An Unremarkable Anniversary

An Unremarkable Anniversary

45 years had gone by since Karen and Vimal tied the knot. 42 years had gone by since the birth of their only child, David. 30 years had gone by since the birth of their granddaughter, Lucy. To the average bystander, they seem to have cherished every moment.

Karen met Vimal while touring India and the two fell hard for each other. They quickly bonded over smooth jazz, the local fruit drinks, and their initial loneliness before meeting. When the tour ended, Vimal followed Karen to the states against his parents’ wishes. They called her slut, whore, white she-beast. Now they call her “Vimal’s white spouse.” It was progress enough.

Now that David moved out and raised his own family, the pair had empty nest syndrome. What would they do now that David left? It had been years and they were still asking that question. They bought a tropical bird, but all it did was soil its cage and keep them up at night.

“Happy anniversary, honey,” Vimal kissed his wife. She returned it on the cheek. He felt isolated, but kept it to himself.

“So what did you do for our anniversary?” Karen asked.

“Nothing, really. Do you want to go somewhere?”

“I need to go to the supermarket to pick up ramen noodles in a cup.”

“That reminds me, I need a new watch.”

So the two headed out on a cold summer’s day for noodles and a watch, trying to ignore the fact that they had no drive to have relations, no appetite for an evening out, no interest in seeing David and his family today.

First, they stopped off at the watch store. The man behind the counter asked them how he could help.

“Um… I was wondering if you could fix my watch?”

Karen looked at him with wide eyes. “But I thought…”

“I changed my mind,” he waved her off.

“What’s so special about this old thing?” The watch looked battered but not dead.

“Yes, Vimal. What’s so special about it?”

Vimal scraped his foot along the floor. “It’s the watch my arranged bride bought for me.”

“He’d like a new watch,” Karen forcefully said, throwing the watch on the floor and stomping on it.

“Yes,” the man said. “Right this way.”

By the time Vimal chose a watch, it was getting darker.

“You never talk about your arranged marriage,” Karen huffed.

“I’m a fool, not an idiot,” Vimal winked.

“Was she prettier than me?”

Vimal stopped in his tracks.

“Was she? Well?”

“I don’t remember what she looked like,” he hushed.

The pair walked silently to the bus for a few minutes. They just missed one, but another would be going in that direction in ten minutes.

“Can I be honest about that broach you got me last year, Vimal?”

“You didn’t like it.”

“I fished the receipt out of the trash and exchanged it for a vi[censored].”

“Why do you need one of those?” Vimal cringed.

“You mean a [censored]tor? It’s called a [censored]bra[censored]. Why are men so afraid of them?”

“I don’t even like to write out the full word,” he said. “It makes me feel inadequate.”

“Well, you’ll be happy to know it does nothing for me. I’m still unsatisfied.”

“That doesn’t make me happy,” Vimal lied.

“So sure.”

They watched a bus drive in the opposite direction.

“If we’re being honest, that wasn’t my arranged bride’s watch. It was from David.”

Karen put her hand over her mouth. “Why…?”

“I hated that watch AND I had no receipt. I tried breaking it, but I couldn’t destroy it. Now if he sees me without it, I can blame you.”

Karen rolled her eyes and turned away from him. “Such a great husband and father.”

“Terrific wife.”

The bus pulled up. They sat in different seats.

At the grocery store, Karen found some exotic fruit she had been looking for. A muscular young man with spiky black hair talked out loud and she told him to keep it down. He grinded his teeth at her.

A few minutes later, she went to the ramen noodles in a cup. Nothing. The usual pyramid of Cup O’ Noodle was gone.

“Oh, the ramen? I saw a man with spiky black hair taking it all for himself.” Vimal regretted telling her.

Karen spat on the floor. “He’s doing this to me! That little brat!”

“I can ask if he wants to share some,” he wimpishly tried.

“No, don’t give him the satisfaction. It’s what he wants.”

They left without buying anything.

On the bus ride home, neither lovebird spoke. Karen glared out the window and Vimal looked at his new watch, setting it to Indian time.

When they came home, Vimal packed his bag.

“I’m going home for a while. I’ll be back in a few weeks.”

“Happy anniversary,” she muttered.

“Yeah… say goodbye to David, Barb and Lucy for me.”

She suspected he wasn’t coming back to America. It hadn’t been that they had a bad fight or several small fights, but the spark was dead. It was the only thing keeping them together.

Four years later, Vimal returned with the woman he had been once arranged to marry. Karen was single but selling high-functioning vibr[censored]s for the elderly. They met once more.

“Ah, hello Karen.”

“Yes, Vimal. Happy anniversary.”

“Oh, is it that time again?”

“We’ve got no obligations. Want to grab a coffee before driving up to Lucy’s wedding?”

“Sounds like a plan,” he smiled.

His wife tapped her foot. “Ahem?”

“Oh, and Aishwarya comes with us. Is that okay?”

“Sure. Say, you’re an old woman now too. [censored]brator?”

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Blueless

blueless

She had lost the ability to see, or even visualize the color blue.

Well, that wasn’t entirely true– Eloise still could see and visualize greens and purples, but not blue.

That hadn’t been the truth either. For whatever reason, she could only visualize a blue giraffe. A specific blue giraffe in a picture book she read as a child. What had happened?

Eloise sighed as she tried to apply the color blue to a high-heeled shoe. Her mind couldn’t grasp it; the shoe came out gray. She looked towards the sky and wished to tell if it was a rainy day or not. If the sun hadn’t been there, she couldn’t tell.

She never told a soul about her condition. After all of those commercials about premature babies, beaten dogs and children starving in Africa, not being able to see blue felt kind of… dumb, if she was being honest. There were more important things. Love. Friends. Her gray toenail polish.

Eloise stared at her toes. She really missed the color blue. It wasn’t even her favorite color; that title belonged to orange, blue’s foe. She slipped on orange and black socks to cover up her gray toes.

She thought of the giraffe again. She hated it, but it had become necessary to maintain sanity. Blue giraffe… Eloise considered listening to Eiffel 65’s “Blue,” but her depression talked her out of it. Would she ever see blue again? Da ba dee da ba da? The song stuck in her head like a fever dream.

Laughing at her misery, Eloise rolled over on the couch. She’d try to forget the giraffe, but it danced around in her thoughts. Nothing seemed to please her anymore. Her son drew a cat with a blue crayon and she cried into it. Her husband wondered why they didn’t sleep together anymore, and then told her he had “blue balls.” She just lied back and told him to go for it. Sensing something was wrong, he went to sleep instead.

She dreamed of greens and reds and yellows, but no blue. Then the damn blue giraffe showed up and began to sing.

“Hello, hello, hello me dearie! I’m here to show ye– okay, that’s enough. I’m here to open your subconscious.”

Eloise frowned. “No thanks. If I can’t remember when I lost my ability to see blue, I don’t think–”

The giraffe put a hoof up to Eloise’s lips. “Non, non, child. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to show you why you stuck me in your brain.”

The world swirled around them in shades of peach and vermilion and pewter, but no blue. Then she saw herself as a child.

Young Eloise was holding a gray crayon… no, the label read “Berry Blue.” She was coloring a book of zoo animals. She could tell that this is where the giraffe came from. On the money, she spotted a page with a giraffe, colored entirely blue.

Her uncle stormed in, drunk as ever. “I bought you that coloring book and those crayons, and you only use blue, blue, BLUE! Little brat!” At that, he stomped on all of the blue crayons. With tears in her eyes, Young Eloise vowed not to let her guardian control her color choices.

“And that is why you still visualize my blue skin. Your defiance stuck.” The giraffe sounded proud of his colorist.

“But tell me, please, why can’t I see blue anymore? I must have lost the ability six months or so ago, not as a child!”

“What else happened six or seven months ago?”

“Well… the company had the merger… I bought that blue toenail polish, and it looks gray now… my uncle died… My uncle?”

“Nail equals hit on head! He was controlling of your choices as a child, and when he died, you didn’t have to hold onto color defiance any longer! All your life, you’ve controlled your own color choices. He died and your need to control color spontaneously vanished!”

Eloise mulled this over in her mind. “That’s dumb and so are you. My uncle’s death was no great loss to me and I hated him. Why would that make me forget how blue looks?”

The giraffe turned dark. “Okay, level time. It had nothing to do with color control. You’re nothing more than a filthy murderer. He was going to leave everything in his will to the dog, so you killed him. Eloise, the murderer, blocked out blue in shock. Maybe it had to do with that crayon-stomping incident, maybe not. But you should turn yourself in or die of guilt.”

Eloise popped up awake. She looked at the sky. Black. She slept through the day.

Eloise walked into her son’s bedroom and kissed him on the forehead, careful not to wake him up.

She went into her husband’s study and began to kiss him passionately, as if she’d never see him again. The two spent the night entangled.

The next day, Eloise turned herself in. However, after a few hours behind bars, she was let go.

“But I killed my uncle! I could kill again!”

The sergeant sighed. “If you do, please turn yourself in. The doctor who did your uncle’s autopsy was questioned about Mr. Pietro’s passing, and she said it was clearly caused by lung cancer. Why did you think you killed him?”

“B-but… the blue giraffe in my dream said…”

“If we listened to our dreams, I’d be a ballet dancer by now. Go home, Mrs. Mulberry.”

Pleased that she wasn’t a murderer and that she could get the giraffe out of her mind, Eloise looked upward. Still gray, but it appeared a little bluer than usual. And who needed blue when she had plenty of other colors to admire, to utilize, to wear? She went to the drug store and picked up a bottle of orange nail polish.

Nineteen months later, the color blue came back, but in her eyes, beige faded. She decided it was “no great loss.”

Vegeta Goes Grocery Shopping

vegeta goes grocery shopping

“Carrots, milk, cheese, uh… Oui strawberry yogurt…”

Vegeta checked the list.

“Broccoli?! She knows I hate that crap! Not huge on carrots either, but whatever.”

Vegeta checked the list again.

“Band-aids? She never fights anyone and Trunks and I are too powerful to need them!”

An elderly woman glared at Vegeta. “Would you mind keeping it down?”

Vegeta grinded his teeth at her, but thought better of doing anything to her.

“Old bag,” he muttered. “What else? Ah, Cup o’ Noodle.”

Vegeta looked around the aisle. Corn plasters. Wart remover. Band-aids! A sudden burst of pride surged in the Prince of all Saiyan’s veins. Vegeta reached for the beige bandages when he saw a box of band-aids featuring The Incredibles 2 characters.

“Well… she didn’t specify what kind of design they should have!” The Saiyan roared with evil laughter and, after a minute of this, put the strips in his cart.

On the way to the dairy aisle, Vegeta spotted a pyramid made out of Cup o’ Noodle. Using super speed, he gathered the pyramid into his cart. Let the pathetic humans settle on inferior brands, he chuckled to himself.

In the dairy aisle, Vegeta looked for Oui strawberry yogurt, but only found one. He decided it would be better than coming home with none, or worse, picking up a different flavor. He could see it now. Bulma rummaging through the groceries and finding Oui peach yogurt. “You idiot!” she would scream. “Can’t you do anything right? Peach? Do I look desperate to you? On the couch, now!” Vegeta shuddered at the thought.

The cheese was difficult, as he didn’t consider asking what cheese she wanted. He picked one of each. As for the milk, Vegeta picked up the first milk he saw, until he realized it was soy. The phone in his hair rang. That damn thing.

“Hey Vegetaaaaa! Just checking in on you!” The woman. What was he, five?

“Everything’s fine, just getting to the vegetables.”

“That’s great! Did you get the Oui strawberry yogurt?”

“I got one.” He scratched his chin. Silence. “Bulma?”

“That’s fine. As long as I have at least one. Um, did you get the cheddar cheese?”

Cheddar! “Yes, yes I did.”

“NO!”  horrible shrieking noise came from the phone. “I wrote Munster!”

She didn’t, but he wasn’t going to dig his own grave and destroy the Dragon Balls. “Right, sorry. Human language is still tough to read.”

“Hmmm. Look, I…” Click! The line went dead. Oh no… is she going to think I hung up on her? Damn phones.

He put back all but the Munster and made a bee-line for the vegetables.

“Carrots. So orange. So stupid.” He put a bag in his cart. The Gods were merciful that Vegeta didn’t see the label: “Grandpa Goku’s Veggie Treats Yay!” If he had seen that, the grocery would have been a smoldering pit.

Finally, the broccoli. Vegeta rolled his eyes and placed it in the cart.

Now for the toughest battle of the day: Cashier or Self-Checkout? He could bag faster than a cashier, but the Self-Checkout machine was kind of dumb. As he pondered the options, he spotted the roses. He threw them in the cart with embarrassed disdain.

“Self-Checkout.”

After waiting for five minutes behind a dog with a watermelon, it was Vegeta’s turn.

“Scan coupon now.”

He did.

“Scan coupon now.”

He did.

“Scan coupon now.”

HE FREAKING DID.

“Please scan items.”

He did, and the Cup o’ Noodle flooded the belt.

“Please move items off belt.”

He begrudgingly did.

“$394.70. Please insert card.”

He did.

“Error reading card. Please insert card.”

He did, veins popping in his head.

“Thank you and have a nice day.”

Kakarot suddenly moved up on the intellect list. He gagged at the notion.

Vegeta bagged each item by temperature and breathed a sigh of relief. He lifted the bags over his head, being careful not to crush the roses, and flew home. Hopefully the flowers were enough to bribe the woman to do the next shopping.

The Man Who Sat In The Produce

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Why me, thought Amanda as she paced the farmer’s market.  I believe in a higher power, and this is how Ze repays me?

She straightened her sign that had “2 FOR 1” scrawled on it. Thank the higher ones that most of her stock had been bought earlier. But what if this happened tomorrow? She opened a box of cigarettes and started swallowing them. It was a nasty habit, but she got the craving ever since high school. Some callous classmates told her that was how to use them, and no one bothered to correct her. Besides, she liked the tickle in her throat as she ingested each one.

Amanda finally decided to face reality: There was a rather fat bespectacled man sitting in her produce box. The man looked at her expectantly, perhaps wondering why she didn’t ask him why he was there, or force him to simply leave. He played with his curly mustache for a little while. He couldn’t have been more than 60, so why was he spending his glory days in produce?

The peppers had all been bought by a salty fisherwoman who kept insisting that peppers were a great form of bait for tuna. Amanda simply nodded. The apples, tomatoes, carrots and bananas were not so lucky. The rotund man’s large bottom squashed some of the redder fruits and one banana almost got lodged in his crack. He sat, legs crossed and hands fiddling at the front of his gut.

Finally, Mrs. Amanda Walton walked over to the man.

“Why are yo–” She proceeded to gag on a cigarette. It came out with a slimy cough. “Why are you here? This is my livelihood.”

Nothing escaped the man’s lips.

She sighed rudely but reasonably. “My name is Amanda Walton. My husband and I started this produce booth before his untimely demise.”

Silence danced around for a bit.

“What’s your name?” she asked, not in the least bit interested.

“Dean College,” he finally and nasally responded. There was a sort of whimper to it.

“College Dean? I asked for your name, not job.”

“Not, not that. Just call me Dean. I’m a professional seat warmer.”

All the weirdos in the world find me, don’t they? Give me strength, Roberto.

“This isn’t a seat, it’s my fruit. And you’re sitting on my banana!”

He sighed at her with the volume of an elephant in heat. “I know, and I’m sorry, but I’m also very much not sorry. I was paid to sit here by my client.” He wiped his bulbous nose on his sleeve. “And before you ask, I can’t disclose the name of the client, whomever he may be.”

“He?”

“I can disclose the gender. There must be at least a thousand males in the world.”

“Oh, at least.” Finally, Amanda lost her patient facade. “But I’d like to say one thing. GET THE HELL OUT OF MY PRODUCE!” She threw her remaining cigarettes at Dean and started pushing him with admittedly unfit arms. She considered going to the gym more, but that’s where Roberto fell from the aerial yoga ropes onto his head. Maybe she should have carried more of her own produce instead of hiring someone to move bushels for her. But whatever the setback, Amanda used her mighty legs to kick him from the fruit.

“Fine. Be that way. I’ll have to discuss this with my client now.” Dean toddled off, rubbing his behind.

“Yeah, you do that! And he better have a lawyer, higher powers help him!” She sighed and, to the surprise of no one, didn’t sell a single fruit for the remainder of the day.

The following morning, Amanda set up her booth without the usual help. Suddenly, she saw a fat figure and a buff one walking side by side.

“Mr. Truman? The owner of the gym? Did you pay this guy to sit in my produce?”

Mr. Truman rubbed his biceps. “Ever since Roberto died in the gym, few have been coming anymore. I warned him not to climb so high, or to climb to the rafters, but he didn’t listen! And who’s liable?”

“I’m sorry about your gym, but my husband is dead now.” She covered her eyes, not to cry, but because the gym teacher was removing his tank top.

“Me! I’m suffering because of it! So I hired this unpleasant gentleman to ruin your business with his cute butt!”

Dean wiped his brow with his handkerchief. He sputtered, “It doesn’t seem I need to be here for this, so I’m going to go now. A woman in Toledo’s hired me to sit on her lap.”

Amanda and Mr. Truman looked at one another. “Look,” she said, “I don’t blame you for ruining yesterday’s harvest or for my Roberto’s death. Maybe we can come to a deal.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I’m willing to come to a deal. Maybe we can do a merger. Maybe I sell my fruits in your gym, and maybe I spread the word that your gym is not a death trap.”

“Sounds good… maybe. I’ll ask my boyfriend Thomas what he thinks.”

Amanda scoffed. “You need your boyfriend to tell you what to do? Be a man and take the deal, Dennis!”

He tapped his foot, considering any downsides. “Okay, let’s make a deal!”

They shook hands and in six months, the Truman-Walton Fruit Smoothie Gym was flooded with customers. Amanda burned the booth down when she discovered Dean College’s butt print on it.

I’ve Got a Latte on the Mind

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8:35. Olivia’s father dropped her off at the bus stop at a decent time. Olivia felt “decent” meant about now since she wanted to be late. The last of the absolute rush-hour buses had left as they pulled over to the curb. Mr. Gammon profusely apologized to his daughter (step, a fact he hadn’t mentioned to her). She just smiled (he easily recognized it as gratitude) and paced her footing on the soaked sidewalk.

8:36. After he drove off, Olivia put on her headphones (earbuds frightened her), pulled up a sock, and hoped someone would walk by. Nothing. The next bus would not come for at least a half-hour. She pulled down the other sock.

8:37. She checked her phone. Nothing interesting happened to Steve Buscemi since she woke up. Click. The rest of the internet wasn’t worth looking at.

8:38. Tammy Liu drove up in her Chevy. “Olivia! Do you want a ride? I’m not going to work today, but I am passing your work!” Olivia declined, using her usual lie that she was meeting someone. She did not interact with friends on a regular basis.

8:39. Maybe I could have taken her up on that ride. But then, I’d have to talk to her instead of thinking. Couldn’t I have thought a few blocks away from work? Shucks, Ollie. Then your boss or coworkers would have seen you or something. That would wreck your whole day. Really? My whole day? Yes, your whole day. That sounds overly superstitious, but either way, I don’t want to talk with anyone but me.

8:40. Hey, there’s no one around. I could let one rip and no one would know. But wait, what if the man of my dreams walks by at that exact moment only to be disgusted by my fart? Psht. The man of my dreams would be turned on by it. She held it in anyway.

8:41. She winced at the sight of birds flying at face-level. Why am I so scared at the thought of being hit in the head by birds? Did I get hit in the head by a bird as a baby?  Maybe they remind me of arrows in a past life. Did I get hit in the face by an arrow? Did I die then get reborn as this? I like the idea of a past life, but not th

8:42. e prospect that I would have to live future ones. Might be reborn as a dude named John. What kind of sick parent named their kid something as generic as John? Even worse, tools who name their kids, like, John, but already have the generic last name to boot. John Smith. Joe Johnson. Ingrid… Ingrid Paulette Freely. Naw, I doubt many Freelys would name their kids that. I could name a kid Jack. Jack Gammon. Wait, they wouldn’t get

8:43. my last name. Not exclusively at any rate. Unless I impregnate myself. Ha ha. Why am I thinking about this? I don’t know, Olivia Denise Gammon, it’s your sub-CON-scio-US. Because I’m a donked-up individual? That’s why I’m standing here instead of getting into a car to go to work. No, the real reason is because I’m afraid if I’ll drive, I’ll be too spacey and kill people.

8:44. A man with orange lenses in his shades walked past her. Olivia tried acting like a human, but went too far and stood perfectly still. He asked her to move. She fell over and crushed her bag of raisins.

8:45. He thinks I’m an idiot! Don’t worry, he probably doesn’t care. And you’ll likely never see him again. But that doesn’t help me feel better, even if I know it’s the rational truth. Even if I said it out loud! She said it out loud. The man, now on another block, turned to her and laughed. She bit her thumb.

8:46. Why is it no one else is ever here at this time? This is the only bus to the shopping district. We need a trolley. WE NEED TWO TROLLEYS! I mean, if one ever breaks. And a third for practical vagabonds like me. Though if I were practical, I’d have money. But gosh, how about this rain? Maybe I should have enough sense She began to walk into the bus stop’s seating with a roof. for general day-to-day health precautions. She paused.

8:47. In the center seat (or what could be classified as a seat, given the bench had two metal dividers), a lone coffee cup waited for the bus. Olivia knew for certain that it had not been there when she arrived. She stared at it blankly.

8:48. Olivia stared blankly at the coffee. She scratched her dark-cyan briefcase.

8:49. Olivia stared blankly at the coffee for twenty seconds more. Where did that coffee cup manifest from? That guy couldn’t have left it. He was carrying two glass bottles of milk. Why buy glass bottles over plastic? And why are the bus benches always metal or wood? The metal gets cold in the winter and the wood gets splintery. Better than being glass, yeah.

8:50. Maybe the wind blew it there. Standing perfectly still. She picked it up. She examined the box checked off “Latte.” Still full of coffee. Standing perfectly still full of coffee. Okay, so it’s not the guy, and it’s not the wind either. Maybe I was drinking and absentmindedly put it down? That must be. I am the fool.

8:51. Seriously, where is that bus? And the passengers? Though who can say who is a passenger until they board the bus? I think potential passenger counts as passenger. Hey, am I still 25? No, I turned 26 last year. When did I get this bag? I had it at my 25th party. So… when I was 23, since I stared at it sadly when I was 24.

8:52. WAIT, I DON’T DRINK COFFEES. Since I don’t want to get addicted to it. Like, I see people groggy and all, “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.” I want to see the world naturally, with a ton of prescribed pills in my bloodstream. Joking aside, I should talk to someone about upping my dose. Maybe a doctor. Definitely a doctor. My mind is a little more sluggish than usual.

8:53. I lost the flow! If I think on it, I can figure out why that latte is sitting there. It feels half-em… fu… It feels like there’s half inside. When the birds flew by, maybe one dropped their cuppa joe. Yep, that’s it. I’m satisfied and can drop this.

8:54. NOPE, THAT’S TOO STUPID. It’s as dumb as the way they made this roof. Slits and slats? I’m getting all wet in… AH! YES, WAIT, YES! The wind BLEW the empty cup. It landed on the bench, got filled with the dirty rainwater, and that’s the news, son. Waste a good mind-think, Olivia.

8:55. A woman with two children yelled at Olivia for carelessly leaving the latte on the bench. Grumpily, Olivia threw the latte in the trash and dried her hands on her denim skirt.

8:56. Olivia squinted at something orange. Only a fish truck.

8:57. Behind the fish truck was the bus, which pulled up to a block away from the bus stop and flashed its blinkers. Olivia knew the driver would take as much time as possible to relax behind his next shift. Two metal-heads stood behind her.

8:58. Olivia stomped on a piece of cardboard that tried to fly past her. She treated it miserably before letting it go.

8:59. A Steve Buscemi alert popped up. A movie deal she knew about. She shook her tousled hair and splashed a once-dry dog.

9:00. I mean, I have a dog, but I’m scared of other people’s dogs. I love huskies, but only if they’re far, far away from me. Kind of like my friends. And people in general. Maybe I should talk to someone about this. Like my step-dad. Does he know I know he’s not my dad? I’ll keep quiet until the next time I’m angry at him.

9:01. I hope no one tries talking to me today. Within moments, a guy in a green raincoat tried hitting on her. Olivia farted and he moved to the back of the line. He lost his chance.

9:02. The bus began to pull up. Olivia tried acting casual in front of the passengers by twisting her neck hither and yonder. The metal-heads slinked away to stand behind the guy in the green raincoat.

9:03. The bus got stuck behind a traffic light truck. Olivia stayed focused to formulate a plan where she should sit. She knew she’d get the seat before the rear exit since no one ever takes the door that receives the most rain. Olivia was the only one who seems to enjoy it.

9:04. The bus pulled up in front of Olivia. She put her card in the machine, thanked the driver who replied, “alright,” and sat down on a wet seat.

9:05. The bus drove off, taking Olivia to her place of work where she would spend the next nine hours in a factory manufacturing condoms.