Friday, April 07, 2023

No Rest For The Wary

Wrote the first draft of this story in 2013. Revised the couple years after that. I still like it. Submitted for publication numerous times but get why it reads normal now. Decided to publish here. 

No Rest For The Wary 

  You get back from the break room with a soda and he still hasn’t commented on your comment. Infuriating. Whatever he’s working up. Doug downstairs in shipping and receiving with nothing better to do. His post was the first thing you had to see today. He did it just to dig under your skin. He knows you like Cleve Slidell. For months you’ve been posting about his run for governor. Missouri and the country’s future depend on Cleve winning, and so, of course, all these “news stories” start popping up. You for one refuse to look. The media destroys our last decent men.

“Communist She-Monkey” — Slidell Denigrates Education Head Alexander in Taped Conversation

Disgusting. Everybody wants everything to mean something today. The world used to be simpler. Now it’s everybody saying everything all the time. Everybody wanting something. And if you possess the courage to speak up, suddenly you’re the bad guy.

The headline blares side-by-side pictures of Cleve and this Alexander chick. Hair frizzed out, big beads around her neck. She looks like some kind of wild woman. That’s who’s teaching kids today.

Never in a million years would you click that garbage. The country is draining down the drain. Cleve is a man of faith, morals. A man who stands up to the leeches and lunatics. But call a spade a spade and they attack you.

You re-read your comments on Doug’s post. You’ve memorized every word but. First you wrote: “Doug I’m disappointed but not surprised you getting suckered by the media circus first thing in the morning. Did you run out of lucky charms?”

None of Doug or his dipshit friends bit. Cowards. So minutes later you added: “Cowards it will be noted YOU let these people take over our country.”

Still nothing. Silent and critical the whole lot. You swallow your soda, wipe your sweaty head. You consider the unprocessed invoices piled on your desk. Fuck them. Seriously. And fuck Gail Betts. If she wants to manage something, you’ll tell her what to manage. The office isn’t what it used to be. Meanwhile you’ve slaved eight years in accounts payable. For what?

Your head is killing you. Twelve minutes now since your comment. Radio silence. Did you shut them up for once?

Online Doug calls himself “Douglas Jamison Farrier.” Who’s got time for that much name? Some of us have to work. Hey buddy: You’re just Doug down in shipping making probably minimum wage.

In his profile pic, Doug poses in tall woods somewhere with a pretty chick and a dog. You scooch closer for a better look. Can you imagine just standing around in the woods being that clueless? Eating shit in the woods?

Your computer dings and your heart lurches.

They commented.

You lean to read.

Doug says: “I wondered if you could clarify who you mean by ‘these people’?”

Clever. The country’s too clever by half.

What can you say?

You start typing about “laughing all the way” and “hell” and “getting a job,” but your computer dings again and your throat squeezes. You don’t want to look, but you can’t not:

Some chick you don’t even know, “Sarah Townes Rodriguez,” of course Mexican, says: “Jerry, are you the one keeping notes? Thank you. May I see them so I can look out for these people?”

A joke is what they think. A pack of Johnny Carsons. They don’t realize the joke’s on us. Nobody will laugh when the country collapses. Johnny Carson in his terrorist turban.

They’re trying to trap you. You have to strike back.

You start to call them “filthy animals,” but you change your mind, delete.

You have to say something. You see you saying it: “Doug, you are a naïve child. I am in the trenches. Day after day. I’m building a thing. Have you built anything, Doug?”

But instead you pound “all you motherfuckers are going to die I promise” and you hit enter and blast them.

Right away, you wish it back. Bad. Bad comment. You didn’t say what you wanted. You have to delete . . .


You jolt. “Huh?”

Fucking Gail Betts fills your office door.

You swivel to your computer, close the browser. You don’t want to, but you face her.

“You scared me,” you say.

“You okay, Jerry?”

She stares at you. All high and mighty.


“Your face is red. You feeling okay?”

She’s “asking” about you. “No, I’m fine.”

Her eyes go to your computer, and you follow. Rather than close, you filled the screen with Doug’s post.

You turn off the monitor. Did she see? The words are small, so hopefully not. You need to get back and delete that comment before anyone sees, but Gail’s got you cornered.

You hear yourself say, “I had to check these messages from my sister about my mom. She’s all sick.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Jerry,” Gail says. “What’s wrong with her?”

“That’s what I was waiting to find out. They think it’s something in her heart.”

You stare past Gail’s shoulder, shrug. Burning around your neck and ears. Every winter they do this with the heat. You nod at the invoices. “Slammed this morning. Trying to reconcile all this.”

“You need the day off? Go be with family?”

“Nah,” you say. “No rest for the wary.”

Gail nods. “Alright. Let me know.” She shifts her great weight. What already? You must erase that horrible thing. “Jerry, I don’t know if you heard, but Bill Thompson’s leaving us at the end of the month . . .”

You squint at the bright hallway behind her. You are nodding.

“ . . . and I wondered if you wanted to interview for the manager position?”

Behind you the computer dings, dings, dings.