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The mental collapse of the quintessential upper middle age, expendable corporate executive. Locke who pours his heart and soul out to a caged polar bear, in reality, wants only to trade places with him.
John G Gorman
Undiscovered writer at www.artandmind.com John has recently published "Worth A Hug"
at www.MWPJournal.net. Former Journalist at the Queens Ledger and the Glendale Register.
This summer in Prague he will start writing his second novel.
|AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (2)
For The Love Of Auntie (Novels) This is chapter one of "For The Love of Auntie". Bobby Thornton, a month from his thirtieth birthday returns home for Thanksgiving with the news that he finally has a real job. He can't wait to tell h... [4,801 words] [Drama]
Lawson's Last Stand (Short Stories) An ordinary man's desire to maintain his anonymity and that of the authors whose work he reveres is foiled by a mob of ambitious politicians, religious leaders, newscasters and computer hackers. Manfr... [3,862 words] [Literary Fiction]
John G Gorman
Face to face with Chicago’s biggest polar bear, Jason Locke pressed his thin-framed body against the glass tank. Locke shivered in his cotton shirt unaware that he left his suit jacket at the office. Cold air cramped his posture and face; the contorted pout containing silent cries. The rep tie he wore tossed across his neck like a scarf or a noose. Inwardly feeling caged he banged his head; his skull thudding against the glass gave onlookers the impression he wanted desperately to trade places with the giant animal. Few people were in the zoo that chilly March afternoon; the sun hung low behind a bunch of trees and Locke’s body shook each time it fell lower in the sky. The air’s nipping chill coupled with the icy glass gave him an overwhelming urge to drink coffee. His hands now unpryable pressed knuckles first against the tank’s clear sheet made his fingers into paws reminding him of his inability to pour coffee at work this morning.
Things weren’t going well for Locke, being promoted today to Senior Vice-President of Mid Western Regional Sales, when for months he had conspired to lose his job. This was a shock. His company rewarded incompetence and apathy; the last three men promoted to Locke’s position graduated from the bottom of their classes from schools without prestige. Locke on the other hand, a graduate from Wake Forrest, member of the golden Key honor Society, Phi Beta Kappa and owner of a trophy case chock full of speech and debate awards was the last candidate considered for promotion. Consistently motivating his workers to ever higher gross sales’ levels was now incapable of working. Credentials like his didn’t get jack at his company, which is why he chose to work there in the first place. Why Mr. Lawson, his boss, called him in this morning, giving him the company’s largest senior vice-president position perplexed him. He wasn’t prepared for it. It was the combination of his perplexity and the nervousness from his new responsibilities that caused him to break out in hives. The blotchy marks spreading across his body frightened him; earlier on he was itchy, scratching himself when he saw his new title, painted on his office door.
The young zookeeper kept a watchful eye over Locke today, who was scratching himself with his free hand, still knuckling the tank. Although he had seen Locke before, he was never concerned about his behavior. The thin man had never yelled at the bear before. He had spoken to the bear for hours in the past, but the young zookeeper had seen numerous people chat with the captive animals for companionship, today however, Locke was belligerent. The bear growled at Locke and he stood watching the dirty white paws of the beast curling up against the glass, reflecting his knuckle first pose on the opposite side. A woman eyeing him suspiciously pulled her woolen capped boy away from the bear house despite the little boy ranting, “I want to see the giant fury snowball.” When Locke heard the word “snowball” he looked up briefly, as if somehow the words would bring flakes. The zookeeper came over and told the thin man to stop harassing the bear. Locke ignored the zookeeper, opening up a tiny packet of nuts, airplane size. He gobbled them quickly, feeling the greasy salt irritation on his raw fingers then placed them back in his pants’ pocket. The bear growled and began to bang on the glass sheet. Locke countered, escalating their struggle.
“Can’t you see I’m talking to him,” Locke retorted. He fumbled through his pockets for his dry roasted nuts, only to find lint, salt bits and no more nuts.
“Look Mister I don’t want any trouble. I’ve just been advised to ask you to kindly leave the bear alone,” the zookeeper said circumspectly so, as not to rile the thin man.
“Leave him alone. He should leave me alone. Gloating at me.” Locke addressed the bear, “I’m not putting up with this crap anymore. I will not. He half turned to the zookeeper. “Why are you looking at me. I’m not crazy.”
Again he spoke to the bear. “You have your freedom, cooped up in there when all the real problems are out here.”
“He’s practically a prisoner in there,” the young zookeeper sympathized, his voice stronger, bordering lukewarm authoritative. “If it weren’t for people like you coming here and mocking these poor animals then maybe-“
“Mock him. He mocks me. Who do you think he sends out to do his dirty work? You think I like getting brow beaten by his clients. You think he handles screw-ups. That’s why he promoted me. You know it all. Where do you work? The mailroom?”
"No. I work here and I was just advised to stop you from harassing the big guy.”
“So, I’m harassing. I tell it like it is, one time, people fly off the handle. The problem with you is that your head is up his ass,” Locke said to the zookeeper, ”You can’t see the world clearly. Take your head out of his ass. This world is full of givers and takers. I’m a giver. He’s a taker. Look at him. I give and give and give him attention and he mocks me. Shouting at the bear, “No more Lawson. Get someone else. I’m not pissing my life away. And I’ll tell you something else I never wanted that lousy office. What life do I have? I’m married to my job. I want a divorce.”
For some strange reason the zookeeper had an urge to laugh. The scene was macabre, yet almost appeared comical. Locke got on his knees, his tie fluttering in the wind. He banged his head against the glass tank. The bear let out a roar and the echo hung in the air shaking Locke’s hands. Two security guards walked over. A heavyset guard moved in a semi bow legged manner, as if he had been on one too many carousel rides. Locke gestured to the zookeeper with his saltiest hand. “Can’t you help me. Don’t
you have ambitions? Get yourself out of the mailroom. Tell Lawson that you’re taking my place.”
The zookeeper furrowed his brows. He was eager to help the man, as much as he wanted to help the bear, but didn’t know how to go about it. Fumbling with the stubble on his chin, as if the answer were buried underneath, he found only a pimple. He rubbed it briefly, inhaled and exhaled. Wreathes of smoke left his lips, bewitching Locke inhaling the imaginary smoke.
“Be a man for chrissakes. Tell Lawson how you feel?”
“I would honestly, but I don’t know this Mr. Lawson.”
“There. He’s right in front of you. Can’t you see him with that phony smile.”
“The bear?” the zookeeper asked.
Locke became enraged. Ripping off his shirt, exposing the rashes covering his chest and stomach. Looking at his body, he cursed. His raspy voice muffled by the growling bear. The guards watching in amusement, until the zookeeper motioned for them. The potbellied guard grabbed the shirtless man. As Locke pushed the fat guard away the bowlegged one hobbled over. Both guards pounced on Locke, who wildly shook his arms and legs in rage. Drool slithered down his cheek. They struggled for a while until the potbellied guard handcuffed the shirtless man. His face was scraped from being mashed against the concrete. He stopped flailing his legs. The guards picked the man off the ground and pulled him toward an ambulance waiting at the zoo’s entrance. The young zookeeper’s chest pounded.
An expression of achievement or joy spread across the Locke’s face. With his lower lip bleeding, his hands cuffed, he was free of the unbearable frustration of work and responsibility. Wearing a sardonic grin, he left Mr. Lawson behind.
|READER'S REVIEWS (3)
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"shows promise, liked it overall, i could get a good feel for your head....but the story is confusing and not well developed." -- sunny, DC, DC, USA.
"This is truly a wonderful story. Anybody who has ever worked at a big company can totally relate to what Jason went through. Short and sweet. The twist at the end wonderful, yet bitterly unsettling ." -- Tony Oprisiu.
"Nothing like a crackpot trying to headbutt a polar bear behind a plexiglass. The writing is really poetic. Awesome!!!" -- Maria Veramendi.
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© 2000 John G Gorman
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