Four Years Earlier
Four years earlier
The office entrance door swings open and in walks a man. His chiseled face turns no one’s head as trudges by countless cubicles.
He begins to slide off his jacket as he nears his workplace.
Another man sitting three feet away greets him, “Hey, John, good morning.”
“Mark.” says John powering up his computer and draping his jacket over the chair. He sits down and immediately grabs his phone to check voicemail messages.
A blue flash comes up on the computer screen as the operating system loads. “You have six new messages, message one received at five-fifty-two- a.m.”
“She’s fired up today,” Mark slides a piece of paper on his desk. “We need this filled in by eight-thirty.”
“Message two, received at six-o-eight-a.m. Hey, it’s me again. I need to understand why we are out of green beans, call me a.s.a.p.”
John scribbles more notes from his voice mail. “Message three received at six nineteen a.m. John, you are short sixty-three cents on your cost report today. I need to know why we are losing sixty three cents on this case.”
“Did you say something Mark?” Pausing between messages.
“Yeah, she’s feisty today.”
“Today?” John raises his eyebrows wrinkling his forehead. His evanescent sarcasm dies. Mark turns unscathed from biting remarks.
“Don’t rock the boat, John. Even keel, brother.”
“Rock the boat? I just got an e-mail from six people regarding sixty three cents on my sell-below-cost report.” John dismisses his insensible coworker.
Intrigued, “Yeah, she called me about that too. Why are you selling below-cost?”
“I have a six million dollar budget, it must of slipped his mind. I say his mind, because I do not determine the prices or costs, negating my responsibility regarding prices and below cost issues. Now what were you saying about something ‘I’ did?”
“Sixty-three cents and sixty three dollars,” began Mark, “It’s still selling it below cost.”
John reaches into his pocket pulling out some loose change, “Here is my below cost, put it in the man in the corner office’s pocket. Tell him ‘I’m sorry’.”
“That is not the point, John, what if every buyer here was below cost today. Then what?”
“You’re right,” John capitulates and lowers his voice mockingly digging into his pocket removing a five-dollar bill. “Today, I feel generous. Give this to the man in the corner office.”
Mark’s eyes dive sadly, “John, you need to play for the team here. We’re in this together.”
John replies dismissively, “So were the Germans in WWII and look how correct they were.”
Mark turns his chair and returns to work.
The door slams behind John and he slowly he unzips his jacket, “Hey Jessica, how was your day?”
“Not bad, typical day.”
“Yeah,” his voice is low and subdued as he leans over towards her on the couch, “Another day, another dollar.” A fictitious smirk gleams as he kisses her, “You taste good.” The slight interlude brightens his eyes, “…like strawberries.”
She pauses with a smile, “Mmm. Are you okay? You seem down.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“You seem off. Another great day at work?” She says sarcastically, “John, you don’t have to work there.”
“And what?” he stands and drags himself to the kitchen, “not work, not pay rent, not buy food?” He opens the cabinets, “Jess we have to work, I wasn’t born into money.”
“I know you have to work, but not there.”
“Do you think I like what I do?”
“You don’t have to yell at me,” her voice frails.
“Jessica, I know, but you back me into a corner.” Realizing his aggressive approach to the conversation, “I’m at work today and my boss stops me in the hallway. She asks me what web sites I visit. I say ‘none’. Then she proceeds to tell me that my Internet bandwidth is one of the highest in the company. I had to explain to her that I listen to the radio on the Internet. You should have seen the look on this dumbbell’s face. After she claimed to understand that a radio can be played on the Internet, she says, ‘you can’t listen to it anymore. It slows down the server’.” He closes the cabinet after an unsuccessful search to find food. “Now they’re censoring music at work.”
Jessica remains docile as he spews epithets about his coworkers.
“First they censor music with labels, then TV, the radio, now I can’t listen to music I want at work, I can only listen to gossip chatter in the hallways.”
“Well John, it is their internet and computer you’re using,” she says cautiously.
“Yes I know, but who am I? I’m not taking up that much bandwidth or resources.” Now he searches the refrigerator for food. “If we could just leave this forsaken country,” he murmurs.
“John we discussed this, there has to be a better way.”
He closes the refrigerator door and enters the living room. “Jess, it’s this place, Xetrov. It stinks, there is no individuality, we are not allowed to be who we are. Everything is limited to the norm and labeled if not. No one can think freely and express themselves without consequence.” He exhales loudly.
Peacefully, “I wish I had your spirit.”
Sitting down with a thump, he puts his feet up and slouches, “I have to eat and run. There’s a meeting tonight.”
“How long are you going to go to these things? John, the cops are going to find out and arrest everybody.”
“For what, talking? This isn’t Germany and we’re not Jewish. Although sometimes it feels like we’re under the Third Reich.”
“They’ll find a reason to arrest you.”
“I’ll be fine, we have the right to petition and assembly” pausing dramatically and looking over at her, “for now.”