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21 October 2008 @ 10:37 pm
Original; The Pros and Cons of a Practical Day Job  
Title: The Pros and Cons of a Practical Day Job
Author: thethirdbar
Fandom: n/a; original.
Pairing/s, Character/s: n/a
Rating: G/PG (some mild swearing)
Word Count: 936
Summary: A world-weary office worker contemplates his career. (It's more interesting than it sounds, I promise!)
Comments: inspired by this comment on sarahtales's epic q&a post. I'm not really happy with the way it turned out; it doesn't do what I want it to do, but I really like the premise, so I might try to rework it at some point and see what happens.



It’s not so much that he misses the scorch-marks. Actually, now that he thinks about it, they were a right pain in the breeches: never able to wear the same pair twice, and the wages didn’t really allow for constantly having to replace your work clothes.

He stamps another application form, barely looking at it first, and stares with glazed eyes at the seemingly endless queue of harassed-looking customers, all waiting to be served. He presses a button beneath his desk.

“Cashier number four, please,” calls out the mechanized voice, and the next person steps up to his till.

He doesn’t really miss the working conditions, either. Outside at all hours, rain or shine. It’s much more temperate here at the Post Office, where they’ve got heating and air conditioning so you’re comfy whatever the weather, and you never end up drenched. And he gets to stay sitting down, which isn’t something to sniff at for a man of his age. He did enjoy being able to see the sky, though, and all the green and colours that you get when you’re out in Nature. It’s a bit... well, drab, here. All beige walls and grey carpet and dirty white counters, it’s enough drive you slowly insane just with the monotony of it all.

He sighs, and presses the button again.

He definitely doesn’t miss cleaning out the pens, though. The smell of the dung made your eyes water, and it clung to your nostril-hair so that you could smell it for hours afterwards. It was quite satisfying work, though. Especially when you were finished and you were left with a clean pen that you almost wouldn’t mind sleeping in yourself...

He stamps another form and bestows his well-practised fake smile on the old lady in front of him as he bids her goodbye. He presses the button.

And it wasn’t just the dung and the rain and the scorch-marks, either. The constant smell of smoke used to really annoy the Mrs, and he’s fairly sure that the chronic bad chest wouldn’t have been quite so chronic if not for that. And he did used to really enjoy having fingerprints on his left hand, before they got burnt off.

There’s a really excellent coffee machine in the staff room here, too. They didn’t have one of those at the other place. He sips the dregs of his earlier cup and pulls a face, his nose wrinkling in distaste. Perhaps ‘really excellent’ was pushing it a bit. Still, any coffee is better than no coffee. Sort of.

Well, at least with the Post Office, there’re a lot fewer risks to your personal safety. He glances down at the bright red Panic Button on his desk, and at the protective plastic screen in front of him. It was just last week that Leslie was attacked by a drunk with a knife, just because she wouldn’t issue him his giro cheque without some ID. It got in the newspapers and everything, and it’ll definitely leave a scar, poor lass. And they’re nearly all like that, the customers here: drunk and violent, or old and confused. And 9 times out of 10 they smell of beer or tobacco or piss or all three, which is probably even worse than the dung smell.

He presses the button again.

And they were so beautiful, his babies, with their shining iridescent scales and their feline eyes and their wings. They were always his favourite part, the wings. Huge and powerful and indescribable – not like bats’ or like birds’ or like butterflies’, but some strange and wonderful combination of all three, covered with those gorgeous scales. And sometimes – when you’d got to know them a bit, got ‘em a bit tamer and become friends with them – they’d let you climb up onto their backs and, just for a while, you could fly with them. Air conditioning isn’t a patch on the feel of the wind in your hair as you ride on the back of a dragon, with the world spread out like a miniature beneath you.

He tugs awkwardly at the knot in his tie. He never had to wear these bloody uncomfortable, itchy suits when he was a dragon tamer, either. He always felt he looked much more dashing in a nice pair of dragon hide trousers. Very flattering on the thighs and bum; not to mention the handy fire-proof element they had to them.

He presses the button again.
“Cashier number ber ber ber ber ber...”
The bloody machine’s broken again.
“Next please,” he calls out. The next customer shambles up to his till.

Working in a Post Office isn’t really what he’d envisioned for his afterlife. Not that he’d actually been thinking much about his afterlife – that’s the problem with dragon taming as a career. Not just the scorch-marks and the smoke and the rain and the dung, but one wrong move and you’re cinders. Just like that. He’d been having such a good week, too.

He glances out of the window at the clear blue skies, where no magnificent reptilian silhouettes can be seen to fly, and remembers the day that Georgie finally managed to sort out that one big dragon that none of them could train. They'd had a proper good party that night; he can’t remember ever quaffing so much celebratory ale, before or since.

“Excuse me, dearie,” comes a tremulous voice from an old lady standing in front of his counter, holding up two near-identical brown envelopes. “Can you tell me which of these is the better?”

He sighs again. He really does miss the scorch-marks.




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Lissa: don't pretend you ever forgot about mestarflowers on October 22nd, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
I'm still interested, stupidhead. I miss you.

I love this story, I love how you narrated it, dropping small hints that slowly build up to something entirely different, it's so mundane but with those hints of something not quite as mundane as it seems slipped in there. I also loved how just when the reader thinks they've gotten it figured out, you casually toss out the fact that it's the afterlife. That's pretty skilled and shows a great deal of narrative control, I really didn't see that coming, and it was pretty awesome.

I love the repeated images of scorch marks, which are a really strange things for a guy to miss, which add to the surreal imagery of the whole story and make it immediately much more than a simple story about a man working a desk job. The burn and heat of his former career compared to the stagnant, controlled atmosphere he finds himself in now draws a nice foil comparison that has the reader's imagination constantly shifting back and forth between cool, calm images, and images of fire. That, too, is awesome.

Anyway, in summary: HURRAY, you are awesome. The end.
the Queen of Melodrama & Irrationality: .because i definitely rulethethirdbar on October 22nd, 2008 11:19 am (UTC)
i am GLAD you're still interested, though i am not too sure about that 'stupidhead' comment. :p i miss you too, but your life is so dramatic and busy and mine has... a lot of books in it at the moment. who would have thought that my final year of uni would actually involve some effort? argh. :| you should get a twitter! then i would probably speak to you more. :|


and, also. ooh, wow, that was such a brilliant comment, thank you! so reviewy and helpful 'cause it tells me that apparently i actually did achieve the effects i was going for. :D i am so glad you liked it! thankyou (again). :D :D :D
that hypocritical tart.: take me to bed i'll be oh-so-quietboho on October 25th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
i second that you should get a twitter!

(s, i heart this story!)

i miss you both!
the Queen of Melodrama & Irrationality: .everybody look at me methethirdbar on October 27th, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
(thankyou!)

i miss you too. you should live in liverpool again so i have someone to go to the cambridge with me. :| :p
that hypocritical tart.boho on October 27th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
s, i am missing liverpool so much today it hurts. i shall be there saturday for drunkeness with becky, so d'you fancy a drink/lunch sometime in the day?
the Queen of Melodrama & Irrationality: .doctor <3 rosethethirdbar on October 27th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
your icon is unbelievably cool.

and also, that is because liverpool is fab and you were a foolish bunny to leave. and a drink/lunch sounds fabulous, actually. i would love to if you have time'n'stuff. :):)
that hypocritical tart.: shall we kiss on the lipsboho on October 27th, 2008 11:23 pm (UTC)
i'm halloweenified!~

i always have time for you! i can be over to liverpool pretty much any time on saturday so name a time & place that's convenient? we could ajs/cambridge drink or food or tokyous if you wanna go to town... or. basically anywhere. :|