Fiction & Contemplation in Maine

Fiction & Contemplation in Maine

The Sound of a Sneeze

A young man with a plan.

by C. E. Poley

“Achoo!” He heard the delightful beginnings of a cold descend on the small office call center. He did not let himself smile just yet. It had begun.

The cubicle walls were drab. The hum of telephones echoed around him; educated minds performing uneducated work. The office walls that bordered the room were a darker slate. The room had a strange rain-cloud feeling. There were few windows.

Who wouldn’t get sick looking at these cubicles? Thought the man to himself. He stared at the phone before him. He fiddled with the headset. He sipped his near-empty coffee. He looked at his Excel sheet and found the next number to call. He sighed.

His tie was too snug, so he loosened it before dialing a familiar phone number from Iowa. “Hello, you have reached Hurlen Industrial Metalworks. If you know the extension of your party, please dial it now.”

He looked at his notes on the screen and dialed it in, 2 7 4 #. He received a voicemail machine when he reached the CEO’s inbox. He read the script aloud from its place on his cubicle wall, above the computer. Just as he was about to hang up, he heard a sneeze again. This time he did smile to himself. He heard the smile in his own voice. He finished and hung up.

“Allison, you poor thing.” Said he, in the break room. He waited for the automatic coffee machine to finish his hazelnut vanilla roast. He played with a disposable fountain pen (his favorite kind) while he watched the tall redhead blow her nose by the sink.

“I don’t know what happened.” She sighed. “Must be the seasons changing or something.”

“It usually is.” He returned, and took his 12 ounces of coffee from under the machine. “Well, I hope it doesn’t last long.” He said. He mixed two tiny containers of half-and-half into his hazelnut vanilla. “Don’t spread the germs.” He joked, and smiled at Allison before he walked back to his desk.

On his journey, he noted the symptoms of others he knew would soon carry the Flu. Sniffling. Rubbing their eyes. Pressing their sinuses. A few of them had yet to catch the bug. There was Cindi, who laughed in a pitch that was uncomfortably high, and drank from her Fiji water while she cackled. There was Tom, who drank only coffee. There were a few who just didn’t hydrate themselves. They saved themselves by avoiding the water cooler that morning... Fools, he grinned to himself as he reached his fabric-walled fort. His plan had played out with ease. He had not expected such a thing, but was grateful for it. I hope they all get sick as dogs soon. They’ll catch it from the others. Foolish, silly sheep.

He sat down at his desk to don his headset. He sipped his hazelnut vanilla roast with two creams. He looked at the next name on his Excel sheet. He leaned back and dialed the number. I’m not one of them, he urged himself. I’m meant for much more than all of this. The phone picked up.

“Greetings, and welcome to Starr Fabrication. If you know the extension of the person you are calling, please dial it now. If you know the name of the person, press pound to use the dial-by-name directory. Otherwise, please wait on the line for assistance.”

Ridiculous, curious, most likely delirious.

I love a great story, whether it comes in the form of words or visual stimuli. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and I love to share mine.

Please feel free to read along, comment, share your own stories, or send me a message via the contact page. Thanks for your time reading my words.



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