Wednesday, December 14, 2016

#4 Sight and Blindness

Again. It had happened again. Howard shook himself awake and blinked his eyes quickly, trying to dispel a wave of exhaustion. He was sitting in his office going over some tax returns but no matter how hard he tried he just couldn't focus. Howard looked at his watch. 4:28 PM. He still had over and hour and a half until he could leave. Knowing he had to do something to stay alert, Howard got up and put on his coat. Maybe some cold air and coffee would help.

Outside the city was immersed in fog. The sky was gray, the buildings were gray, the cars were gray, everything was absorbed by the mist. Howard pulled his coat tighter and contemplated how the weather seemed to reflect his life: uniform, dull, and uninteresting.

Howard decided to take the path through the park on the way to Connie's Coffee. He was in no hurry to get back. As he was navigating through the dense fog he made out two shadowy figures sitting under a tree. They slowly emerged out of the fog and he was greeted with an odd sight. An old man was sitting on a blanket spread out in front of a blue camping tent. Beside him was a young boy with duct tape covering his mouth. It struck Howard how similar the scene was to the oracles of ancient Greece. Howard lengthened his stride, eager to escape the unsettling situation. But as he passed the old man shouted "Your great good fortune, true, it was your ruin!"

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

#3 Thirst

Howard was trudging down Simone Boulevard after another long, tedious, and truly pointless day at work when he saw an odd sight.

A young girl was struggling to carry four gallon jugs of water, two in each hand, and appeared to be heading for the entrance to The Victorian. As he watched a jug slipped out of her hand and fell on the ground, almost breaking open.

Howard quickly strode over and picked it up.

"Hey, can I help you?" he said.

"No I'm fine," she replied hastily, gesturing for him to hand her the jug.

"No really. What apartment do you live in? I can help you get these there."

The girl started to protest but then looked at the heavy jugs again and seemed to change her mind.

"Fine. I'm in 76" she grudgingly answered and handed him another jug.

Together they entered The Victorian and walked over to the apartment. The girl opened the door and looked at Howard expectantly, clearly wanting him to give her the water.

Howard had hoped to meet an adult. He wanted to know what kind of parent would send their young child out to get water by herself. Reluctantly, he handed her the water and simply asked, "Are your parents home?"

"I don't have parents," she said and slammed the door, leaving Howard standing outside wondering what had just happened.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#2 This is Living?

"Excuse me sir, do you live here?"

Howard glanced up, surprised. No one talked in elevators. The question had come from a sharply dressed young man carrying a notebook and a camera.

"Yeah," he muttered and looked back down at his shoes.

Howard was in no mood to talk. He was operating on only a few hours of sleep, having barely finished the reports last night. Not to mention he'd be late to work if he didn't move quickly. He hoped his monosyllabic response would send the right message.

"Would you mind answering a few questions?" The reporter didn't wait for a response. "What do you do for a living?"

With no path of escape, Howard decided to play along.

"I'm a business consultant" he replied

"Oh?" The man looked disappointed but scribbled Howard's response in his notebook anyway. "What does that entail?"

Howard began to explain but as he described managing investment portfolios and auditing tax returns he could see the man's eyes glaze over.

"Okay that's good," the reporter quickly cut him off. "But what do you do for fun in this town?"

Howard paused. He thought about it.

"I don't really do anything fun," he said truthfully.

The man sighed. "What about family?"

"I'm single. I live alone" Howard replied.

But thankfully before the man could say anything else the elevator dinged and the doors opened. The man closed his notebook, picked up his camera and snapped a picture of Howard. He glanced at the viewfinder grimaced and walked away.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

#1 A Whiter Shade of Pale

A sharp crack shattered the quiet evening stillness on the streets outside The Victorian. Howard's apartment, number 504, was suddenly plunged into darkness. He let out a resigned sigh and rose from his chair to search for a flashlight. Using the little moonlight that shone through his open window, he was able to discern the faintest outlines of furniture packed into his cramped home. He stumbled across the room, rummaging through drawers and running his hand across tabletops for the flashlight he kept for this very situation. Finally, after nearly knocking over a bookshelf and stubbing his toe on what seemed like every available surface, he located the light and flicked it on. Its weak glow illuminated the room, casting huge dramatic shadows on the walls. Howard collapsed back into his desk chair, using his flashlight to illuminate the quarterly financial reports he had been slaving over.

Howard was a slightly over-weight, middle-aged man. He lived in a perpetual state of exhaustion with deep dark bags under his eyes. In the faint light his pale skin seem to glow with an unhealthy pallor. Running his hand through his thinning hair, Howard squinted at the tiny numbers on the page. He could feel one of his all too common migraines beginning to develop and he let out an audible groan. He had just returned home from his mind-numbingly boring job as a business consultant at a local banking firm. But as usual, he couldn't relax. The unreasonable demands of his supervisors meant he would be up until the early morning to meet their deadlines. Howard sighed, looked out at the quiet streets, and contemplated what his life had become.