Another Boring Day
Though he didn’t know it, within a few months, Oliver Strickham would either be interesting, invisible or burnt to a crisp.
But for now, another boring day began.
It began as adequately as it had every day for the past two years.
His bland alarm woke him up at 9:45. He dragged himself out of his unspectacular bed and prepared himself for his normal day at an average pace. Nothing in his routine was out of the ordinary. Nothing in the clothes he wore, the way he acted, or the thoughts he thought.
With his window blacked out by a thick curtain that let an underwhelming amount of light bleed through, his room was scrubbed of color as were most things in his boring world. It was a well kept room with little out of place. This may have been due to the fact that there wasn’t much that could be out of place. Just a table with the appropriate desk items on it; a computer, a stapler and an enchanted quill pen with its accompanying inkwell. One poster of his favorite band, as was it most people's’ favorite band, hung on the walls. The Floating Stones.
After showering and getting dressed, he made the same bowl of oat-based cereal he made every day. Then, without much ado, he left to meet his father who would have already had the store prepped and opened by the time he arrived at 11:00. His father opened, he closed, and they worked together for the bulk of the store hours. That was the routine every day, save for the weekend, and because of the stores ever diminishing clientele, Oliver was as excited to go to work as he was for most things. He wasn’t.
His route to work was a pleasant one, taking him by a park; a block of historic and charming houses; as well the town’s claim to fame: a fountain that granted wishes. None of the wishes were useful, making it more of a novelty than anything, and, as with everything in the world, there were always terms and conditions that added an asterisk to the fulfillment of every wish. Every morning, he would pass by and see a few tourists lined up to throw their coin into the water.
“I wish my husband had a six-pack!” He heard a woman laughing to the fountain as she threw her coin in with the lot. Then she reached into the fountain and pulled out a rather wet book and laughed hysterically, then shouted out the book’s title for the video that her husband was filming via his cell phone. “How to get a six pack in thirty days! Oh honey, that’s too funny. We have to get a picture with it.” She shouted as she squinted and pointed at the title, then read it aloud for the video her husband was filming on his phone. Ruined from water damage, the book was useless.
Oliver glanced over and thought, what are they gonna do with a wet book?
“Oh, sorry,” Oliver said.
He had bumped into a man walking the other direction on the sidewalk. There was solid contact at their shoulders and the man turned in full to look at Oliver. In return, Oliver only glanced over his shoulder, made eye contact, then turned back and kept walking.
The man stood in shock staring at him. He started to speak but tripped over his words as he reached out to Oliver. After clearing his throat, the man jogged to catch him. “Excuse me,” he said.
It wasn’t surprising that Oliver had missed him. It was both dark out and the man wore the most unnoticeable attire one could wear. A grey collared t-shirt with faded yellow stripes tucked into his loose-fit khaki pants, all complemented by walking shoes that would embarrass even the lamest of teenage daughters. As he got closer, he tapped him on the shoulder, hollering, “sir! Wait, excuse me, sir!”
“Yeah?” Oliver half turned around. They held a moment and studied one another. The mysterious man examined with more intent.
“You can see me?” The man asked.
“And hear me?”
With a nod, Oliver turned and tried walking away.
The man clawed at him, pulling his shoulder and turning him back into the conversation. “Yeah?” He asked the man after another moment of the examination.
“You’re boring, too?” The man asked.
“You don’t understand, yo -”
Cutting the man off, Oliver yawned. Taking a deep breath to compose himself, he squeezed Oliver’s shoulders with both hands as if to shake him and said, “You don’t get it. I’m invisible to everyone.”
“But I can see you.”
“Right! Right. Just one minute, man.” The person was extremely boring and continued to talk at him. Often, he would poke his chest or shake him, pleading something or another. Oliver found it nearly impossible to pay attention and, in turn, missed most of what the man was trying to communicate.
During a pause in the man’s boring speech, Oliver guessed at what he had been told and said, “got it,” then tried to continue walking to work.
“No no no, don’t go. You can see me! Just listen. Listen for a minute. Please. No one can ever see me. No one’s seen me for twenty years! Please! Just pay attention for a second or two. Please!”
Oliver shrugged. His expression didn’t change much as he consented with a raised eyebrow to hear the poor, invisible man’s story.
Continuing his monotonous monologue, the invisible man said, “it all started with the Rumulus Spell.”
At mention of the spell, Oliver perked up and tried to focus, but it was hard. After all, the man was very boring. He explained his condition, a curse, of which was difficult to treat, especially fifteen years ago. Oliver’s mind dripped off again. Staring at the man’s mouth was like looking at a video of a person talking that someone had overdubbed with low, drowned, mumbling sounds. But, feeling like it was important information, Oliver squinted and leaned in to focus the man’s words into existence. He was impossibly boring and Oliver only caught glimpses of what he was saying.
“... I can’t even get paychecks, people started filling my information out and then just stop halfway... Stolen a lot… lonely… sleep in someone’s spare bed even though they don’t know I exist. That’s been kind of nice, actually... Doctors can’t see me… when I get… please…...”
The man rambled on and his pace grew faster. Noticing that Oliver had drifted off, he slapped him across the face to get his attention.
“... I was supposed to fight a Dragon…”
Oliver raised an eyebrow at the spotty information.
“... fighting a Dragon is… was dating someone… fell in love!”
Though Oliver’s face stayed stoic and still, his heart beat faster the more the man spoke. Every fragment of a sentence felt more and more familiar and it made his head spin to hear.
“... ruined our relationship… the Rumulus spell wears off after about a year! Just a year! One year! We were in love, really! I don’t care what the spell did or not, we were in love!... now… sad and alone.... nobody can see me! This... I’m alone, man! All alone forever!”
Suddenly, a car honked in the distance and the two of them looked away.
When Oliver looked back, the man was gone.
Standing for a second, he swore that he could still feel the man shaking him, but as he looked around, he saw no one. Not knowing what to make of the strange encounter, he searched all around him to see where the man had gone. Giving up rather quickly, he yawned, shrugged, and continued walking.
He thought, wow, that guy was boring.
Joe Strickham woke up to an empty bed. Just as he had every day for the past two years. He creaked up and sat on the side of his bed rubbing his knees. “Another day in paradise, right Annie?” He whispered aloud looking back over his shoulder and noticed the moonlight shining on her empty pillow. It was routine for him to get up long before the sun.
Like rings on a tree, the cracks all around his face showed the world all the years he’d lived. The little grunts and groans that accompanied his actions and movements added up to a small symphony of noises indicative of his tenacity in the face of his age.
After warming up his knees for what seemed to be hours, Joe got up, attempted to pee for a while, showered, brushed his teeth, put his suit on then fastened his tie. By seven, he was having breakfast. Oliver, his son, was still asleep and though they lived and worked together, he wouldn’t see him for another three hours. He’s always asleep, he thought.
Sitting at the small round dining table at the edge of the open kitchen, he watched the weather channel as he ate his oatmeal.
“Sounds like a pretty bad storm, huh Sharen?” A news anchor asked their co-host.
“That’s right Drew, a front of cold magical energy is sweeping the coast and causing a lot of the fairies to-”
Joe changed the station during the weather woman’s reply. “Damn thing,” he muttered realizing that he’d held the channel carving instead of the volume carving. In his hand was a rather small wooden remote with carvings all around it that symbolized different available functions. Quite a handy little device, but Joe never liked it. As he put his thumb on the correct marking and clunkily flicked the controller up and down, he often skipped one or two channels on accident, and his frustration grew. He held it closer to examine it. Whatever happened to just standing up and changing the channel?
The thought of standing made his knees hurt.
Ah, that’s what happened.
Grumpy now, he set his spoon down, scooted his chair far back from the table, braced his hands on his knees and stood up. Voices from the random game-show that he had accidentally landed on grew louder as he walked closer towards the tv, allowing him to hear the drama unfold. “... Didn’t even know that he was cursed until… What was that? Three years into being married?” a young suave host clarified for the audience. An obviously duped woman looked toward the cameraman and the accompanying audience with a look look that said, “I know! Crazy, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right. Wasn’t till about a year after that, that he told why he was cursed in the first place.” The audience gasped and chattered in the background.
The suave host started up again, “And what kind of curse did he hav-”
Joe changed the channel with the buttons on the tv. Junk, he thought as he remembered how he and Annie were in their first three years of marriage. It seemed like every day she would tell him, another day in paradise, huh honey? Even after they got in a fight. With her, everything was just easier.
He glanced over at her urn sitting on the top shelf of a wire-framed bookshelf to the left of the television. He flipped through a few more channels and found the morning news.
“Aah, that’s better,” he said, starting the shuffle back to his breakfast on the little table.
Just passing the arm of the couch he began to notice the tv was too loud. Damn hearing, he thought. Gettin’ old ain't for sissies, right Annie? It was another catchphrase of hers that he’d found himself also using more of in the past few months. As he about-faced his rigid body and marched back to the television once more, the voices became audible to him again.
“... That’s right, it seems like small businesses just can’t compete with Statim’s new Two-hour delivery option. What do you think that means for some mom and pop shops around the country, Phil?” One anchor asked today’s guest. A well-dressed man. No doubt in marketing or something along those lines. Joe’s attention sharpened and his blood began to boil when he heard the word Statim. He leaned down and adjusted the volume then stepped back only a few steps and stared at the tv with his arms crossed.
The well-dressed man answered, “well, one thing definitely seems to be clear, Kenneth. If small businesses don’t do something to step into the new millennium - be it through social media, or instant delivery or magitization or what have you - then they’re doomed to fail. In fact, we have some reports that say the success of small businesses has decreased steadily over the last 3 years.”
Joe’s blood pressure rose as he watched the interview and at his cereal. The knowledgeable looking man on television continued to talk about the company Statim, which had evolved into a mega-corporation that threatened to shut down small stores such as his. Grunts of disapproval and anger sputtered out of Joe with every point the man made. His tightening chest warned him to be careful, and he changed the channel.
“... Is a gargantuan species of sprite and are able to survive even the harshest of environments. Seeming to have found its tribe, this sprite grows br…” He had switched it to one of his favorite channels, Creature Planet. He walked back to the table in a huff and sat back in his chair. A documentary on the little-known world of tropical fecal sprites and its announcer with a calming accent settled him down.
Taking a big sigh, he knew getting upset about Statime wouldn’t get him anywhere. Gettin’ mad never gets your further, he could hear his wife tell him. She’d call him a fool for getting so upset. It was when he was upset that he thought about her most. And when he was happy. Or sad. Or hungry. He thought about her a lot.
Something told him it was going to be a long day. Mainly, his knees.
Before finishing his morning routine, he sighed and said, “Another day in paradise.”
“Mrs. Johnson!” Beatriz Randall blurted out as her eyes exploded open and she gasped awake. She knew she was late for something even without seeing the time. She sprung out of bed and ran around her colorfully messy room. Her closet looked as though it was bleeding clothes. It was a cozy one-bedroom apartment and one would say it dangered on being cramped under Beatriz’ decor. There were cute, cartoonish wooden boards everywhere that had sayings like, home is where the art is or beauty is everywhere your eyes are open. Bright pastel dresses and lonely socks littered the floor, and she was such a person who never seemed to find the line between clean and dirty. Even in her jokes.
She began to put herself together with impressive speed, pulled a clean and cute outfit, as if by magic, from her pit of a closet, and then while attempting to put on her shirt and walk across the room at the same time she got caught up and tangled, and almost toppled over. Stabilizing herself, she slowed down and got dressed without any other mishaps, then gathered the necessary items for her unending to-do list for the day.
“Ugh, why can’t I just work on my garden today?” she said looking at the time.
“Ok ok… Mrs. Johnson needs some help with her garden...” She moved a pair of panties out of the way and, from under them, picked up a small stack of plastic garden pots, each a fun shade of green, yellow or purple. A medium-sized wicker basket lined with a bright purple checkered cloth laid on the table pressed against the wall. She lifted a fold of the cloth and stuffed the large pots inside it without looking or paying much mind to it. “... Then Suzanne needs me to.. What did she need me to do?” She had stopped and was holding her hands up as if she was telling the mess in her room to stay put like a dog. Suddenly, she remembered. “Right, the picnic! Right right right.”
She looked around and picked up a few dirty clothes and threw them at what one could only guess was a laundry hamper as it was hidden by a mountain of clothes. Wandering back over to the wicker basket, she opened the purple cloth once more, peeked inside, and spoke into it the words, “taburnus” then pulled out a large pair of hiking boots from the basket. Then, remembering that the basket was the boots’ ultimate destination, she slipped them back in between the folds of its bright lining.
She sighed looking around at the various plants and flowers that decorated her jungle of an apartment. “Sorry guys!” She yelled to them all. “Almost forgot to water you!” With that, she ran into the kitchen to fill her large green watering can. As it filled under the faucet in the sink, Beatriz made a sudden realization.
“Snacks! We’re gonna need a lot of snacks!” She shouted to herself and hurried off into the kitchen and as she entered she spoke, “Mihi opus est ad adepto multum caseum divisa”. At those words, a knife flew off of the magnetic strip above the stove and idled up and down, hovering over the large wooden cutting board by the sink. “Why aren’t you cutting?” She asked the knife, then deduced the problem herself. “Ah, you don’t have anything to cut… One second.” She popped over to the fridge and pulled out a large brick of cheese and set it on the cutting board and the knife began to slice. As the knife did its job, Beatriz went on fulfilling hers and grabbed the bread, lettuce, tomatoes, and an onion. “Hold on, please. That’s good,” she motioned to the knife, then replaced the cut cheese with the tomatoes and onions. Laying out pieces of bread all over the counter, she began to build a slew of sandwiches for the field trip.
After they were all laid out and ready, she stacked them together and cut them into fourths putting a toothpick through each one. These are just so fun, she thought to herself as she leaned down and examined one of the toothpicks further. Each toothpick slowly changed colors, cycling through a few pastel hues. She watched them for a second too long, she felt, and sprung back to the task at hand. “Ok, what next? Hmmm,” she asked herself. Hoping that if she were to look deeper in thought, then thoughts would come to her. Tapping a finger on her mouth, the only thought that came to her was, I need to dust that light.
Checking her phone for the time, she grew into more of a panic. “Ah! Come on, Bee! Get it together!” Hurrying over to the wicker basket, she grabbed it and headed toward the door then remembered, “Right, the sandwiches!” Beatriz ran back to the kitchen, put the neatly prepared quarters in a plastic container with a lid and sealed it shut, then tossed it into the folds of the wicker basket’s cloth along with the other items. Feeling ready, she checked her phone for the time again and headed out the door. Seconds later, just as the door was about to close, she busted back through and back into her apartment.
“Forgot about the Banshins,” she said aloud with a purpose in mind. Diving into her closet, she searched through the hanging organizers and the shelves above the clothing for what she needed. Finally, she pulled out a set of paint and brushes as well as a few mason jars. Along with everything else, she shoved it all into the folds of the bright purple, checkered cloth of the impossibly medium-sized, wicker basket. She checked her phone one more time and sighed out sarcastically, “another exciting day off,” then left.