To be prompt is a virtue, but to be a slave to your watch is not.
|Crazy Insane Mega Contest entry: 1000 Word Maximum
Stanley Higgins took a right outside his apartment complex at 8:15 to catch the 8:32 bus as he had each day for nearly twenty years. He worked as an insurance adjuster downtown at Peake Insurance.
Stanley had never been late a day in his life. He was always on time...always. Two clocks were positioned strategically in each room of his apartment, and he wore not one, or even two, but three watches simultaneously. In fact, when he was due to be born on October 9th, his mother pushed him screaming into the world on (O)ctober (n)inth, (T)welve (i)nstantly, (m)idnight (e)xactly. Stanley would rather be dead than late.
Stanley took notice of a new fixture sitting against the brick building by the bus stop. He glanced at the scruffy man wearing a long, dirty overcoat, ripped jeans and sneakers. He was careful not to jangle the change in his pocket as he walked by and sat on the bench a few feet from this new stranger. A marriage of liquor and body odor overwhelmed Stanley's senses. He looked at his watches: 8:26.
“Mornin’,” came the voice from behind him.
Stanley did a half turn, enough to see the rotting teeth smiling through the man’s haphazard beard. “Good morning.”
“What’s your name, mister?”
Stanley turned back. “I don’t have any money.”
The man chuckled, “I didn’t ask you for your money. I just asked your name.”
“Stanley.” Again he looked at his watches: 8:30.
“Okay, Just Stanley. Mind if I call you Mr. Stan? You look like a Mr. Stan.”
“I really don’t care what you do.”
“Want to know my name?” Stanley said nothing. “Of course not,” the man said. “Well, it’s Guy. Homeless Guy,” he said laughing to himself.
Stanley could make out the bus up the street and stood up. A minute later the bus pulled up, and Freida opened the door with her usual smile, and said “Good morning, Stan.”
For a moment Stanley forgot all about Homeless Guy and warmly returned Freida’s smile. “Morning, Freida.”
He stepped up into the stairwell, then tripped as Homeless Guy blurted, “Have yourself a wonderful day, Mr. Stan.”
Freida jumped out of the driver's seat. “Are you Okay, Stan?” she asked as she helped him back on his feet.
“Fine, just fine,” he replied as he turned and shot a glare at Homeless Guy. He showed his pass to Freida, who had stopped looking at it about five years before, and sat on the right side of the bus, as always. They pulled away and Stanley was repulsed at the rotted teeth of Homeless Guy's smile as he gave Stanley a ‘good-bye’ wave.
To Stanley’s chagrin, Homeless Guy sat by the bus stop every day for the next two months, trying to talk about this or that. And every day Stanley acted as if no one were there.
“It’s only a matter of time,” Homeless Guy would say each day before Stanley stepped on the bus.
One morning, an accident ahead of Stanley's bus caused a terrific traffic jam, which sent Stanley feverishly checking his watches. After five-minutes of vehicle gridlock, he stood up and jumped into the stairwell. “Let me out, Freida.” he said.
“I’m sure we’ll be moving shortly, Stan.”
“Let me out, I said!”
“Okay, already,” she said as she pulled on the bar opening the door.
He jumped down the stairwell and ran down the street with his briefcase; his suit coat flapped in the breeze. This was not the first time he showed up with sweat pouring off his body; but at his desk for 9 am.
“Why don’t you ask that driver out, Mr. Stan? It’s pretty obvious you like her,” Homeless Guy started in one day.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” It was the first time Stanley replied since tripping on the bus months before.
“Stop giving all your time to those mechanical slave-drivers on your wrists and start living your life is what I’m saying.”
“You shouldn't do this to yourself. It’s not healthy, that's all.”
“As if you know what is and what isn’t good for your health,” Stanley laughed at the absurdity.
“The world won’t come to an end if you’re late just once, Mr. Stan.” The bus pulled up. “It’s only a matter of time.”
When he arrived at work that morning, Mr. Peterson took Stanley aside. “I just wanted to give you the heads up that the company will be presenting you with a little plaque tomorrow to commemorate your perfect attendance and on-time performance for the past twenty years.”
“I don‘t need a plaque, Mr. Peterson. Really, it’s no big deal.”
“No big deal? Quite frankly, Stanley, it’s unheard of. See you tomorrow at nine o’clock sharp.”
The following rainy morning Stanley awoke to find his alarm clocks reading 8:05; no time to find out what happened, he dressed and shot out the door at 8:23. He ran to the bus stop. Stanley didn’t notice Homeless Guy as he stuck out his leg catching Stanley’s right ankle. He went down with a splash. He could taste the mud on his lips. He turned with fury. Homeless Guy only grinned. “It’s only a matter of time, Mr. Stan.”
Stanley had never wanted to wring a person's neck so badly in all his life. For a long moment he contemplated going as he was. It was ridiculous, of course, but he would be on time. He stood up and pointed his finger like a dagger, “You have NO idea what you've just done!”
“I’m sure I do,” he heard Homeless Guy say as Stanley decided to run back to his apartment, passing the bus going in the opposite direction.
Stanley walked like a turtle into the office at 9:22. His colleagues and Mr. Peterson stood by Stanley's empty cubicle.
Mr. Peterson rushed up to Stanley and bellowed, “Why are you late, Mr. Higgins?”
“I, I tripped, Sir and …” Mr. Peterson put up his hand in a stop gesture.
The anger in Mr. Peterson's face twisted into a grin. “This has got to be the best God-damned joke I've ever had the pleasure to witness. Welcome to the real world, Stanley.” He slapped Stanley on the back while his colleagues all laughed and began to clap.
Stanley laughed nervously. His world didn’t end as he always believed; it was truly only a matter of time.