by Omar Hussain
My alarm rattles my cranium. I wake up. Hit snooze. Fall back asleep.
The alarm prods me with shock. I wake up. Brush my teeth. Shower. Go to work.
I am mundane.
My boss calls me into his office. His face is crooked with fatigue. Eyes slouch. Hair receding. He fidgets with his glasses as he talks.
“We received a complaint from Jessica the other day. She doesn’t like the way you critiqued her report.”
“Do you feel like there was a better way you could have handled that?”
He writes me up.
The clock taunts me. Thirty minutes to five. I stare at the exit. Disgust and withdrawal pollute the air. The ventilation pumps in freon in vain. The women wrap themselves in shawls and coats and send emails to the operations department demanding that the heat be turned up. The men sit idle. Their collars flattened from the daily grind.
Others look to exit early. Cheryl goes first. She strides with fake confidence as she leaves. Pete goes next. He smiles and waves goodbye. Three more head for the door. I make it four.
We are all mundane.
My car shreds highway and miles of asphalt. Home is not the destination tonight.
I’m at the Arena. The local sports bar that gets crowded on Saturdays and Sundays. But this is Tuesday and I need something to do.
“The IPA?” Courtney asks. She smiles — the bartender’s flirt.
She turns around, tosses her golden hair over her shoulder and pours me a tall one. She sets the beer down. I lift the glass to my lips and slurp off the foam. Bad pour, Courtney. Bad pour.
A series of baritone roars echo behind me. I turn around and barrel-chested ogres — bulldog faces, bearded, clothed in flannel and Wranglers — laugh and shout back and forth. On and on. I try to decipher the language of lunatics.
“Bet you Bridget won’t let you stay out past eight.”
“You bastard,” the uglier one says. “Bridget don’t tell me what for. That house is in my name!”
Cue laughter. Cue shouting.
Cue me shaking my head.
“Boy, you shaking your head at us?”
Their drunk smiles have been erased off their drunk faces. They both stand up. They’re tall. Too tall. They’re burly. There is no such thing as “just enough burly.”
“I wasn’t. I swear.”
They walk over, knuckle hair flaring. Grab me by the shirt and drag me outside. Nobody offers any help. They toss me to the cold cement. A steel-toe boot stomps my left ear. My insides nearly explode from a gut-punch. They laugh as they bloody my nose. I lay still, in full turtle pose, coughing fire. They go back inside.
After a minute or two, something different washes over me. A napalm shower of “I can finally feel something.”
A loose tooth falls out as I smile wide. As I laugh uncontrollably.
Tonight is not mundane.
Omar Hussain is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, transplanted to Ann Arbor, Michigan. His beta-test novel, The Outlandish and the Ego, debuted in late 2017. It received some praise, remarkably.