Herr Wendig is at it again This week’s flash-fiction challenge revolves around adult beverages randomly generated. The one I got is Bondage’s No Problem. Yes that’s a real cocktail. It has vodka in it, for which I’m allergic, so I’ll never taste it unless you maybe sub some whiskey instead. Below is where the title Bondage’s No Problem took me — in 999 words. It’s easy to believe that maybe this might be a much longer story, clearly I could continue it. But, I think it works as it is, as well. Read it. Comment below. Much appreciated.
BONDAGE’S NO PROBLEM
by Casondra Brewster
They call it the Golden Handcuffs. You have no idea. It really is a life of slavery and bondage. But it’s not a problem, really. What else are we going to do with our time? At least we’re not getting shot at? No one is going to die in this nine to five.
I wrote that to my old Army buddy ten years ago after we’d both hung up our boots and put on civilian ties. Now I could think of lots of things to do with my time other than put in time in this seven-by-nine-foot cubicle. I called it my civilian foxhole. Was it still true we weren’t getting shot at? Sure– well at least until one of my coworkers has had enough. Maybe his wife leaves him. His kid turns into a drug addict. His balloon payment on his mortgage is due and he can’t manage it. Instead of coping, dealing, turning his life around, he blows us all away here sitting near these pale blue, fabric walls lulling us into security, when nothing is secure. It’s all impermanent. No one is going to die. I said it. But I was dying. My soul was a sucking chest wound.
Here it was another Wednesday. The hallway sentiments about hump day fell flat at my feet. Stacks of work – reports to analyze or create – to my left and right and a pile of email to answer, flag, or archive lurked inside the screen in front of me. I had zero motivation for it. I wanted to runaway. Scream. Hide. End it all. I spent ten years in war. For this?
“Hey, Phil,” I looked up. It was Roger, the guy from development. He lived in the same apartment complex I did. We sometimes had lunch together in the cafeteria. You know, one of those convenience friendships, but the two of you didn’t really dig deep. “Are you going to the after-work shindig to say goodbye to Josie?”
I shook my head. Josie was one of the communication team leads. She was always saying in company-wide meetings that her job was to “herd the cats of all the different departments.” I wasn’t a cat, but I did sometimes want to scratch the smile off her face.
“Oh, bummer; I was hoping to grab a ride home from you.”
“Well, if you change your mind, let me know,” he said and moped away.
I started just mass deleting all the emails. If it was really important, they’d send me another one before lunch. I put my headphones on, but there was no music in them. They were a detractor from would-be interrupters who would wreck my work flow by darkening my cubicle opening. I went to work on the report analysis. This part of my work I didn’t dread completely. There was an art to it, although for the most part it was black and white. It didn’t talk back. It didn’t expect me to smile, be grateful, and all that other Zen crap. It just was.
Before the afternoon coffee break, I start to feel bad for squashing Roger’s hopes.
I send Roger an email saying, I’m going to the pub for Josie’s thing and I’ll drive him home. He’s at my desk at 4:59 with the stupidest grin on his face and carrying a brown-paper sack.
On the walk over to the pub Roger tells me he’s had a hard-on for Josie for years. But, he has a don’t-date-coworkers policy. I don’t tell him I think Josie likely has a don’t-date-dweebs policy.
The pub smells like old peanuts, stale beer, and too much cologne and perfume. My eyes start to water. I’m wishing I had my balaclava to throw up over my nose. Not kosher in this environment, however. Roger gladly buys the first round, “Thanks again, buddy for having my back.” I shrug and nod. The beer actually tastes pretty good. Better than the Rainer I’ve been stocking my fridge with; that’s another slow kind of death.
I watch as people give farewell gifts to Josie, including Roger. I hadn’t his little brown-paper was a gift. I thought it was a snack. Everyone quiets around Josie as she takes out two tickets.
“What they to?” some douche bag from sales hollers.
Roger beams a wide, toothy smile and says, “The Blindfolds & Cuffs Burlesque Show.”
Josie flinches and flushes. Then, always the PR professional, swallows, and says, “Thanks, Roger. You’re sweet.” He whispers something in her ear and she feigns distraction by yelling back at the sales douche, “You’re just jealous, Keith.” She then promptly picks up another little gift baggy, leaving Roger to slip back into oblivion. He ends up next to me.
“She left you OTF, buddy,” I say, taking another swallow of beer.
Roger doesn’t respond.
We watch in silence for a few more minutes while people make toasts to Josie, some dude passes out her new business cards to everyone, and coworkers and friends alike wish her well in her new job, some sort of consulting gig. I only half listen. Roger goes to the bar again, but comes back with nothing.
I watch as the bartender brings Josie a drink. She raises the glass and nods to Roger.
“Ready whenever you are,” Roger says his voice even meeker than normal. We walk in silence back to my pick-up.
“Why did you buy her a drink after she left you out there hanging, dude?” I ask Roger.
He shrugs, “I felt like it.”
I shake my head.
The next morning at work, I decide to check on Roger at his desk. He’s not there. Before lunch word gets around he was found blindfolded and cuffed to his bed, an apparent autoerotic asphyxiation casualty. The police are looking for Josie. Her business card was found in his hands, with the words “Bondage is No Problem” scrawled on the back.
Yeah, nobody’s getting shot. But somebody just might die.