© Christine Olding
I step out of my navy blue Jeep, with a cig in hand. I walk across the gray pavement and head to work. My daily routine. Boring, I know, but hey, that’s my life. I feel the cig between my lips grow smaller with each puff. I toss it aside and rub my hands together for warmth. After all, it is the bitch that is winter. I can still smell the smoke on my beard as I peruse the mean streets of the suburban strip mall known as “Willard’s Way.” I walk into “Just Kil Me Already!” the semi comical name of the pottery shop I work at. The name is especially ironic due to the fact that I think that every day I pull out those sunflower shaped piggy banks draped in hideous colors that some five year old thought looked beautiful.
“Welcome back, Mr. Cheerful,” says my boss, Tiffany.
She’s a pleasant woman in all actuality. She’s roughly forty-five and I can really tell she likes watching the kids paint their sunflower piggy banks. Her giant red curly hair topples over her always present overalls as she wipes down the counters. She’s been my boss since I was seventeen, she’s a good a person. She owns the place with her husband Larry. A bear of a man who is rather unpleasant. I think this is her place to escape from her own Mr. Cheerful.
“Hey, Tiff, I told you not to call me that anymore, I know you find it funny, but it’s nine a.m. and it’s like four degrees outside, I am far too tired to deal with your half-ass jokes,” I said as I wrap the pine green smock over my already dingy cords and flannel shirt. I immediately feel like an asshole.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Prince Elliott! I didn’t mean to offend you with my nickname! Please forgive me! It’s not like I had to wake up and open the joint and roll around in a car without working heat this morning! I beg your forgiveness!”
After that lovely exchange of dialogue, I know that my day was going to drag on for eternity.
I sit around for a bit watching time click by on the awkward cat clock. Its tail wags at me as if it knows I want it to burst into flames. Fucking cat, always taunting me, with its slow “tick…tick…tick” and it’s blinking eyes. What kind of person makes a clock like that anyway? By the time I had finally plotted out the cat clock’s demise, it was eleven a.m., the time our first group was coming in. The bus unloads a rowdy bunch of mismatched second graders from St. Bernadette’s all girls grade school.
They all gather in the small area in front of the “creative arena” as Tiff calls it. The creative arena is composed of four six people tables, covered in other people’s creative explosions of colors. Hot pink, sunflower yellow, split pea green, any color you can think of has made its appearance in the arena.
“Howdy ladies! My name is Miss Tiffany! My you all look mighty excited to be here today! I hope to show you the wonderful world of art and pottery!” She sounds way too excited, but hey, that’s just my opinion.
The girls fidget in their matching maroon flannel skirts and light blue button down shirts. The only way to tell them apart is from their back packs, their only way of displaying individuality.
“Oh, girls, how silly of me to forget! This is Prince Elliott! Everyone bow in front of him, for he gets rather grouchy if you don’t bow!”
Is she serious? I make one comment… one comment about a damn nickname and now she has a bunch of second grade girls bowing and calling me Prince Elliott? Do you have any idea how terrifying it is for twenty, seven to eight year old girls bow to you and call you Prince Elliott? It’s horribly terrifying. For the next two hours I get endless questions of what it was like to be a prince, where was I from and my personal favorite: “If you’re a prince, how come you look like a homeless man?” said from a little girl with a slight lisp and a knack for spitting whenever she spoke.
I sit in horror with each raise of the hand, wondering what kind of weird question I’ll receive next and hoping the girl that spits forgets that I exist. By the time the girls leave, I’d received a gold plated name tag and crown that said as well as, a picture of me wearing prince clothes, because my wardrobe “ wasn’t working.”
I look over at the cat clock and it finally had mercy on my soul, one p.m. struck hard and true. My shift is over. I throw off my smock and casually waved to Tiff. She coldly waves back. I now know never to point out an annoyance to her ever again. As I walk back to my car, I light another cig.
As I drive down the road I tear off the Prince Elliott name tag and count the trees I pass. The whiteness from the snow is almost blinding as I turn the corner into my parking lot. The grey patches of cement stick out like sore thumbs against the white puff of winter. “My Mind is Now” by The Wannabes faintly blares in the background, “My mind is now, drifting through the fields, stomping on the ground…” as I pull into my spot at 23 B. 23 B, Ripple Creek Lane is where I call home. As I step out of my blue jeep yet again, I toss the cigarette that possesses the freedom of my right hand. I walk up the two flights of stairs and reach apartment 23 B. I open the door and notice a horrific smell. Probably from the Chinese food I ate last night that is festering on the counter. I go over to check on the one constant in my life. My goldfish, who I have named, fittingly, Sir Sticks. I figured that since he would never become a fish stick it would appropriate to name him Sir Sticks. As if he was knighted due to surviving some horrific battle. I look at the clock above my fridge, thanking god that it shared no resemblance to that awful cat clock that already haunts my dreams. Instead, it is a simple clock. Circular, white, pretty standard.
After asking Sir Sticks how his day has been, he gives me three bubbles in response, naturally, his day has been awesome. One bubble means bad, two bubbles means mundane and three means out of this world. I grab the Chinese food on the counter, and sit on my hot pink couch. Appropriate for a twenty-three-year-old dude, I realize. It was my ex-girlfriend’s she gave it to me out of pity when we broke up, thanks for the Barbie couch.
I turn on the TV. It’s four o’clock and it’s the third Friday of the month, meaning it’s Gwen, space edition. Space edition means that I open the drawer of the end table next to me and pull out my ticket and go on a nice out of this world trip. I take one hit of LSD and watch “Just Gwen.” Gwen is an over-weight talk show host that discusses topics only found relatable to lonely suburban housewives; once a month she does a “I bet you wish you had this… now you do!” episode. “Just Gwen” might seem like a weird choice for a grown man who lives with his pet fish, but have you ever watched “Just Gwen” while tripping before? It’s like watching Gandhi and Barney dancing on a rainbow while eating cotton candy and high fiving each other. I do this the third Friday of every month. It helps me deal with the fact that I am a twenty-three-year-old college grad who works at a place called “Just Kil Me Already!” It’s either this or rob banks. I figure this is more beneficiary. I direct my attention to channel nine and watch as Gwen glides across the screen, her body moves in waves (as if I needed a drug to tell me that). The feeling of relaxation trickles down my body. I look over to Sir Sticks. He gives me a thumbs up of approval.
“Jealous, Sticks? Thought so,” I murmur as I continue to watch Gwen’s Favorite Things episode.
Colors illuminate from my T.V. crimson, violet, golden rod. It feels like I’m in a box of Crayola crayons watching each crayon being picked and the colors flashing before my eyes.
“EVERYONE IS GOING TO GET A KINDLEEEEEEEEEE!!!!” Gwen screams with such enthusiasm.
As she holds it up it changes shapes and morphs as it moves from side to side due to the motion of her arms. Electric blue and swamp green flash across my eyes. I close them and reopen them quickly. The remnants of various shapes still present, a purple triangle, neon green squiggly, and my favorite a macaroni and cheese colored square with a smiley face. As I look over at my clock the white rim stares at me like a judgmental owl perching on its favorite tree branch. An hour in, the effects are full force. I for some reason start to remember the first day of sixth grade.
I was sitting in Mr. Riskin’s homeroom next to the wall. I looked up to the poster that was plastering the tan concrete walls. The poster stated “Say No to Drugs Before it’s Too Late.” It then had a picture of casket and a mother crying. Next to it there was another poster that said “The Only Thing LSD Will Give You is a Trip to Jail.” I remember sitting there and thinking to myself “what a crock of shit.” Not much has changed.
I put my hand on my hot pink Barbie couch cushions as I hear Gwen echoing in my ear
“EVERYONE IS GETTING A HELLO KITTY TOASTERRRRRRRR!”.
The soft cushions turn to stone as I glide my palm across the material. The normally cool feel of the fabric gets warmer with each second my hand moves. The cushions seem to glimmer as I observe their every move. Moving in and out, breathing, almost. I sit and stare for what seems like an eternity. Everything around me rushes by, as if I’m stuck in time. “Just Gwen” is almost over. But I’ve got a good seven hours left. I light a cig and watch the gray smoke float across the room, dancing across the ceiling. I hear one last shout out from Gwen.
“LAST BUT NOT LEAST EVERYONE IN HERE IS GETTING A COPY OF MY BOOOOOOOOKK!”
Of course they are Gwen. So typical. As five o’clock strikes, the click of the hands seem almost to boom in my ears as I slowly watch the minute hand reach the gigantic jet black twelve. My eyes drift together as the booming continues to echo in my ears. Echoing as if I were in a cave screaming “HELLLLLOOOO!”
I tap my cigarette against the glass monkey shaped ashtray. I feel the once sturdy glass turn to mush with each flick of the ash. I watch as the ash rolls around the tray until it finally reaches its resting place. I continue to smoke as I flip off the TV.The silence is almost deafening. I can still hear a faint boom in my ears. From what, I don’t know. I turn on my radio. The chrome knobs feel cool as I adjust the dial to my favorite tunes. “King of the Muffins” by Tommy Olts comes hissing out the speakers, “I am the muffin king all day long I slave and eat wondering how to capture such a tasty treat…”
I close my eyes and think to myself, You’re right, Olts, its hard be king of the muffins.
Muffin like shapes dance across the back of my eye lids. Taking on the colors of the rainbow. Violet, indigo, stop light green, wheat yellow. Olt’s voice is resonating in my ears.
I put the cigarette out and stand up. I head for my coat which is draped on the other end of the couch, all this talk about muffins, has got me wanting one more than ever. I walk down the stairs and head to the market down the street. As I leave my building I look up at the street lamps. The lights are illuminating a purple haze as I float down the street. I pass a woman walking her dog. Her face comes towards mine and I notice her horse like facial structure. Her long nose and beady eyes glare at me and I can almost hear her nay-ing at me. I look down at her dog and see that he could easily pass for a elf with his pointy ears and untrustworthy eyes. I giggle to myself as I pace down the road.
What would it be like to live one day as a horse? Would I love it? Would I hate it? How do I make this come true? I pass a group of trees and I stop. I take a step back and gaze in awe at the wonder before me. All the leaves are in place with a hint of snow dusting each branch. As I sit and gaze for what seems to be an eternity, I realize something. The trees, their branches, they have a purpose, they have a plight. For the first time in my life it all seems clear. Everything has its own pattern, its own way in the world.
I reach the market and take a step inside. I take a look around and think to myself that everyone has to know what I’ve been up to. I try to ignore my feelings of discomfort and sway to the bakery. Everything looks so delicious and perfect. Each roll, each cookie with its own design, its own life. I find my perfect muffin. Large and booming with blueberries I point it out to the baker. A rather large man standing behind the counter, his usual white smock tinted purple as his large dinosaur like hands grab the muffin with force. As he hands me the brown bag he smiles, his face emulates that of a donkey. His big pearly teeth and brown hair that sticks out of his cap make me want to pin a tail on him. I walk out of the store and head back home.
I walk into my apartment. Sir Sticks greets me with a few bubbles. I casually walk to my room and crawl into my bed. I try to sleep but to no surprise I can’t. My mind keeps tossing and turning with each breath I take. Lilac and teal lines create shapes behind my eyes. I think back to the man behind the counter. I wonder if his wife resembles that of a donkey too. My bed feels like a sinking ship, as I move from side to side. I muster the strength to get out of bed. I go over to my stereo in my bedroom and turn the black knobs until something comes out. “Sun Man” by Princeton echoes throughout my mind. “You just there on your throne so high, your throne built on the rays of the golden sun,” his voice sounds raspy as it enters my ears. I wonder if he’s talking about Sir Sticks. I glance over at the clock. Two a.m. blares red into my eyes. I close them and let the soft sounds of Princeton to carry me into my dreams.
I hear my alarm buzzing in the background. It’s time to get up and go to work. My mind is still a little foggy from the previous day’s adventures. I rub my eyes and head to the bathroom. I look at myself in the mirror. A piece of blueberry muffin is stuck to my face. I pick it off and throw it in the sink. I go back to my room and got ready for another day.
I get in my jeep and turn it on, The Hurdy Gurdy Men’s “Purple Mountaintop” is blaring from the speakers, “Haze your way to the top of the purple mountaintop, let yourself slide down, down, down…”
Fitting, I think to myself as I light a cig and head down the road to my impending doom.
I step out of the car and walk towards “Just Kil Me Already!” dreading what Tiff has to say to me since yesterday’s incident. I open the door and walk in back. I put on my forest green smock and sit on my stool awaiting the arrival of our first customers.
“Howdy, Elliott, How are you doing today?” Tiff says in her most cheerful voice.
“Hey, Tiff, I’m doing pretty well thanks. I’m sorry about yesterday, acting like such an asshole. I know that we’ve gotten closer over these years but you’re still my boss and I shouldn’t treat you like that no matter how shitty my morning has been,” I say, hoping it would ease the tension that was still lurking over both of us.
“Don’t worry about it. We all have our bad days. Can you get the fresh batch of sunflowers out for our group at noon?”
“Sure thing, Tiff.”
I get off my stool and head to the back. Reaching in and getting out those shitty sunflowers.
I look up from the pit of hell that is the sunflower’s cave and notice the cat clock. Still ticking away. Still taunting me, I think to myself, T-minus twenty days until take off, and smile.