Dead Labor

I’ve been writing a lot. Or at least I had been during the 9 months before last December. In between stories when I felt stuck I sometimes wrote a short piece to get my mind onto to another topic and let it stretch. This piece, which I wrote with a different title many months back, is the outcome of one of those mental exercises. I revamped it for this post, while also taking inspiration from the political happenings in the U.S. and the larger world I share with the rest of you. Its theme is similar to the novel I’m currently writing, which will make me rich and famous maybe. Hope you enjoy this little bit of philosophical and/or/nor political prose. If you do, please use the social networking tools below. I would be forever grateful. No lie.


I leaned against a display of computer towers and computer printed price tags on my fifth day in a row at that place that I didn’t want to be in. A bank was holding me hostage. If I left they would kill me; they would starve me; they would let disease consume me; they would have me freeze under a bridge; they would turn me into food for vultures with bad habits.

I had begun to see things a little differently after having five years of five days in a row. Close objects had become distant as my mind went in and out of focus for hours at a time while being paid by the hour to do something I didn’t want to do. I was able to tell the time by looking at shadows cast by the natural light that somehow found its way inside that building of concrete and dead labor – the cash register became a sundial. At four o’clock I began to realize how soft my mind had become – really, how malleable reality itself was – and I began wondering about the world around me.

I could feel a customer approaching as I stared at the register to check, one more time, when and where I was.

I thought to myself, if I punch a glass window. If I punched a decently thick glass window with enough force, but also with enough speed, I think I could kinda catch it off guard and bend it, like metal or something.

I said, “How can I help you sir?”

I thought, if someone has a face like an animal what does that mean? Maybe the animal that they look like is their totem – their animal guide in this world. This man has the spirit of the platypus looking after him, I think. It makes sure he will never drown. It means he’s unique, like a platypus, and that others will view his existence with skepticism until they can hold him and touch his smooth face. Maybe his platypus spirit is watching me, looking into my soul and forcing me to tell him things I don’t want to. I hate platypuses. Fucking jigsaw animals.

I said, “Well, it’s not on the shelves, but sometimes items we’ve just received don’t get put out on the sales floor till much later. I’ll see if we have that in stock somewhere in the back. Give me a moment while I check?”

I heard the customer say, “Sure.”

“A bank was holding me hostage. If I left they would kill me. They would starve me; they would turn me into food for vultures with bad habits.”

I thought, If I could run fast enough, with my arms spread and tilted at just the right angle, I might be able to get some lift.

I heard the inventory manager say, “Nah, we don’t got that in stock. Best bet for him would be to order it to this store and pick it up, or have it delivered to his place.”

I said, “All right. I’ll let him know.”

I thought, I’m about ninety percent water. If I had to guess I’d say the rest of me is made up of stuff like iron, potassium… probably some bullshit like aluminum. All told, they’re pretty cheap. I wonder how much I would be worth if I was on the shelf next to the laptops? Fifteen dollars? Ten?

I said, “Okay sir, would you like to pick it up or have it delivered to your home? Just so you know, you would get free delivery to your home since you’re using your store credit card.”

I heard the customer say, “Really? That sounds great. Can I get it delivered to my house then?”

I said, “Sure. Give me a second while I pull up your information.”

I thought, Everything I see is just reflected light, but even light has a speed limit, right? It’s fast, but it has a limit. It takes time for that light to reach my eyes even though I think it’s instant. So, if the light I see bouncing off something is old, even by a nanosecond, then everything I’m seeing happened in the past. Nothing I see is happening now, right now. Right now only happens when I touch something. When I’m in direct contact. That’s where it’s at. Direct contact, not seeing, is what’s real.

I said, “Have a good day sir.”

I heard the customer say, “You too. Thanks a lot for your help.”

I said, “No problem.”

I thought, I can’t stay here anymore. This job is gonna destroy me.

I thought, I have to find something new.

As the customer walked away I slowly took off the uniformed shirt that someone else had sewn a continent away while being held hostage, as I was, and folded it neatly into the drawer under the LCD screens. Deciding to leave that place I didn’t want to be in, I walked through the revolving door and into the outside world. I wouldn’t be a hostage anymore, but I wouldn’t die either. I’d find something new, something real.

9 Responses to “Dead Labor”
  1. Lynette says:

    Great writing, I loved it!

  2. I hope you’ve been doing your push ups, since you’re disrobing and what not. 😉

    Viva la platypus!!!

  3. Gene Saadi says:

    Alex, I liked it a lot. It made me think. Especially the notion about light not being instantaneous, and everything we see is actually “in the past”. That has very profound implications to me. Thanks for that insight. Keep writing.

    • Gene Saadi says:

      One more thing…..don’t ever work in retail. 😉

      • Yes, retail work is definitely something to avoid. lol.

        Thank you Gene for your kind words. Profound is always something I aspire to – though I might not achieve it often. The thoughts in this story are ones that I’ve had myself during different points in my life. I thought about the light thing when I was a teen, I think. What we think of as reality can be questioned from so many different angles. Strange stuff like 90% of visible matter is just space. Existence is so much bigger than we grew up thinking. Hopefully we try to poke at those boundaries. 🙂

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