Mr. Fenceworth's Conversation With Fish

All of Herbert’s life, no one paid much attention to him.  Conversations would duck, zig-zag, bend, and swoop around him.  Words uttered by him were shuddered away and forgotten about as soon as possible.

Once, in junior high school, he had held another boy’s attention for 15 seconds.  He had counted.  The boy’s name was Robert Hannely.  Herbert had started a sentence and then paused, in disbelief, as the boy looked back waiting patiently for the rest of the statement.  Upon finishing, the boy shrugged and walked away.  A crowning achievement!  Fifteen seconds of unforced attentiveness!

Herbert had other such achievements, though he never liked to brag about them.  The truth is, bragging would require longer than fifteen seconds. 

A girl named Cynthia Matz bumped into Herbert quite innocently in high school. She really never noticed him before and quite honestly barely realized she bumped into him at all. 

“Sorry!” she said in case it was her fault, though she swore he came out of nowhere.  He responded with a very informative, “I like peanut butter.”

Seven seconds.  Though Herbert multiplied this by two to make fourteen seconds since she was very pretty and, in fact, a girl.  He once thought of multiplying it by three since there was physical contact, but decided against it.  Wouldn’t want to make the time inaccurate.  Besides, competing with a twenty-one second event would cause him to always go for the multiplier, bumping into women everywhere.  No, no, better keep it at fourteen.

Oddly enough, his parents barely noticed he was born.  They were as excited as most expecting couples, but for some reason, on the day of Herbert’s birth, the quite quaint insignificance of it seemed to dull the whole idea of a child and from that day forth, his parents seemed mildly interested beyond performing the basic parental duties.

Herbert knew he was an unusually small baby, so of course it made sense that the birth was quick and easy.  He was proud of that fact, though his mom and he had never really talked about it.  His father only gave a general sigh when he saw his son.  As if to say, “I guess.”

But when Herbert turned 32 years old his life changed.  It turns out many changes would follow this initial break from the ordinary. 

Small Measures

Bacca entered the market just past one in the afternoon.  He always enjoyed coming here at this time.  It wasn’t jam packed like it can sometimes be right after second shift, but there was a general buzz.  Bacca liked a general buzz.  It made him feel part of a whole.  And when you are part of a whole, you can choose to stand out when you are confident, and blend in when you are not. 

He liked that.  Everywhere in the sector, it seemed, you are measured.  But if things got intimidating, it always helped if you felt like you could disappear into the backdrop of the larger group.  Not that it would be a problem today.  Bacca had been to the market plenty of times and was very familiar with the hustle and bustle.

Various screens hung in the space above and across from the main walkways.  Each one had a different announcement or advertisement.  Marketing was very informative.  Each advertisement is measured for its accuracy and if it does not reach a 90% accuracy, it was rejected.  Bacca’s father once explained this to him.  He didn’t understand why you were allowed to have 10% lies.

“They are not lies, Bac,” he explained.  “You can never be 100% accurate, because in order to do so would require everyone defining the words you use exactly the same way and for those words to encompass the whole truth.  Both of these things are not possible.”

Deconstruction of Alice

Alice Titus shifted uncomfortably in the chair and tried to remember how she ended up in this office.  She was in such a good mood when she woke up this morning.  One good fucking mood.

Titus was a good student.  She always had “Outstandings” and “Excellents” on her report cards in the grades before actual grade point average.  And then on to junior high.  She had straight A’s. 4.0. She was a top student.  She was in clubs, cheerleaded, and tried to smile all day.  Smiling all day, she thought later, was what took a bit of her soul away.

Then high school rolled around and Charles “Buck” Stone.  

He was handsome and such a sweety.  He wasn’t the best football player or the leader of the popular crowd, but he was surprisingly intelligent.  He talked to her when she would get to her locker after school.  He would sit next to her at the high school basketball games.  He would boldly ask her to dance at the YMCA weekend dances.  Even to the fast music.  The girls danced in the middle of the gym floor, while the guys would line up on the walls trying desperately to find the proper way to put their hands in their pockets to look cool.