A Series of (in)Significant Events
Pete Hammond wakes up hung over at 6 AM to a startlingly loud alarm clock on the wrong side of the bed. He showers with his eyes half shut, takes a shit, and throws on a suit, fumbling with his tie then shoe laces. He breaks off half a blueberry muffin and is still chewing when he backs his black Lexus into rush hour traffic. The radio's rattling off the morning news in a monotone voice, and Pete Hammond is pretty sure his life is a sick parallel to Bill Murray's in Groundhog Day. A car passes. The driver flips him off. Pete Hammond stares blankly at the car and wonders where the hell he went wrong.
The law firm's eight miles off exit nineteen, but two miles off, Pete Hammond bangs a left into Joe's Coffee Joint. There's a kid at the counter who might be seventeen, if that, working on a school day. Pete Hammond orders a large cup of black coffee.
"Do you want cream in that?" the kid asks.
Pete Hammond's eyes shift back and forth, searching for some affirmation of his sanity. "Is it black?" The sarcasm lacks tone or facial expression, so it's over the kid's head and he doesn't answer. Pete Hammond takes the steaming cup of Joe and puts a five on the countertop. "Keep the change." He looks the kid over. "You made the right choice, kid."
Pete Hammond leaves Joe's and gets in his car. When the engine starts, Louis Armstrong is belting out "What a Wonderful World." Pete Hammond hits a pothole turning onto the road and dumps hot, black coffee all over his lap. He can feel everything burning between his legs, but Pete Hammond doesn't flinch. He figures it's not like he had any balls before anyway.
Pete Hammond is not late for work, but feigns being rushed. He opens the door to the fourteen story glass building, letting it slam shut behind him in the face of a coworker--a pregnant woman he dislikes conceptually. Pete Hammond walks past the elevator. He climbs all thirteen flights of stairs to reduce the work day to only seven hours and fifty-six minutes. Everyone he passes glances down at the wet spot on his pants. No one says a word.
The phone on his desk rings, and Pete Hammond answers. His supervisor needs him at the staff development workshop overtime tonight. Pete Hammond hangs up. Nine hours and twenty-four minutes now, with any luck.
The pregnant woman waddles angrily into his office, shouting. Pete Hammond watches her lips move and her face morph like a kind of irate, pink and red Play-Doh. He hears nothing, just sits marveling at the twisting features. Pete Hammond's first thought is that it must be that time of the month until he quickly realizes that's not possible. Instead, he decides she's just a victim of a general gender disposition malfunction and uses this logic to validate himself in still being a bachelor. She rounds awkwardly, smacking her protruding Buddha stomach into the doorframe. Pete Hammond doesn't watch her leave. He's seen penguins before. He opens the bottom drawer of his desk and takes out a picture frame of a half-naked porn star with breasts the size of watermelons. Now Pete Hammond has at least two excuses for his wet pants.
Pete Hammond sits at his office desk with his hands in his pockets fanning the front of his damp pants with the hope they will dry before lunch. Lou Stevenson from next door walks in the doorway and glances at Pete Hammond looking down while rapidly moving his arms beneath his desk.
"Oh shit. Sorry, man." He leaves.
Pete Hammond stops. He isn't making progress anyway. Pete Hammond lifts the framed picture of the half-naked porn star up off his desk, swivels his leather chair, and stands her on the window ledge. He's named her Ethel. She looks like a caged, exotic bird ready to fly. Pete Hammond opens the window. With one finger, he pushes the picture off the window ledge. He watches as 156 feet later, it crashes to the sidewalk freeing the porn star in front of three middle school aged girls. One is shrieking and crying because the glass from the shattered frame has sliced open her leg. The other two are too busy giggling to notice.
That'll be a lawsuit, he thinks.
After noon, Pete Hammond leaves his solitary desk confinement long enough to walk thirteen flights of stairs down to the vending machine in the building's lobby. There are fourteen rows of Snickers, and a bottom row of staple items like Tylenol, breath mints, and condoms. One stop shop, all price gouged. Pete Hammond buys a Snickers with a dollar bill but leaves bottom row for the pregnant woman in a gesture he believes is both suggestive and gentlemanly.
Pete Hammond eats the candy on his way back to the office. The pregnant woman's door is open. She looks up as he walks past long enough to glare. She's eating sardines and chocolate pudding. Pete Hammond tries to remember if there was Maalox on the bottom row.
Birth Control Part Two
A new email appears on Pete Hammond's computer screen late in the afternoon. He rolls his eyes and clicks the blinking envelope. His supervisor has sent him a brief summary of his new case:
A seven-year-old boy was drawing animals on the basement floor of his best friend's house in gasoline and lighting them on fire. The inflammable animals leveled the house. The boy sustained several second degree burns. The parents of the seven-year-old-boy are suing his best friend's parents for neglecting to look after the children. They want money for hospital bills and emotional damage to the child.
The pregnant woman sways past Pete Hammond's open door, now intent on ignoring him. Pete Hammond glares at the future little pyro she's schlepping around.
Pete Hammond leaves the office at half past five. The staff development workshop is cancelled because the pregnant woman is throwing up and Pete Hammond's supervisor is dealing with a strange, new case involving a fallen porn star. Pete Hammond takes the elevator to the ground floor and climbs in his black Lexus. He turns the radio off, silently basking in the good fortune of leaving the office before dark.
The rural road shortcut to the highway is empty. Pete Hammond is forced to slow at a strange sight in the road. A large, vibrant peacock is standing in the middle of the road in the oncoming lane. The peacock is modeling defiantly in front of an animal sanctuary. Pete Hammond drives past slowly, marveling at the animal's profound male beauty and grace. The peacock does not move. Pete Hammond is in a trance. In his rearview mirror, he watches the statuesque bird with the sun setting behind iridescent feathers. Pete Hammond feels a strange sense of spirituality and a euphoric high from the image.
An eighteen-wheeler, hauling ass, comes over the ridge. It honks twice, and Pete Hammond sees an explosion of blue and green feathers.
He turns the radio back on.
Pete Hammond walks into Sour Bob's Singles. He's greeted by the bartender and several fully suited men on their seventh round of drinks. Pete Hammond has a whiskey sour in front of him before he sits down. He's outgrown beer.
Pete Hammond has to pee after his fifth drink. On his way to the bathroom, he sees four girls in their twenties climbing the stairs in teasing skirts. Pete Hammond nonchalantly leans against the stairs and glances up. Only two of them are girls. Pete Hammond rubs his eyes with his palms, loosens his tie, and stumbles to the bathroom. He hasn't been able to hold his alcohol since he was in high school. When he finishes purging, he orders two more drinks.
At home, Pete Hammond throws up four times in the bathroom while leafing through a magazine. He finds a picture of a new topless blonde woman, cuts her out between retches, and stuffs her into his briefcase on his way to bed. He has decided to call this one Lucy. Pete Hammond strips down to his underwear. He switches on the alarm clock and passes out, face down on a stained and flattened pillow. Not nearly enough hours later, Pete Hammond wakes up hung over at 6 AM to a startlingly loud alarm clock on the wrong side of the bed.
About the author:
Erin K. Williams is an English major living near Woodstock, New York. She enjoys sarcasm and cynicism among a great many other, more cheerful things. She plans to teach writing and literature at the secondary school level. Four weeks ago, in a bar in Kingston, she had her first whiskey sour. She liked it. This is her first publication.