by Ed Hodson
Sorry to do this to you, but imagine you receive the worst possible news, the kind of news that no one ever wants to imagine or plan for or even think about: perhaps you find out that your supposedly benign tumor has aggressively metastasized, or you find out your lover is in a coma and will never recover consciousness, or maybe the voice on the other end of the phone is telling you your son has been charged with murder and there is no chance of appeal and he’s going to prison for the rest of his life. Right after Sarah gets news like this she can’t move or speak, and she finds the air around her uselessly devoid of oxygen and impossible to breathe and for the first time in two years’ time she will be late to work, but even now she manages to feel guilty about her impending tardiness and she calls to let them know she’ll be in late, around lunchtime, because she has some “personal matters” to take care of. So she tries to pull herself together and she cries and she prays and she screams in her shower, and she gets dressed and drags herself to work to distract herself from her imploding life. When she walks into the lobby at work she is slightly surprised to be there so soon — she remembers the decision to go to work but can’t remember the details of leaving her apartment or getting into her car and driving in — and the first person she sees sends her upstairs to meet with the boss, who motions her into an empty conference room and without even asking why one of his top performers with an admirable attendance record needed to be late starts yelling at her for being one of three people in his department who decided to be absent at the same time and if you’re going to be late, why can’t you check first to see if anybody else is already having some sort of emergency so as to coordinate with them because being short-staffed is just not an option and don’t you really value your job and do you have any idea how well I treat you guys and are you even slightly aware of how tough it would be for you to get another job in this lousy economy and blah blah and Sarah decides no matter what she would rather quit or be fired than explain her situation to such a self-absorbed monster who could not care less about her or her crisis. Sarah doesn’t really feel the abuse being heaped on her because she is still in shock from her horrible news, and when her boss finally runs out of steam and leaves the room exasperatedly to go spread joy elsewhere, Sarah shuffles back to her desk and says softly to no one in particular, “At least I still have a job. Next time I’m running late, I’ll take the full day off like everybody else.”
Ed Hodson lives and writes in Los Angeles. His flash fiction has also appeared in The Iowa Review.