Jumping into wakefulness, Joe sprang up from his office chair and collided with his desk. The resulting impact between his ribs and cold, hard varnished wood brought tears to his eyes. He blinked them away, cursing loudly. As soon as the tears had stopped seeking their way down Joe’s cheeks, snot entered the fray, beating mercilessly at his numb nostrils in an attempt to appease gravity. Before it could have its way, though, Joe used his trump card and ultimate weapon: his sleeve.
After the initial battle, being awake wasn’t so bad. The cubicle was dark and the hall outside the cubicle was dark. The little backlit analog clock on the corner of the desk indicated that it was ten o’clock, but that clock had been broken for ages. Joe pushed back his left cuff to expose a clunky digital watch. Five-twelve a.m. His shift would be over in eighteen minutes, which meant that he would be able to go home and get some real sleep.
Of course, it wasn’t at all reassuring that he’d fallen asleep on the job. Again. Even though he did his best to sleep responsibly during the day, he had been having a hard time getting through the nights at work, lately. Nothing happened. His job was something that a doctor might prescribe to an insomniac.
Joe could count on one hand the things that “happened” while he was on the job.
1. His boss checked in on him once every hour before midnight, on the hour.
2. She scolded him because he was playing Rapunzel’s Escape. The bitch.
3. His boss went home at midnight.
4. He fell asleep.
5. He woke up.
Joe, having just counted these things on one hand, balled that hand into a fist and banged it against his desktop, causing his computer’s mouse to jump off the desk and into a tiny wastebasket. He immediately regretted the violent outburst. It was cold in the office, at five in the morning. Cold hands colliding with hard solids made for pain.
Shaking his aching hand, Joe stooped to retrieve the mouse, wondering about when and how he would ever escape this one-way dead-end job. He was at a cul-de-sac in his life, and it irritated him more than the fact that his boss was a Buddhist and didn’t know what was coming for her.