Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Temper Tantrum by Naomi Elana Zener

Much like Alexander, who had a terrible, horrible, no good, very fucking bad day, Timothy rolled out on the wrong side of the bed. At around 2:30a.m., he found himself in the company of not one, but two children in between himself and his wife, Janelle, in their marital California king bed, the younger one of whom decided to wet it. Brushing his teeth, his mouth full of toothpaste foam, he cursed out Janelle for rushing the youngster out of wearing nighttime pull up diapers, and himself for having been so cheap as to not invest in a waterproof mattress protector per the recommendation of the mattress salesman who strongly advised they buy one—why would I buy one? Timothy had asked the man. I don’t wet the bed!—to protect their five thousand dollar, organic silk-wool-cotton blend, hypoallergenic memory foam, pocket coil machination designed to give them blissful nights of uninterrupted sleep. Or, so the sales guy said. Clearly, the sales guy didn’t have kids. Parenthood robbed them of nights of uninterrupted sleep.

Halfway through brushing his teeth, which he’d noted had produced more froth than usual, he looked down at the tube of purported toothpaste to discover that he’d been using Janelle’s new hair mousse. It’s packaging bore a striking resemblance to his Colgate, an honest mistake anyone operating on four hours of sleep could make. Especially, one nursing a suspected concussion from being donkey kicked in the head thanks to his older child’s propensity for sleeping horizontally, with her feet strategically positioned on Timothy’s pillow within striking distance of his head. Fearing any disruption of her R.E.M. cycle, Janelle prohibited Timothy from moving their beloved daughter—he’d just have to develop a thicker skull, she’d said.

“Good morning,” Janelle chirped, when Timothy sauntered into the kitchen with a dour expression on his face. “Someone’s a grumpy cat this morning.”

“You’d be too if you slept in piss all night. Isn’t it amazing how the wet spot our sweet boy makes is never on your side of the bed?” Timothy retorted. He sat down at the breakfast table, where his well-rested children were too busy playing with their iPads to notice that their papa had joined them.  “And, I wouldn’t have been so tardy to the party if you didn’t leave your hair gel crap next to my toothpaste.”

“Isn’t it amazing how I managed to brush my teeth and use the toothpaste? You’re acting like our toddler. Grow up,” Janelle ordered.

“Good morning to you too,” Timothy muttered to himself, as if he was actually engaged in a three-way conversation with his children. “What’s for breakfast?”

The table was practically devoid of any food, with the exception of the half-empty cereal bowls in front of his kids, and one slice of bacon and a triangle of hardened, semi-burnt toast in the middle of the table.

“You came down too late, honey. Pick at what’s left or make yourself something. I’ve got to get the kids off to school and then I have a client meeting downtown,” Janelle advised, whipping around the kitchen like a twister, snapping up backpacks, her purse, books, keys, the children, and anything else her octopus-like arms could grab on her way out the door. “Love ya.”

The front door slammed shut. Timothy reached for the sad plate inhabited by the bacon and toast, too lazy and too tired to make any greater moves. The cold crunch of the bacon would leave him with indigestion. His upper left incisor came out the loser in its fight with the rock hard toast.  Fuck, now I’ve got to see the dentist, Timothy thought. 

Timothy threw on his galoshes and overcoat, and left the house fifteen minutes after Janelle’s departure. He would’ve never have noticed the giant puddle next to the driver side of his car, but for the fact that there was a giant hole in his left foot’s galosh in the shape of a heart. Clearly, his daughter got crafty with his footwear. Adding insult to moisture, which was creeping up his pant leg, his car’s driver-side seat warmer, not the front passenger one, decided to burn out on that frigid minus ten degree morning. The cold ride to work to a job he hated—he was merely a cog in the multi-million dollar machine of someone smarter than him—playing bean counter for the man with the golden beans, Timothy tried to cheer himself up listening to some newly downloaded songs on his iPod.

“The wheels on the bus, go round and round,” the stereo system sang. At a red light, he looked down at his musical device only to discover that it had synched the wrong playlist. Instead of his gangster rap, it downloaded an album called “Gangs of the Nap: nursery song to entertain your toddler.”

His day terrible, awful, fucking shitty day went from bad to worse. Someone had taken his reserved parking spot—an unknown license plate invaded his designated berth because its driver was too lazy to find a visitor spot in the back of the lot. Of course that person wanted to park as close to the front of the office building on such a frigid day—who could blame them? Timothy could. It was his fucking spot. Stomping down the hall towards his cubicle five feet away from his boss’ office—heaven forbid the accountant get an office of his own, or a little distance from the man in charge who demanded hourly updates on the company’s accounts receivables—one pant leg now soaked up to his knee, and Roly Poly ringing in his ears, Timothy was more than pouting. He was downright surly.

“Sally, can you please get me a coffee?” Timothy asked his assistant, who sat in a cubicle next to his.

“Coffee machine’s broken.”

“Well, can you run down to the cafeteria and buy me one? Here’s some cash.” He reached into his pocket, withdrew his wallet, and handed Sally a five-spot.

“I’m not your wife. Get it yourself.”

“You’re more like my wife than you think,” he spat back.

“Quit acting like a baby,” Sally retorted before she put her headphones back on her head to continue to play Candy Crush Saga on Facebook.

He was two for two on being accused of behaving like a tiny child. After a good mope, he trudged downstairs to the lobby Starbucks to get a coffee, hoping things would turn around. When he got there, Starbucks was closed due to an electrical fire in the cappuccino maker. It was only 9:30a.m. and his terrible, horrible, no good, very fucking bad day got even worse. He returned to his desk and spent the next few hours clearing out his email inbox and putting out fires, but got no actual real work accomplished. Notwithstanding the lack of caffeine infusion, and before he knew it, having missed lunch without noticing, it was almost one o’clock, and Tim had to hit the head. Expecting the lavatory to be empty given the hour and the office routine of everyone convening in the cafeteria for lunch, he was caught off guard when he ran into Jim, the office suck up, standing at his chosen urinal, whistling while he worked.

“Big fan of Snow White?” Tim chortled, unzipping his pants.

“Always puts a smile on my face,” Jim replied, returning to trilling his favourite tune.

Tim gave him a fake smile. He wanted to finish up quickly before Jim could engage him in any further conversation. Given that Jim was lost in his own world, still grooving to his chosen song at his urinal while he washed up at the sink, Tim surmised that clearly Jim, unlike himself, had enjoyed his morning cup of joe or three. “Crap,” Jim muttered noting that there were no more paper hand towels. Dripping droplets of water on his shoes, he turned to leave the restroom.

“Hey buddy,” Jim crowed before Tim could escape, “you need to learn how to pee.”

Tim whipped around on his heels. “Excuse me?”

“You got pee on your shoe, dude.” Tim looked down at the water sitting on the tip of his loafer.

“Funny. It’s water,” Tim spat back with a smirk.

“OH-kay,” Jim chortled. “All I’m saying is that my son knows how to shake it off better than you before storing his hose, and he’s two.”

Tim barged out of the restroom. He strode to his desk, furious at not having punched Jim in the gut—something for which most of the office staff would’ve labeled him a hero given how brown his nose was from sniffing their boss’ ass on an hourly basis—ready to scarf down his lunch with five minutes to spare before his 1:00p.m. meeting with his boss, Mr. Aston Hat, also known as Asshat amongst the staff.

“Tim,” Asshat bellowed. “Get in here.” Tim glanced at his watch. 12:56p.m. His gluten-free, quinoa and butternut squash sandwich would have to wait.  He gathered his files and marched into Asshat’s office.

“Close the door.” Tim complied. He remained standing, having learned a long time ago that he could only take a seat if in receipt of Asshat’s invitation to do so.

“Where’s my 11:00a.m. accounts receivable update?” Asshat demanded to know.

“Sir, as I explained in my email to you at 12:30p.m., nothing has changed since 9:00a.m. this morning. No further invoices have been paid, so I didn’t see the point of…” Tim trailed off.

“I don’t pay you to see the point. I pay you to follow instructions. And, my instructions are that you send me hourly accounts receivable updates every hour on the hour between the hours of nine to five. Got it? Even my three year old grandson can understand that.”

Tim stared at his shoes. A watermark had formed on his left loafer. Now, he was being told he was less competent than a three year old. He didn’t know what was worse: Jim’s two-year-old son knowing how to empty his junk in the urinal properly, or knowing that it only took the brainpower of a three-year-old to do his job.

“Yes sir,” Tim stammered. He didn’t move. He needed Asshat’s permission to leave.

“Fine, go.” Asshat waved him off. Tim turned and opened the door. “By the way, Tim, you have some crumbs on your tie.” They were uneaten, errant quinoa beads, languishing on Tim’s tie, after having fallen out of the uneaten sandwich that remained on Tim’s desk. Not that Asshat would know his quinoa from his breadcrumbs. “And, your socks don’t match.”

“I’m colour blind, sir,” Tim muttered looking down at mismatched pair of navy and black socks—which looked the same to him—his back to Asshat, before walking out the door. Upon returning to his desk, Tim was greeted by his angrily buzzing cellphone, alerting to him to a demanding text from his wife. She informed him she’d be working late, so he’d have to pick up the kids from school and make dinner. Fed up, Tim decided to put himself on a much-needed time out.

Sorry babe. Just can’t do it. Boss has me working late and you know how much of an asshat Asshat really is. Order a pizza and a babysitter. TTUL.

Tim turned off his phone. If Janelle couldn’t reach him, he couldn’t be told what to do. He spent the rest of the afternoon complying with Asshat’s demands, ignoring his wife’s, and watching the clock creep slowly by in the same manner that Death does in taking its time toying with a dying man writhing in pain, begging to be put out of his misery. The clock laughed at him much in the way he imagined Death would too one day. Without sparing a second, while the little hand rested on the five, once the big hand hit the number twelve, Tim sprang from his chair, bolted out of the office, and hoofed it to the nearest bar. He proceeded to sit there getting drunk as a skunk for the next six hours, ordering one beer and shot of tequila after another. Finally, at 10:55p.m., a beleaguered Tim wrestled himself off his barstool. He hailed a cab and snored all the way home. The cab’s abrupt stop in front of his house—or rather his prison—jolted Tim awake. He threw a mishmash of bills at the driver and toppled out of the cab. He dragged himself up the front walkway, through the front door, up the stairs, and fell like a pile of dirty laundry tossed out of the basket onto his bed.

“Where the fuck were you?” Janelle seethed. She’d sat in bed waiting for Tim to come home, texting him furiously every ten minutes. Her ire rose with the pounding of each letter. “I had to beg my boss to leave early today to get the kids. When I got to their school, I was told there’s a lice outbreak and I spent the evening elbows deep in a nit hunt. Fuck your idea of pizza. No one wanted to eat after having nasty bugs scrubbed out of their heads, mine included. I had to wash all of the linens and change the sheets on all of the beds ALL BY MYSELF.”

Tim didn’t catch more than every fourth word coming out of Janelle’s mouth. Janelle yanked the duvet to cover herself, causing Tim to roll off the bed, but not quite waking him.

“All this time, you were off getting soused, and I was stuck here being an adult. You’re such a fucking toddler!”

Of everything, he caught the word toddler.

“OH-kay. If you wanna toddler, you got it,” Tim slurred.

“What I want is for you to go wash your hair with the lice shampoo.”

“Aye-aye, captain!” Tim saluted, lying in a semi-prone position, in his semi-conscious state. He looked at the distance to the bathroom from his bearings on the floor. Too far, he thought. He made an executive decision to fall asleep there, just as his own toddler had done before. Finally, his terrible, horrible, no good, very fucking bad day was over.

The following morning, Tim finally woke at 8:15a.m. to find a Post-It note affixed to his forehead. It read:

Use the lice shampoo, toddler!—Janelle.

“Showtime,” Tim whispered. A naughty grin spread from ear-to-ear. Tim tossed the lice shampoo in the waste bin. After showering, Tim skipped brushing his teeth. He thought it to be a waste of time given that he had yet to eat his morning meal.  He threw on a disheveled tracksuit lying on the floor and haphazardly grabbed some socks out of his laundry basket. He sailed down the bannister and landed with a great, big thud on the hardwood floor.

“Fuck that hurt,” Tim cried out to no one in particular.

“Language,” Janelle shouted.

“Language,” his kids echoed.

Tim made his way into the kitchen, where he found no breakfast waiting for him. Everyone, but his own toddler whose bowl of cereal had become a fishing for Cheerios toy, had finished eating, and they were ready to leave for the day. So, Tim swiped the bowl and spoon away from his kid. Crunching away loudly on the already soggy rings of honey and nuts, Tim did his best to ignore his child’s cries of “Mine! Mine!”

“Tim, give your son his food back,” Janelle ordered.

Tim clutched his bowl into the crook of his arm, pressing it firmly against his chest. “Mine!” he bellowed.

“Are you kidding me?”  Janelle stood there, her feet shoulders width apart, her hands haunched on her hips.

Tim shook his head.  “Mine!”

“Who knew I married a toddler?” Janelle, finally clueing into Tim’s attire, gave him a once over. “What the fuck are you wearing?”

“Language,” Tim and his children chimed in unison.

Tim topped off his jogging suit, which was now sporting a milk stain over the spot where his heart would be, with a mismatched pair of socks: one circus-bright colorful polka dotted sock, and one white & black striped sock.

“Nice sartorial choice.” You could cut the sarcasm in the air with a knife.

“I don’t know what that word means, but I will assume you meant to be nice,” Tim retorted.  “I need a ride to work.”

“Where’s your car?”

“At the office. I did the responsible thing last night and took a cab home.”

“Don’t drink and drive,” his daughter sang from the hallway where she was putting on her boots.

“Sorry bub, no can do. I’ve already got a car full of toddlers and no extra car seat for you to ride in. Maybe you can borrow your daughter’s tricycle,” Janelle replied, ushering the kids out the door. “Don’t forget to wear a helmet!”

Recognizing his Goliath size, as compared to his daughter’s trike, would break the bike’s manifold, he walked to the bus stop. Tim loathed the bus—it was an incubus of plague, especially during the winter. However, today the bus was relatively empty. Also, he was kept entertained by the most recently uploaded playlist on Janelle’s iPod. He swiped it from her purse when she wasn’t looking. Tim chortled. Janelle’s morning jolt never came from java, but rather her music gave her the momentum she needed to brave the day. Now who’s gonna have a bad day, Tim muttered.

Walking into the office, Tim spied the same car in his spot. Not one to let that slide, Tim decided to kill two birds with one stone. Having forgotten to go pee like a good toddler before leaving the house, he relieved himself on the trespasser’s tires.  

“What the fuck man?” the driver of the car shouted. Tim didn’t seem to mind that he had an audience for his one-man show. Or, that the audience was Jim.

“Be grateful I didn’t have to make a number two,” Tim replied, as he made sure to show Jim that he knew how to shake off any excess droplets. “Next time don’t park in my spot, asshole!” With no one to call Tim out for his use of colourful language, he strolled into the building. Now who’s gonna have a bad day, Tim chortled.

Passing by the coffee machine, he noted that it was still broken. Noting that Sally, in her typical fashion, hadn’t bothered to anticipate her boss’ caffeine needs based on yesterday’s discussion, but managed to get herself a piping hot, fresh cup of coffee—a latte no less based on the aroma wafting into Tim’s nostrils—from Starbucks, Tim swiped the cup from her desk and left her a note.

The coffee fairy came and gave your latte away to someone more deserving. Get the coffee machine fixed—it’s your damn job. And, if you get yourself a drink, get one for your boss!

Tim sat down at his desk. He was pleased with himself. So far, he was having a great day, while each of Janelle, Jim, and soon-to-be Sally, would not be. The last target to be crossed off his list was Asshat. The way to pierce Asshat’s heart was with a silver bullet known as non-delivery of the hourly accounts receivable statements. While Asshat still hadn’t arrived, and Tim enjoying the freedom that toddlerhood provided, he took great pleasure in showering anyone who crossed his path with the gift of his infantile behaviour. Insouciant to his victims labeling him a toddler—mission accomplished—Tim spent the morning playing Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds on Facebook. He didn’t even notice when Asshat arrived.

“Tim!” Asshat bellowed. Tim noted the time. It was 11:35a.m. Only two and a half hours after Asshat’s minions had come to work.  If he can take his sweet time getting in, I can take mine, Tim stated to no one in particular. Tim took his time getting up. Making sure to stretch his stiff limbs due to the poor posture he’d assumed while playing videogames, Tim bent over, simultaneously expelling a silent, but deadly scent right into Asshat’s face. Having emerged from his office when Tim didn’t immediately appear, Asshat recoiled almost instantaneously when confronted with Tim’s ass in his face.

“What is that smell?” Asshat choked out, barely able to breathe.

“Must be the beans and cheese from the tacos I ate last night. Sorry boss. I’m lactose intolerant,” Tim offered.

“I’m not interested in your guttural problems. I want my accounts receivable statements from yesterday and this morning. Where are they?”

Tim sat back in his seat and propped his legs up on his desk. Asshat was on his turf now.

“Sir, with all due respect, I understand that you want an update on your cash flow, but these little temper tantrums of yours when you don’t get an hourly report showing you the exact same information as was there an hour before, and the hour before that, and so on, are getting tired. Now, I can have you up to your eyeballs in dead trees if that’s what you really want, but given that this is a company that prides itself on reducing its carbon footprint—we’re a fucking recycling plant after all—it makes more sense for me to email you hourly and tell you there’s been no change, rather than complying with your inefficient redundant mandate,” Tim advised.

Asshat’s complexion was ashen. All of the staff on the executive management floor had dropped what they were doing to witness the tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte between the two men. Tim had knocked him out with a one-two punch.

“Um, well, I, er, see your point, Tim, and I’ll take it under advisement,” Asshat replied. Asshat retreated to his office. Tim spun around in his chair to return to his unfinished game of a new game he was trying out before being rudely interrupted by his boss. Something called Jelly Splash.

“Checkmate,” Tim sang. “Now, who’s having the terrible, horrible, no good, very fucking bad day now, bitches?”

© 2016. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.