The Writers Voice
Favourite Literary Website
with a start. Reaching for the nightstand, he felt
around carefully at the base of the lamp for his
glasses. His eyes became gradually accustomed to
the half-darkness as the room jumped into focus.
Glancing over at the clock he realized that he was
fully one hour behind in his normal routine.
"Damn this Daylight Savings Time," he thought to
himself. "I should have set the alarm last night!"
Charlie almost never set the alarm. Conditioned by
endless years of early rising, his body
automatically revived every morning at five o'clock
- even if he wanted to sleep in late. He knew it
would take a few days for his internal clock to
synchronize with the new arbitrary time that the
world had imposed.
Fortunately, the loss of an hour would have little
impact on his morning schedule. He might have to
forgo his usual cup of hot tea and single slice of
buttered toast, but he knew he could easily
compensate by grabbing a muffin and coffee from the
vending machines at work. He really didn't mind
drinking coffee; after all, caffeine is caffeine,
no matter what form it takes. It's just that tea
was much simpler to make at the apartment, when
only a single cup was required.
Besides, tea didn't bring back the memories that
freshly brewed coffee did. He remembered how Marie
had always made a pot of coffee each morning at
home. She would get up when he did, grind the beans
in the little grinder one of the kids had sent as a
Christmas present, and have a steaming pot ready by
the time he had finished shaving and showering. He
thought momentarily about the morning coffee, and
of all the other little things that were now so
different in his life.
He got up and headed for the bathroom. Peering into
the mirror, he contemplated skipping the razor but
quickly discarded the idea. One of the advantages
of wearing a full beard was that one could, if
necessary, skip shaving for a day. Not today. He
remembered the important interview with the new
department head at nine o'clock. "Probably should
look good for the boss," he thought to himself.
"After all, first appearances do count for
He lathered up and quickly removed the excess
stubble from his neck and cheeks. Carefully
drying the disposable razor, he placed it back onto
the folded towel lying on the shelf under the wash
basin. He couldn't remember how long he had been
using that same old razor ... could it really be
six months? He wondered about the whole concept of
disposable products. Maybe it was just a ploy by
the manufacturers of consumer goods to get him to
buy more things than he actually needed - to change
just for the sake of changing. In any case, he knew
that he wasn't being fooled. He would continue to
use that razor as long as it kept doing its job.
He stared at his beard in the mirror. Marie used to
call it "salt and pepper" because of all the gray
interspersed among the black. He realized that pure
salt would be a better description now. A few black
hairs still peeked out here and there, but they
were definitely in the minority. He sometimes
considered shaving it off altogether but always
stopped short of actually going through with the
deed. Marie had always liked him with the beard.
"Makes you look distinguished," she would say with
a grin, every time he mentioned he might shave it
off. "Of course, I know better," she would always
add. Now he kept it on simply because she would
have wanted it that way.
The younger workers called him one of the "graybeards."
It was a term generally applied to all of the
senior staff members, whether or not they sported
any facial hair. In his case it was entirely
appropriate. Supposedly the graybeards could mentor
the junior members because of their vast
experience. Inwardly, he knew that they often
disliked the older workers, not so
much for the accumulated knowledge they possessed,
but for their unsolicited attempts to
share life's lessons learned.
He recalled the wise words of Will Rogers about
there being three kinds of men: "The one
that learns by reading, the few who learn by
observation, and the rest who have to touch the
electric fence for themselves." He smiled as he
pictured a few of the wise-cracking young
engineers at work, all convulsing violently as they
tried to let loose of the wire.
He dressed in his best "business casual" outfit,
not wanting to look too informal, but yet not
overly conservative. The younger engineers always
seemed to look natural in their Dockers
and sport shirts. He hadn't been able to find a
pair anywhere that fit comfortably. He still
wore his suit pants, sans the jacket, with a dress
shirt. No tie. Not today ... not ever. No
one seemed to wear ties anymore.
He looked at the countless ties hanging on the rack
in the closet. He couldn't recall ever
buying one himself, but he seemed to have
accumulated more than any one man could ever
hope to wear in a lifetime. Wide ties, skinny ties
- even a clip-on bow tie - all hanging there
like anachronistic relics of a bygone era. Marie
had always loved to see him in a coat and
tie. He tried to remember the last time he had worn
one. It suddenly came to him; of
course, it had been at the funeral.
He hurried into the kitchen and opened the
refrigerator. Grabbing the bologna and cheese,
he threw together a quick sandwich. An apple and
can of tomato juice rounded out the well
balanced lunch. Marie had always put fruit and
vegetables in his lunch. Pulling the box of
sandwich bags from the cupboard, he noticed that
they were just about gone. He made a
mental note to stop by the Wal-Mart on the way home
and buy another box.
Sandwich bags were one of the few compromises he
was willing to make with the
disposable world around him. Marie had always used
her Tupperware containers for his
lunch: one for the sandwich, another for the carrot
sticks or celery stalks, and a third for
some type of fruit desert. Not the most
kitchen-savvy person around, he seemed unable to
track where the matching lid for any container was
located at any given time.
He hoped that Sam would be on duty at the Wal-Mart
this evening. Sam was a good friend
and former co-worker. He had recently retired and
now worked part time greeting shoppers
as they entered the store. Charlie thought that Sam
had the ideal position. No cares, no
responsibilities ... just greet everyone with a
smile and pass out the shopping carts. Kind of
like a horse being put out to pasture after many
years pulling the plow. Sam was always
telling him that they needed more greeters. "Maybe
someday," he thought to himself, "...maybe someday."
Charlie grabbed his slide rule from the desk and
clipped it onto his belt. He actually didn't
use it much anymore, other than to show amused
coworkers how things used to be done.
He really just wore it because he felt naked
without the cell phone or pager that everyone
else seemed to wear. Like a badge of distinction or
a medal from some long forgotten
campaign, he wore it proudly as a memento to the
The morning went by quickly, but his stomach was
grumbling from the unfamiliar coffee he
had drunk earlier. Glancing up at the clock above
his cubicle, he noticed that it was nearing
the preordained time for the interview. He grabbed
his notes about the new project and
headed toward the office. Although he didn't know
the exact purpose of the interview,
perhaps the new boss would want his input on how
the activity should be managed. Maybe
he would even be asked to manage it personally.
"Heaven knows," he thought to himself,
"someone needs to bring some sense to this project.
And who could do it better than me?"
Preparing himself mentally for the interview, he
thought about different ways to tell the boss
how these types of projects had been done in the
past. He knew he had to strike a fine
balance between being forceful and articulate, but
not threatening. These young managers
sure needed to learn a thing or two about how the
real world operated. After all, he had kids
older than them. Their newfangled theories might
work; then again, they might not. At least
his ideas had a long history of success.
He closed the door behind him after the quick
meeting had concluded. He stopped by the
restroom on his way back to the cube. Staring at
his reflection in the mirror, he looked into
the eyes of a man whose time had come and gone. At
least the manager had thanked him
heartily for all the years of service. "Take some
time now to enjoy life," he had said, "you've
Charlie knew that he couldn't enjoy life without
working. After all, without Marie, what else
was there to enjoy? He wondered what he would do
next. Then he thought of Sam. "I still
need those sandwich bags," he thought to himself as
he cleaned out his desk. He began to
prepare himself mentally for the interview.
Critique this work
Click on the book to leave a comment about this work