The digital clock read 6:30 and emanated a long shrill sound designed to drive straight to a man’s spine and wrench him into action.
Welcome to my morning. Startled from sleep by the alarm, I shot straight up in bed and drew in a quick gasp. Taking a quick look around I realized it was just the start of another day, and smacked the off button on the top of the clock.
As I sat on the edge of the bed, stretching, I tried to focus on the room. It was dark except for daylight streaming in around the edges of the window shade. The shades were heavy and supposed to block out light but they were slightly smaller than the window.
Yawning as I stood, I walked to the bathroom to look at my disheveled appearance in the mirror. Despite the need for a shave and messed up hair, it struck me that I didn’t look bad. I also didn’t look good. I was completely average, almost to the point of being invisible; non-existent.
Smashing my nose down and to one side with my finger, I then used a finger from my other hand to push my eyebrow back making one eye squinty.
“If I was disfigured, at least I’d be interesting. At least I’d have character,” I thought. I was going to die from a brain tumor. I suppose that made me somewhat special, but no one could see my brain tumor, so really, what good was it?
I settled into the routine of the morning. I showered, got dressed and went to the kitchen. I was on autopilot.
Waiting for the toaster, I gazed absently out the window. It was a clear spring day. The grass was still brown and was about the same color as the wooden fence that bordered my small backyard. The lack of contrast made the small area seem even smaller.
A bird was perched on the small tree in my back yard. The tree had just started to get leaves and was looking slightly less like a stick and a little more like a tree, now. The thin wiry limb bent and wobbled under the weight of the bird but it happily chirped away none the less. I don’t know why exactly, but it made me smile.
The toaster made a loud chunk! noise, but the toast inside barely moved. I sighed and grabbed a fork from the silverware drawer, peering into the slots on the toaster. As I positioned my fork, preparing for surgery; Toastectomy, I noticed the toaster was still plugged in. I really should unplug it before trying to retrieve my breakfast – I could get electrocuted.
I contemplated taking the risk, cheating death. This was a daredevil challenge – a fork and a toaster. But what if I died? What would they say about me?
“World morns tragic loss of top researcher,” read the headline. Maybe they would interview people about it on TV.
“Without his tireless pursuit of flawless accuracy, I’m not sure I can still trust the Trusted Authority,” one man on the street would say.
On another station, they would interview a woman standing in a grocery store checkout line, bouncing a fussy baby on her hip with a rack of tabloids behind her. Holding a copy of Trusted Authority with my picture on the cover, my hair obviously photoshopped to be standing on end in mock-electrocution. The cover read “CONSPIRACY!”
“His creative input was the only reason I bought the Authority. I mean, you never saw his name next to the stories… or anywhere else in the magazine really… but you could just tell when it was one he researched. It just touched you.”
I inched the fork closer.
“Nah, a more likely headline would be ‘There’s one less moron wasting the earth’s valuable resources,’” I said aloud.
The TV anchor would smile and read from the teleprompter.
“Yesterday, Bobby Bokes, also known as, Who? by his close friends and associates, died in a way suiting the way he lived – without meaning. He jammed a metal instrument into an electrical device and electrocuted himself. Bobby’s body has been collected by Anderson’s Garden Center and will used as expander for bulk mulch. No memorial service is planned.”
Then again, why would they write about it at all? I put the fork down, grabbed the toaster and shook it upside-down, smacking it firmly on the side with my palm. The toast dropped onto the counter along with the burnt crumbs, and I sat down at the table to eat the toast without a plate.
I lived in what was considered a nice neighborhood. The homes were not huge but were well equipped with all the standard amenities. The development was built about 5 years ago and still had that new construction look. They had cleared and leveled the land before building. That made it easier to slap together the houses in a nice, straight row.
Every house had the obligatory tree in the front yard, but just one, because the yards weren’t really large enough to accommodate another. The saplings were all planted after construction was finished and were all the same size and in the same location in each yard. The landscaping for each home was uniform. In fact, the whole development was uniform, but the neighbors reveled in the minute differences. Upgrades, they called them.
The couple that lived next door was very proud of the fact that they went for the front door with a 6-inch arch window at the top.
“It opens up the whole front elevation,” they would say.
They used to call it compromise. Now, it’s individual expression. Now, it’s distinction. Now, it’s life.
I locked my windowless front door behind me as I left home. Walking to my Jeep Cherokee parked in the drive way, I looked down the street to see that several of my neighbors were also leaving, too. They climbed into their cars, waved to each other and backed out of their driveways, in sync. It was almost as if it was choreographed. An automobile ballet played out in perfect timing every single morning.
Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet
©Copyright 2015, Mitch Lavender
Rubik’s Cube® used by permission of Rubiks Brand Ltd. www.rubiks.com
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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