The Uncivil Servant: Part XII

Brad stared at the wall for a minute, contemplating suicide. As was usually the case, it sounded like more work than it was worth. He also had his doubts as to its implications: That whole meeting God thing left him with a sneaking suspicion about what would happen if he did take his own life. He'd be punished. In fact, he was more than slightly afraid that the punishment was already under way. So maybe he was already destined to end it that way.Still, being stubborn, Brad knew the last thing he would voluntarily do was to give God an excuse to screw Brad out of the happiness to which he felt overwhelmingly entitled. So, as always, suicide was something to quickly rule out.God had better come up with some other reason for delivering such a lame deal. Brad was slightly curious what that reason might be, but not curious enough to really ask. When he started delving down certain avenues of self-discovery, he triggered acid flashbacks.Those were a drag. Work wasn't the place for ’em. His rolls of fat trembled slightly at the memory, and he quickly shifted mental gears. Back to Liz, but that was simply a defense mechanism, like a grasshopper dumped in a frying pan, hopping anywhere it could – anything was better than the hot cooking oil.

Liz got naked again. Things were different in his mind this time, though. His recent self-inventory had changed the flavor of their relationship. Imaginary Liz knew, somehow, his secret: that he wasn't good enough. Not even for her, prudish, bony, repellent in her own way.

Her image had a wafery thin aspect to it. Not thin like she was skinny. Thin like he could hardly see it. Blurred. Indistinct. Like his imagination thought her an unreasonable expectation and wasn't willing to hold her in place for him. He shrunk in on himself, pulling down into his chair, his eyes welling up with tears that didn't quite fall.

None of his porta-pharmacy really dealt with issues like this. The various benzodiazepines (Valium®and its various close relatives) could, in sufficient quantity, obviate any thoughts he might have, good or bad, but you couldn't drive (or walk, really) once you got to that level of consumption. This was one of those things he just had to experience, preferably in private.

Brad spared a glance for the door. This was a moment for alone time, just as much as any clandestine bout of masturbation.

Some secret part wished someone would walk in and see him this way, inquire solicitously as to the source of his despair. This was the sort of fantasy he was good at: the knight in shining armor, riding to your salvation. Brad, for one, knew such knights weren't the exclusive purview of the softer sex. He'd often wished for the figurative equivalent – some quick, easy rescue from the mess that passed for life, preferably a knightette.

Nobody came to the door. Brad's nose began to clog up, and he snorted a few times to pull back the misery snot. Eventually, the tears also seemed to go away, unshed, like water soaked up on the flat hardpan of desert.

This image made him feel better, somehow: Sure, he might be jelly on the outside, but perhaps, on the inside, he was more like the Sahara or Gobi or Death Valley. Being a bleak wasteland held a certain appeal to someone as desperate as Brad. At least it implied strength, and strength implied survival.

The Sahara wouldn't let a little lard get into its implacable way. The Sahara, in fact, would get laid. It was a badass desert. The mental image was a bit hard to wrap his head around, though. How would a desert have sex? Sandstorm? Gritty, but bound to be better than nothing.

Motivation, already a fleeting thing, left altogether on days like this. Brad felt stuck in one of the universe's passing patches of quicksand. He held his head in his hands, elbows on the little ledge in front of his keyboard. Pushed forward, something in the pile of crap on his desk teetered off the edge and fell to the floor beneath his computer.

Brad's mind felt like a reservoir behind a dam after a ten-year drought. He could look around and see the discolored rocks that had once held back the waters. Down at his feet, an anemic trickle lapped against concrete. Against the shore were the bones of dead fish. There was even a beached tour boat.

Surely that was the effort of the Department of Imagination and Hallucination. An empty dam was, after all, one thing. These other images seemed like an attempt to hijack a bout of self-pity and turn it into something else entirely.

Across the puddle, another Liz writhed. Muddy this time, she'd grown a bit more interesting, as well as a bit more solid. Solid and soiled. This somehow cheered him a bit.

He thought about making his way over to her, but he wasn't sure if company was the cure just yet. The way he still felt, he was pretty sure she'd say something biting and cruel, given the chance and a little proximity. Something sunny, like, "You think this is bad now? You're still young. Life generally goes downhill. Imagine how much worse it's going to get." Or she might say, "A beached whale? I thought they only had those at the ocean." Imaginary Liz was a lot smarter than her real-life counterpart.

Brad's mind was his weapon. At the moment, it felt like that weapon was a punched-out prizefighter. Cut over an eye, he couldn't defend himself. Punches kept raining down. Even holding his guard up was a strain.

He glanced around the room, pulling his arms away from his face. That helped. It wasn't so much the lateness of the round as it was the immense weight of his massive head. His doughy arms found it an unreasonable burden. Like every other piece he could sense, feel, or see, his arms wanted no more of anything. He laid his head down on the keyboard, listening to the angry, clicking protestations of the computer as it found its sacred form of input so abused.