It started to rain on that friday afternoon. Robert slept in his full size bed, dreaming of a better place. His clock/radio alarm went off at exactly 8pm, but he couldn’t hear the nasily voice of howard stern through the sounds of the rain. He awoke a little after 10:23, and jumped out of bed in fear. He put on his gear and drove his old Ford ranger to the mill.
Robert worked the third shift, 7 days a week. He arrived 30 minutes after his shift began. This was the second time he showed up late that week. His supervisor Vince, scorned him for awhile. Yelling about everything he could possibly think of, and using metaphors that didn’t make sense, to mask his anger at his marriage and life as a supervisor at the mill.
After his shift, Robert cleaned up and drove to the University. He had a final that Saturday morning at 8am. He stepped into the auditorium and looked at all the young sleepy faces. Most had been up all night cramming for the test on adderall. They looked cracked out, and delirious.
Robert was 41. Divorced and a father. He felt no pity for those 20 year old punks, who didn’t give a shit about the class. They had no passion for anything. They showed up to classes when they wanted to, most of the time hung over. They didn’t have a job, or bills. Mom and Dad took care of everything, while they drank and partied all semester long.
He sat down and thought about his daughter, and his tramp X wife. He thought about his bills, and loan payments. His pension plan, and his health insurance. He was getting old, and hoped that this final would end the blue collar work. He hoped he could finish this type of lifestyle, by getting a degree and getting a job he could be passionate at. He could sleep at night, and relax once in a while. He didn’t have to kill himself any more.
4 weeks later, he got the interview he’d been dreaming about. He shaved, and put on his Sunday best. This interview could be the beginning of a whole new life. He hopped into his Ranger and drove downtown to the clinic. When he arrived he saw a bunch of the kids from class. They greeted him with the head nod or eye contact, but it just made things awkward for Robert.
The interview processes only took about 9 minutes. Each candidate was called up, they stepped into the office, and came out just a few minutes later. Some smiling, some looking down at the ground. Robert was one of the last names called. He stood up and walked into the office. He shook hands with the Doctor behind the desk and sat down. The Doctor reviewed his resume, and credentials, and asked him, “Did you graduate with most of these kids?”
Robert was caught off gaurd. “Yeah…. I mean, yes sir. I was in classes with a lot of them.”
The Doctor replied, “Did any of them shine in class? Make an impact on your perspective?”
Robert thought about it for a few seconds, and decided to answer with his heart. “Actually, none of them shined. Half of them weren’t prepared, and a few barely showed up for class. Especially Edwards. He came in stoned half the time, and fell asleep during the lectures.”
The Doctor was smiling for most of Roberts answer, but immidiatly turned serious. “Edwards? John Edwards?”
Robert, “Yep, why did you interview him?”
The Doctor responded, “Thats my son….. I think I’ve seen enough today. Thanks Mr… a Mr…… That will be all.”
Robert was stunned. He got up and walked out of the office, and back to his truck. When he got in, he sat there stairing into the mirror at himself. What the fuck just happened? He sat in the truck for half an hour, reflecting on all that happened. Fuck it, I’m gonna get a beer. Robert drove to the local pub down the street. It was pretty empty, except for the usuals sitting in front of the poker machines. He sat down and ordered a pint of the dark draft, and looked around. There was a couple sitting a few stools down making out, and beside them was Eddie, the town drunk.
Real winners, Robert thought. Fuck it. He chugged down his draft and drove home. He was sick of all the bullshit, and sick of the fucking people he had to deal with. So he rolled himself a nice joint and climbed up to his roof. He lit it and took a few puffs before he started to pray. He asked for forgiveness, guidence and strength, and continued to puff down his spliff. He felt better already.
“Hey what are you doing up there Robert?” asked his neighbor.
“Um, just hanging out. What are you doing?” he replied.
“Whatever, I can smell that from down the block.”
“Robert… are you gonna share or what?”
Robert laughed and told her how to climb up the window ledges to reach the roof. He helped her get up, and they found a spot near the chimney.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” Robert said.
“I didn’t know you did either.”She replied, as she hit it a few times. She passed the spliff back to Robert and coughed a few times. They laughed, and sat stairing down off the ledge. Slowly bobbing back and forth in a trance.
She snapped out of it and asked, “Hey have you heard the news? Iran announced its first production of the nuclear bomb. They showed it at a press conference in a masque. Leaders from China, Russia and France were all there.”
“Thats crazy. I don’t like that one bit.”
“I mean what could you do? Your just another guy.”
“Thanks, I didn’t know you were so cold.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean it that way, sorry.”
“I know… I am just some guy.”
“Well thats cool, I’m just some girl.”
They smiled with there eyes half opened, burning from dry air, and the metal halide street light.
Well come on, I got some good grub and a little more grass.
They crawlled back into Roberts house through the second floor window. Robert helped her into the house, and jumped in after her. He shut the window, and closed the blinds on a dark shadow sweeping over head. They walked down stairs, and went straight to the kitchen.
“Strawberrys with whip cream?”
Jessica stood in awe. It was like she won the lottery. “Oh yes, please.”
He prepared the feast with Smuckers Strawberry Preserves, Egos, and some whip cream. Robert poured syrup all over the counter, in a foggy stumble. The two ate standing up in the kitchen, right where Robert prepared it. They laughed at each other’s syrup stains making weird shapes on the front of their tshirts.
“Hey do you want to watch Grandma’s Boy?” Robert mumbled with whip cream in his mouth. He swallowed and finished his sentence, “Its from the guys who made Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.
“And Mr. Deeds, and Little Nicky?”
“Yeah thats them. But this movie is way weirder. Crazy shit.”
“Yeah lets do it.”
He turned on the TV, to hear the deafining tone of the alert message. He started to lower it, when it went silent. He looked at Jessica. Both stunned by the sound and colors.
“This is not a test. Take refuge. The United States has been attacked. Our communications system has been crippled, all over the country. We are unable to receive any signal at this time. Please stay tuned. An announcement from President Howard should be broadcasted with in the hour.”
Robert rolled over, and felt him self slip. He grabbed the shingles and stopped from rolling off the roof. Alone. He looked down at his watch. 5:41pm.