Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
LIGHTHOUSE TOWERLIGHTHOUSE TOWER
Day 792. Pour coffee. Check email. Straighten tie. Log on. Same story, day in, day out. I look at my silhouette reflecting on the computer screen and I contemplate the picture in my mind's eye of my grandfather, skinny as a lighthouse, light at the top of him loose on its axis spinning around and around, this way, that way.
This is what awaits me, I think to myself, wondering how long before the shoulders hunch into that surrendered slump; how much longer 'til the weight of my skull causes my head to sag like a backhoe while my ears rubberize and my jaw caves into my throat? The clock. That familiar clock, ever my fair, three-nosed friend pointing at those corners of the world that I long to see but wonder if I'll ever get a chance to visit. This way, that way.
The poor clock's as confused as the callers today.
Mrs Schlevitz. 7:32 A.M.: "What did you people do with the newspaper today. Why did the paperboy not bring it. Why isn't there anyone to fill in when he's sick?"
I think to myself, lady, there hasn't been a paperboy since 1979. Grown men and women, drinking coffee, driving their navy blue Ford Escorts with the duct tape on the bumper, they drop your paper off before the sun itself gets up to have its coffee. There's no kid to give a quarter to, lady. Just some tired cuss working the second job to pay his child support. And you don't have a paper today 'cause its Saturday and you subscribed for the weekly, not the weekend paper.
I say, "I'm sorry ma'am. I will be happy to look into this issue for you. May I place you on a brief hold while I check your subscription?"
A cascade of shouting and deprecation and accusations. Apparently there's nothing wrong with her subscription. Apparently we're saying she's a liar today. Great Jehoshaphat, I can think of five or six better accusations. Of course she renewed her subscription just last month. Of course she better get her subscription extended. Of course we had better take care of it pronto.
"You people", she says, substituting it for any number of despicable words. When combined with "Why can't" it creates a phrase of such corrosive properties that it permanently shuts down the human empathy receptor. More corrosive than a brown recluse's venom is the venom of the white widow...instant empathic paralysis.
You ever notice that it's always "You people," when you do something to cross them? So impersonal, so slightly condescending. I think it's that lighthouse light spinning on its axis. The light's are on, but nobody's home. I'm completely shell-shocked with the cross and jab she's verbally throwing at me. First it's cost per page, then it's the quality of the writing not what it used to be, then it's last week's paper falling behind a spiky rosebush. I'm staggering and I feel myself reeling. Quickly, before she can begin round 2: "Hold please."
...Sometimes while the world is on hold I daydream...
...but sadly there is no key for a coward in the prison of secure and familiar. At least, not one I haven't found yet...
...Today I'll just stay locked away in the lighthouse tower...but one of these days I'll check out and spin that light on its axis on my way out...
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