First, a reminder that we’ve come a long way around here since this blog started, and I’m immensely thankful for that climb up the mountain. If you’re in the upper reaches of the central part of the country (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan) come on out for the festival. It’s only 2 hours from either Milwaukee or Minneapolis (or really, really close to that – sort of.)
Now the graphic. And then the original flash fiction promised in the title today.
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The Snap Of The Last Piece Of Tape Broke Her Heart
It had taken five hours to carefully pack the accumulation from 22 years working at that desk. Most people would find a lot of dust bunnies left behind some of the items after that long in place. Some would find dust badgers. She did not.
It wasn’t an obsession, or even a hint toward it: she was just a clean person by nature, and had regularly dusted and vacuumed all of the items in the cube. Where other people might be leaving behind an odd bit of dropped candy, a popcorn kernel, or some missing paper clips in the far reaches of the cube under a countertop, her cube reflected her approach to life: clean as you go.
The small squares of dark material on the fabric walls showed precisely where she’d pinned up sayings that reflected her philosophy. They didn’t change very often, and most were timeless. They were recognitions of her Lord and Savior, small pictures imbued with deeper meaning, and the occasional award certificate. Nothing flashy, but their absence from the cube wall was remembered with a dark patch that reflected the mood in the building.
23 years had passed in this space, and she’d been there for most of it. Today the carts filled with cardboard boxes of personal treasures trundled by her cube, the gentle rumble of the irregular wheels brining forth audible reminders of rough trips across parking lots and long-forgotten concrete ridges and floor plates encountered in other trips on other days.
She carefully wrapped her chair in plastic, bubble wrapped the tea cup, and stored the picture in protective folds of her lap throw. None of it was going to be stored longer than over night: the new office space would be waiting for her in the morning.
But tonight, the 64 square feet that she’d thought of as home for the last 22 years were pulling her deeper in a well of memorial gravity that those outside it’s event horizon couldn’t fathom. Coworkers had stood in that opening in the fiber walls and talked of new children, then grandchildren. Promotions had been celebrated with balloons and cake just forty-six feet away in the conference room. Deaths had been whispered about in the passage between cubes, coworkers who had gone home the night before never to return.
It felt like death tonight. A loss of years, youth, and friends. A life spent in service that was now shifting to a final location on that long trail that led to retirement.
The snap of the clear packing tape as she applied it to the last box took her composure with it. She choked back tears as she said goodnight to a friend who was working the late shift, looking on her world for one last time. For it was her world. For better, or worse, we all become creatures of our jobs to some degree.
Tonight that cube will be gone. The new tenants were already working their way down the aisle as each business unit moved out and onward. Tonight, that cube will just another 64 square feet of carpet that are much neater than the rest.
It’s all that remains to show a good person tended the space for 22 years.