The Path of Least Resistance
Story By Brian K. Jones
Photos by Bree Fesh
Looking at himself in the mirror made him feel shallow and sad, he analyzed the imperfections of his face with despair. He tried to tell himself that he had little control of how he looked and that it was beyond vain to be placing worth on such matters. He couldn’t help it. He was fascinated by his repulsiveness.
George uttered the words at himself with a sterile disdain, “I hate you.”
His reflection in the mirror looked back at him with tired eyes seemingly saying, “I know you do.”
George closed his eyes and put his head down to look in the sink. Starting the water he looked up again and screamed violently. Running his hands through the cold water he started to calm, he splashed some on his face and turned off the sink.
George’s pants loosely hung around his waist as he walked around his apartment. He found a t-shirt and put it on before finding his keys. As he walked out the door he looked at the cluttered mess around his mattress and felt something inside of him sulk.
George staggered down the stairs and into the car his parents had given him for his birthday. Pulling into traffic he nearly sideswiped the car in front of him narrowly avoiding rear ending a pristine sedan at the stoplight in front of him, “Fuck!”
The light changed as George looked down at his pants which were stained with ash and smeared drops of beer. Snapping out of his daze he heard the car behind him honking. George rolled down his window, “Aww Fuck you! What’d I ruin your day?”
George put his car in first gear and stalled the engine. He sighed and started it up and raced through the intersection as the light turned red. He watched with great satisfaction as the car behind him was stuck at the light in his rear view mirror. “Fuckers…” he muttered as he pulled a rolled cigarette from the middle pocket of his hoodie. Lighting it up he played a CD from his favorite band The Bad Sandwich Chronicles. Singing along to every song he drove haphazardly to his place of employment. If anyone was born genetically predisposed to hate working in a retail environment, it was George. Yet, that was his lot at this stage of his existence.
George pulled into a parking space at Allmart and in doing so careened with a shopping cart. The cart went rolling towards an island of parked cars and struck an SUV with force. With the SUV’s alarm blaring through the parking lot George hastily got out of his car and walked swiftly into the store.
An elderly greeter smiled at George, “Good morning!”
George mumbled some sounds at her and faked a smile as he walked past. On his way to the employee break room he avoided eye contact with the customers, this was a rule of his and he followed it without fail when he was on Allmart premises. It had served him well; in retail, avoidance of the customers was key to maintaining sanity. They had a myriad of inquiries and a needy disposition that could drive even the most calm of us to quickly jump from the nearest rooftop. Quite simply customers meant work and human interaction, neither of which were George’s strong suit.
Swiping his badge through the reader 3 minutes late his supervisor Anna Smith watched him from her seat at the cafeteria style table in the break room.
“Late George…again.” She looked down at a magazine as he shuffled by her. George smiled at her as he walked to his locker, once behind her he flipped her off with both hands and stuck his tongue out at her.
“George I can see you in the reflection.” Looking up he saw himself in the mirror and he locked eyes with Anna’s reflection. He smiled and shrugged, hoping he could charm his way out of trouble.
“Just get your skinny ass to electronics.” She commanded. As he walked away she muttered, “Fucking loser” into her coffee before taking a sip.
“ You’re just…jealous.”
“George, you’re 35, you’re single, you have no prospects for a career, you’re doomed to a lifetime of Allmart employment, and I’m guessing you’ll die alone. I’m not Jealous.” Anna took a sip of coffee in celebration at her proclamation of George’s demise.
George corrected her, “I’m 32.”
Leaving the break room he quietly observed the customers as he walked past them.
Pan left: An obese woman in short tight shorts. “Blech…”
Pan Right: A 20’s something man with clean cut dress and recently trimmed thin beard. “Douuuuuche…”
Pan directly forward and Center: Woman with three kids parading around her cart like wild boars on a hunt. “The future of America.”
Pan Left: Attractive woman walking past. “Too good for me.”
Pan Right: Muscle built guy wearing an exceedingly tight shirt. “He could obliterate me.”
Pan Ahead Center: Young couple holding hands and talking. “I’ll never be in love.”
Finally electronics and the shine of dvds and gizmos, George smiled at his coworker Treyvon and walked back to the video game display. He began applying tags to games for the next hour. His thoughts ranged from middle east politics to preferred toilet paper texture.
George limped through his shift; his demons yelling throughout, his stomach rotating with the earth, his life passing him by.
When it was over he drove around town smoking cigarettes, hoping he could tire himself out. Inevitably, he parked in the ALLMART parking lot and stopped. He looked at the barren 2 am landscape and stared without thought. George’s mental landscape as barren as his surroundings, as uninteresting as the structures around him. With complete Clarity he thought to himself, “I am alone. We are all invariably alone.”
He drove back to his apartment and closed the car door as he exited. He walked up the stairs with his head down and the feeling that his soul had left him somewhere at ALLMART. He could sense it browsing through the sock section while he trudged forward alone and vacant, his every nerve aching with every step.
As he got up the stairs to his apartment in front of his door sat a calico cat, a kitten.
George looked down at the cat at first with disdain and then curiosity. He opened the door to his apartment and the cat bolted inside. George grumbled and watched, seemingly having little choice in the matter.
He walked to the fridge and poured a bowl full of expired milk while the cat danced around his ankles. Setting the bowl down with a groan George watched the cat slurp the milk with a fervor and hunger unknown to him.
George moved into the living room and turned on the television to watch the hockey highlights. The cat followed him an plopped on his lap. Cat and George looked at each other with mutual curiosity, a staring contest of muted empathy that no one was trying to win. Moving his eyes back to the television George bagan to scratch behind the cat’s ears.
“Now I suppose I’ll have to name you.” The cat began to purr.
“I’ll grow attached and then one day when I don’t expect it you’ll run off or I’ll come home and find you dead under the couch.” The calico mewed in delight as George took the scratching to a fevered frequency.
George started flipping through the channels while he scratched, “You can’t sleep in my bed.”