Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Everybody Knows, by E. Flanigan

When I was a kid, my 5th grade teacher tacked a poster on the wall right next to my desk. I looked up at it probably fifty times a day.

It had a picture of lemons disappearing into a meat grinder and a glass of bright yellow lemonade on the other end. That one that says, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" What bullshit.

Once I grew up and got my head out of my ass, I realized some people never leave the meat grinder. The poster was just propaganda.

I'm sick of getting chewed up and spit out, and yesterday was the day I finally woke up. Randy says I'm acting like an idiot, but today I'm free and Randy's still pushing a broom around. So who's the stupid one?

The day started off normal, and now that I think about it, it's crazy how Tuesday night I went to bed and everything was the same and Wednesday night everything was different. See, my whole life just changed, SNAP.

It's like this lady on TV who got her scalp ripped off when her hair got caught in an industrial mixer. "Degloving" is what they call it. Do you think that lady would've believed you if you told her she'd be going to bed with no scalp that night? That's how life is sometimes. It's just like, SNAP.

I don't know what was so special about Wednesday, but the universe was definitely telling me to wake up. For one thing, it was 9/9/09, which is crazy. That only happens like every hundred years or something. And nine is my lucky number, so there's that.

Plus it was Wednesday, as I said, and Randy was telling me Wednesdays have the most suicides and all the scientists are trying to figure out why. And I was like, "Gee, could it be job stress?" Bingo, we have a winner.

Then at lunch I was reading Spin with Suzanne in the break room and I saw a quote by Kanye West: "Everything that Twitter offers I need less of."

And I was blown away, because I was just saying that last week. The whole modern world is so screwed, because it's all sound-bites and status updates and nobody really getting together. I was trying to explain this whole thing to Suzanne, but she had to clock back in and it was so ironic it wasn't even funny.

Conversations like that, important ones where two people are really connecting, are limited by a time clock. But Facebook is 24-7. Omegle is 24-7. Time is an artificial construct. Do you really think Plato or Thoreau were worried about keeping their breaks to fifteen minutes? Get real.

When Paul got on my back about refilling the soap dispensers, it was all I could do to keep my shit. The guy has balls, because he wasn't doing anything at the time but breathing down my neck. But whatever — I did it.

Needless to say, Randy was pissing me off because he kept imitating me. "Yes, Paul. Sorry, Paul." And it's like, grow up and wake up.

"When you can't figure out who the douche-bag is, it's probably you, Randy." He's so stupid he doesn't really deserve a wake-up call, but he got one anyway. Free of charge.

Then I was cleaning the front windows and there was this hubbub outside the bank. So I walked down and saw this guy with a pile of ropes and a sign, "Nooses on sale." And I knew exactly what he meant. Because there's a lot of assholes who should give it up and hang themselves, starting with bankers and stockbrokers.

When I got back in the store, Paul started in on me about leaving without permission, and it was obvious he just doesn't get it. For one thing, I was only gone for like two minutes. But he's so busy trying to convince himself he's accomplishing something besides being a prick for a living, he misses the big picture.

Everybody was watching me get yelled at, even the customers, and I don't know if it was because it was Wednesday or what, but that's when I left. I just set my apron on the counter and walked out the door.

On my way to the bus stop I passed the bank, and I made it a point to shake the noose guy's hand and tell him, "Thanks for doing this, man. That shit made my day."

I've been thinking about it, and I already know what I'm going to say to Paul when I go pick up my final check tomorrow. I'll just look him in the eye and say: "Everybody gets it but you, Paul. Everybody knows."

SNAP. Wake-up call.


Erica Orloff said...


What I love . . .

You captured a VOICE. Nailed it.

And . . . this was really "immediate"--everything about what this narrator was saying was right on, right now, very real.


Jude Hardin said...

When I saw Billy Joel in 1979, his final words before leaving the stage were, "Don't take any shit from anybody."

I pretty much agreed with that sentiment when I was 19. Now...

I think it's probably a common fantasy to just walk off in the middle of a shift one day, say, "Take this job and shove it," but the truth is most of us need a paycheck and most jobs involve taking some shit from time to time. There's always going to be a Paul, wherever you go.

That said, I think you really did nail the voice here, Erika. Very well done. I always say the best fiction makes you think, and this did that.

Melanie Avila said...

I agree with the voice -- I really wanted to know what was going to happen and how long he'd put up with the BS.

Great piece.

E. Flanigan said...

It's funny, I was actually inspired to write this short by a post on Erica's blog recently about identifying the thing we're each missing about ourselves, our writing, whatever. What is it that everybody knows but that we can't see about ourselves?(thus the title)

I got to thinking about self-delusion. So Jude, my goal was to present the question, "What is it that everybody knows but the narrator does not?"

Anyway, thanks for reading it.

LurkerMonkey said...

The thing I liked about this was the build ... at first, I was wondering what's up with this guy, until about 3/4 of the way through, it hit me and I thought, "I'd probably fire him too."

Jude Hardin said...


Ah. I see. But I'm betting there are quite a few people who would actually relate to this character, cheer him on for not taking any crap from "the man."

Natasha Fondren said...

Yeah, I'm one of those who relate to this character, LOL. There is a reason I am traveling in a cute little camper rather than a 200K luxury RV, LOL...

I loved the timing, as always, especially the rhythm of the "SNAP," throughout. And I'm not sure I would have fired him. With the whole "Yes, Paul. Sorry, Paul." thing, I got the impression that he was meek on the outside, always doing his job but a target for a boss who likes to find one, while on the inside he was rebellious and anything but meek. It seemed to me that his true colors didn't shine until he took off his apron, and I imagined that his boss and co-workers were beyond shocked.

But that's just what I got out of it. :-)

E. Flanigan said...

Interesting to hear everybody's takes on it. Needless to say, "what everybody knows" is different depending on who you ask!!

Thanks again, everybody, for your insights.