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Fiction #508
(published October 14, 2010)
by Jason Rice
Henry Spark listened to disk two of Lionel Shriver's new novel So Much For That while he drove to work. Henry sometimes felt like he might fall asleep at the wheel even after seven fairly good hours of sleep. He thought about pulling the car off to the side of the road and sliding the seat back, figuring he'd wake up eventually, well rested. There is a kind of loneliness that washed over Henry when he commuted. He glanced at other people in the cars next to him and wondered if they felt the same way. If their life was crumbling around them, or if they were tired, mad, crazy, or just sick of going to work. In the past few weeks Henry had seriously considered stopping his car on one of the bridges he regularly drove over and jumping off. If it weren't for his son, he'd probably do it. Regardless, he didn't have it in his heart, and just thinking about it made him crazy with fear.

Henry stopped at a Starbucks every weekday morning. He waited in line with everyone else, some days it was a long wait, but every morning he read the "Book of the Times" on his iPhone to pass the time. After being in line for a while, the Barista, a tallish young man who was struggling to grow a beard told Henry, "it's going to be about three minutes", and then the Barista went back to talking to another customer about buying Stanley Cup playoff tickets for four thousand dollars. While he waited Henry noticed a girl standing alone at the counter, youngish, thin, tight body in a stiff pair of jeans with cuffs folded up around her ankles. She had a larger than usual nose, too big for her face, nice bobbed blonde hair, and dark black eyes. She took one look at Henry, and then another, a little slower. He turned off his iPhone and made sure his wedding ring finger wasn't showing, she wouldn't be able to tell that there was a mark on his skin where the ring used to be, he hadn't worn it in four months and it was sitting alone in a box on his desk at home, alongside a love letter he wrote his wife but never sent. The girl walked past him and Henry tried to look up at the ceiling, but he couldn't stop looking at her. He watched her as she chewed on a straw while she waited for her drink, Henry tried to figure out how old she was, and what confluence of events would have to happen for Henry to ask for her phone number. She left and Henry said nothing.

At work he sold books. Henry talked to most of his accounts, and took orders faster than usual. He entered a special promotion that netted him thirty-thousand dollars in sales for the day. The previous Friday, for the first time in five years, he tallied up his daily sales for the year. His boss gave him the code to access that part of the computer system, and Henry learned that in 2009 he grossed the company $1.9 million dollars. Henry hasn't gotten a raise in two years.

The work day progressed nicely, Henry wrote five pages of his novel after lunch, and planned to revise and add them to the draft on his home computer later that night. Before he left for the day, Henry's boss told him that he was giving Rodney, a gay may who worked in the office a ride to the train station, and he told Henry, in a low pitched voice, which made it sound like they were sharing a private joke, that he'd let Rodney suck his dick on the way to the train station. Henry and his boss laughed.

On his ride home, the rain didn't stop until Henry got a few miles from his house, but it was still light out and the mist on the street was thin, like a spring rain had just turned the corner, but hung on Henry's shoulders, trying to chase him back inside.

Jason Rice says: "I get up every morning and hope the day will be better than the last, because gravity is not only a good idea, but the law. This story is about Henry Spark and his life, and everything else is a lie." Jason Rice lives in New Jersey.

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