Dream Job is a short story written by Tim Clark and shared with The Ugly Writers under the new theme Creating Sparks for the month of December
Yesterday was busy. According to my Fitbit, I had 19,713 steps and climbed 18 flights of stairs. Combined with the lifting and carrying and considering my age, 64, that’s a lot of work. When I am that tired, I sleep so soundly I am more conscious of my dreams.
I dreamed about work, which isn’t unusual. A person spends a good deal of time at work, and it eats up a lot of computational cycles, it only stands to reason parts of it would be lurking somewhere off-screen, ready to creep into the late-night cycles of unfulfilled dreams, loss, regret, and tarnished, rusty near misses. Dreams are odd creatures, small commercials advertising the life you lived, or didn’t live. In the past I’ve tried to program my dreams by intense concentration before falling sleep. It was always hard deciding what I wanted to dream about. I’d lay there for an hour or more, choosing the perfect subject. Since I don’t normally remember my dreams, I’m not sure it worked.
I woke up in the middle of the night with the nagging feeling I had to take care of something when I got to work. I didn’t remember what it was. I laid there for a while trying to chase down the elusive task. I couldn’t, it was only a dream. But it seemed so real.
It haunted me while I was having coffee. What was I supposed to do?
I couldn’t escape the feeling I was forgetting something important. It troubled me, I forgot my travel mug of coffee and had to go back inside.
I decided to listen to something long, powerful, consuming, on my way to work. I chose Carry On, from Four Way Street, by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. It lasts over 14 minutes with a ten-minute guitar jam that will take you to a better place. It would almost get me to work if there were no complications.
Unfortunately, after a few blocks, I had to stop for a school bus. A woman, I swear it was Alanis Morrisette, was loading her young children, and it was a slow process. I couldn’t be sure it was Ms. Morrisette, I didn’t want to stare. It’s not polite, and if it really was Alanis Morrisette, I certainly didn’t want to attract her attention, and her anger, and her venomous, lyrical retribution. I’m afraid of her. Particularly if she lives that close.
My song only lasted until the airport exit, and I was forced to accept the next few songs, which were fine songs, “A Long Time Ago” by Waylon Jennings, and “Worse Comes to Worst” by Billy Joel. My day was starting to crumble.
All day at work I had that feeling, that something was wrong, creeping up behind me. I caught shadows moving in dark places. Sounds just below hearing, lights flashed in my periphery, small signal fires, warnings. There was a smell of failure and rot, it hung in the air and clung to the linings of my nostrils.
My lunch tasted like ashes, I ate a few small bites and threw the rest away.
The afternoon stumbled past, time was distinct and hard. Minutes took on a menacing appearance, seconds were sharpened tacks. I was beginning to see time as a living creature. Something wasn’t done, something had to be done. But what?
I was forgetting something.
The day had a hazy, dream-like quality, and I spent most of it lost.
Sometimes you dream you’re falling and yank yourself violently awake. Anything to keep from smashing into the bottom, cracked open like an overripe tomato. There are dreams when you’re trying to run and nothing works, rubbery, leaden legs that won’t cooperate, and whatever it is behind you is getting closer. Hot, corrupt breath, bottomless, vile, darkness. In this dream, I was trying to fall and couldn’t, suspended like a fat, soft pinata. I couldn’t get away. But I had no idea from what.
In the middle of the afternoon, I was creeping around the embroidery machines, the clatter of the contraptions was welcome. It had a chaotic rhythm, sharp and constant, a wall of sound to hide behind. On the other side of the embroidery department was a row of tables, where the garments were cleaned, folded, and put in bags. There was a terminal silence as if the shirts, shorts, and jackets absorbed the sounds of production.
While creeping through the tables, amongst the garments and busy workers I heard the office door slam against the wall. Brian, the office assistant manager stepped out and glared at me. His face contorted with anger and disgust.
“Hey, numb nuts, you forgot to clock in.” He said, his voice loud and heavy with contempt. It echoed off the walls and everybody stopped to look at him.
Until they noticed he was looking at me. I was the numb nuts. Soon all the machines were whirring and happy, the inspectors were folding and cleaning, heads buried in their work.
I had forgot to clock in, there it was. My life was mine again.
“Thanks, man, can you fix it for me?” I asked, smiling, a man saved.
“Yeah, but you’re taking the damned point.” He turned, went back into the office, turned and came back out. Grabbing the door handle he pulled it closed with a furious crash, that knocked a picture off the wall.
I went and picked up the picture, a small snapshot of the first printing press the company had. I sat it on the table by the clock and went and had a cigarette. It felt good to be free.