Chapter Three

The sudden ring from my phone jolts me awake.

Who would be calling me in the morning like this?

I pick it up and glance at the caller ID. The call’s coming from Bob, my boss from work. What does he want?

I flip open my phone—yes, I still have one of those—but before I get to utter a single word, Bob goes into one of his usual tirade.

“Olan, I’m sick and tired of cleaning up after you people,” he says. “It’s hurting my business more than it is helping. Dammit, Olan, what am I to do with you bunch?”

“What’re you talking about, Bob?”

“I’m talking about you closing up shop last night.”

Last night?

My eyes widen, scanning my whereabouts. I find myself in laying my own bed, out of my work clothes, and feeling like I’ve hibernated for hours, though not remembering how I got here.

“What day is it?” I ask Bob.

“What day is it?” he retorts. “It’s Friday. You of all people should know that. You’re always the one boasting about having this particular day of the week off your work schedule. Asking me what day it is. How could you forget? Has something happened to you?”

If today is Friday as he says, then that means I did work yesterday. But does it also mean everything that supposedly happened last night did happen as well? Is that the reason for Bob’s random outburst this morning? It’s possible he’s discovered something unpleasant on his way to work, and the only one he can direct his displeasure toward would be me.

I have to be sure, though. Even if most of what I do remember seems clear as day, I can’t help but have that muddled feeling that it has all been a bad dream I’ve just woken up from. Then again, I suppose having such haunting dreams will make you feel that way. And as far as I’m aware, I’m not known to sleepwalk either. So me getting to my bed from the front door and having changed my clothes are both definitely odd and perplexing.

Still, I have to make sure.

“Sorry, Bob,” I say. “I’m going to need you to be more clear on what you’re talking about.”

“What I mean,” Bob begins, “is that you’ve left a big mess lying around the back exit. I’ve told you people plenty of times to dispose the items that have gone bad into the proper garbage bin. Simply tossing them out back isn’t good enough. You’d attract unnecessary welcome. Or worse, rats. And judging from the looks of these, I would assume these the ones you were planning on taking home with you.”

“Oh,” I say. A sigh of relief comes over me, knowing exactly what he’s referring to and assuming it’s the only thing he’s upset about.

While I admit that I do take home leftovers for myself every night I close, I don’t take any of the ones that are to be reused. Just the really old ones. What can I say, they make for a great snack, sometimes even a whole meal replacement if prepared properly. However, forgetting about taking any isn’t something I’d do, let alone leaving them outside as Bob is suggesting. I can’t even explain to one to myself. Not sure how I’ll do so with him.

“Well?” Bob urges.

“Um, about that,” I say. “Sorry, boss. Got no excuses. I don’t remember much of last night. If I left a mess, I’m sure it must’ve been on accident and I wasn’t aware of it.”

“You don’t remember? That doesn’t sound like you.”

“Yeah, well. Everyone has their ups and downs. Must’ve been a busy shift and all. Probably lost track of time and myself altogether. All I can say is I’m sorry if I had done it. Which, I guess at this point, was probably me.”

Bob goes silent for a few seconds, probably digesting my poor excuse of a testimony. Then he finally speaks up again by asking, “Is that all?”

“I guess,” I remark. “Unless you really plan to reprimand me for that blunder.”

“No. No need for that. Just come to work as usual and make sure you don’t screw up again.”

“Roger. Won’t happen again. I’ll be more careful next time. Cross my heart.”

“There’s no need to be condescending.”

A smile comes on my face. “Condescending? Me? Come on now, boss. You know me better than that.”

Bob grumbles and I hear him fuming through his nose. He then rambles on with a lecture about how much he has to put up with and how lucky all of us are to be working there still. The man sure loves to hear himself talk. Every now and then, I respond with a one or two syllable interjections, but mostly ignoring what he’s saying. This goes on for a few more minutes.

Just as he’s done speaking, I give him no chance to consider the last words belong to him.

“I’ll still be stopping by later to pick up my check,” I say. “So don’t go anywhere before I get there.”

Bob grumbles in response and hangs up.

I close my phone with frustration, but setting it down gently on the nightstand, making sure not to break it.

“Fat prick,” I mutter to the wall.

Why does he always have to make everything difficult? It’s like he enjoys dealing with constant frustrations. Making his life as difficult as possible. Which comes to a surprise considering his … physical stature. Imagine talking to an unbaked cookie dough with tunnel vision. That’s Bob. Selfish, shortsighted, and most of all, just plain old stubborn. One simple phone call that shouldn’t have taken more than a minute turns into ten.

A conversation with a sloth wouldn’t have gone on for that long and would have been more productive.

I’m the only one who stands up for myself from time to time. Maybe that’s the reason he gives me the closing shifts, to be the one in charge when he’s away. Also explains why he only allows me to take home some of our unsold products. He holds me as the sole person capable of taking over his business one day.

Yeah, right.

I can’t even think that with a straight face.

No, Bob likely leaves me in charge because I’m his longest running employee. He barely has enough confidence in me from all he’s shown me. Only does he allow me to handle the operation while he’s not around is so that he can go gambling; along with all the other stuff unrelated to his business. So on top of everything else I’ve mentioned, he’s also lazy. No one in such position should get away with that.

But I’ve no say in the matter. Not because I can’t, but because I’ve no real reason to. I only work there. Leave them be and hope they’ll give you the same treatment in return. I get paid regardless of what I do and how I feel.

I take a glance at the clock sitting on my nightstand. It is way too early to be awake, and way too early to be feeling this aggravated. The sun is barely out as well. I slam my head back down on my pillow to count some more sheep.

I roll myself off my bed after who knows how long I’ve napped, checking the clock as I do so. It’s half past ten already. Still early for me, but I’ll take it. Need to get things done.

I head to the bathroom across the hall from the bedroom.

My apartment isn’t the best-looking place around, nor is it even well-functioning, but it does the job I need it to do. Which is enough to say for just about any other place to live in.

It’s a one bedroom, one bathroom assortment that’s both affordable and dependable. The living room consists of a lonesome secondhand couch that’s long enough to seat three people my size, or one of me horizontally. In front of it is a cheap coffee table I got from a thrift store. Facing that setup is a wooden stand at the adjacent side of the room with a flat screen television on top—which is the only thing here that wasn’t handed down to me. Next to the stand is an older generation gaming console that I’ve kept with me since I was a kid.

I have one of those tall lamps placed in the corner of the room, which I use as my sole source of lighting. There is a large window behind the couch, but I cover it up most of the time. While I do enjoy the sun, I don’t enjoy people able to look into my apartment.

A wall separates the living room from the kitchen slash dining room, with an entryway the size of a regular doorframe. There’s a half-moon shaped hole in the middle of the wall made to look like a window, but I mostly it as a cheap bar top. Inside the kitchen is a square table made of wood with a faux marble finish on the top side. A lonesome chair rests next to it. I also have a refrigerator that’s hardly filled, and a sink that’s hardly empty.

My bathroom’s a mess, and my bedroom an even bigger mess. Other than that, standard white walls and laminate flooring made to simulate hardwood tile.

Still, I call it home.

In the bathroom, the mirror reflects back to me my bloodshot eyes and dry lips. My hair is all shuffled to one side and my face looks like it’s had a rough night.

Classic.

Nothing a quick tidy up won’t fix, though. I splash my face with water, and with my hands still wet, I arrange my hair in the way I want them, never needing any hair products. Following that, I take care of my remaining necessary routine.

I return to the bedroom and see that my pile of dirty clothes is becoming more populated than my clean pile. There are two baskets in my room that I use to separate my clothes. I have neither the need nor the desire to get an organizer of any sort. There’s too much hassle bringing in a hefty box and assembling a dresser. If I ever need to get wrinkles out, there’s an iron and a board. I prefer things simpler this way.

Remedying this issue of not having enough clean clothes to change into should be a priority, but that’s another thing about me. I’m a procrastinator. Besides, other errands would make better use of my time.

I grab what I can from the clean pile and toss it on. A long-sleeved navy shirt, black denim jeans, and of course, fresh boxers. I begin to make my way out to the kitchen to see if there’s anything in my fridge that I can eat, or anything that resembles food.

I walk over to the fridge, opening it up to see if there’s anything inside I can put together to make breakfast.

Nothing.

Unless I can fill myself up with half a bottle of mustard and get on with the rest of my day, of course. But that’s not happening.

Looks like I’ll be making another pit stop while I’m out.

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