The Assignment: Take a character you've used before (preferably a part of an ongoing project) and give them a day off. That is a little break from the story line to lay back a bit, maybe collect their thoughts, and just take it easy.
Days off were pure hell. Bob saw himself with two choices: stay cooped up at home and be miserable, or go out and be miserable. He was really only comfortable in his office with his head buried in lines of code. Making his electronic slaves do ever more fantastic tricks by imagining newer and more novel ways to manipulate memory space, processor time, and bandwidth. His manager had long ago banned him from working from home. He thought it was unhealthy for Bob to spend every hour of every weekend working. Plus, the testing department just couldn't keep up with him.
Bob sighed and sat on the bottom step staring at his shoes, positioned neatly on the doormat. He had intended to go for a drive in the country, find a deserted country road where he could just drive for hours and be out of the house and alone. He clutched a Google map in one hand with directions to just such a road. And yet, he remained there on the bottom step, indecisively staring at his shoes.
Closing his eyes, he put his head between his knees and took a few long, slow breaths. Then, he resolutely stood up and walked to the door. Slipping on his shoes, he opened the door and stepped outside. The bright morning sun glared in his eyes, and he squinted up and down the road in both directions. When he was satisfied that nobody was coming, he locked the door and walked quickly down the stairs. He was fumbling to get his key in the car door when he was startled by a voice.
"Well Bob! Fancy meeting you here! I thought I knew everyone in the neighborhood, and yet I had no idea that someone from my office lived just down the street!"
Larry. His friendly smile as wide as ever and his happy face sweaty with the exertion of an early morning jog. Bob froze, staring at his own reflection in the window.
"Where you off to so early in the morning? Got a hot date or something? Good looking guy like you probably has to beat them off with a stick huh?" Larry guffawed at his own joke, but Bob started frantically jiggling the car keys in the lock.
"You got a sticky keyhole there Bob? I got some WD-40 in my garage that'll fix that right up. You know what they say about that Bob? If it moves and it should stay still, use duct tape. If it stays still and it should move, use WD-40! Right Bob? Right?" Bob finally got the door unlocked, and wrenched the door open. He slid into the seat and slammed the door on Larry's self-amused laughter. His hands were shaking so badly that he had to fumble with the ignition too, but Larry still stood there, watching him and rambling on as if Bob was not behind a glass and sheet metal wall. Finally the ignition switch turned, the engine purred to life, and without another look at Larry, Bob pulled the gearshift into reverse and backed out of the driveway. As he drove off, he risked one glance at the rearview mirror to see that Larry was still standing there at the end of his driveway watching him drive off. One hand raised briefly in a farewell wave, and Bob flinched and pushed even harder on the gas pedal.
Hours later, he had finally found a place to relax. Although Bob was not a big fan of nature per se, at least he was alone and he had a good viewpoint so that he could see if anyone was approaching. It was a small state park at the site of some inconsequential Civil War battle, and after following a trail for a mile or two, Bob had found a scenic overlook at the top of a bald hill. He sat there in the afternoon sun, actually enjoying the warmth of it on his face. He forgot for a second his disgust at the filthiness of the wooden bench he was sitting on, as he reveled in the enjoyment of the pure aloneness he felt. No sound but the distant calls of birds reached his ears. Bob sat in that same spot for almost four hours, until he noticed that the sun was nearing the western hills. The thought of finding his way back along the trail in the dark petrified him and he sprinted almost the entire distance back to his car. He arrived back at the car just as the sun disappeared and pulled into his driveway long after dark.
Not bad, Bob decided, as far as days off go.
© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved