A Noble Story<br/>

Author: David Drayer
Publisher: Route 33 Press
Published: 2014-11-01
ISBN(s) 978-0-9892827-4-1
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Contemporary, Literary, Action Read Excerpt >

I’m hung over, looking at my haggard reflection in the glare of a computer screen. I don’t need to read the words behind that reflection to know that they are meaningless. I spend over 40 hours a week in this cubicle. This box. I get paid good money for doing stupid shit. Three years ago, sick of being poor, I came here after hearing that people with English degrees were in high demand. That sounded like a joke; I was waiting for the punch line much like I did as a college student, when a classmate once asked: “What’s the difference between a park bench and an English major?”

That punch line is: A park bench can support a family of four.

But I had nothing to lose, so I migrated in this direction and sure enough, had a job—this job, in fact—within a week.

I was hired for my writing skills, but I don’t really write. Mostly I rewrite and edit dry, boring documents that no one actually reads. My job is to make them more readable, less dry and boring in the unlikely event that someone may someday read them. After I make all my changes, the documents go through endless reviews from subject matter experts, supervisors, and managers. When everyone has added their two cents, I incorporate all the contradicting comments and end up with a final document that looks pretty much like the one I started with.

I walk to the window and gaze out at the street 11 stories down. Everyone is dressed in business attire. “Wage-slaves,” I whisper, watching them hurry to their own boxes where they too are probably doing stupid shit for good money. Saja, my office mate, bustles in, weighed down by an oversized purse, a computer bag, and a large coffee. She is in her early thirties, olive-skinned, always stylishly dressed, usually in a hurry, and spreading good cheer like fairy dust. “Happy October to you!” she says.

“Happy October?”

“Yes! It’s the first day of October.”

“My favorite month,” I hear myself say.

“Aww, that’s sweet!” she says, unloading her stuff. “Why is it your favorite?”

I haven’t thought about this in a long time. “The changing of the leaves,” I say. “The smell in the air. Sunny days and chilly nights.” It’s more than that, but I don’t elaborate because I can tell Saja is anxious to get to the kitchen where she keeps a week’s supply of low-fat yogurt in the community refrigerator.

“You need to lay off the booze,” she says on her way to the door. “You’re ruining your good looks.”


“It’s the harsh, morning sunlight,” I say, but she is already gone. Saja has a habit of saying things like that as she leaves a room. She’s right about the drinking though. It’s getting out of control. Not to mention the hangovers, which are awful and make working here even more miserable.

 I look back out at the perfect blue sky and think about my favorite month. Hot chocolate and football games come to mind. I think of motorcycle rides through bright colored forests, too. I think of apples, bonfires, and good times. Falling in love. I have been in love three times in my life. It happened fast, and every time, in October.

But I haven’t been in love in a long while, and I can’t remember the last good time I had in October. I can’t remember the last good time I had, period.

Saja zooms back in, eating her yogurt. “The Bitch-on-Heels wants to see you in her office ASAP.”

“Did she say why?”

“No, but she seems pissed.”

“She’s always pissed.”


Jennifer’s texting with one hand and tapping a button on the computer with the other when I walk into her office. Her eyes dart between the phone screen and the computer screen.

          “You wanted to see me?”

          “Sit,” she says without looking at me. At first glance, Jennifer appears hot—tight skirt, cleavage, high heels, dressed more for a night club than the office—but the illusion doesn’t hold up when you get to know her. Her personality sucks, and she always smells vaguely of garlic. Today is no exception. “Your DWR says that you spent four and a half hours writing the KCs for WTZ.”

          This place is the land of acronyms, and Jennifer is its queen. It annoys the hell out of me. The last time we discussed my DWR—Daily Work Report—she wrote me up. “That’s right. Four and a half hours.”

“That’s too long,” she says, still not looking at me.

The DWR is a bullshit report that employees submit each day that details exactly what we worked on, a brief description of that work, and how much time was spent on each project. In this case, the report goes something like this: Reviewed WTZ documents. Outlined objectives. Wrote KCs for WTZ. Total time: 4.5 hours.

“The KC’s can’t take longer than four hours,” Jennifer continues. “Change it on the DWR to four and divide the extra 30 minutes between your other projects.”

The smart move here is to say okay and do it without question. But instead, I say, “So you want me to lie?”

Now she looks at me. “No-oo,” she says, over-enunciating the little word like she is saying it to a child. “That is not what I said.”

“But it took me four and a half hours.”

“Per the client’s guidelines, the job is only allotted four hours. So it couldn’t have taken you longer than that.”

“But it did.”

Jennifer purses her lips into a thin, red line, takes a deep breath through her nose, and pushes it back out. “We can only charge four hours for that project. If you can’t divide the 30 minutes between your other projects, you are welcome to eliminate them from the report entirely, which means, of course, that you will not be paid for them. The choice is yours.” She lays the phone down and puts her focus and both hands on the computer keyboard, her way of telling me I’m dismissed. “Oh, and,” she adds, “you have been tasked with rewriting the SOP for the MTD.”

I hate writing SOPs, and the MTD is drier than desert sand, which I’d rather eat than write an SOP for the MTD. “Jennifer—” I pause, hoping to sound genuine, knowing I need to sell this. “My plate is really full right now.”

She scoffs. “Everyone’s plate is full. I need it Monday morning.”

“As in a week from today?”

The sound of a doorbell heralds an incoming text from her cell phone. “Yes,” she says and scoops it up. “Before noon.”

“It’s over 500 pages. There is no way I can get that done by Friday. Not with all the other projects I have.”

“Which is why you have till Monday,” she says, reading the message and clicking out a new text message. “It’s expected that you’ll have to put in overtime. I already got approval.”

No, no, no! Not my weekend! This place doesn’t get my weekends! “I can’t. I have plans Saturday and Sunday.”

“Then I guess you’ll have to stay late through the week.”

It’s all I can do to get through the week as it is. The thought of not racing out of here at quitting time is unbearable. “I have stuff all week.” My voice sounds so whiny that I want to kick my own ass. “I can’t do it.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she says. She puts the phone down and goes back to the computer. “It has to be done and you are the one that’s been tasked. We all have to take a turn. Sorry.”

She’s not sorry. I can’t think of anything to say that will not result in Joe the security guy escorting me from the building so I don’t say anything at all. I turn and walk away. Suddenly, I am more hung over than I’ve been all morning. Pounding head, rolling stomach, rubber legs. Back at my cubicle I feel defeated, hateful, trapped. Mostly trapped. I pull up the DWR on the computer and start making the changes.

“Oh no,” Saja says over my shoulder. “Tell me you didn’t do it again?”

She’s referring to last month when Jennifer wrote me up. She made me rewrite the DWR again and again, saying it wasn’t detailed enough. So in a huff, I’d rewritten it to include even bathroom breaks. Walked to men’s room. Took shit. Washed hands. Returned to cubicle. Total time: 12 minutes.

Saja and I had a good laugh about it and of course I intended to erase it, but things got crazy busy and I inadvertently submitted it that way. Jennifer didn’t see the humor. “No,” I tell Saja, “I’m just manipulating reality so we don’t have to disagree with the client. But as I was leaving Jennifer’s office, she stuck me with writing the SOP for MTD. By Monday at noon.”

“Oh, that stinks. But at least you’ll make some bank with the overtime.”

“I don’t want overtime. I want my life. What’s left of it anyway, considering five out of every seven days are sacrificed here.”

“If you hate it that bad, why don’t you look for something else?”

“I’ve been trying,” I say, which I have, but anything I’d be qualified for wouldn’t be much different than this. “For seven, eight months now. Nothing. I can’t even get an interview.”

“Yeah,” she sighs, going back to her desk. “It is a bad time to be looking. I have a friend that’s been out of work for almost a year. She might lose her condo.”

I finish the changes to the DWR, resubmit it and pull up the MTD. Five hundred and thirty-five pages. In order to write the SOPs, I have to read all of the MTD, synthesize it and break it down into a five-page SOP. I let out a long sigh and read the first paragraph. It doesn’t register. I read it again. It’s no use. I can’t concentrate. I go back to the window and look at the sky again. “It’s not right,” I say, “being stuck in here on a day like this.”

“Yeah,” Saja says, hunching forward, absently tapping away at her keyboard.

I miss having a lucky month. I miss believing that there could be such a thing. I grab my suit jacket and head for the door. Saja wants to know where I’m going.

“It’s the first day of my favorite month,” I say, “and something has to be done about it.”

A Noble Story   by   David Drayer   |   See Bio >
Life is Revision

When hard work fails to pay off, relationships fall flat, and carefully-laid plans unravel, it is easy to lose heart. The narrator of A Noble Story is a man whose dreams have faded and who zombie-walks through meaningless work days, drinks himself to sleep each night, and keeps company with the ghosts of lovers past.

One day, a dancing pickle twirling a sign on a street corner captures the narrator's attention. The pickle is giving it all he's got, caught up in a rhythm all his own. He is so sincere and dedicated in his efforts, he doesn't look as ridiculous as he should. In fact, he seems somehow dignified. Even noble.

Who is that guy? And what's his story?

As the answers to these questions begin to unfold, the narrator finds himself believing again. And just like that, he's on his motorcycle, leaving his job and the city behind for open country roads and adventure. He may have no idea where life is suddenly leading him or if he'll even survive, but for the first time in a long time--he's enjoying the ride.

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