Friday, January 20, 2012

Flash Fiction Friday: The Clean Man (A Study of Mostly Realism)

THE MAN leaned back in his chair, cautious not to go too far.  Wouldn't want the back to break after all.  He idly wondered to which back he was referring, but then shrugged it off, not really caring.  He picked up his coffee, bitter with only the slightest taste of artificial hazelnut cream somewhere in its black depths.  Steam rose from the mug, hot and refreshing.  Probably the only warm thing in the whole room, he thought.  As he returned the cup to the table some liquid splashed over the side.  Brown stains freckled paper.  He winced at the accident, critical of himself for the mishap.  He was a clean man.  A tidy man.  A man who took pride in organization and order.  Accidents were things that happened to others, not to him.

Scowling at the drying stains, he blotted the coffee up with a folded paper towel.  He could no longer reuse it, as was his custom.  Paper towels were luxuries many could not afford.  He, on the other hand, had stockpiled a basement full, affordable at the time in thanks to his wife's coupons and his cunning.  A clean man must have towels, he thought.  He glanced at the clock.  0741.  The spill had altered his routine by a full minute.  Not a problem to most, but he was a punctual man, leaving home at 0748 every day, arriving to work at 0759, and at his desk by 0800, usually beating his boss and everyone else to the scene.

He dropped the paper towel into the bin, frowning as it disappeared from sight.  The man returned to the table and gathered the papers, organizing them neatly.  He moved to his desk and placed them in their proper cribs. 0743.  He had to go.  He could already see the horrific traffic accident, detouring the roadways, pushing his arrival time back by several minutes, if not hours.  If he was lucky, he thought, he would be in the crash, and then he would not have to endure the patronizing glares of tardiness.  A perverse smile came unbidden at the grim thought.

The man topped off his coffee mug, filling to the prime place just below the rim of the cup.  He screwed on the travel lid.  I'd like to see you splash about now, he thought smugly.  0748.  He really had to go.  The man scooped up his jacket, throwing it on like a smooth and well-practiced machine.  "Off," he said, and the overhead lights began to dim.  As the door slid closed behind him, the man had a peculiar feeling of despair.  He paused and did an inventory count.  Lights.  Phone.  Wallet.  Keys.  Coffee.  Something was different, he knew.  Something was off.

The man arrived to work without accident.  He quickened his pace as he entered the gates, ready to be in his seat and about business.  The nagging sensation still poked at him mind that something had happened, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what it was.  The office was still dark.  Good, he thought.  "On."  The lights remained unchanged.  Frustrated, the man spoke again.  "On, please."  Nothing happened.  He sighed, agitated, but did not let it deter him.  Someone else would fix it.  He was a clean man, not an electrician.

He thought nothing of it that his computer was already on and lit.  On any normal day, the monitor would be awaiting his password entry.  Today, however, the man was greeted with a different screen.  Fingerprints smeared across the glass, greasy and yellowed.  A rag was in a wad atop his keyboard, soiled and smelling of rot.  The man stared in horror at the scene before him.  Papers were everywhere, many torn to shreds or mutilated.  His inkwell had been unstoppered and its contents poured onto his seat.  A spasm worked its way to his left eye, twitching violently.  The man's hand quivered and his coffee mug fell free, clanging on the ground below.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there.  Time ceased to matter to him.  His already fragile mind was now shattered into pieces too tiny to ever reassemble.  The man's knees buckled, and he collapsed into a heap of broken bone, broken body, broken soul, and broken heart.  They found him on Monday, two days later, still lying on the floor and talking to himself.  People gossiped about his unusual habits and his horribly filthy desk.  His clothes were dirty and his face unclean.

The thoughts made him sick to his stomach.  0744.  He might have to drive a little faster today, he thought, scooping up his coat.


Does this make any sense?  Too vague?  And how much is based on my own life?


Alex Hagerman said...

I think I got it, and can definitely pick out the you parts, however I can only imagine the kinks I throw in your time routine.

logankstewart said...

Thanks for reading!