THE QUIET ONES

One-word prompt from The Daily Post: Survival

John had stopped drinking again and had been doing fine for about 26 hours.

He was already being more productive. Thinking more clearly. Actually enjoying his duties as the president of the Board of his HOA for the first time in a long time.

In fact, just that morning, he sent the perfect email to the rest of the Board explaining in a believably cheerful tone the good news. A tenant had died in her sleep and  left a large sum of money to the condo community. Well, not so much to the condo as in the condo. But, as John explained in great detail in the email, he’d looked into it and this was completely on the up-and-up.

This money could be used to make needed improvements to the development’s shared spaces before the upcoming city inspection. Just a quick e-mail vote and he’d get the ball rolling. A mere technicality and then he’d save the world.

Chuck and Ellen responded ‘yes’ immediately. Jeremy usually didn’t respond to anything, which was as good as a ‘yes.’ Then, came the email from fucking Frank.

“I would vote yes, generally,” Frank had written. “But do we have time to wait until we can meet and discuss as a group? I have questions about…” this and that, things John had had the foresight to preemptively address in his email. Non-issues. John hated that non-word but that’s exactly what these were.

Keep cool, John. Still salvageable. And as he crafted a response, he got another email, this time from Chuck, rescinding his ‘yes’ vote. Siding with Frank.

 

John was immediately infuriated. His cheeks were warm and he was suddenly aware of the exact location of his heart in his chest. He had literally lost his cool. Why must everything be so hard?

“Also…” Chuck had pointed out, “if we were doing this the proper way we’d have time to discuss before a vote. Why are we rushing this? I’m still generally a yes, just a soft yes. Frank raises some very good points. ;)”

Except that he hadn’t. This was a coup. An unnecessary complication. Their need to feel involved and important at the sacrifice of John’s attempt to efficiently make things better for everyone involved.

Drinking John wouldn’t have minded so much because he’d be pleasantly buzzed at this time of morning. But this was a significant trigger for sober John, and it made him even more frustrated for that reason. The most frustrated of anyone ever, actually. He had to respond. And as he typed, his fingers did the devil’s dance on his keyboard conjuring words onto the screen that would fry the ether during transit and melt their fucking faces off.

But he didn’t send it. What good would it do?

They’d just muster the strength to poke a rebuttal email into their phones on the way to the hospital and this would go on indefinitely, the way it had been for months before, except now they’d be the victims, and undeniably, pitifully so, since he’d literally melted off their faces with that bomb-ass email.

But, then again, they’d have to prove it. John played it out in his mind.

“Nine-one-one what is your emergency?”

“[Background screams. Possibly the sound of an electrical fire.] My face. it’s like, gone. My fucking face melted off!”

“Sir, calm down. Tell me exactly what happened.”

“I was just sitting at my computer and then my face got really hot and then just… It’s all over my pants. My God, it’s everywhere.”

“Okay sir, I will dispatch an ambulance to your location. [pshhht] Number 43, we’ve got a possible drug overdose at XYZ Boulevard. Guy says his computer melted his face off. Please respond and… like, let us know how that goes. Like, for real.”

But that was feggin’ Frank. Chuck was less of an idiot and would likely piece this mystery together more quickly.

The first part will be the same, John figured. Nine-one-one what is your emergency? The dispatcher half yawns having heard it all before. Proof that all jobs end up being transactional and boring eventually. And all problems blamed on drugs… or requiring them. Or both.

Cut too… “Okay sir, tell me exactly how your face melted off.”

“I was checking emails at home and opened a message from [name redacted] and about halfway through my face got hot and I felt something hit the back of my hand and I looked down and saw my goatee roll off into my lap. It was still attached to my upper lip but now it’s just gone. Oh God, my face is gone. That bastard ruined my face!”

“Sir, calm down. I have an ambulance on the way. Now, help me understand. Are you suggesting this email caused your face too… fall off?”

“Yes, clearly! I know it sounds crazy but you don’t know this guy.”

“[pssht] Number 43 you’re not gonna believe this but we’ve got another white guy thinks his computer ate his face. [pssht] Okay sir, the ambulance is arriving now. Please stay on the line until they arrive and, actually just turn on your speakerphone once they get there so we can hear… er, help monitor the situation. Standard protocol.”

“Oh okay… here they come… they’re here.”

[Muffled background noise. Voices coming clearer.]

A male paramedic: “Chuck? Hello, what seems to be the… oh fuck!  I mean, here, sit down. Cindy, hand me some bandages. And gauze. We, shit, what… yeah, bring me the gauze.

[regular 911 stuff. Dog barking. Family Feud playing the background. Steve Harvey’s got another good one for ya. Chuck laments his face.] [unexpected female screaming]

Female paramedic: My face! Jesus Christ it’s true!

Male paramedic: Cindy, WTF happened?

Female paramedic: I didn’t believe it so I read the email on his computer and look at me! Oh my god whyyyy?

Male paramedic: For fuck’s sake Cindy, we’re already out of gauze.

And scene.

– – –

Two make a rumor but three, a conspiracy? Or however the saying goes.

John knew at this point suspicion would be mounting. And after three police officers and an FBI chief all lost their faces too, it would surely go to trial where they’d show the letter as evidence and, inevitably, flood the courtroom with more innocent faces. It would be quite a mess so John would wear his rain boots and avert his eyes as he made his way out of the courtroom, carefully sidestepping puddles of goatees, glasses and fake lashes. Free for another day.

– – –

The thought of it all made him feel better for a moment, but John had seen enough CSI Vegas, Miami, NYC and New Orleans (especially New Orleans) to know you can’t just face fuck melt the faces of approximately 50 people, ALLEGEDLY, and get away with it. Eventually some basement-dwelling genius would invent special glasses or an app that would allow the evidence to be read without the face melt and John would be cooked. (Possible side story: The mad scientist probably found the job posted on Task Rabbit. Unrecognized genius.)

He watched the cursor blink on his screen.

Dink dink. A text message from Dean.

Ugh. These guys, amiright? Just hold off and I’ll respond and get them on board. I’ve got ur back. [Thumbs up emoji] [Dance emoji] [Pills emoji]

John exhaled dramatically and fell back into the chair at his stand-up desk, relieved that the decision had been made for him.

Thx! He wrote back. [Laughing while crying emoji] [Face with no mouth emoji] [Martini emoji]

Having dealt with what he considered to be his fair share of bullshit for the day, and now craving all the wine – all of it – John decided to go home early to sit in the sun on his balcony and read a book and forget about all the awful people who made him want to do bad things.

Save this message as a draft? his computer asked. Begged.

Why not? he figured. Monday would come soon enough.

– – –

Discussion Question(s):

  1. Should John have saved the email or deleted it? Why or why not?
  2. Should John drink wine tonight or stay on the straight-and-narrow path of sobriety? Why or why not?
  3. Should he check emails this weekend, or, you know, just unplug? Why or why not?

 

Answers on next page.

Next Page

John saves the draft. Gets turnt up on Bota Boxes and Sangria and slips like a Tazmanian Devil into blackout bender all weekend. Wakes up Monday morning to find that he’s drunkenly sent the email to all of his contacts causing a ripple effect that has left a small and rapidly expanding piece of country faceless and knee deep in a puddle of chaos. He’s now a fugitive on the run and an occasional extra on CSI New Orleans… usually the one in the back of the coffee shop… hiding in plain sight. Not saying a word.

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