23 Precisely

Some of you wonder where I get my ideas when I write. The short answer is a very strange mind.

Today I was inspired by another fellow with an equally strange mind. I hope you enjoy this flash fiction. It might be longer than most flash, or shorter, but it was certainly written on the spur of the moment at the local Caribou Coffee.

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Mark Alveson glanced to his left and cast a dirty look at the bowling ball sitting on his coworker’s desk. Grimy. But Eric had objected when he’d polished it three years ago on the day they moved into this office space. Personal boundaries indeed.

Mark stretched and pushed his chair back from the desk. Time to do it. He stood up, checked the alignment of his keyboard, and flexed both hands 11 times rapidly.Taking two steps to the left, he pushed his chair into the desk hole, aligned to the right of the hole, wheels precisely aligned with the line of the edge of the desk on the left and the right.

Seven steps to the right, 31 steps to the right again and the first one was directly in front of him. All was in order. Mostly. Third one from the left top was slightly higher than it should be. A quick adjustment. Four steps back to verify. Adequate.

Seventeen steps to the right, turn to the right and 11 steps before turning left into the lunchroom, immediate left, immediate left. 22. A quick recount. 22.

Mark could feel his sweat glands flooding his pressed khaki shirt and dark jeans. A salty dribble rolled down his nose and plopped on the floor before he was able to open the small container he kept on his belt and gather a single one of the silver variety – for the missing one was silver. All the others were there, albiet terribly askew. He spent the next 2 minutes and eight seconds aligning all of them to the proper standard.

With a flourish he removed a green (Tuesday) kerchief from his left rear pocket and snapped it open. With a puff of anxious breath he added a scintilla of moisture to the fabric, shined the newest member of the unit, and then swiped his forehead, neck, and hands.

He deposited the now soiled cloth in the third bin from the door as he forced himself to take route “L” back to his cube. He kept a list of the routes he took on his desktop, and could now check this one off. Like all the others it was 29 paces from his desk. A smile crossed his lips like an angry and furtive cat. Perfection in all things.

Before resuming his seat, he pulled a new, green kerchief from the pile in his file cabinet’s bottom drawer. Removing it from the plastic bag, he placed it in his left rear pocket, forced the air from the bag, folded it and closed the seal. It was then placed in the fourth pocket of his lunch bag, next to the lemonade packets, and the lunchbag was pushed to align with his nameplate, where it should be at this time of day. He gently sat down on the chair once it was 18 inches from the desk and at a 45 degree angle precisely. Mark spent the next 12 minutes and five seconds of his break with his eyes closed, head tilted back, doing isometric exercises to strengthen his core.

Two rows away, his coworker Janice smiled and went back to work after a quick glance at her main drawer. Tomorrow, if not the next day, three or four of those little beauties would be randomly placed on one of the boards. All had a small smudge of caramel on them. A waste, no doubt, but fun to watch as he polished.

The same thought, but with the number 7 attached, passed through Jorge’s mind as he furtively put the lid back on his special cookie tin. He smiled as well, careful not to let anyone see. Pushing his chair back, and leaving it in the middle of the aisle, he left the room. A quick stop at the vending machine in the elevator lobby and he’d hit the bulletin board before heading back to his chair.

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Come back Thursday for the next installment of 23 tacks.

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