An Adequate Man

An Adequate Man

A Story by Michael Carr
"

A normal man goes through a normal day in his normal life. Something happens.

"

 

 

     My name is George Fuller.

     This is my life.

 

***

 

     Sarah brought me the mail today. She carried the envelopes tucked squarely under her armpit despite the fact that both her hands were free. I hoped she hadn't forgotten to put on deodorant again. She placed the mail in the middle of the small, imitation oak table that faced due east near an open window from which the sun's rays could flow directly through and into my eyes. Sarah is big on feng shui.

      I flipped through the contents of the stack. It contained three separate bills: one for water, one for electricity and one for my MasterCard. I placed them in a neat pile in a special tray labeled ‘bill tray’. A letter from my mother had arrived. She asked me how the kids were. I decided to respond at a later date.

     Once the mail had been sorted I headed back into the bedroom to change. I dressed in a gray suit with a black tie. The tie felt a bit tight around my throat, but it was good for appearances. I picked up my briefcase and dialed the four digit lock combination, checking to make sure I had enough manila envelopes to last throughout the day. I did, but I added three more for good measure. I shut the briefcase and reset the lock. I grabbed a light coat for the weather channel said the afternoon temperature, factoring in wind chill, would be a cool forty five.

     I kissed Sarah on the cheek and said goodbye to Sam and Rachel, both of whom were now situated at the breakfast table, each eating burned pancakes with a strawberry pop tart. Just one though, otherwise their teeth would rot. Rachel insisted I come over and give her a hug before leaving.

     I shut the door behind me and walked up the cobblestone sidewalk to where my car stood. I fumbled for my keys and stepped inside the used Toyota. As I turned the key, I hoped briefly that the engine wouldn't start. For a moment I thought the car was dead but then it roared to life. I sighed as I shifted into reverse and backed out of the driveway, heading down the street at approximately twenty two miles per hour. 

  

***

  

     I arrived at work twenty minutes early and decided to purchase a cup of coffee from the coffee shop down the street. As I neared the store I noticed a woman close to my own age exit the shop. She wore a fancy black coat and high heels. She seemed familiar. When she looked up I recognized her as Sarah’s roommate from our college years, but couldn't remember her name. 

     As she neared I noticed she too had met my gaze. I knew that one of us would have to acknowledge the other's presence. It was she who spoke first, passing at a quickened pace.

     "Hey George," she said.

     I gave a slight heads up of acknowledgement and responded with a mumbled phrase which sounded somewhat like “heyardoin’…” She seemed to understand what I'd meant and continued after a brief nod. I performed an awkward half-turn and went on, entering the coffee shop. The coffee inside tasted old, but the employees beyond the counter insisted it was freshly brewed according to their golden standards.

       

 ***

 

     When I passed the parking lot on the way back I found that several birds had decided to defecate on my Toyota's windshield. 

 

***

 

      As I sat at my desk and stuffed a vaguely unimportant memo into one of the envelopes I'd decided to line my briefcase with, my co-worker Bob Barone (or is it Baron?) paused to shoot the breeze. He told me a bad joke about a bartender and a rabbi. I laughed out of politeness. He talked about his daughter Alice, who had won the lead role in the kindergarten play, and how she would be performing next Tuesday. I congratulated him, and seeing as how Alice and Rachel sometimes meet under play dates scheduled by both our wives, I agreed to attend the performance.

      I told Bob that Sam had received Honorable Mention in the school Science Fair. He nodded his approval and took a sip from a coffee cup that read ‘FBI: Female Body Inspector’. I found his choice in messaged mugs odd considering neither of us was in law enforcement. He then said that he had to report back to his desk before Charlie, a top agent in the company, ‘got on his case’. Before he left, Bob informed me that I'd put my memo in the wrong type of manila envelope.

 

***

 

     I left work at 5:45 p.m. and stopped at a local supermarket to pick up some produce. I stood over the apple cart and spent the next two minutes shifting through the batch of fresh fruit. After I'd collected four apples, I found one with a deep bruise in its side. It felt soft to the touch and mushy underneath. I quickly replaced it for a more attractive one. I wondered if the bruised apple would consider me superficial after such an act. 

     Then I remembered that apples couldn't think. 

     Then I wondered why, for a moment, I'd thought that they could.

     Then the world went dark. 

 

***

 

     I awoke twenty minutes later on the supermarket floor. The bag of apples had spilled across the ground. Now I would have to pick out five new ones.

     A crowd of confused shoppers stood in a circle around me and whispered amongst themselves. None of them bothered to help me to my feet or inquire as to my condition. I realized that my pants were wet due to the fact that I had urinated in my unconscious state. 

     That was unexpected.

 

***

 

     As I exited the grocery store I saw a homeless man sitting on the corner beside a row of untouched shopping carts. Both his legs ended in stumps barely covered by a pair of ratty jeans. He wore gloves that were cut off at the fingers and held up a sign that said "War Veteran: Please Help”. I had a hard time reading his writing. He asked me if I had any spare change.

     I'd just finished paying for my apples and a good sixty three cents lay mixed in with the lint that lined my pants, but I told him I had none to spare and passed on.

     I don't know why I did that.

 

***

 

     I spent the next five minutes trying to get automatic door-unlocker on my car keys to work so I could deposit my groceries in the back seat. I figured the battery in the devise had died so I went around to the driver’s side door to unlock the car manually. It was then that I realized I’d been trying to open someone else’s car; it wasn’t even a Toyota.

 

***

 

     I took the first half of the day off work and went in for some tests. It was Sarah's idea. She couldn't be there with me though since Sam and Rachel had missed the bus and she would be taking them to school via minivan.

     As I sat in the waiting room I flipped through a brochure that explained the dangers of HIV and several other venereal diseases. A cartoon character wearing a pink top hat was featured prominently. I thought it rather inappropriate. A portly woman in a shirt half her size sat across from me holding a baby against her fat. The infant began to cry. It cried for some time. The woman, however, seemed not to notice. She was too busy watching the reality show on the television set that hung from the ceiling.

     I took her cue and focused on the television. A bearded man was going to be voted off some sort of island because he had spilled his team's water. The show seemed staged. I felt I should have known its name. I would have watched more but the doctor called me in.

     He was a middle aged Indian man with a last name I couldn't pronounce. I instead referred to him as ‘Doctor’ for the duration of the visit. He in turn called me ‘Mr. Faller’. He asked me if an accident similar to the one I'd undergone at the supermarket the previous day had ever occurred before. I told him no, since the accident was the whole reason I was in the doctor’s office to begin with. He didn't seem to get the joke. I didn't make any more.

     He called for a young nurse with shaky hands to come in and poke me with a large needle. Apparently he was too overqualified to do it himself. The nurse missed three times before making contact with a vein and gave me two pink bandages to cover the puncture marks. A terrifying looking machine was brought in next to take a scan of my head. 

     The doctor told me to resume my day as if everything was normal. He said the results of the test should be back within four hours’ time.

 

*** 

 

     Bob was informing me that his other daughter, Janice, had done extremely well at her ballet recital and that he had an extra copy of the tape if I wanted one, when the phone rang. I answered it a bit more hastily than was necessary.

     A voice I recognized as that of the shaky handed nurse occupied the line. She informed me that Dr. Samilafed was not available and as she was his new assistant it was her job to finish up the less pressing matters for the day. She said she was excited for the opportunity but had unfortunate news. The scan results had come back to show what appeared to be a large tumor resting on the right side of my brain that, according to her personal diagnosis, was ‘pretty serious’.

     She told me that I would need to come in for another series of tests. It would have to wait until tomorrow however, since the doctor had not become available during the space of our conversation. I thanked her and hung up the phone.

     I stared across my desk at a tattered poster of a cat hanging by a clothesline. The words ‘Hang in There!’ stood out in bright red letters. I sat there for some time.

     I realized that Bob was still talking, though this time he was back to his first daughter, Alice, and how wonderful her performance in the play would be. I cut him off, saying that I couldn't care less about his daughter's performance and that a f*****g monkey could master the lead role in a kindergarten play.

     I think I offended him.

 

***

 

     I left work early for the first time in six years. I left during the lunch break and didn't come back. I decided I'd get a bite to eat at the deli down the block and take a walk in the park.

     The line at the deli was long. While waiting, my thoughts drifted to the eight track collection Sarah and I had bought together, the one we may or may not have thrown away and may or may not be in the attic. I scanned through the songs I could remember and selected a tune by the Beatles which I hummed aloud.

     When the teenage employee with a heavy case of acne and no gloves on asked the man in front of me what kind of meat he wanted on his veggie sandwich, the man replied 'none', due to the fact that he was a vegetarian. This struck me as hilarious and I laughed for quite some time. When I noticed that everyone was staring, I decided to leave.

 

***

 

     As I made my way to the park I noticed the same legless veteran lying against a brick wall, sign held firmly in hand. He looked at me and asked if I had any spare change today. I dug through my pockets and found none, so I gave him a twenty from my wallet.

 

***

 

     I sat on a metal bench, warm from the sun's rays, and watched a group of joggers pass, the cords of their I-pods bouncing with each stride. I leaned back and sighed.

     A flock of birds arose from a nearby tree. They followed their leader without missing a beat. It was as if the only way they’d survive was to keep following him, never breaking from their path. It made me sad.

     Above me, a bright ray of light broke through the clouds while spirals of color danced in the distance. They looked beautiful. I pulled out my phone and called home. Sarah answered on the third ring. I told her that I was leaving work early and that we should all go out and rent a movie to watch with the kids. I told her I was fine, that I just felt a little tired. I told her that I loved her.

 

***

 

     I'm in bed. Sarah lies beside me, her hand across my chest, golden hair spilling over my shoulder. Everything is quiet.

     Sam is asleep, his Honorable Mention ribbon tacked to the wall above his head. Rachel lies buried underneath her Blue’s Clues blanket, dreaming a child’s dream. Everything is quiet.

     The lights are off but I can still see. Pictures of my family and friends lie framed across the dressers and nightstand. I smile and wrap my arms around my wife, kissing her cheek. I'll tell her soon. We'll take the kids to the mall tomorrow, buy them ice cream.

     Tomorrow will be better.

 


© 2012 Michael Carr



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Featured Review

Ah, how very simple and delightful! This reminded me very much of the movie "Stranger than Fiction." An average man who hates his average life.

But, it's amazing how the perspective can change; from a boring routine to a more appreciative outlook--the desire to spice things up or stop to smell the roses-- after really seeing that bold line of the idea of Death and Death, itself.

Excellent job, as always, Michael! You end it off, allowing a "That guy's gonna be alright." kind of feeling for the reader. Thanks for sharing!

Ironically Yours.

Posted 8 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I'll be honest, at first I thought it seemed a bit flat and long. I found myself skimming the first few paragraphs... but as I continued the chapter I adapted to the wry sense of humour and am genuinely interested in reading further. The detail in it creates a very clear picture and you have created quite a unique character. I like how his manner changed after his results. Another really good thing about this story is how you have managed to refrain from continuously saying "I"(especially in your first paragraph), which is very difficult when writing in first person. All in all, very impressive and I am keen to read on. Keep up the good work!

Posted 3 Years Ago


The tie felt a bit tight around my throat, but it was good for appearances. --- That's the rub, isn't it...for appearances.

I wondered if the bruised apple would consider me superficial after such an act. --- I wonder the same thing about seashells and sometimes I will pick up one that I've just thrown back.

Tomorrow will be better. --- Yes. Tomorrow will be better.

Great story. Love the title too. It is, however, going to be awkward at work tomorrow with Bob.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Yes, Blade & Blood, it does conjure a memory of "Stranger Than Fiction". I think it's a fantastic story, one of the best. The title is simple, yet sums up the story perfectly. I like simple titles like that usually lead to a generous plot. You MUST write a book for this. I am extremely interested in seeing what happens next. I thought that the long description was a bit tedious in the beginning, but realized that it must be done in order to make the reader understand how boring and mundane this man's really is. Exceptional story, Michael.

Posted 6 Years Ago


The protagonists narration was a bit akin to Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho. All around brilliant story, well written and delicious to the last line. Good job.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Its hard to comment on stories about mediocrity, but I can disagree with Blade & Blood on the interpretation.

The sterotypical world which the protagonist inhabits isn't one that you escape from. It's essentially the ultimate fear that all youth have, where one does not continue to increase either his art or passion. When he says "I hate my life" he means it to the fullest extent. His life includes his family, his job, his repetitions, his plastic social-encounters. Nothing is "good" for him.
So when he is told of his serious condition, I don't think it means everything is going to be okay mentally wise. In fact, I think that news is the very topping to his s**t existence, and he falls into a sort of hysteria about how it doesn't matter, that he has nothing left to gain. And when he says he loves his wife and means it... well, does he?

This would make a great essay to debate on. I don't know about short-story wise, but definitely interesting with a very wide-range of possible interpretations.


Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is a great elegy of modern life

'I'd' sort these out they read really badly unless someone is saying them - a few grammar errors but apart from that a very good write. Woven well with some great lines and paragraphs I'm intrigued in your work now.

The work did get boring in some parts but that was minimal and that was probably me thinking - look how much is left. Well done anyway, I really liked it.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is a great elegy of modern life

'I'd' sort these out they read really badly unless someone is saying them - a few grammar errors but apart from that a very good write. Woven well with some great lines and paragraphs I'm intrigued in your work now.

The work did get boring in some parts but that was minimal and that was probably me thinking - look how much is left. Well done anyway, I really liked it.

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wow I love this one!! It's not too simple but not to complicated!! Nice!!

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

.... you have left me speechless. I was expecting something drastic to happen and it did in a way, but not in the way i was thinking.

This was slow but paced beautifully. This was an amazing story of medeocrity.

You truly are a master of your craft.

cole-

Posted 8 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is a great write, I'm actually kind of in shock.
Very good

Posted 8 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


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Added on February 15, 2009
Last Updated on May 1, 2012

Author

Michael Carr
Michael Carr

Prosper, TX



About
My name is Michael Carr. I'm 20 years old now, god help me, attending UTD on a full ride scholarship in the Biology pre-Med program. IF YOU ARE READING THROUGH MY WORK FOR THE FIRST TIME, PLEASE HE.. more..

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