Muted his pallor almost ashen, the supervisor slouched at his desk mumbling how bad it was. “The entire department will be given the axe.” The worst had happened. Gary looked around the office, a dreary place with no windows or carpeting.
One desk after another in long dull lines…logs of print-outs thrown everywhere. All his work, his unpaid overtime and still the program would be killed. It was time to shut off lights and go home. No explanation given except some lame budget cut spiel.
But then again, nobody explained why so many homeless people lived stranded on the streets. Pedestrians stepped gingerly around squalid jumbles. How could this be happening in the richest country on earth? It would be Christmas soon. School children slept on subway platforms. Dirty old men searched the garbage for nickel deposit cans. What will become of that dirty woman screaming in the middle of traffic? Or the amputee in a Veterans Hospital wheelchair eating food from a dumpster? The president ought to call this an emergency instead of worrying about some other country.
“An inhuman time, this is another dark age we are living through”, he told himself. A man panhandled near the subway turnstile. “Get out of here” snarled a transit worker, “get out before I call the cops.” The crippled pushed a paper cup which held some coins toward his crutches as he ambled through the exit. Outside in blustery cold winds, weary Santas clanged bells asking for money.
Gary split fast feeling his stomach bunch into a hard ball. Plowing up apartment steps, groping for his keys, he nudged open the door. Clothes and towels littered floors. Taped to his television hung a note scrawled in capital letters BALANCE CHECK BOOK NOW. Tapping his foot, agitated, he began to search for pen and paper. Waves of exhaustion flooded him. Picking up an old sports magazine, staring at it, he thought about how many things needed to be done. A groan issued from his throat.
There was ginger ale in the fridge and some rum to spike it with. He would pour out a long shot because tomorrow would be soon enough to think about his list and all the other stupid things in life. The alarm clock was set for early. Guzzling down his drink, his eyelids growing heavy, Gary plunged into troubled sleep.
Winding, wandering, walking through a dream forest of trees. All identical trees. Mechanical rows of dusty brown trees…each trunk a precise silhouette of the next. None of these trees have branches. They have been cut off. No leaves no green no leaves dancing in sunshine. No buds no blossoms no sweet perfume no silken petals. No bugs no squirrels rustling up and down no bees no birds in chorus. No living things. Just long rows, long rows of tree stumps waiting in wooden silence.