The Day Off

by Grace Craven Joyner

                                                    The Day Off

  It kept ringing, the alarm clock. Harry mumbled a few curse words and turned over. Would it be like this, the whole day. Blah. It was that he was not wanting to get up to go to work. He thought he felt a little sick but not sick enough to stay home. He turned back over, stared at the ceiling, arms behind his head. Co-workers don't like it when you blow your nose too much. His hand touched his throat, a little sore.

   He had no one to answer to. Harry was recently divorced, in his own apartment with one bedroom he called his own.

   He got up suddenly and grabbed the phone.

   "Yeah, it's Harry. Is Jenkins there"

    "Jenkins here. Is this Harry, go on.."

   "Jenkins, Jenkins, yes it's Harry. You know I really think I'm coming down with something, maybe the flu. Listen, I really don't think I'll be able to make it today. I can check with you later to see if I can pull some time, maybe."

    "Uhh, listen Harry, do you know how many times you've been absent this month. You're forming a pattern. It's like a pattern Harry. Check with me later."

     "Okay," he hung up, just standing there thinking. Now, what to do today. He can't waste all day in bed. Harry took the hallway to the kitchen. The kitchen with the bright orange flowered wallpapered ceiling. His stove and sink were dull white but he had colored utensils. Green cereal bowls and cups and saucers.

    On his tippy toes he looked atop the refrigerator for his fresh pack of cigs. What he learned in a quit-smoking class a long time ago was to keep the cigarettes conveniently out of reach. This way one would have to make an effort to get a cigarette.

    Harry felt all over the top of the dusty appliance with his hand. Damn, he thought, no cigarettes!

     His fingers went through his dark brown wavy hair frustrated. This meant taking a trip to the convenience store to get some. Motionless he stood in front of the refrigerator. Not even wanting to eat thinking the first thing you want in the morning of your day off is a cigarette.

     It took him a half hour to get ready. Regular morning routine, shower, tying his shoes. He grabbed his coat on the way out for the short drive. "Good grief," he was mumbling, water was on the windshield. A drop here, a drop there of annoying rain, on his day off.

     In the store, Harry walked past one aisle quickly, because he thought he saw a familiar figure. He stepped back and looked again just for a second. Yep, it was Jenkins 'yes man' a guy named Bleu looking at the granola bars. He had to get out. At the cash register, he was frantic. Did he forget his wallet? A long hand went down his pants pockets, aah, he had it. Harry would get his cigarettes. The rain sprayed little pellets of H2O as he lit one outside the exit.

     There was a sigh of relief. Soon he was back at the door of his apartment. It was raining harder now. Inside he lit another cigarette and flopped in his easy chair.

   "Oh no," Harry gasped as his hand went around his throat. It was a little sore. He couldn't believe he was really getting sick, not on his day off.

    He let his head rest easily against the back of the chair. What could he do. And how about that jerk in the store, hoping he didn't see him. His eyes were on the ceiling, then closed a second, opened looking nowhere in particular around the room, then closed. A dinging, ding, ding clang. Harry awakened to the ding-a-ling of his phone. It was Jenkins.

   "No, I can't make it. Listen, I actually think I've gotten worse..tomorrow, betcha," and hung up.

    Looking at his watch, Harry figures he must of slept at least 4 hours. The day was ruined he figured. Being he was a morning guy, did everything in the morning. Today Harry was like a nowhere man, doing nothing, going nowhere. He grabbed a tissue off the coffee table and patted his nose. Just a little sniffle. Though it was damp outside, he felt sort of warm. He stood in the middle of his living room and crossed his arms. Any games on t.v. tonight, just wondering. Another cigarette went in his mouth and he smoked that too, Sat down and flipped through a couple of magazines. His guess was that he really didn't have a fever, not as yet. Either way the afternoon would be better spent with something digestible and a little nap.

    In his own room, on his very own mattress, he threw the blanket over him, then threw if off. As he pushed his legs over the side of the bed, he reached for his robe. Harry's slippers could be heard shuffling toward the kitchen. Put a pot on with some canned vegetables, then went back to bed to ride out the wait.

   In bed, he tossed and turned and turned again. Harry wondered why he didn't have a girlfriend. He looked at the facts. Girlfriends are good for boring times, and if you're a little under the weather, you could call someone over. He was on the rebound, and women he guessed could tell this just by looking at him. Looking up at the ceiling, hands behind his head, he pondered it all. Then it came. The wail from somewhere. Down the hall, next door? Waaa-waaa-waaa-wa. Was it a saxophone or some sorry instrument, to interfere with his sleep. Waaa-waaa-waaa-wa-wa. For crying out loud, Harry's fist dented the pillow and turned again and lay his head back. The awful noise sung him to sleep

    And peace it was only to be awakened by a crackling sound and the smell of smoke. He ran for the kitchen to see a small fire atop his stove. He had baking soda! He grabbed it from the refrigerator and dumped it on the flames. Opened the windows and picked up the blackened pot with a potholder. This is done he thought and made a note to himself to get another one the next day off. NO, no more days off.

   He was a beaten man going back to his bed. Almost scared to fall asleep now in case something else might happen. The t.v. was on, the night light was burning and he fell asleep.

  Morning came with a stream of light through the green shades. Harry awakened with a sigh of relief that he had gotten through the day before. He could almost sing his own song, giving competition to the birds who sang also.

   Yes, it would be the daily routine for work, but with a new fervor. Soon he was dressed and in his car. There were enough cigarettes and he lit one.

    Cruising along, he was ready for the work day ahead of him. On a wide street, on a boulevard, he made his way easily. Thinking ahead that all the files would be ready by the end of the day. Then a ball like a beach ball rolls out in front of him and he juts to the side. He's in oncoming traffic and then the bang and the clang.

   For goodness sake! The metal of his car is next to his skin. All he could think of was when would the police arrive. And another thing. He would need to take some days off.

                                                                                                   By Grace Craven Joyner

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