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Fiction #532
(published March 31, 2011)
Distributive Economic Techniques
by Tim Christian
Bub sat in his Civic with the textbook open in his lap. He stared across the parking lot at the boys in the skate park. It seemed to him they weren't very good. Again and again they stumbled from their boards, sometimes falling over, sometimes jogging a few clumsy steps. Most of the time the boards simply stopped moving under the boys' feet, as though they objected to whatever was being attempted on them.

Not having been on a skateboard for close to thirty years Bub couldn't judge the boys with any authority. Still, they never seemed to complete any but the simplest tricks. He felt heartened by their failure. He blamed his malice on their youthful elasticity and vigor, or, perhaps, their misuse of it. After tumbling from their boards they got up laughing every time. Climbed back on every time.

For nine years, every workday, Bub had spent most of his lunch break in his car, studying the textbook. His old boss, Mister Lang, had given him the book, telling him in confidence that understanding the concepts described in it would give him a leg up when Lang retired. "If you want my job . . ." Lang had said as he handed the heavy book to Bub. But when Lang left the company—not to retire but to relocate—and hastily he had been replaced by someone from the outside. It had all happened so quickly, and Bub, who always felt that waiting for the right moment was the best strategy, had kept waiting long after it mattered.

Since then, Bub had had three managers. He'd never been offered the position, nor had he actively pursued it. He made it a point to welcome each new manager, to help out during the transition in any way he could.

He'd always enjoyed reading the book, though. Early on he'd made attempts to insert into conversations with his coworkers some of the phrases and techniques described in the textbook. But he always felt phony and guilty of something afterward, and it didn't take long for him to decide to keep what he'd read to himself. He had never found a way to incorporate any of what he'd learned from the book into his actual job. He continued to read it, though. He figured he'd read the book cover to cover at least fifty times. He knew some passages by heart.

But today he watched the boys skate. Most looked to be in their mid- to late-teens, though some were younger. He remembered the skate park going in the previous fall, the line of cement trucks, but this was the first time he'd actually watched the skaters. The end of his lunch break came and went.

When he finally got out of his car, he set the textbook on the roof of it and pushed it toward the passenger side door with his fingers. If it was still there when he left work, he would pretend not to see it and listen as it slid off the roof when he pulled out of the parking lot. He'd look for it in his rearview mirror as he drove away.

Tim Christian is a writer and creative writing teacher living in Colorado Springs.

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