Black Petals Issue #97, Autumn, 2021

The Working Man

Home
Editor's Page
BP Artist's Page
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A World of Sensations-Fiction by Michael Dority
Goddess Deva-Fiction by David Starobin
Hunting Ground-Fiction by N. G. Leonetti
Love Letters-Fiction by S. J. Townend
No Content Available-Fiction by Richard Brown
Phantom Smell-Fiction by Daniel G. Snethen
Predatory Peepers-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Visit-Fiction by B. E. Nugent
The Working Man-Fiction by Christopher Hivner
The Extermination-Fiction By Dominique K. Pierce
Win-A-Burger-Fiction by Glenn Dungan
Counting Time-Flash Fiction by Ramon F. Irizarri
Terry and the Techo-Frog-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Epistolean-Flash Fiction by Harris Coverly
Labelled Rocks-Flash Fiction by Holden Zuras
Along Side of the Road-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Beneath the Weeping Willow-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Half-Life-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Liquid Darkness-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Lost-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Succubus Seductress-Poem by Carl E. Reed
The Crime of Frankenstein-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Brother's Keeper-Poem by Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar
Razor Beak-Poem by Jessica Heron
The Fall of Vampire Hunters-Poem by Matthew Wilson

97_bp_workingman_mdavis.jpg
Art by Michael D. Davis 2021

The Working Man

 

Christopher Hivner

 

 

“There’s something wrong with you, Carl.”

Carl Benson sat in front of his boss’s desk, his backside squeezed into a ridiculously small wood-and-cloth chair. The legs of the chair jutted at odd angles, raising the front higher than the back, making Carl feel like he was taking off in a jet. Carl tried to suck in his stomach and butt at the same time, running out of air quickly, making a rude noise expelling the stored breath. Mr. Dawson wrinkled his nose.

“I know you’ve always been diligent in your work Carl,” Mr. Dawson said. “Indeed, with everyone’s work,” he finished with a sigh.

“Just takin’ care of business like my dad taught me,” Carl said, his eyes closing as he tried to smile. His headache was back. For several weeks he’d been having sporadic, intense pain all around the top of his head. He blinked hard to quell the ache.

“Look, Carl,” Mr. Dawson said. “We’ve all gotten used to you walking up to someone who wasn’t at their desk working and pointing to your watch. We’ve tolerated your loud exclamations of ‘Boy I’m sure getting a lot of work done today. I wonder how everyone else is doing?’ But recently you’ve crossed the line.”

“Yeah, sure,” Carl laughed. “People in this office don’t work and it’s my fault.”

“You walked up to Donna while she was talking to my assistant and threatened to staple her lips shut if she didn’t sit down and get to work.”

“We’re here to work. Right?” Carl shrugged his shoulders.

“Darren Stallings printed tickets to a concert out on the color printer and you tore them up, put the scraps in a bowl and lit them with a match.”

Smacking his left palm with the side of his right hand, Carl said “company time and company equipment should be used for company business.” He ended his point by tugging at his shirt collar. Some of the extra pounds he had put on over the last year had settled in his neck. His shirt and tie were strangling him, and his head felt like a knife blade was being plunged into his skull.

“This is my company Carl,” Mr. Dawson said while leaning back in his all- leather, king’s throne of a chair, crossing his stick-thin legs. “If I say it’s okay for my employees to use the printer, or their computer, for personal reasons, that’s my choice. Not yours. If people want to take a few minutes to have a friendly conversation during a long day, I think that’s healthy.”

“Yeah, sure,” Carl said with a shake of his head.

“I don’t want to lose you, Carl. You’re the most productive employee I’ve ever had, but you need to tone down your behavior.”

“Ok.” Carl nodded, throwing his hands into the air. He pried himself out of the chair, nodded again along with a wave before leaving the office.

Trudging down the hall, Carl muttered to himself, his head bobbing animatedly. He just didn’t understand Mr. Dawson’s lenient attitude. Carl Benson was a blue-collar worker in a white-collar world. His father’s work ethic as well as his frustrations with those who didn’t share that ethic were in Carl’s DNA. When he had been in construction, work got done. Here, in this suffocating office, no one cared.

“The working man has to do everything,” Carl muttered as he returned to his desk. He sat down and was immediately hit with a pain rolling through his head. A bottle of Tylenol sat next to his desk lamp. He popped the lid off and swallowed several pills straight from the bottle without water.

Frank Benson, Carl’s dad, had known the value of a good day’s work. From construction to machining, his hands were busy 8-12 hours a day for forty years. To Frank there was a time for jokes, a time for eating and drinking, a time for family and a time for working. Carl idolized his father, replacing the blood in his veins with Frank’s words and feelings.

Carl was being driven mad by the rest of the world who wasted time that was allotted for the work they were getting paid for. Every day at his own office and elsewhere he watched men and women on their phones, doing crossword puzzles, talking about Netflix, all while on their company’s time. Carl didn’t think it was asking too much for people to work while they were on the job.

“Why do I end up doing everything?” Carl muttered.

Carl’s blood pressure spiked with the pain in his temples. He couldn’t believe the lack of control Mr. Dawson held over his employees. He signed into his computer coming to a stop partway through his password when he heard the laugh again.

“I don’t believe it,” Carl said, his left eye twitching. Across the aisle, his co-worker Denny Fulbright, guffawed robustly.

“Every day,” Carl said through gritted teeth. He tried to ignore the noise. He waited for someone else to say something about the distraction, but they blithely continued with their own wastes of time.

Denny laughed again followed by his high-pitched voice saying, “Look at them go.”

Fuming, Carl stood up at his desk. The fluorescent light in the ceiling caught his left eye sending a charge of pain through his head. Carl hitched his pants up, losing his fight to pull them over his extra-thirty-pound belly. The laugh exploded again.

“I got this dad,” Carl said. He picked up his pen and walked ten feet to his right, aside of Denny’s desk. Denny glanced up as Carl approached.

“What can I do you for Carl,” Denny said, still watching a video on his computer of a dog chasing a cat chasing a squirrel chasing a chipmunk.

“Takin’ care of business,” Carl mumbled. Then he grabbed Denny around the neck, yanked his head back and drove the pen into Denny’s left eye.

Denny Fulbright’s screams only lasted for seconds. As Carl drove the pen deeper, Denny’s voice quickly lowered to a droning gurgle. The initial blood spurt hit Carl in the nose. He snorted, blowing a spray of red dots onto his arm, then breathed in, taking a globule of blood into his sinuses.

“Ah,” Carl growled while trying to expel Denny’s fluids. Denny flopped in his chair like a boated tuna. Carl pressed his full body weight down, driving the pen down until Denny was still. Carl waited a beat before finally releasing his grip on the body. He stumbled backward out of Denny’s cubicle into the aisle.

Carl stood, breathing heavily, blood coating his face, arm and shirt. Other co-workers stared in disbelief, a few with a hand over their mouth. It took a moment for Carl to escape his reverie and notice his audience. When he did, he put a hand in the air, smiled and said, “Don’t worry folks, I know what I’m doing.”

Then Carl Benson fell face first onto the floor, unconscious.

*****

 

Carl blinked, moved his eyes left and right, finally realizing his face was lying against something cold. He lifted his head. Looking down at a silver, metal table he saw a puddle of his drool. Carl moved his left hand to wipe his mouth only to find his wrist was chained to the table. Moving the right hand rattled another chain.

“Where am I?” Carl mumbled. He tilted his head, thinking. A dopey grin formed on his face.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Denny.” His grin vanished quickly as his father’s visage appeared on the table top. Frank Benson’s wide neck and thick face stared at Carl with a disapproving glare.

“I went too far, didn’t I dad?” Carl said. He sat back in the chair, the headache that had been tearing his head into ribbons was idle for now, but he could feel the pressure sitting in wait at the back of his skull.

“I was only trying to get everyone to work,” Carl mumbled to himself, remembering the long shifts his dad had put in, coming home late, tired and agitated. At 6’4” and over 300 pounds, Frank was the image if his nickname, Bear. While Carl was supposed to be doing his homework he listened to dad complain to mom about his job; people not pulling their weight, supervisors not taking charge.

“Why do I have to do everything?” Carl said, repeating what he’d heard his dad ask rhetorically over and over.

Frank Benson’s admonishing face faded from the table as the door of the room swung open and two detectives walked in. Carl immediately felt the pain in his head activate.

“Mr. Benson,” the first detective into the room said overly cheery, “good to see you awake.”

“Yeah, sure.”

The detective was tall, athletically trim, and dressed in an expensive blue suit. He sat down on the opposite side of the table. “I’m detective Flaharty.” He pointed to a short, squat, hairy man leaning against the wall with hands in his pockets. “That is detective Banks.”

“Yeah, sure, how ya doin?” Carl said with a firm nod.

“We would like to hear why you stabbed your co-worker Denny Fulbright in the eye with a pen,” Flaharty said.

“On pins and needles,” Banks added sarcastically.

“Yeah, well,” Carl started, “. . . he was a thief.”

“Ok,” Flaharty said with hesitation. “And that’s why you killed him?”

“He sat there every day watching videos on his computer, making phone calls to his ex-wife, his kids, who knows who else. That slob never did any work. I’d get calls about his clients because he wasn’t takin’ care of business.”

“You said he was a thief,” detective Banks grumbled from the corner.

“What did I just tell you,” Carl yelled. The pain circled around to the front of his head.

“Back it down, Carl,” Flaharty said while tapping his fingers on the table.

“You don’t think screwing around at work isn’t stealing?” Carl said, his irritation growing again. “Every minute that jerk spent not doing his job fell back on everyone else in the office, you know what I mean?”

“So you’re saying he was like a time thief?”

“Whatever pretty words you want to use.”

“And that’s why you stabbed him,” Banks said, walking closer. “In the eye . . . with a pen?”

Carl looked at the man’s fat, furry arms as Banks leaned onto the table. Then he met Bank’s gaze.

“I went to my boss, again and again. Told him that Denny was wasting time and not doing his job. He did nothing.” Carl upturned his hands, holding them out in front of his body. “I mean, he talked to him. That’s not punishment. There were no consequences.”

“So you took matters into your hands?” Flaharty asked.

“It’s like my dad said, ‘It always falls on the working man to do the right thing.’”

Carl stood up, his eyes wide and bouncing.

“Don’t worry, I’ll clean up everyone’s mess!” he yelled.

“Mr. Benson, sit down.”

“Damn it, where is that noise coming from?” Carl jammed a finger into his right ear. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Carl! Sit down,” Flaharty said, standing himself. Carl forced his finger farther into his ear, his body jerking left and right, the chains on his wrists clanking off the metal table.

“Grab him,” Flaharty yelled to Banks. The two men stepped toward Carl before Carl suddenly spun to his left. A spray of blood flew from his ear onto Flaharty.

“Shit, he’s bleeding,” Banks said, backing away.

“Don’t worry,” Carl said, still digging his finger deep in his ear while blood streamed out. “I know what I’m doing.”

With that, Carl Benson fell face first into the table, bounced off and collapsed to the floor, unconscious.

*****

 

Carl started to lift his right arm to scratch his nose but the chain attached was too short. His wrist jerked back a foot shy of his face. After scratching his itch with his other hand, Carl saw two police officers through the window of the operating room door. They had been his escorts from the police station to the hospital after he had collapsed.

So far Carl’s visit to the hospital had included checking into a room, being taken for a brain scan, left in an anteroom for almost two hours, back to his regular room, being talked to like he was an idiot by a doctor with a Grizzly Adams beard, given a cocktail of medication, having his head shaved and finally deposited in an operating room for brain surgery on the gray mass Dr. Beard said was a tumor. And through it all Dipwad and Dumbshit had been close by.

“All this,” Carl mumbled, “because I got rid of someone who wouldn’t work. If management had just done their job . . .”

Carl hated being an account manager for a plumbing supply company. It’s not what he dreamt of when he used to discuss his future with dad. Construction was where Carl wanted to be, putting to use everything dad had taught him. Being a working man, blue collar, sweating for every dollar. His dream had been a reality for only four short years.

With a shake of his head, he tried to erase the memories but instead stirred them up.

“Damn it,” Carl spit, wiping away a tear with the back of his hand. Lying in the hospital bed felt like just after the accident. When that wall collapsed onto him and ruined his back it re-charted the course of Carl’s life; no more physical labor, living on tramadol just to get through the day, setting off metal detectors because of the metal rod in his spine.

Carl’s dad was by his bedside when he came out of surgery. Only 57 but looking 70, in a wheelchair because his diabetes and blood pressure were eating him alive, Frank Benson held his son’s hand and told him he was proud of him.

The ghost of Frank Benson still hovered in the room when the doors opened, and two surgeons with two nurses walked in. Carl took a deep breath to calm down as the nurses prepped two trays full of instruments and the doctors looked at Carl’s scans.

Over the next sixty minutes, a metal piece was affixed to Carl’s head to keep it still during the operation. He was given Propofol to sedate him and his scalp was injected with a local anesthetic. Through it all the nurses chatted like school girls while waiting for the surgeons to begin. Carl felt like an afterthought as the “important” people buzzed around him doing “important” things.

“I don’t feel bad,” Carl said out loud.

The surgeons and nurses stopped talking to stare at him. One of the doctors walked over, putting a hand on Carl’s shoulder.

“Mr. Benson, I’m Dr. Malek. Myself and Dr. Overton will be performing surgery today to remove the mass that is in your brain.”

“Yeah,” Carl replied. “Mass, tumor, blob, doesn’t matter what you call it, I feel fine.”

“Ok, Carl,” Dr. Malek said with condescension. “May I call you Carl?”

“Sure, everybody else does.”

“All right. We have your scalp numbed so we’re ready to cut it open. Following that we will be removing a portion of your skull so we can get to the area of your brain that the tumor resides. Ok?”

“Resides? Like it’s paying me rent or something.”

“Are you ready, Carl?” Dr. Overton asked with a sigh.

“Yeah, sure. Get it over with.”

Carl found himself mesmerized by the sounds of his head being opened up. Some of them reminded him of when he was a construction worker. The nurses and doctors voices were soft now from concentration, floating into Carl’s ears like clouds.

“How are you Carl?” Dr. Overton asked.

“Yeah, fine.”

“Good. We’re ready to lift a piece of your skull off to take a look at your brain. All right?”

“Sure.” The sedative hadn’t worked at all, Carl thought. He was agitated, not relaxed, and started mumbling to himself in a whisper.

“Brain tumor. Right. It’s a bad headache, I can work through it. Whatever happened with Denny, the two of us can sort it out like men. I’ll call him lazy, he’ll call me tight ass, Mr. Dawson will do nothing, and everything is back to normal. Why is my wrist chained? I need to go back to work.”

Carl felt tingles as the doctors worked, but no pain. He knew by their conversation that they had his skull opened and were probing the tumor. They consulted the brain scans while looking at the mass from multiple angles.

“It’s really wedged in between the folds,” Dr. Overton said.

“It could be bigger than we originally thought,” Dr. Malek added.

“How do you want to proceed?”

“Starting to cut here seems the most logical but I worry about nicking brain tissue because of its depth.”

“I think any other approach makes the likelihood of a mistake much higher.”

“Agreed. But how deep should our initial cut be?”

“Let me study the scan again.”

“It doesn’t appear to show the root clearly.”

“We may need to get another scan done.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Carl suddenly said. “Blah, blah, blah. Talk, talk talk. I’ll do it myself.”

Carl reached his free-from-restraint left arm out to the tray of surgical instruments. His hand landed hard sending metal pieces crashing to the floor.

“Mr. Benson!” one of the doctors yelled.

Both surgeons made sloppy grabs for Carl’s arm, but their patient’s fingers had already wrapped around a scalpel. When Dr. Malek held his wrist, Carl jerked his arm back, catching the doctor across the chest with the instrument’s blade. Dr. Malek flailed backward into Dr. Overton sending both men tumbling to the operating room floor.

Carl jabbed the scalpel at his head, at first stabbing his scalp causing rivulets of blood to roll down his face. He adjusted his aim and found his brain, digging the blade into the soft fruit.

“Don’t worry,” Carl said. “I know what I’m doing.” After one more thrust of the blade, Carl Benson’s eyes closed as he fell unconscious.

 

*****

 

“Roger that,” the blond policeman said into his radio. He was standing so close Carl’s nose filled with the man’s Axe body spray.

“What are we doing,” the dark haired policeman asked his partner. He was on Carl’s other side, no body spray and no deodorant either.

“Not sure yet. They haven’t made up their minds,” Blondie said.

“Unbelievable.”

Carl sat on a chair in a small room. He was still in his hospital gown, and his head was swathed in bandages. No one was sure what to do with him. He needed further brain surgery, especially now that he had done damage to himself. But the hospital was also dealing with two injured surgeons. Malek was being treated for a deep laceration on his chest while Overton had broken his arm falling into the wall. Hospital administrators were unsure they wanted to treat Carl any longer.

Carl wasn’t even sure where he was all of the time. His eyes bobbled in his head like marbles bouncing into each other. He had a crooked smile on his face and he answered any question with “Gotta get back to work.” As he listened to the policemen talk, his head bobbed and twisted in all directions including up and down.

“Gotta get back to work,” he mumbled.

“Not today, pal,” the dark haired officer said with a laugh.

“61, come in,” a voice buzzed over Blondie’s radio.

“Go ahead command,” the officer responded.

“Sit tight. Replacement team coming to relieve you.”

“Understood. What about the prisoner?”

“No decision yet. Hospital brass still arguing with our brass.”

“Nice. 61 out.”

The dark haired policeman shook his head. “What are they waiting for?” he said. “Can’t we just lock this guy up?”

“He stabbed himself in the brain.”

“So lock him up in a mental place.”

“Not our decision.”

“Bullcrap.”

“Doesn’t matter, we’re getting off duty.”

“This is just stupid.”

“Gotta get back to work,” Carl said as he stood up.

“Come on pal,” Blondie said, putting his hand on Carl’s shoulder.

Carl turned quickly, shackled hands out in front at shoulder height. He connected with Blondie’s jaw sending him falling over Carl’s chair.

“Shit,” the dark haired officer yelled while grabbing for his gun.

“GOTTA GO TO WORK,” Carl yelled. He lowered his head and rammed into the policeman’s mid-section. His gun fell from his hand as Carl pushed him into his partner on the floor. The officer fell backward into the wall, hitting his head. Dark hair fell down unconscious, lying on top of Blondie.

On the bottom, the blonde officer pulled his gun out only to have Carl knock it away before kicking him in the face, Blondie’s eyes rolled back in his head as he also lost consciousness.

“Gotta go to work.”

 

END

Christopher Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books and the echoes of music. He has recently been published in The Horror Zine and Siren’s Call. website: www.chrishivner.com, Facebook: Christopher Hivner - Author, Twitter: @Your_screams

Site maintained by Fossil Publications