Friday, June 21, 2013


His wrists hurt. His back hurt. He couldn't feel his legs and feet. James had been slicing onions for what felt like hours now, and still there was no end in sight.

He was long past hating Joan for this assignment. At first, he had felt the white-hot rage reserved for the lowest category of assholes, for sadistic fucks that get kicks out of other people's misery. But that had long since been washed away by the burning in his eyes, by the endless flood of tears, and had given way to a dull determination to make Joan pay for this, a dark black sphere of steely resolve that throbbed in rhythm with his lower back.

Keeping a sip of water in his mouth had helped, a little, at first. But try having the same mouthful of water for 15 minutes, and anybody would prefer burning eyes, he was sure. He'd made his worst mistake after the first half hour, when he had unthinkingly rubbed his eyes. His left eye had still not fully opened back up yet.

The knife was nice, though. A slick, ultra-modern applicance from some robotics manufacturer he'd heard of once, in the news. Something to do with home automation. He hated that modern crap, but he had to admit the knife had a nice balance. As soon as he'd picked it up, it had greeted him in a voice he assumed had been recorded by some highly paid TV actor, and focus group tested all to hell and back for maximum comforting effect. It sounded like a damn televangelist. He'd told it to shut the fuck up after the first sentence.

He continued slicing, caught in the kind of trance that only repetetive, brainless work will put you into. Hindbrain work, he called it. Not the kind of work he enjoyed. He was accustomed to using a keyboard, and sitting in a comfortable chair. He had no idea why that asshole had told him to go slice a metric fuckload of onions. Her nonchalant visage flashed in front of James, in the perfect clarity that only angry hindsight could give you. "It's no big thing," she'd said, "everybody takes turns chopping up the onions." Sure, it wasn't part of his normal job, but then again, he was new and didn't want to go against the boss in his first month at work. This must be some kind of hazing ritual. What a jerk.

There was a gentle knock, and Lisa peeked around the door. When she saw James, her eyes widened in shock. "Christ, what the hell happened to you?"
"What do mean, what happened to me? I've been chopping these bastard onions for forever now, just like Joan told me."
Lisa's hand shot to her mouth. "Oh god. You've been actually physically chopping them with your hands."
"What? Are you kidding me? How would I chop them otherwise?"
Lisa stepped up to the table, and put her hand on his knife hand. "Here, let me." She held the knife up, examining it. "Oh, you put it in standby," she said. "OK Knife, chop those onions." A green dot of LED light winked on at the base of the knife's handle. Lisa put the knife down, which started to hang in the air above the chopping board. She then grabbed an onion, and laid it down next to the knife. Immediately, the knife hacked the onion into two halves, then started dicing the halves into tiny, mathematically precise cubes.

"Jesus, Jim," Lisa said, "didn't anybody ever tell you you've got to let the knife do the work?"



Anonymous said...

Your description of the nonchalant visage of hers did absolutely impress me! What an expressive approach to the narrative technique!

1:20 PM  

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