When I Called in Dead

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Okay, two stories in a row published with ‘dead’ in the title; all those years listening to Jerry Garcia must have had some impact. Anyway, I’m grateful to Cafe Aphra for featuring this flash story in May 2017. It’s a cautionery tale for those who feel like they’re being worked to death. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when the work day ends and your other life begins.

When I Called in Dead

by DL Shirey

The boss was angry when I called in dead again. I could tell by the way he didn’t respond, gave nothing but a frustrated huff and clattered the phone back to its cradle. Still, there was too much undone to take the day off, so I went to the office as usual.

First stop, coffee, but no one would serve me. Not even Yolanda who knew my usual. She didn’t even smile, in fact yelled NEXT to my face and beamed at the fellow behind me. He pushed me out of line.

Nearly missed the bus. It didn’t help that the driver practically shut the door with me in it. She was upset, probably because I’d forgotten my pass, but she didn’t need to gun the bus forward when I hadn’t even found a grab-rail. No one bothered to help me up off the floor.

The only thing I can figure is the boss sent an email. What else explains the reason for the entire office to snub me? Karen, on the front desk, who for years showed me photos of cats, didn’t even speak. My office mate didn’t look up as I flopped into my chair. No one altered their line of march coming at me in the halls; no excuse-me’s, nothing but hard shoulders jolting me aside. The last straw was the staff meeting: no passed bagels, not even an acknowledgment from Bob, who for ten years would roll his eyes at me whenever the boss said something stupid.

I left the conference room early to view a calm sea of empty desks and jangling phones, monolithic towers breaking below low clouds outside the window. At the sheet of glass stood a lone figure, someone I hadn’t seen in ages. They said she left the company years ago and I hadn’t thought of her since.

“Hey,” I shouted across the room, then in a normal voice as I approached, “Haven’t seen you around much. How you been?”

She turned, the one person to meet my eyes all day. Her smile was sad.


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