery as incomplete. As I walked out of the lobby, I saw something hanging from the coat hooks by the doorway- a large, battered, tarnished key.  I couldn't recall ever seeing a key so medieval in the waking world.

“Sir?”

I spun about, like I had been caught stealing. There was a middle aged woman walking out from a back hallway. She stepped behind her desk.

“I have a document delivery for Horace Buchanan here.”

“Yes, excuse me. I was putting on a fresh pot of coffee.”

Presently we both looked to the coffee maker, opposite to the side of the room from where she had entered. The coffee maker was in my plain view the entire time I had been in the lobby. It was not on. It was not brewing.

“Right, would you be able to sign for Mr. Buchanan's document?”

She took the package and scribbled a signature onto my clipboard. She seemed to be wearing cheap Merlot as a perfume. She looked up from the clipboard with a toothy grin. I had a sudden desire to leave. I nodded goodbye and took a few steps toward the door. She kept grinning. She watched as I took the ancient key off of the coat hook and walked out of the mansion. I have no idea why I stole it. I was compelled. I found that I was sweating heavily. The door thudded behind me.

I biked back to the car garage where my company had paid to reserve a few bike racks for our use. I crossed the street thumbing the key in my right hand. Its polish had been maimed by the years since it was made, and I felt the urge to cast it into the gutter. I figured instead I would recycle it upon returning home. I walked up to the office where people get paid more than I do to play in cubicles instead of traffic. I told Lane I had dropped off the document without a hitch. She told me to take lunch. I sat in the lunch room with a girl with whom I work. She is very pretty, but she only takes men twice my height and girth seriously. I call her Kay because I can’t remember whether her name is Katelynn or Kayla. She never corrected me either way I tried. I unscrewed the lid from my Hello Kitty! thermos and pulled the key back out from my jacket pocket.

“Look what I found on my last run,” I said, putting the key on the table.

“Mmm,” she said.

“It’s a key,” I said.

“Mmmhmm,” she said. She had not looked up.

“I think it’s an antique.” I said.

“Maybe,” she said, reading the Nutrition Facts on her crisps bag.

“Did you see the headlines today?” I asked.

“Fine I guess,” she said.

“Vapid,” I said.

“Right, could be,” she said.

“I think I may be imaginary,” I said.

“I’ve got to take this, Bob,” she said, as her cell phone started to sing about a Pontiac or Robitussin or something. I sighed and put the key onto my key ring and into my pocket. Then I stared at a wall for fifteen minutes, eating my soup. How I love plastic and florescent and old soup. I resolved to stop at the library before I biked home and do something positive with my wretched self.

I biked home that night as darkness crawled behind me, the spring evening waning too quickly for comfort. The sun’s warmth fleeted quickly, like the fleeing hands of a lover offended. My neighborhood was quiet. My garbage can was empty and tipped over. Carla’s lights were on. I could see the light coming from her windows as I walked my bike up the sidewalk to my driveway. Buck stared at me from between the blinds, snarling. I produced my key ring, stopped on the sidewalk, and glared back at him. Then I blew the dog whistle as hard as I could. Buck leaped vertically, stunned and thoroughly rebuked. He retreated out of view. I continued up my driveway and then, pausing to think for a moment, brought my bike with me into my house.

I showered. I paid a bill and ate left-over Chinese food. The laundry was running, so I tidied up the house a bit. Then I called Carla. She picked up her phone on the third ring.

“Hello, Bob.” She answered.

“Hello, Carla. I rented a documentary on the migration patterns of the Monarch Butterfly. I thought you might like to come over and take it in with me.”

“I love butterflies.”

“I am aware.”

“I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

She hung up the phone, and I decided to take out the garbage. She had apparently let Buck out. Carla did not remain at her back door. She did not watch what transpired on her lawn. She had gone in immediately to change into pajamas, I would later surmise. I walked outside with my trash bags.

Buck was climbing the chain link fence between our yards. I pulled out the dog whistle and blew into it. Buck flinched but continued climbing, like a leopard might. But dogs cannot climb, so Buck fell. A moment later Carla’s voice came across the yard.

“Come on, Buck,” she said, “bed time.”

Buck picked himself up from the grass and glared at me. Then he trotted to the back door of Carla’s house, smiling at her with a lapping tongue. I walked back to my house. I had locked the door for some reason. I pulled out my heavily burdened key chain and let myself in. I popped a bag of kettle corn, and changed into my slippers.

There was a scratching, a jingling, at my back door. I opened it and was greeted by a sharp gust of icy wind. My keys jingled against where I had left them in the lock, on the outside of the door. I grabbed them and tossed them onto my kitchen counter. Then there was a soft rapping on my front door. I opened it and let Carla in.

We fell asleep watching butterflies migrate north.

I awoke with Carla wrapped around me on the couch. I was wracked with aches and stiffness from sleeping in such an awkward position. I stood and stretched, rousing Carla from her sleep. My alarm clock screamed from my room down the hall.

“There certainly is a lot of traffic this morning,” it wailed.

“Morning Carla. Hope you won’t be late for work,” I said.

“I don’t work on Thursdays,” she said, yawning.

“There is a great deal of traffic going East on 90! A large volume of cars, going slowly! In the same direction!”

“How convenient. I’ve never liked working on Thursdays,” I said as I went to put on coffee.

I went back into the living room to continue the conversation. She had stretched to occupy the rest of the couch. She dozed.

“Horrific accidents, everywhere! Traffic is slow and cars are totalled. All of them.”

“For fuck’s sake,” I cursed under my breath. The radio has never once played music in the morning while I got ready for work. I don’t know why I persist in expecting it to. I walked into my bedroom and firmly pressed the button on the clock labeled ‘Please leave me alone’.

I took a shower. I heated a can of soup and poured it into my Hello Kitty! thermos. I left a note for Carla stating that she was welcome to my stock of frozen waffles and that I had enjoyed seeing her last night. Then I got on my bike to go to work.

Buck was standing free in Carla’s front yard, like a gargoyle, staring at me as I passed. He did not bark. I thought about securing him somewhere, but then I realized how nice it would be if he ran away. Joined some feral pack in rural Pennsylvania. Fathered pups on some farm I’d never visit. So I kept on biking. I waved to the dog, cheerily. It had been a nice night.

I arrived at work and discovered a work order waiting for me. It had arrived at 7:16 in the AM. I despise early birds. I packed the several thousand pages of print into my messenger bag and walked back down the concrete parking garage stairs to my bike. The seat had barely cooled from my departure.


Alex Glenn Friedman | Age 24 | Cleveland, OH

Participated in a writing group at a local coffee shop that had so many members local police mistook it for an Occupy movement. 

References (4)

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