The Struggling Humorist sat in his borrowed car outside the laundry depot and stared at the dashboard clock.
The Struggling Humorist didn’t want to spend one extra second inside the laundry depot. He wanted an ejector seat, a spring-loaded stool behind the counter that would launch him through the plate glass storefront at precisely four pm.
The Struggling Humorist checked his email for any last-minute, lucrative, out-of-town freelance assignments.
The Struggling Humorist’s benefactor had packed him a lunch, even though there was a chain bakery right next door. “You’ll never save any money buying lunch everyday,” she said, slicing a cucumber. “I’ll never save any money anyway,” said The Struggling Humorist. “The idea that this country values hard work is laughable. Who can say that with a straight face while dishing out $8.50 an hour? What I need to do is get on disability: 18K a year, Medicaid, a kindly case worker to visit now and again.”
The Struggling Humorist’s benefactor cried softly while wrapping his sandwich in tin foil.
The Struggling Humorist ducked into the mud room and sucked on an electronic cigarette.
The Struggling Humorist sat on the stool behind the counter and stared at the register. The buttons were stamped with Korean characters. His manager tried to explain what they meant.
The Struggling Humorist tapped a pedal and garments swished by in plastic bags.
The Struggling Humorist wondered when the monotony might induce a meditative state.
The Struggling Humorist’s mind wandered. He imagined a pill that would allow workers to pass the hours in a kind of productive trance.
The Struggling Humorist wouldn’t mind trancing out all day, all week, all year, save, say, Christmas Eve and certain summer weekends.
The Struggling Humorist and a sexy rogue chemist develop Trance. Together they oversee an increasingly volatile drug empire. He enjoys several years of well-compensated notoriety. He purchases a car, a sea plane, treats his benefactors to an opulent brunch. Under the influence of his own invention The Struggling Humorist is ruthless, charming and calculating. Industrialists pressure the government to take action. They can’t bear the thought of their minions not wishing for sweet death every moment of every shift. Federal agents raid their secret underwater Trance lab. The Struggling Humorist and the chemist escape through a pipe maze and swim to the waiting sea plane. The chemist’s white coat goes translucent, revealing lacy lingerie and heaving…
The Struggling Humorist was interrupted by a stern clacking of bejeweled talons against the grimy glass. A Korean woman stood before him. “Who are you?” she asked.
The Struggling Humorist’s manager pleaded with the Korean woman—the owner of the laundry depot, as it turned out—not to fire them both. The manager never had the authority to hire The Struggling Humorist or anyone else. “But I need time to build the web site,” said the manager.
The Struggling Humorist excused himself from the conversation and read his high school’s Annual Report in the bathroom.
The Struggling Humorist accepted a severance offer of a day’s pay straight from the register. It was barely noon.
The Struggling Humorist went next door to the chain bakery and bought a ginger ale. He unwrapped his lunch. The bread, while toasted, hadn’t hardened. The hummus mixed well with the mustard. Tomato guts remained intact. It was a very good sandwich.
Michael McGrath is a writer living in Connecticut. Visit him at www.mikeymcgrath.com.