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Paul Greenberg
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A Madness Shared by Two

 

by Paul Greenberg

 

 

Robert Bland’s biggest accomplishment to date was, living up to his surname.

Home on a Friday night with a bucket of KFC and a gallon of orange soda, watching a rerun of The X-Files. In this episode, Gary Lambert, the main character, while working as a telemarketer, sees his boss for what he actually is: a giant mind- sucking, bug-like creature, who turns his employees into zombies. Of course, no one believes Gary Lambert, so he’s forced to go postal and take the office hostage. Cue Mulder and Scully.

He went down to Walmart and bought the X-Files DVD and watched the episode, entitled “Folie a Deux,” several times over the weekend.

By Monday, this buzz had pretty much run its course, as he settled back into his routine.

At work, in his cubicle taking calls, trying not to watch the clock, he would count only the time until his next break. Twenty minutes until my fifteen-minute break, he thought. Two hours until lunch. Time seemed to go by faster when you chewed it into little chunks. Like Gary Lambert in the X-Files episode, Robert knew that this job was killing him.

He went to the men’s room at the start of his break and splashed cold water onto his face. Under the sink, he found a plastic bottle of pink cleaning solvent, some Ajax, and a bottle of Lysol. He pulled a coffee cup and a book of matches from the trash can and mixed the three ingredients in the cup, creating a sludgy mess. He then picked a few matches from the book and stuck them in the cup like candles on a cake.

Walking over to the break room, he put the paper cup in the microwave, and set it for 15 minutes. He had no idea what this would accomplish, but he was hoping that it would be loud and at the very least, get everyone the afternoon off.

He went back to his cubicle and put on his headset, adjusting his computer to: “Ready to receive call.” Robert took a couple of calls, and his mind cleared to the task at hand.

Glancing at the clock on his computer, he saw that twenty minutes had passed. He stood and looked over the wall of his cubicle towards the break room and saw a woman coming out with a steaming paper cup. His paper cup.

She stood, sad and with dead eyes, staring at the rows of cubicles in front of her. She tipped the cup to her mouth and drank, then fell convulsing to the floor.

People swarmed around her, calling for 911. The frothy mixture bubbled over her lips and cheeks as she vomited.

Robert shrunk back in his chair.  

His headphones beeped.  He had an incoming call.

“Hello, this is Robert. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”

 

 

         

 

Paul Greenberg’s fiction can be read at All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, Thrills, Kills ‘n’ Chaos, and Out of the Gutter, where his seventh piece for them, “Instant Karma,” ran in July. He lives north of Boston Massachusetts.

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