Short Story: Breaking free

“This is bullshit,” moaned a disheveled, middle-aged man as he slammed another empty glass onto the bar. His eyes were beginning to glaze over, and he had started slurring his speech. “I don’t know why I put up with it!”

“What’s gotten into you, James?” His friend Nelson – this one nursing his first scotch and water – looked on, concerned by how his friend was acting. “Don’t you think you should slow down. You’re hitting it pretty hard tonight.”

“What does it matter? Why does any of it matter?” He slurred. “Give me one more, Gary.” The bartender looked over to the friend, who nodded, and the bartender reluctantly brought over a fresh scotch.

The pair remained silent for a moment, but as soon as James had his drink in hand, he began his complaint anew. “I’ve been there for almost twenty years,” he began.

“And they don’t appreciate what you do for them,” his friend completed the refrain. “Yeah, I know. We all know. Why don’t you spare me the bullshit and just tell me what happened today.”

“Spare you the…, fine,” he sputtered angrily. “I’ll tell you. My tightwad boss yelled at me, wanting to know about the Andrews account. I closed that deal a month ago, he signed off on it, and now he’s pissed off because he thinks we under-charged them. He wants me to cancel the contract and renegotiate. It’s bullshit. They won’t go for that! They’ll find someone else to do business with, and then I’ll get blamed for losing another major contract, all because THEY can’t do their jobs correctly. I’m tired of being their punching bag.”

“Then get out,” a voice cried out from the other side of the bar. James whipped his head around, angry that he had been overheard, though he had been complaining so loud that many people had simply left to go elsewhere for a drink.

“What did you say?” James’ friend  asked.

“Get out,” she repeated herself with an eerily calm voice. She was an attractive forty-something, with expensive tastes. She looked out-of-place in the slightly seedy establishment. Nelson looked at her, and she wore a haunted expression on her face, but other than that, betrayed no emotion, though it was obvious to all that she had been crying recently.

“What business is it of yours?” James spat.

“None, I suppose,” she sighed, “but I think you should listen anyways. What could it hurt?” James shrugged as he started on his scotch. The stranger walked over and sat beside him.

“It’s funny how similar a job is to a romantic relationship. At first, it’s all perfect. You’re in love, after all. He brings you flowers, tells you he loves you. He brings you gifts and treats you like a princess. You get lost in the fantasy. At work, it’s the same, they check up on you, make sure you have everything you need, ensure you’re comfortable. They have a responsibility to you and they want you to succeed because their success is dependant on your ability to do your job.

“It doesn’t take long for the new relationship smell to start to wear off. You don’t notice it at first, but it slowly begins to change. It’s subtle, first he stops giving you flowers, or he stops rubbing your neck at the end of the day. There are no more sweet love notes, or he stops kissing you altogether. There’s a moment when you look up, and you realize that the magic is gone, but you can’t pinpoint when it happened, but you know you want to leave, but he doesn’t let you.

“‘I’ll change,’ he promises. ‘Just give me another chance.’ So you agree, and at first there’s a noticeable improvement. He starts kissing you again, his voice seductive promising you things he promised once before, and you fall for his charm. He comes home at a reasonable hour. He treats you how you deserve to be treated, for a while, but sooner rather than later it goes back to how it was. He neglects you, takes you for granted. You’ve become nothing more than a nursemaid while the jackass goes out to play.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” James groaned.

“Don’t you see?” The stranger said pointedly. “You’re nothing but your boss’s bitch. Sure he may treat you a little better should you want to leave and he needs you, but what’s the point? How many times do you have to do the stupid, little dance? You know what I’m talking about, right?”

“I’ve talked about leaving, sure,” he agreed.

“And what? Did you get a raise, a better office perhaps?”

“And a promotion, but I’m still doing the same bullshit work.”

“Exactly,” she shoved her finger into his chest. “Nothing but trinkets given to take your mind off the fact that they don’t respect you.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“Leave. Get out while you can. It’s a toxic relationship, abusive to the point where you’re losing yourself in drink just to numb the pain. Break up, while you still can, and leave on your own terms. Leave before you lose all sanity, lose all control, and do something you may regret later. You’re nobody’s bitch.”

“I can’t just quit,” James cried. “I have a family to support.”

“And yet you’re here and not with them,” she countered. “Don’t you think this is taking a toll on them? How long before she gets tired of being neglected? Get out while you still have a marriage to save. Or stay and lose everything. I don’t give a shit.”

The stranger got up, paid her tab, and left without saying another word. “What a loon,” James laughed before returning his attention to his drink.

“I don’t know,” Nelson said quietly. “I think she has a point, and I think you need to stop drinking and go home to your family before you end up like me, divorced and alone.”

***

James walked into his house, his children already in bed. His wife was curled up in front of the television, which she had on mute, a book in hand. She barely registered his entrance with a weary nod.

“I think we need to talk,” he said glumly.

“Oh?” she replied, not taking her eyes off the book.

“First, I want to say I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting, the way I’ve been treating you and the kids. I love you all, and I don’t want to lose you.”

That finally got her attention and she put her book down. “Okay?”

“I’ve been having a hard time at work, and I know it’s no excuse, but that’s why I’ve been so distant lately. I want to change before I lose you. I don’t want to lose you. I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”

“Okay? So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“If you think it’s your job that’s at fault, leave.”

“Just quit? I can’t do that! I have a family to support.”

“And you think you’re supporting us by coming home drunk every night? By neglecting us? I hate to break it to you, but you’ve already lost me. I’ve been seeing someone for a while now, someone who’s taken care of me, who treats me how I should be treated.”

“Oh,” James replied, stunned by the revelation, not knowing what else to say.”

“Yeah, you’ve already lost me. I’m just here for the kids, but even for them, I don’t know what more I can take.”

“So, you’re sleeping with him?”

“Not yet, but it’s going to happen any day now.” His wife looked at his compassionately for the first time and smiled grimly. “I love you, too, but I can’t go on like this. You say you don’t want to lose me, this is your chance. Quit your job. It’s either them or me.”

“And what about our mortgage and our bills?”

“We have enough to get by for a couple of years, but you should be able to find a job before then. We’ll have to cut back on a few luxuries, but so what?”

“Wow,” James exclaimed softly, waves of fear, anger, and jealousy over taking him. “So you have someone on the side and you’re about to leave me?”

“I have someone on the side, but I wasn’t planning on leaving you just yet, but eventually, yes. I won’t be treated like this, not by you. If I have to find affection somewhere else, yeah I’ll do it, and feel no guilt for doing it.”

“I – I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.”

“I told you. Quit. If you want me, that’s my price. Quit your job, and come to counseling with me. I’ve been going for several months, alone.”

“I need to think about it. I can’t just up and quit.”

“Suit yourself. You know what’s up. I’ll give you some time, but not much more. I’ll take a poorer man over you if that means I get to have his attention. And just so you know, that trip I was planning for this weekend with the girls?”

“Yeah?”

“I’ll be with him in Vegas, in his arms, in his bed.” She got up and walked out, taking her book with her, leaving him to his confusion.

James picked up the remote to the television to shut it off when a picture grabbed his attention. The same woman who he met at the bar. He turned up the volume to listen to the news report.

“…woman wanted by the police in connection with the brutal murders of her husband and his lover was found moments ago, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Friends described her as an outgoing, loving person, who had endured years of abuse and neglect, culminating in cold-blooded murder.”

“Chilling, Steve. Next, we check in with Dave for the weather. How’s it looking for the…”

James shut off the television and walked into the bedroom, the brutality of what he saw breaking him. “What’s the matter?” His wife asked, as he sat on the bed, shaking by what he saw on the news. He had just talked to her moments earlier.

“I love you. I’ll put in my notice tomorrow. If you have to go this weekend, I won’t blame you, but I won’t stop fighting for you.”

“Babe, if you choose me, I’ll choose you, too. Just understand, this is your one and only chance, but I won’t guarantee I’ll stay, either.”


Short Stories

Next story – Marionette
Previous story – Faithless

Recharged and looking forward

I haven’t been updating as frequently as I should. I’m sorry about that. It’s just that I haven’t had much going on as of late. I didn’t feel like repeating myself. My posts were becoming redundant. I felt that taking some time away was the right thing to do.

So now I’m back, feeling recharged, and raring to go. My vacation was relaxing, though too short. I’m back at work now, and even there I’m wondering if there’s a change in my future. I wish I could elaborate, but I’m not sure what it is. It’s just a general sense that change is on the horizon. Maybe it’s a move up, a lateral more, or me deciding to move on, but something is coming.

On that note, I’ve been thinking a bit about my own future. I’ve talked some about how money has never been my prime motivator. It still isn’t, but I’m coming to a point in my life where I need a relatively massive influx of money. I’ll be 39 next month. I want a house, a car, in short, I want my life back on track.

Career-wise, I feel as though I have stalled. I’m comfortable in that I know what I’m doing, and I know my co-workers and feel comfortable around them. Comfort is not enough. I look at my work-in-progress, and I realize that what I want to do is write and maybe make enough to fund my life. I don’t believe I’ll become wealthy, but I would like to make enough to perhaps go back to college.

Retail is a game of numbers, and I don’t have that desire. Again, money is not a motivator. I don’t have a head for business, and though I’m good at what I do, there’s also a lot of things that I fail at, namely customer and co-worker interaction, playing the office-political game, and just doing what I’m told vs. what I think needs to be done. I forget that I’m not free to do my own thing. My manager, as agent of the company I work for, dictates what I do. I hate that.

I’m not clear on what I should do, only that I should do something new. There’s a part of me that yearns for an adventure, a new direction in my life. I have no one in my life, no anchor, nothing to hold me back. There are experiences I want to have. I just need to be bold enough to find them.

Which has always been problematic for me. I’m not what you might consider a go-getter. I’m content, for the most part, to remain at home and chill. I don’t usually need a lot of excitement. I’m best when I have few distractions. I hate being overwhelmed by the world at large. It’s the great paradox of my existence.

I hope to have this figured out soon. I’m ready for a change. I’m also ready to buckle down and get back to writing.

Reading, writing, and I hate my job…

This is the first time since last May that I haven’t posted a book review. It’s a little weird. I had considered reviewing the Divergent series just for the hell of it, but time got away from me. I’m not committing myself one way or the other for now. I do need to get myself a book to read.

Actually, I don’t. I’ve focused so much of my energies to reading and reviewing, that my own writing has suffered. I need to get back on track and do some real writing. As you know, I pulled out a piece I started working on back in 2012, and I think I’m going to finish it. Then I’ll let a few people read it before deciding what to do with it.

But first, I have a book I’m beta-reading for a friend. Allan Krummenacker is working on his second book, The Ship. It’s a simple read and comment job, meaning I’m stressing out about it. I have a three-day weekend starting Friday, so I’m planning on taking some time out to actually read and take some constructively useful notes to pass along. I want this one to be better than his first!

Between you and me, I’m in an odd rut. I’ve ended my twice monthly reviews. I’ve stopped posting on a regular basis, and I’m not writing a diligently as I should. I have come to realize that my job will likely take me no where, that despite all the hard work I put into trying to move into full-time, the reality is that hard work is not rewarded at The Home Depot, cronyism is. That kind of bums me out.

So, my out is to write. Retail is a horrid environment, that offers only part-time work, and routinely cuts hours, further pushing me into poverty. I never had this problem when I worked at Wal-Mart. They gave me a chance and I moved up into management there, though I wouldn’t go back no matter what they paid me.

I’m going to work on my writing and hope this pulls me out of my funk. I can’t rely on employers to do it. They only feed the maw of poverty and the welfare state. I want out of the rut, and I deserve it, or at least I think I do.

Just some thoughts for me to consider while I drive to work this afternoon. Hope your Tuesday has treated you kindly.

End of term crunch time

Birthday cake

Birthday cake (Photo credit: 3liz4)

It’s been a busy week here at Team Joe HQ, and there’s no sign of it slowing down in the next few weeks. Yes, it’s crunch time and I’m just trying to survive these last few weeks as the Spring semester comes to its end. Alleluia and amen!

This past Tuesday I attended my last Geology class of the term. The next class time has been set aside to allow for any make up tests that need to be taken, as well as to give some of us to retake a test we may have done poorly on. I aced mine so I’m good. I just have to return the following week for my final exam.

I celebrated my birthday on Wednesday and I celebrated in style, by attending class until almost nine that night. Nothing says birthday party like sitting in a class room with a bunch of young twenty-somethings. At least I sat with an amusing young woman. And the instructor’s fair to look at. I only wish I could understand what she’s saying, but I guess that’s my fault. I should learn to listen.

Thursday, I had a project due for psychology. I knew about it all semester so naturally I waited until the night before to start it. Five pages later, nearing four in the morning, I completed my project and submitted it via a drop box on the class’s webpage. I ended up not going to class since I was dead to the world until ten.

Going forward, I still have to finalize my portfolio of four essays for my Creative Writing – Nonfiction class. The portfolio is due at the end of the term. I have a few assignments yet to do for my grammar and I have to study for all my finals, but it’s almost over. And I’m glad. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall, academically speaking. I’m exhausted.

I’m not complaining. I’m happy that I’m finishing my degree, I just forgot the amount of energy it requires to go to class and do homework. It’s not easy, but most things of worth demand sacrifices and this one is well worth the effort.

If I have time, I plan to post my monthly book review that I’m starting. My plan is to write one book review, usually a self-published author, as the first post of the month. So May’s review should be up on May 1st.

Now I think I’m going to soak in the tub for a bit. I stocked about 6 pallets of paint, with some assistance, in two hours and my body is protesting. The great part of this job is that it is a bit mind-numbing, no thinking required. The bad, my body aches, but I’m not planning on making a career of it. This is only something to do until the end of school, which if all goes according to plan, will be the first week of July, and I’ll graduate in August, nineteen years after I started.

But at least I will have come back and completed my studies. I only hope that it will be worth it.

In the home stretch

sonoma coffee cafe

sonoma coffee cafe (Photo credit: justonlysteve)

I never got around to writing yesterday. Shame on me. To be honest, the next few weeks are going to be a bit hectic for me, so finding a free moment to share my wackiness may prove difficult. I many miss a few posts here and there.

I’m in the last weeks of the semester. I have two weeks of class and then finals the week after, and then I’ll be done. After that I’ll have three weeks off before the start of the summer, then I’ll really be done

At the same time, It looks as if my new temporary job is starting to finally give me some hours Not enough for me to afford anything, but enough for me to feel the pinch of time. So yeah, I’m probably going to feel exhausted as I lose all time to myself these next few weeks.

It’s only a short-term sacrifice. I have to keep reminding myself that this is short-term. It’s a little more than two months until I’ll be done. I can do this.In the mean time I’m still rewriting my novel, and it’s a significant rewrite with some major changes, project is due Thursday, and I have a portfolio to put together for my Creative Nonfiction.

What has me really worried is that I need to line up a permanent job. The job I have is not where I want to be. To be honest, it’s a bit of a regression for me, a step back into a career path that’s ill-suited for me, and frankly pays like crap. I know money isn’t everything but to deny its importance is stupid. Let me illustrate this concept in a manner I think will understand. I have bills to pay. I need a car. I want to have my own place again to do what I want. And I wouldn’t mind being able to afford to go out now and again.

So although my present state is short-term, I really need to focus on the long-term as well. If I don’t, I may be stuck here and likely will fall into my depression all over again. I really don’t want to start on that course again, especially now that I’m feeling a little better.