Joe’s Knees Hurt

Joe Strickham woke up to an empty bed. Just as he had every day for the past year.

He creaked up, sat on the side of his bed and rubbed at his knees. “Another day in paradise, right Annie?” He whispered aloud looking back over his shoulder. He noticed the cold moonlight shining on her empty pillow. It was early, around five in the morning, but that was part of his usual routine.

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. Though they lived and worked together, he wouldn’t see him for another three hours. He’s always asleep nowadays, he thought as he made his way to the kitchen. His only stop in-between was to grab the remote from off of the coach.

He made his usual breakfast. Oatmeal and some fruit. Then he sat at the small round dining table at the edge of the open kitchen. There were three chairs. At most, two were ever employed at a time. More so lately, only one was getting use per meal.

He sat in the chair facing the television and used the remote to turn it on.

“Sounds like a pretty bad storm, huh Sharen?” Joe could barely hear the news anchor ask. Joe leaned in trying to hear better.

“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 and his frustration grew. He held it closer and examined it. Whatever happened to just standing up and changing the channel?

The thought of standing made his knees hurt. Ah, that's what happened, I suppose.

Grumpy now, he set his spoon down, scooted his chair far back from the table, braced his hands on his knees and stood up slowly. Voices from the random game-show that he had accidentally landed on grew louder as he walked closer towards the tv. “... So you're saying you didn’t even know that he was cursed until three years into being married?” a young suave host was saying to an obviously duped woman.

“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 -”

Finally making it to the tv, Joe leaned down and changed the channel manually. Junk tv. He thought as he remembered him and Annie in their first three years of marriage. Every day she would tell him, another day in paradise, huh honey? Even after they got in a fight. With her, everything was easier. He flipped through a few more channels and finally found the morning news.

“Aah, that’s better,” he said as he started the slow shuffle back to the little table.

Just passing the arm of the couch he realized that he only changed the channel and had failed to do what he originally intended to do: turn up the volume. He grunted and made a frustrated face. Damn hearing, he thought. Gettin’ old ain't for sissies, right Annie? Another catchphrase of hers. He found himself using them more and more lately. He about-faced his rigid body and marched back toward the television once more. The voices became audible to him again.

“... That’s right, it seems as though small businesses just can’t compete with Statim’s new Two-minute 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. He stood 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 year.”

“Really? Well do -”

“... 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…” Joe couldn’t stand the news reports anymore and switched to one of his favorite channels, Creature Planet. Angrily, he walked back to the table and methodically sat back in his chair. He hoped that the documentary on the little-known world of tropical fecal sprites would calm him down.  If nothing else, the soft accent of the announcer would help him forget about Statim and their tyranny.

He thought, what ever happened to people just coming into a store and buying something? Everything’s gotta be on-the-line or posted to some kind of feed. I remember when we used to not have something, then we just didn’t get it! He grunted and let out a little chuckle then coughed up some phlegm. His jittery hands tapped his spoon against the oatmeal bowl and every little clank it made seemed to work him up more. Our store is still got a chance, we’ve been a piece of this community for damn near 24 years! I don’t care about reports or charts or magitization. We sell things and all we have to do is sell more! What the hell is a mega company anyways? Statim… Fuck em. I'll show em!

His tightening chest warned him of his high blood-pressure. He stopped himself. He took a big breath and a sigh and calmed down. These angry thoughts weren’t going to get him anywhere. His wife had taught him that. If she were here, she’d call him a fool for getting so upset. He thought about her more when he was upset. like today.

Something told him it was going to be a long day. Well, his knees told him it would be a long day.

He sighed, took another bite of oatmeal and said, “Another day in paradise.”