Mind Over Matter
The sin of envy eats you alive, its acidic slime gradually eroding, eating away and emptying you of all that is valuable. As Joel looked through the dirty glass of the CityBus window, down onto the BMWs and Mercedes that cruised conspicuously past, trailing exhaust and the odour of obvious wealth, the green-eyed monster stirred within him once more. On a meagre wage, paying an exorbitant amount on mortgage payments, his prospects of joining the ranks of the fortunate ones who drove their luxury cars towards lucrative jobs in well appointed offices seemed to recede into the very distant future.
Joel sighed and returned his gaze to the interior of the bus. Along with 20-odd other wage slaves he was travelling the well-trodden path to his inner-city day job, assistant manager at a printer and toner supply office in Vernon City. His boss, a myopic and malodorous Mr Driscoll, had been employed there for over 15 years and was likely to retire within a few more. He was fond of fixing Joel with an assessing eye and saying in a confidentially hushed tone, “Son, if you play your cards right, you’ll be the one with the car-park and office keys.” This promise of a brilliant and bright future never failed to dim Joel’s day. Surely there was more to life than the vision of decades spent delivering toner and reams of A4 to the offices that towered over the tiny Powell Printing store.
With a squeal of worn brakes, the bus slowed and ponderously pulled over to Joel’s stop. He alighted on the kerb next to a Starbucks and a bearded homeless man holding a styrofoam cup. His hand-drawn sign said in faded blue script, ‘HOMELESS VETRAN, YOUR GENEROCITY IS APRECIATED’. Joel slipped 50 cents into the cup and was unsurprised to hear a thud rather than a jingle. In the city pockets of invisibility tended to form around those who begged, busked or berated the passing crowds for small change. A culture of materialism pervaded, a self-serving ethos wherein the winner is the one who dies with the most toys. Where competition is the code there is always a loser, and these suffer not only the ignominy of comparative poverty but also the dull ache of obscurity. As he passed the homeless man Joel swore that he would somehow make his life a success and rise above the banal repetition of the everyday grind, yet retain the capacity to see those whom society has chosen to disinclude.
But then Joel realized that life is not a black-shirt schnitzel party, rather a frenzied polka number in which everyone must dance, oh yes, everyone must two-step like there’s no tomorrow. We all have our part to play. There can be no shirking the responsibility that the dance calls us to accept. Polka is our lord and master and we will obey those hypnotic beats and bend our bodies until they break, for this is the truth; that we were born to dance, to hear and obey, hear the order to shake it to the oboe and accordion.
That wasn’t in the synopsis, Barry.
I thought we were embarking on a cheesy novelette that, like an omelette, is tasty at first but then the blandness and lack of spice becomes wearying and one is compelled to cast the unfinished remainder into the dustbin.
Well a person can’t be entertaining constantly, and I reserve the right to give up very early in the piece. It’s all too hard to plan and execute writing, much easier to have a stream of consciousness rant in which there is no goal much less a standard to aspire to. Like a smashed watermelon thrown from a student’s dormitory window, the result may be ugly, scattered over a wide radius and covered with dirt, but if you are hungry enough you will be able to pick out the bits that are still edible.
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