Saturday, June 30, 2012

Deep Sea Diving Enchanted


He dreamt about the girl he loved growing up. The girl he’d always love but would never see again. He dreamt that they were of high school age; the age when he loved her. But they were in the entrance area of their junior high school; a smaller, more intimate setting. They were seniors, in charge of the whole world. And what any adult might say hardly meant a thing to them. It was the day before Halloween. He was probably cutting his last class and leaving school early. She was sitting at a small table near the entrance just inside the main doors and filling out Halloween cards for a few, lucky individuals selected at random. There was a phone on the table, the Halloween cards, and two kinds of cookies; sugar and gingersnaps. She also had a list of the lucky students' names. She was to call them in class over the PA, announce that they had a card and cookie waiting, and they, in turn, were to come down and get it.

She invited him to stay and help and he accepted since he’d always loved this girl and was probably on his way to do nothing much anyway. And so he sat. She’d announce a name to him and he would, in turn, call that particular student out of class by way of the telephone, “Hello, I’m calling to announce that blah-blah-blah has a special prize waiting for him near the office in the front of the school. Blah-blah-blah, please come down to retrieve you special Halloween prize.” She would even allow him to write in some of the cards; Dear Blah-blah-blah, have a happy Halloween, you’re a grade A student. Then she would attach two sugar cookies to the card. They both enjoyed gingersnaps and began snacking on those. Greedily, they would keep these for themselves.

They announced a few more cards in this fashion before she made an announcement of her own. Out in the parking lot; there was some good, bottled beer that she’d been keeping in her car. And would he like to have some…with her!? They made a few more phone announcements, quickly, to buy them some time. And after a few more students came down to collect their card and cookies; the two stepped right out of the heavy, front doors and into the cool, night air. Being fall, the sky was perfectly black already which  made them feel extra protected under the cover of nightfall. They retrieved the beer from her car, drank one or two, and then snuck the rest back in with them. Nobody was going to find out. Who was going to care anyway? She cared! She said. She was, after all, the class president which was how she came to be announcing Halloween cards in the first place. So they’d be extra careful drinking inside as they announced the further winners over the PA who were due their sugar cookies.

They drank until they were buzzed. Until the were intoxicated. God, how he was intoxicated with her. They giggled and they slurred. They touched each others shoulders and reminisced. They wondered what was to come. What was to become of this whole, entire world they knew so well encapsulated right here in this school building. They felt like adults. And they ate gingersnaps chewing them into nothing and loving the flavor. He began to slur over the telephone which made her laugh with that all-knowing smile. And he began to write all squiggly some the announcements into the greeting cards. This was the girl he loved. This was the girl he’d always love but would never see again.

And when he awoke alone on a folded-up futon in a different city, he only felt blessed at the happiness brought on from this most wonderful of any dream.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Florida Approximately


            Jesus Christ, he thought. How much longer was this going to take? And, come to think of it, how long had he been here already? And now that he really got to thinking about it, what the fuck was he doing here in the first place?!
            The room was boring. Really boring. Really boring with really bright florescent lighting overhead. Go figure. And yet it was beyond florescent somehow. Not brighter. No. It's just that it was...or made everything seem...more boring? More stale. It caused the furniture and fixtures in the room to appear plainer than they were...if that was even possible. The effect was nauseating and, as if to purposely increase this sensation, wouldn't ya know it; the light above him just had to be buzzing  and blinking a bit.
            His chair was uncomfortable too. It was as if there was a part of it directly underneath his ass that had bowed under prior stress and finally broken so that now both butt cheeks were cradled and practically swinging in this sort of unnatural ass-hammock. It caused him to feel embarrassed for being way too conscious of his ass just then; a position that was both literally and metaphorically awkward to say the least.
            But why? 
            As it was, the room remained void of any living soul. There was simply no one around to be over-conscious of him being over-conscious of his ass. So the man decided then that it would be worth while to try another chair since there were many other chairs. A dozen or more and they were all identical. Their arms, legs, and backs were constructed from a pale wood. A smooth wood. The grain virtually undetectable. The finish; matte. The upholstery was all the same too and comprised of some sort of poly fiber that was made to look organic; woven to look like wool. There was one of these cushions for every seat and a strip along the back of each one of them that was supposed to meet most people just beneath their shoulder blades. And they were plum in color. Every last one of them. Without so much as a mechanically knitted pattern to entertain the eye.
            The man was of a practical nature...even if he couldn't seem to remember just what the hell was going on. And so reasoning told him that it might be worth his while to try another chair...that his was probably just broken. Reasoning also told him, once he'd pushed himself up into a standing position which required a heavy reliance on both armrests in order to unstick his ass, that since he was now standing; the man may as well walk over to the counter in the back of the room just to check things out. Because, by this point, the man had at least figured out that this was some sort of waiting room. A doctor's office? Not quite. It had more the feel of a dentist's office which was even worse somehow although the man couldn't quite put his finger on the reason why. But, for all practical matters concerned, he figured that this was most likely the office of a psychiatrist or maybe even some sort of ward that specialized in traumas of the head. He had amnesia. There simply was no other explanation. Answers would come though. All he had to do was wait.
            Being of man of action (which he figured he must be); just waiting around wasn't quite good enough. Surely, there was someone who was slacking off somewhere. Someone he could crack the whip on in order to get things moving.
            “Hello?” the man hollered just a little bit louder than what would be considered a normal, indoor voice. For all he knew, there might very well be a breakroom way back there behind the counter somewhere. And if someone was back there, he wanted to be sure he was heard by them. “Hello?!” he repeated. Still nothing.
            The counter, which only came up to the man's waste, was practically inviting him to lean over it and do some snooping...which he did.
            A desk. An appointment book. A bottle of nail polish remover that had been left uncapped so that the smell caught his nose. The appointment book, he went for immediately. However, before he'd even reached his arm halfway over the counter to grab it, a woman's voice called out in a Southern accent, “Can I help you?”
            The accent; it wasn't the dignified one. It was the trailer one. And just by the intonation, the man could tell that this woman was highly irritated with him for even having thought about going for her book.
            “Um...well, yeah. I was hoping that maybe you could tell me what I'm doing here.”
            The woman was fat. So fat that her walk was more of a waddle. And she was dressed from head to toe in purple hospital scrubs. The color so intense that it caused the man to almost taste the flavor of purple jellybeans in his mouth. Either that or purple gumdrops. Either way; it made him want to spit.
            “You're in hell,” there wasn't a hint of cheer in the woman's voice. But there also wasn't a trace of nonsense which, to the man, seemed to contradict her words.
            “Yeah. Believe me, I can tell. But seriously. Is there a reason I can't remember anything? Because it just seems like...I mean, if I did suffer some sort of head injury then... Well, I don't even have a headache. It's all just a little strange. And I'm really trying to keep my cool.”
            “Cool?” she snickered, “Good luck with that.”
            “Is there anything you can tell me?”
            “Oh, alright,” she acquiesced, “What's your name?”
            “That's funny.”
            “What's funny?”
            “I just told you I can't remember anything. I don't even remember how I got here.”
            “Well,” she wasn't very sympathetic, “That's going to make things a bit difficult, I'm afraid.”
            “How difficult?”
            “Don't worry about it,” she grunted, “I'll figure it out...just like I always do. It might be a while though. You may as well go sit down.”
            “Okay.”
            He didn't know what else to say let alone do. He'd sit down. Sure. But not because she'd told him to. He'd just collect himself for a while and see if any memories surfaced. That sort of thing. He'd sit and give her what he thought to be a reasonable amount of time to come up with something. A half hour. Something like that. Not that there seemed to be a clock on the wall anywhere. Jesus, just what kind of Mickey Mouse operation was this?! The man had a pretty good internal clock though. At least he considered himself to have a good one. A half hour. Yes, that's what he'd give her. And if she couldn't come up with any information by that time; clearly, she wasn't doing her job...or didn't know how to. Half an hour. Then he'd have to go over her head.
            He tried a different chair and the seat felt better. It was right next to the one he'd been sitting in before and also faced the desk where he could keep on eye on this receptionist-type-person...where he could scrutinize her with his eyes from time to time. But in the meantime...just what was he supposed to do? The office was bland and there wasn't much in the way of entertainment. No TV. Just a bunch of magazines fanned out on one of the glass-topped tables in the corner. 'People'. Awful. The personal lives of movie stars or worse. How could anyone even pick one of those up without getting sick? There was also, he noticed, a copy of 'Highlights' magazine; the one for kids with plenty of connect-the-dots activities and what's-wrong-with-this-picture's. Jesus. Also nauseating. And then, of course, there appeared to be many months' worth of back issues of 'Sunset'; his all-time least favorite. No. Make that his all-time most loathed. 'Sunset' fucking magazine. A publication dedicated to Southwestern living in which even the pictures were boring. Who the hell wants to look at the interior of someone else's home? Not him. Certainly not this guy. And who the fuck wants to cut out and keep a recipe for mango salsa? Gross. Not to mention; what did mangos have to do with the Southwest anyway? What a stupid magazine. And what a stupid office!
            He needed to get out of there.
            Going through his pockets then, he found a pack of cigarettes. Oh, thank God. He could go outside and kill 15 minutes at least. In fact, maybe something outside would help jog his memory like a familiar street or something. Finally, things were looking up. And so he stood up...and took a few steps toward the...door?
            “Ma'am?” he called out to the purple lady now on the phone, “You think you could point me towards the exit. Don't tell me it's back there behind the counter with you guys. That'd be sort of a weird setup, don't ya think?”    
            “Sir. I'm really trying to figure out what's going on with your own, personal case. So, if you could just please sit down. It shouldn't be but a few more minutes before I get to the bottom of it.”
            “Well, I appreciate that. But I'd really just like to go outside for some fresh air. Just for a couple minutes, okay? And by that time, you'll probably have everything worked out. So...if you could just point me towards the exit, that would be great. Thanks.”
            And now she looked perturbed.
            “Sir. I'll tell you something but only because I think...that is, I hope it will help you better understand your position here. There are no exits. So there. You see? So you might as well just have a seat and I'll be with you, as I've said, in just another minute.”
            “Actually, no. I'm not going to have a seat. At least not until you tell me what you mean by 'there aren't any exits'. Seriously. If I have to go back there behind the counter just to get out of here, I will. Jesus. Just what kind of an office is this? A prison?”
            “Not a prison, sir. More like an eternity. And that; I already told you. You're in hell. And let's face it. There really aren't any exits when it comes to eternity. There are, however, still clerical errors which I may believe to be your case. But we'll never know for certain until I can get back to work. So, please. It's in both our best interests.”
            And now, it was the man's turn to become perturbed and even a little emotional.
            “You're insane,” he stated flatly, “And obviously incompetent. But I don't even care about that part. I do care about going outside though. And I'm telling you this now as fair warning. I'm coming behind that counter and then I'm going to walk down that hall. And when I do; please, for your own sake, don't try to stand in my way.”
            “And I really must warn you, sir; that, if you keep acting this way, I'm going to have to call security.”
            “So, do it!” and he made sure his tone conveyed that he did not give one shit, “I dare you. Fucking get them to kick me out of this place. Don't you get it? That's what I want anyway.”
            To which the lady responded only with raised eyebrows in a glare that unmistakenly said, “Believe me. It's you who just doesn't get it.”
            “Well...?!” the man remained where he was but raised both his arms in an exasperated manner.
            “Fine, sir. But, please just remember that I did warn you and you forced me to do this.” After having said this, the lady hung up on whoever she'd been on the phone with only to dial someone else again instantly, “Hello? Yes. Yes, we have a Code 3. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” And again, she hung up.
            “A Code 3? I bet you think you're pretty big, don't you. Behind your counter there with your notebook.”
            The woman in purple just ignored him after this, though, and leafed through her notebook with a look of complacency.
            One minute later, a man in grey coveralls appeared in the hallway behind the counter. He was walking towards the waiting room with a large, rectangular object that would have been cumbersome except for the fact that he was a pro at transporting these things and had done this many times before.
            “Well...where do ya want it?” he asked the receptionist lady.
            “Oh, anywhere will be fine.”
            “Whatever you say,” he grunted like a man just doing his job and perpetually working towards his lunch break.
            “Are you the security?” the man in the waiting room asked then hoping that there was still hope of pulling a straight answer out of somebody.
            “That's me,” the coveralls guy slid around the counter; rectangular object and all.
            “Well, good. I was hoping to speak to somebody.”
            “Then you got the wrong guy, pal. I'm just here to hang this picture.”
            “You said you were security, though, right?”
            “Look, pal. I'll level with you. That's my job title and classification but, let's just say that ever since these jobs went union, they're just not what they used to be. I mean, I get paid just the same so I do it. But sometimes, I really do miss doing my job. I miss doing real security work.”
            “Oh,” the waiting man seemed to calm down a bit after realizing that things probably weren't about to get physical and even felt the faintest tinge of sympathy for the coveralls guy, “Well...what do you have there? I mean...you need any help with that? I'm bored out of my mind. I could give you a hand and then maybe you could answer some questions for me. I mean, if you're able.”
            “Oh I'm able, pal. But like I said. This is a union job. And if I do anything extra, and I mean anything; they'll have my nuts in a sling so fast. But don't worry. This'll only take a minute and then I'll be outta your hair.”
            And, just as good as his word, the hanging of the picture (which turned out to be a painting; probably an acrylic) did only take a minute. The coveralls guy reached deep into one of his pockets, removed a hammer from therein, and then after a seemingly unnecessary amount of racket that caused the waiting man quite a headache, the painting was hung up on the wall just to the right of where the receptionist lady was apparently still busy 'getting to the bottom' of things.
            “Guess that's that,” the coveralls guy spoke mostly to himself while dusting his hands off in job well done, “I'm sure I'll be seein' ya.”
            “That's it? That's seriously all you're gonna do. I mean...I guess what I don't understand is; was that supposed to be a form of security somehow?”
            “Somehow,” the coveralls guy answered while walking off behind the counter again and out of sight.
            The waiting man, now really not knowing quite what to do with himself, sat back down again in his chair that wasn't comfortable but not as broken as the last one had been. And, having nothing better to occupy his time, he stared at the painting recently hung and tried to figure out why exactly it had been placed there at all...especially as a form of security. Because...there certainly wasn't anything particularly menacing about it; it was just a painting for Christ's sake. It was an awful painting but a painting just the same; some sort of abstract composition with a few white circles and triangles against a mostly red background. There was some black in it too but it failed to offer the work any more depth...or, make that any depth. If the painting had any affect on the waiting man or invoked any emotion within him at all; it was that of extreme annoyance. An annoyance that quickly increased in intensity until it became disgust. He was disgusted at the artist's (whoever he or she was) lack of talent. And he was disgusted that such a lack of talent would be put on display anywhere...even here. The artist lacked inspiration too. And he couldn't quite put his finger on it but the painting was just so...boring! It was a fucking boring painting and he hated looking at it because it served as a constant reminder to him that mediocrity not only went out into the world (oftentimes) uncontested and unchecked but, even worse than that, it was celebrated. Or at the very least; tolerated. And this disgust the painting caused him to feel soon intensified into an anger that caused his blood to boil right there where he sat.
            Thankfully though, just as he was about to stand up and pace (his heart was pumping so), the receptionist lady hung up her the phone and looked up from her notebook, “Sir? I think I've figured out the problem here.”
            “Well, thank you. Please. I think I'd feel better if I just knew what the hell was going on.”
            “Okay, sir. I'll explain it to you. According to your file, there has been a mix-up. There. Now, doesn't that make you feel better?”
            “A little. It does. Thank you.”
            “Well, I'm glad. Accordingly, it says here that you were actually supposed to go to heaven.”
            “Oh, Jesus. Thank God.”
            “If you say so, sir.”
            “So when do I leave?”
            “That depends, sir.”
            “On what?”
            “On nothing to do with either one of us, unfortunately.”
            “Then who does it...”
            “There's a central processing office, sir. They're the ones who messed up your paperwork and, for that, I apologize. Unfortunately, they're also the ones who have to fix it. And...well, you know how it goes. It's busy. They're understaffed and all that.”
            “So the central processing office is in hell?”
            “Why do you...?”
            “Because, if it were in heaven then wouldn't everything run more smoothly?”
            “Actually, sir, the central processing office is in purgatory. It's where people who love to work are sent; the same people, however, that would never admit it.”
            “Like workaholics?”
            “Like. Let's just say that if everything were running smoothly there then they'd actually be less happy. And less productive. If that makes any sense.”
            “It does actually. A little.”
            “Well, good. Now if you don't mind, sir, I really must get back to work.”
            “Oh. Sure. But any idea how long? Ballpark figure?”
            “No idea, sir.”
            “And there's really no place I can go smoke?”
            And here, she raised her hand up in order to slide her glasses down to the tip of her nose...in order to look him right in the eye.
            “No.”
            “Alright,” he quietly resigned and slouched down in his chair some.
            So he'd just wait it out. He'd read a couple bad magazines and pretend to be into them and then...then the receptionist would call his name. Or, would she even? Maybe he'd just be beamed up to heaven somehow. He had no idea and it didn't really matter anyway. Just wait.
            And wait, he did. He waited for what seemed like an hour while skimming through an issue 'People' and then he waited some more. Two hours? There was no way to tell for sure. The man did gradually become aware, though, of one new sensation. It was becoming uncomfortably warm in the room. And humid. And it wasn't just his imagination. His clothes were beginning to stick to him and he could practically visualize the two damp spots underneath his arms. He couldn't see them, though, because he was wearing a dark suit. A silk suit. An apparel so particular that it briefly caused him to wonder if it had something to do with his life on Earth; a memory that he still hadn't been able to trigger.
            He was also becoming aggravated all over again. Here he was supposed to be in heaven and here he was suffering it out in hell due to...what? A clerical error?! This was bullshit. It wasn't even his fault! And his ever-increasing anger only served to make the room seem that much hotter.
            “Excuse me?” he tried his best to keep his tone under control.
            “Yes, sir,” the receptionist lady looked up and slid her glasses down again.
            “Um...is there any way we could possibly turn up the AC in here? Does it feel hot to you? It feels really hot.”
            “Well, sir. This is hell. And yes, it does get hot sometimes. I do apologize but I think they're burning some fresh souls next door. The incinerator can cause it to get a little uncomfortable in here from time to time. Again, I apologize but...” and her she did her best to stifle a laugh, “But there's no air conditioning in hell, sir.”
            “Well...!” he choked. Both his voice choked with emotion and his shirt collar was tight and scratchy and pressing firmly against Adam's apple, “Any word on how much longer then?!”
            “I haven't heard a thing, sir.”
            “Well, do you think you could call them and see what's taking so long?!”
            “It's not going to do any good, sir. But just for you, I'll try.”
            “Thank you,” he wheezed while trying to loosen his tie, “Thank you. Jesus.”
            The receptionist lady picked up her phone again and punched in some numbers. Then, after engaging herself in a very brief and seemingly one-sided conversation coming from the other end, she hung the receiver back up and...
            “Anything?” the man asked. He felt a little better already just knowing she'd called.
            “Nothing, sir. They just said that they're really backed up. There must have been a calamity on Earth. An earthquake or something. Who knows. Apparently, though, they have a lot of souls to process and yours is mixed in there somewhere. Sorry.”
            “Jesus.”
            “If you say so, sir.”
            The man was still hot under the collar; both physically and mentally. And it was just then that he noticed a water cooler in one of the corners. It may have been there before. Maybe he just didn't notice it. Maybe he wasn't the most observant of characters. And maybe, back on Earth, he'd even had something of a reputation for being dim or thick or daft or myopic. He didn't know. And maybe...he never would. Not that any of that really mattered to him in the here and now. In the here and now, there was a water cooler and he needed some water.
            So, standing up again, the man made his way over to the cooler and noticed that it was one of those with two separate spigots and spouts. One, the color red, was obviously the hot water for people who wanted steep their tea. And the other, the blue side, already looked refreshing to him. There was something about that blue spigot that, for only a second, caused him to feel relief. But then...and he really should have known. Just after removing one of the paper, cone shaped cups from its cylindrical dispenser and filling it with water from the 'cold water' tap; the man raised the cup to is mouth in haste whereupon the clear liquid nearly burnt his lips. That is; it did burn. Just not quite enough to leave any marks.
            Fucking shit. Well again, he told himself, he really should have known. What did else could he have expected from this office...this hellhole. He was surprised though, after then testing the 'hot water' tap, to find that the water from this spigot was also hot. Nearly boiling. Fuck. He'd assumed the lines were just crossed. And he'd assumed wrongly.
            The man felt like bitching at the receptionist lady again but he was finally beginning to realize that that approach was all but futile. But what could he do? His body, under the silk suit, was burning up and something just had to give or he felt like he would...pass out? So, with some effort involved since the suit seemed too small for him, the man was able to remove his jacket. The shirt beneath was silk too and there was no undershirt. There probably wasn't one cotton fiber presently touching his body. He wanted to take off his top off too but wasn't quite ready to go 'indecent' as of yet. Losing the jacket had added him some comfort but it still wouldn't have taken much to put him over the edge.
            “Been waitin' long?” a man's voice came to him from the left.
            “How the hell did you get in here?”
            “Oh, I don't know. Usually, as soon as I wrap things up over at the college, I just wind up here again. Lemmie guess. Clerical error.”
            “Uh...” the man's heart sank in his chest and emitted a single, solitary thud, “You too?”
            “Yes, sir.” This guy had a Southern accent too.
            “And how long have you been waiting?”
            “Oh, well. There's no real way to tell. There's no clocks and the reason for that is...well, it's just a speculation but... Well, I for one believe that there's no time. Not down here anyway.”
            “Yeah, but if there's no time then what are we waiting for?”
            “Oh, I stopped asking questions like that a long time ago.”
            “Is that some sort of joke?”
            “Yes, sir.” And the guy smiled. He was middle-aged and wore a mustache that must have coined the term 'cookie duster'. His teeth were rotten and his breath was necrotic.
            “Well, thanks for the effort. The joke, I mean. What do you do over at the college? And how and why is there a college in hell anyway?”
            “Oh, it's the only thing they'll let me do to kill... It's the only way they'll let me occupy my mind.”
            “You mean like take classes?”
            “Yes, sir. Right now, I'm enrolled in a creative writing course.”
            “That sounds like hell.”
            “Well, sir. It is.”
            “Anything else?”
            “Oh, they have a whole curriculum if you're interested.”
            “What about physics. I've always sort of been interested...”
            “Oh, no. Nothin' like that, I'm afraid. Think; less defined. Less focused. More liberal-artsy.”
            “Oh, Jesus.”
            “Sir. If I may ask you. I really only have one stipulation when it comes to talking to you for as long as we're going to. And that's that you please not take The Lord's name in vain sir.”
            “You're religious?!”
            “Yes, sir. I'll rightly admit it. I'll also rightly admit, though, that I wasn't when I landed here.”
            “Well, what the fuck happened?”
            “This.” And here the guy turned his hands palm's-up and spread them just slightly as if to indicate...the office? That is; the waiting room? Or did he really mean something bigger? “And who knows? You may find The Good Lord too if they don't fix that little error of yours soon. Which they won't.”
            “You say that with a lot of confidence. Do you know something, buddy? Something you're not telling me?”
            “No. Not at all. I just have faith. Faith that they're not going to fix it anytime soon.”
            “Yeah, well...sounds pretty cynical to me.”
            “Well, sir. Call it what you will. But I'm a man of faith. My faith is all I've got down here. It helps me pass the... There's a Bible over there underneath all those magazines. I'd love to discuss it with you sometime.”
            “I'm sure you would. But that's not ever gonna happen, I can assure you. And if I do have to enroll in some college courses just to occupy my...self. Then I will. Just...are you sure they don't have any physics courses down here?”
            “Sure as I am faithful. It seems that the practical laws of physics don't really apply in the netherworld.”
            “Yeah,” the waiting man was disappointed, “I guess that does make sense. What other courses you takin'?”
            “Oh. Well, let's see. I take one that's nothing but team building exercises. I rather like that one because there's a lot of group work involved.”
            “Not for me. What else?”
            “Um. Well, there's another one where we analyze Shakespeare line by line and look for any and all sorts of ambiguities. In fact...did you know that just about every line Bill Shakespeare ever wrote can be interpreted an infinite number of ways?”
            “Awful. Anything else?”
            “There's a pretty good one on philosophy.”
            “There would be. But seriously. What about an automotive class?”
            “No, sir.”
            “Hmm. Oh, I know. What about metal or wood-working?”
            “No, sir. Afraid not.”
            “So there's nothing really practical at all?”
            “No. But then again, there's nothing much practical going on down here.”
            “Yeah, that's for sure.”
            “There's a pretty good one to do with pottery, I sometimes take.”
            “Jesus, God, no!”
            “Now, sir. I did ask you nicely once before...”
            “Shut the fuck up! How's that for nice, you irritating son of a bitch?!”
            “Alright. Well, I tried. But I think now might be a good time to call security.”
            “Oh, so now there's a time! You fucking idiot.”
            The mustachioed gentleman was no longer paying the waiting man any attention though. He'd already made eye contact with the receptionist lady who nodded in return and again picked up the phone.
            “Oh, Jesus. What now?” the waiting man asked, “More artwork on the walls?”
            He wanted to look up at the painting to remind himself that it actually wasn't all that awful but...it was. It was so awful and so he opted to spare himself the slow burning fury it had instilled in him earlier.
            “No, sir,” the receptionist lady answered, “No more artwork...for now. Now, would you be so kind as to sit down. Please.”
            “Alright. Alright, I'll sit down.”
            And, just after having said this, the waiting man spun to his left; his right fist flying through the air. He wanted to hurt something and the mustache guy would do just fine. And so his right fist flew through the air but didn't make contact with anything and that's because the mustache guy had disappeared. Then, after recovering from the momentum of his spin (which nearly caused him to fall), the waiting man asked...mostly to himself, “Where the fuck did he go?”
            “Back to college, sir.”
            “Oh, of course.”
            “Where he'll be safe from your inability to control yourself,” and she actually winked at him!
            “Fine!” the man blurted with a thread of surrender in this word, “I'll sit.” And he did. “So let's see it! Let's see what you've got for me this time.”
            “Yes, sir,” the lady replied as if fulfilling a request, “This one's pretty straightforward.”
            In just a matter of seconds, a lady appeared across from him and a few seats down. She was carrying infant twins; one under each arm. And they were screaming like hell. Tearless and red-faced screams that would weaken even the strongest of constitutions. Even the mother's...apparently.
            “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” she yelled back at them, “I can't take it! I can't take you little brats!” And here, she began to mimic them...mimic her own children crying. To mock her own babies. And her voice; so shrill that her screams equaled those of the babies' in both pitch and intensity.
            As if listening to them all wasn't enough; the waiting man, after catching one sight of her, couldn't get he image out of his mind. He turned his head even. But still, her face was there. The skin of her face full of scratches and boils. Her strained, angry eyes without so much as a glint of intelligence in them. She was disgusting in her pink sweatpants and pink tank top; the fabric and shades of which didn't match. She was absolutely repulsive with her huge roll of fat down in front that the shirt didn't even try to conceal. Her pasty, white skin glowing with a thin layer of sweat that seemed to stink. Her matted hair. Her mouth never closing.
            The room was starting to heat up again too. Or...at least the heat was starting to get to him again; his clothes to stick to him. And was that a gnat buzzing around? Fucking thing almost flew up his nose! No. Not 'gnat'. Make that; gnats. Plural!
            Jesus.
            Both his body and mind seemed to seize.
            The stagnancy. And yet, the noise. Those fucking babies and that fucking white-trash mother. And the sweat dripping from him. And, oh how he felt like his skin couldn't breathe!
            He had to get that shirt off. He just had too. Because it was tight now. Tight like a Neoprene wetsuit and it was suffocating him! And so he went to unbutton it only to discover that there were none. And then he went to pull it over his head only to find that it was stitched into his pants. He pulled and he struggled until he was rolling around on the floor in a panic and gasping for breath.
            “Sir?” came the receptionist lady from behind her desk.
            The crying had stopped. The gnats were gone. And his skin felt, if not cooler, then at least less damp.
            “Yes?” he said from the floor; his voice was weary, fearful, and weak.
            “I have some good news for ya,” and, for the first time since his arrival, she smiled.
             “What is it?” he sat up and craned his neck in her direction, “Am I outta here?”
            “No. But the Sheriffs Association just called and they asked if you would be willing to make a donation...in your own name.”
            The man was dazed at first. Then...“I don't know my name,” his lips were tight and he spoke through his teeth. “And how the fuck is that supposed to be good news!?”
            “Calm down, sir, or else you already know what we'll have to do. I just thought I'd suggest making a donation because it may speed up the processing of your paperwork. The Sheriffs Association can make things happen like that. You can even get your name up on the internet if you make one of a hundred dollars or more. But if you don't even know your name then I guess...well, it's sort of pointless.”
            “Yes!” the man stood up again “Yes, it certainly is! And come to think of it...if you don't know my name either, then how in the hell were you able to get my information from the central processing office? I mean...do I have like a soul identification number or something?”
            “No, sir. No ID numbers, I'm afraid. The truth is; I haven't actually called them yet. Sometimes, I just think it's funny if I can put one over on people. And honestly...you seem like a real asshole.”
            The man's face twitched inadvertently. He raised his hand and pointed a finger at her as if just about to say something but then... He merely turned around and, in a slouching manner, he shuffled back over to his chair; the one that wasn't broken.
            It broke the second he sat in it though. The seat collapsed with a wooden snap and his ass was, once again, being squeezed uncomfortably in that polyester blend of material that had so suddenly just become a sunken hammock. And he would have reached in his pocket for a cigarette but already knew that he had no light.