Greetings, WYMOP readers!
It was a mid-week day. Wouldn’t have been anything special, but things had gotten a little crazy. One of the books I’m editing for had been pushed back, and back, and back again, waiting for some of the authors to get their work in. We’d had to shuffle other things around—this wasn’t the only furshlugginer project to be pushed back by authors missing deadlines—and rather than going into work two hours early to write, as I usually do, I’d decided that morning to edit at home and go in at my scheduled time. At home I have a two-screen setup, and those screens would make it easier to work on some of the editing I had to get done, and get done now.
So I’d sat down at my desk at 5:00 and stayed there until 7:30. When I finished the edit I looked down at myself and realized I’d not dressed before sitting down . . . nor had I made a lunch . . . nor washed up and brushed my teeth . . .
I sprang into action. If they ever make a movie of my life, this part will be covered by an 80s-style montage, with scenes of me putting soap on my toothbrush as I scrub my face with Crest©, hopping across the room in my underwear as I try to force my foot into a sock, shoving things into my work bag, shoving things into my writing bag, hopping back across the room working on the second sock, vaulting down the stairs with a bag on one shoulder, sprinting back up the stairs and then stumbling down once more carrying the bag I’d forgotten. In the kitchen I tore open the cabinets, yanked out bread and peanut butter, and started making a couple of sandwiches to get me through the day. About halfway through the process I decided spreading the peanut butter with a knife would be easier and opened the drawer for one of them, too.
My stomach rumbled then, reminding me loudly that I’d not had breakfast, either.
More bread hit the deck and I slapped together a third sandwich to eat in the car. I checked the clock: 7:40. I could still make it. This is why I just go into work early and do my writing/editing there: to avoid all this last-minute running about like a chicken no longer in need of a hat. I cleaned up my mess, made damn sure I had both bags this time, and ran for the Mini. The good news was I’d have time to eat my breakfast while I sat in traffic.
Traffic. Right. My greatest friend. No matter what I do to avoid it, no matter what I say to it—sometimes in incredibly vulgar terms and at the top of my voice—it’s always there for me. I sat behind an SUV—which in a Mini means all I could see was that SUV—and wolfed down my sandwich because somehow I thought speed of eating would translate into speed of driving. It didn’t. It translated into indigestion. I made the rest of the stop-and-go trip slightly queasy and burping up peanut butter.
What do they put in peanut butter that makes it taste so foul the second time?
I pulled into the parking lot nearly two hours later than I normally do, so the spot I usually park in was taken. In fact, all of the spaces near the building were gone, and the Mini screamed across the lot toward the only open slot I could see, just as far as you could get from the building and still be on government-owned land. As I shut off the car I noticed the dashboard clock: 7:59.
I hot-footed it to the building in that awkward half-jog-half-walk late-running idiots like myself somehow think is more dignified than just a straight run. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. I jalked (wogged?) right in the back door to the timeclock . . . and saw the Mini’s dash clock was running fast again. I had three minutes to spare.
Son of a bitch, I thought. This has been a crazy morning. Jesus, remind me again why I do this?
“There you are!”
Coming toward me, carrying something in one hand, was one of the clerks . . . one of the clerks not known for being nice. Known for being somewhat harsh, actually. She knows it. She owns up to it. I sometimes think she revels in it. Oh, man, I thought, this isn’t fair. I’m not even on the job yet! Instinctively I began to shift my weight, preparing to flee—but the time clock was ticking, and I had to punch in on time.
I was trapped.
If they ever make a movie of my life, this scene will be filmed in super slo-mo: my eyes widening in dismay as she closes in, shifting my weight uncertainly; her striding forward, thrusting the thing in her hand toward me, insisting I handle whatever it is now, right now, unwilling to wait until I’m getting paid to do the work; my shoulders slumping in defeat, eyes squinting with pain, assuming this day was shifting from crazy to sucky in one smooth move—and then my eyes widening again, this time in astonishment.
The thing she was thrusting my way so insistently was a book . . . my book.
“Can I get you to sign this for me?” she said, breaking into, of all things, a smile. The book, I saw, showed signs of wear—the good kind of wear, the kind a loved book is supposed to show—and the bookmark sprouting from between the pages showed her to be almost finished, if it were to be believed (probably somewhere in the latter half of “Wendigo,” for those of you who have read Echoes). My surprise must have shown on my face, for she suddenly grinned wider and gave the book a little wiggle. “I thought you’da been in earlier. This is good!”
I’d like to say I broke into a grin to rival her own, but I didn’t. It dwarfed her smile. Hell, I nearly sprained my face. And through that face-straining toothfest I forced the only response that came to mind:
“Have you got a pen?”
She didn’t. We went off in search of one. By the time I got back to the clock I was punching in late, but found I didn’t care. As I swiped my card I remembered what I’d been thinking just before being accosted by the new World’s Greatest Clerk: Jesus, remind me again why I do this? Looking heavenward, I spoke aloud.
“Hey, thanks for getting back to me so quick on that one. If you’re in that kind of mood, I’d like to take a moment to talk to you about lottery tickets . . .”
Talk to you later!