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The alarm clock goes off a half-hour late and I drag my protesting ass out of bed. Even though I've no time for coffee or shower, I still get to work 20 minutes late. The boss looks at his watch and slaps me – hard – then orders me to clean the meatloaf and gizzards room. That afternoon I get my sleeve caught in the drill press and the fire department must come rescue me. As I stand there trapped, my boss circles the drill press, yelling at me and occasionally whipping the backs of my thighs with a piece of rebar. Go home, miserable – still haven't eaten so I pawn my watch and go to the diner. Sandy flings some slop at me and slides the coffee on the counter too briskly, some splashes in my eye and I fall from the stool breaking my collarbone in the process. I drag my sorry ass home and flop onto the couch. I turn on the television but I can’t find the remote so spend the next hour watching soap operas in Mexican. I open a book but a bunch of the pages have been ripped out by Max, my exgirlfriend's dog. I go for a walk but it's dark and I slip in a ravine and break my legs. I crawl to the highway, pulling myself along with my hands, and try to flag down a car. One pulls over and runs over my head, squashing it like a grapefruit. The people in the car don't even know what they've done. One gets out and pisses on my head – throws a cigarette butt on my shirt which bursts into flames as they pull away. All around, a bad day. I make it home by 4 a.m. Good, I'll get 2 hours sleep. 6:00 a.m. The alarm clock ass out of bed. I I'm sitting there letting the water
goes off on time and I drag my protesting manage to get my ass into the shower and on the floor with the hair and the scum run over me as I read the instructions on
T. Alex Miller/2 the shampoo bottle: Squeeze out crap into your hand, rub it on your melon, rinse, repeat if necessary. Squeeze out crap into your hand, rub it on your melon, rinse, repeat if necessary. Squeeze out crap into your hand, rub it on your melon, rinse, repeat if necessary. After three times I figure my head is clean but I can't rise. I'm stuck sitting cross-legged, and with the plastic drapes around me I feel like I'm safe, like nothing bad can happen. As soon as I stand up, I know, everything will turn to shit. I think about just staying there, and even though every cell in my body wants to do just that, I somehow manage to get up. I lather up my bony chest, my skinny arms, I take a dull disposable razor and shave my pointy chin and the hairy union between my beady eyes. I lather up my poor old shriveled and lonely dick, scrub my hideous feet, rinse off and open the plastic drapes to greet the day. I dry off with a piece of burlap standing in the corner and climb into my soiled clothes. I have some sort of filth for breakfast and feed my shitty old cat a piece of green bologna I find in the back of the fridge. I climb into my piece-of-shit AMC Matador and roll it down the hill, pop starting it because the starter shit the bed a few months ago. I drive to the 7Eleven and get a pack of Winstons and a coffee. The sun is shining like a mother fucker and I put on my cheap, shitty shades that say "Porsche" on them and pull out of the parking lot. Some guy yells out his window at me about something I guess I did and then I'm next to him at the stoplight and he's in a bad mood, I guess, because he just keeps yelling at me as I try to torch up one of these Winstons. Finally the light turns green and I drive the rest of the way to work. It's a hot day and in the parking lot it takes a bit to get my thighs unstuck from the plastic seat. I walk into work and the boss rips both my arms off and tells me I can work with my fucking feet for all he cares. Jimmy tells me a joke about Iraqi women and Gilbert tells me about how the company insurance policy doesn't cover his
T. Alex Miller/3 alcoholism treatment because they say it's a pre-existing condition. Donny chews on cloves to quit smoking, Wayne talks about his brother the F-14 pilot, Sam says his old lady threw a rod in their washing machine. Nobody mentions my broken figure, everybody has their own problems to think about. At lunch I go to the 7-Eleven for nachos and the old crone at the counter yells at me because you're only allowed two pumps of cheese shit on your chips. I buy a lottery ticket and drive to the parking lot at the closed-up K-Mart where I eat my nachos and smoke Winstons, all the while looking at the bank clock across the way. I can get to work in seven minutes, I know, and as I drive back I keep looking at all the bridges and cliffs and shit and how easy it would be to just jerk the wheel and be done with it. The guy on the radio keeps me going. He talks in a non-stop sort of joking kind of thing and he makes it seem like life is just kind of fun amusement park ride or something. Even the songs, the happy pop songs that he plays, don't seem too important to him. He talks through the part of the song in the beginning where nobody's singing and then he starts talking again when the song nears the end. He just doesn't care. The weather report is always the same here in the desert so he sort of glosses over that, always making the same joke about how the weather's always the same. But he always does the joke just a little bit different, which I like. By the time I get back to work, I feel okay from having listened to him but then I get all tense when I punch in and put on my apron. The boss takes one look at me and accuses me of being drunk. I wish I was. He says I can't operate the machines and makes me clean the meatloaf and gizzards room again. As I turn, he sucker-punches me in the kidney and laughs. I laugh, too. Jimmy needs a jump start after work and I get the wires mixed up I guess and my battery explodes, acid spraying all over my eyes. I laugh and drive home blind, which is okay because I'd always said I could do this trip blindfolded so I figured this is my big
T. Alex Miller/4 chance to do something I said I could do. I put the nose of the Matador into the front of the trailer and hit the propane tanks, which blow up magnificently. As my vision comes back, I sit in my chaise lounge smoking Winstons as the fire department pours water on the smoking remains of my home. It smells really bad. One of the cops who shows up finds a pot seed in my ashtray and hauls me off to the pokey on drug charges. My ex-girlfriend used to smoke pot, so I guess that's where it came from. I call up Jimmy and he says he's in bed and all but he comes down and bails me out and lets me sleep on the sofa at his trailer, which is kind of nice of him. His wife gives me a hot dog and a bowl of mac and cheese and says how it's good to see me and that she hopes I won't be staying long because she's expecting a baby and the neighbors were complaining about their dog, Hammond. I say okay and walk into the desert, never to be seen again.
6:30 a.m. But I show up at work again the next day, even though it took me forever to start my car because there's no hill to roll the Matador down and Jimmy has a baby seat in his car and there's no room for me. I point out that the baby isn't around yet but he says he's “practicing,” and he is, too, with a little doll in there just like it was his own kid. Jimmy will make a good dad, I think later, drilling holes in pieces of metal. For some reason, after six years of doing this, it suddenly occurs to me to ask the boss exactly what the hell it is I'm doing. He gets all soft on me all of the sudden and talks a lot about the important function of these pieces of metal. Then he makes me go clean the meatloaf and gizzards room. At the 7-Eleven again, I compare my lottery number to the winning numbers and discover that, had I chosen “24” and “35” for my third and fourth numbers instead of “23” and “37,” I would have won $34 million. That was pretty close, and it makes me feel pretty good. I drive by
T. Alex Miller/5 the insurance place to see about my trailer and the guy tells me that the remains of my trailer have been confiscated by the police because I'd bought it with all of the money I made from selling pot. He says they won't pay for anything because of this. He says they'll confiscate my car, too, and laughs, pointing out the window at a wrecker hooking up my poor old Matador. I laugh and shake his hand and tell him I've had better days. He wishes me luck and as I shake his hand, I look at his tie and think about asking him if it's hard to tie those things, what it's like to own them, how he decides which one to wear each day, what they mean. He looks at me and asks if there's anything else he can help me with but I just say no and walk back to work. The boss looks at his watch and just points to the crucifix. I've been up there before and so I don't need any help getting strapped in. As I hang up there watching everyone at work, I suddenly feel all peaceful, and I realize this is the first real rest I've had in a long time. The boss visits me now and again, talking about dipping me in the acid tank, talking about getting some turkey vultures in to pluck at my eyeballs. Gilbert comes by and hands me a drink of water and before you know it they're taking me down and putting him up in my place. I go back to work for about five minutes but then the whistle blows and I head out, nodding to Gilbert as I pass. I head toward the parking lot, then remember about my car. I walk for about five minutes towards the trailer park and then realize I don't have anything to walk home to. I sort of stand there in the dirt as the cars whiz by, not knowing what to do, what direction to head in. I think of how it doesn't matter, I think of my parents sitting down to dinner, I think of Wanda, my ex-girlfriend and her dog, Max. Then my mind kind of goes blank and I close my eyes and the only thing I'm aware of is the Doppler shifts of the cars as they approach, pass me and rush on. I think about the people in the cars and wonder where they're going, how they're going home, probably. I know about Doppler shifts from an
T. Alex Miller/6 intro to astronomy class I took at the community college last year. I think how probably my boss doesn't know about Doppler shifts, how most people probably don't know about them. I try to think about other things I know that maybe nobody else does, like how our closest galaxy is Andromeda, 2.2 million light years away. How it's called M31. I start feeling all airy and light-headed. I open my eyes and I'm drifting high above the highway looking down on my body standing there next to the road. I notice I still have my apron on and... but I can't take it off now. I keep rising, higher and higher and I see my body far below me topple over in the dirt, like its plug was pulled or something. Then whatever I am now starts kind of blending into the air around me as I go higher and higher and higher. I hear the mixed-up laughter of my radio dj all around me, like the world is a big amusement park or something.
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