Every morning Richard Chan sat down to a plate brimming with sausages and beet slices and a 1 liter jug of Turkish coffee. He ate while reading the newspaper. As he read, his complexion grew more and more mottled and his breathing heavier. The pace of the meal, which began with sedate movements of his fork and contemplative chewing, became erratic and violent. His breakfast devolved into a scene of carnage in which he stuffed entire sausages in his mouth, stabbed five beet slices on a single fork, and burned his tongue on his coffee.
Once he reached the last page of the paper, he slammed his fist down in disgust. Then he pushed away from the table, sending the solid oak chair reeling onto its back. Grunting and baring his teeth, he tore the paper into shreds. Then he carried the bundle of fluttering strips to his pewter stove. Working by the fistful, he fed the paper inside, lit it with a match, then blew and stirred until it burned down into ash finer than talcum powder.
Then, wiping his hands of soot, sausage drippings, and ink smudges, he donned his hat and went outdoors. Scowling, he tipped the brim to Mrs. Lee, his neighbor across the road, and muttered “good morning.”
Mrs. Lee scowled, turned her back on him, and clattered through her front door. She banged the frame with her elbow as she went through. The sound of her curses trailed Richard down the street.
He tromped along for two blocks, then cut through the local park. A raccoon had gotten into one of the bins, trash littered the path. A bit of gum and toilet paper stuck to his heel as he stomped over top of it. “Disgusting,” he fumed, scraping the gum onto the edge of the sidewalk.
The air was muggy with low-hanging clouds. Richard pulled at his collar and flapped his elbows to get airflow to his armpits. By the time he reached the office, his forehead shone with a fine sheen of sweat. He dabbed at it with his handkerchief, then clomped through the door. Taylor, Griffin, and Chong leaned over the reception desk, grinning down at their new administrative assistant. Poor girl. Why was she smiling? Richard wanted to shout at them to get out of his way. He thought about punching Griffin but restrained himself with an effort. “Good morning,” he growled, making them all jump. Then they smirked and jostled each other in the ribs.
“Lovely day, isn’t it?” said Griffin, too wide-eyed to be sincere.
Richard didn’t reply. He pushed through the double doors, went down the hall, and unlocked his office. He collapsed into his chair, dropped his head backwards, and sighed.
The phone rang.
Richard picked it up and listened to the yapping voice on the other end. His face grew mottled. His breathing got heavier. “What!” he yelled, banging his fist down on his desk. “That’s no excuse! You said it would be ready, so get it ready. You have three hours, or we’re done, I tell you. Done!” Then he slammed the receiver down and sat there panting. He ran his finger along the cool glass covering his desktop. He inhaled through his nose.
The phone rang again.
At five o’clock, Richard locked his office. When he stepped outside, a splat of rain hit his nose. Cool air whisked up the street and sent a pleasant chill down his neck. Leaves rustled and tore loose from the trees, rushing and flying in the wind. Richard breathed deep. He smiled at the sky, now dark with rainclouds.
The downpour came just as he reached his house, bursting earthward with a peel of thunder. Richard kicked off his heavy work shoes once he was inside the door. He made himself a pot of Fettuccini Alfredo with bacon for dinner. Then he sat facing the window, listening to the rain thrum and rush against the panes.
He fell asleep with a contented smile on his face.
In the morning, he woke to sunlight pouring through his bedroom window. He got dressed, feeling spry and hopeful. In the kitchen, he made coffee and fried three pounds of sausages, grunting his appreciation at the aroma. He peeked out the window and saw blue sky. A dove perched on Mrs. Lee’s roof, humming and warbling. What a beautiful day.
Richard padded to the front door and pulled it open. At his feet, rolled up tight and bound with a rubber band, lay the morning paper.