Posted by: dougery | October 26, 2011

A Work of Fiction

Before passing along this little anecdote it should be said that the following did not occur at my place of work. No, it most certainly did not. It is a work of fiction and it is pure coincidence if any characters herein happen to resemble any real life persons (the same can be said for the architecture, etc) Just getting all of this out of the way, like a real gross old man throat-clearing cough.

*    *    *    *    *

Paula is overworked. There is lots to do, and less time to accomplish what needs to be done. This in and of itself would be reason enough to be short tempered, however, Paula also just so happens to believe herself a wee bit better than her colleagues. This fact is unfortunate for nearly everyone, Paula included. She imagines her talent, as it were, is underappreciated. Perhaps she is miscast, occupying a position that doesn’t utilize her abundant gifts to their maximum potential. Perhaps her department doesn’t have the budget to hire an assistant to take care of all of the more tedious stuff that gets in her way.

Paula’s workplace is divided like a classic English period piece: there’s an upstairs and a downstairs. Just like, say, Gosford Park, the ‘upstairs’ is occupied by the lords and ladies, the creative types. Writers, editors, designers, artists, those who humbly pull beauty from the formless nothing of blank pieces of paper and Photoshop screens white as a New England two-story colonial. They sit at their desks up in the clouds, large windows and aerie ceiling so far above their heavenly minds, their attire artsy and colorful or else entirely black. There is nary a tie or a khaki to be found.

Downstairs dwell the folks who usher these fine works of astonishing beauty into the wide world. The publicists, the marketeers, the sales staff. These folks scramble about with postage stamps and packing material, typing emails to prospective buyers, and analyzing data and demographics. Unlike their upstairs counterparts, business propriety is the rule here, shirts are pressed, collars are uncomfortably tight, sneakers are wing-tips and fashion is unheard of.

Paula is something of a go-between. She has friends on both levels, though she secretly thinks of herself as having little in common with the underdwellers. Currently she toils in their midst, having left the Silver City above to slave in the depths on a project of serious length and breadth, she has no idea how long her refugee status will last. She misses the large windows and her skin has gone pale. Her large eyes blink slowly when she enters natural light like one of those cavefish, especially around lunchtime when she chooses to rise up from her station and sit in the upstairs dining area for a fine repast with her colleagues.

On this day Paula is early and as you might recall there’s that issue of her work burden, she doesn’t want to take much time for lunch today. Finding the table empty, the kitchen abandoned, Paula lets a smile play over her features and the effect is ghastly. She brings her tupperware toward the sink having carried it up from the downstairs fridge (Human Resources is a bit prickly on refrigerator storage quotas and even though Paula always eats upstairs, her officially allocated  refrigerator space remains below). There is a smattering of used dishes in the sink, despite it not yet being noon. These are likely breakfast remnants but the food particles betray heartier fare, “Why, are these yesterday’s lunch dishes!?,” Paula says just barely masking her frustration.

Paula opens the dishwasher and sees a crowd of plates, cups, forks with hunks of meat still impaled on their spikes and day-old questionable substances slime every available surface. “Has this… has this not been run!?,” Paula hisses, her tone admitting total disbelief. Her left eye twitches when she considers something, the finite resources of these cupboards. She needs a bowl. Her tupperware contains soup and, why, well, she just can’t bear the thought of dipping a spoon into that plastic rectangular polygon, the sides still warm to the touch and kind of soft, for molded plastic anyways and, “Oh no, a spoon!” She tears open the silverware drawer and despite a superabundance of knives and three forks of the hateful three-prong variety, the drawer is empty.

“Oh for fuck’s sake!,” little demure mild-mannered Paula growls really losing it now. “Can’t someone be bothered to start the dishwasher I mean really!” Passersby swerve to avoid whoever is stomping about the kitchen even if they have honestly not contributed to the mess being advertised in loud profanities. Of course Paula would never think to run the upstairs dishwasher in the evening as she was leaving, why she doesn’t even work up here now does she? How can her co-workers be so lazy, so spineless, such disgusting pigs the lot of them! Not that she has ever run the downstairs dishwasher either, even though her morning mug and spoon end up in it’s interior racks, a small brown coffee stain lightly feathered with curdled cream marking the shallow bottom of the spoon.

There is the sound of microwave buttons being punched. The electronic hum of the appliance in action. Is that the tapping of a female foot? Paula uses this lull to hunt for detergent, perhaps the washer was not run because it is all out? Then the microwave beeps triumphantly and its door kachunks open, some ‘Ow hot, ow hot ow hot’ is audible before a chair squeaks out and soup is consumed with a plastic spork in haste. Paula does not make eye-contact with those who enter the kitchen, fearful that they will start some inane conversation about their kids or some terribly dull art movie everyone has been going out to see lately and pretending to like or else ask Paula why she has chosen to eat her soup like some poor person. A few of these folks are newer creative hires and wonder who this woman is eating at their table and why doesn’t she just stick to her own kind, you know?

Soup is consumed in a flash. Chair squeaks out and back. Spork spirals into a waste bin and all the while the heavily loaded dishwasher sits filthy and quiet. On the counter is a half full box of powdered dish washing detergent fished from its home in the cabinet under the sink just moments ago.



  1. ::slow clap::

    Paula sounds terrible, but this is brilliant: “a small brown coffee stain lightly feathered with curdled cream marking the shallow bottom of the spoon.”

    More fiction, please! And non-fiction, for that matter.

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