42 (Flash Fiction)

On a slow Friday afternoon, while sitting in his plush corner office, the one that said DISTRICT MANAGER on the door, Bob, having taken in far too much during his lunch, found himself wandering across the home website of his employing company. General announcements made mention of tactics for warding off colds and tips for safely bringing in the new year. There were links to several company sponsored clubs that one could become a part of, jogging or dancing or even book of the month. Smiling faces were lined up from a successful company picnic in Hawaii, undoubtedly posted to rub it in to those suffering through feet of winter snow in the Northeastern regions of the country.

Bob’s mouse drifted and swayed and clicked on various links. He saw pictures of people he didn’t know in places he had never been. He saw facilities celebrating broken records and great accomplishments. And eventually, after weaving without rhyme or reason through the pages, his mouse found a link for the company memoriam.

He clicked it.

Suddenly, a list of names, many with faces, were displayed on his monitor with stunning clarity. Many were the same, white males with balding heads or silver hair. Glasses covered their tired eyes. Their aging smiles seemed to struggle. Somehow, no matter how distant the link between the face and the listed members of family, all that had passed were “survived.” Bob scrolled down and took note of the ages.

77
81
69
76
84
58
42

Bob’s mouse froze at the number and his eyes settled on the image. The photo was black and white, and the man had an easy smile about him, not worn or weary. No glasses covered his eyes. This man, now three months dead, was relaxing next to an outdoor table of heavy rod iron with a martini glass in his raised hand. He appeared to be next to a pool. Bob noticed the wedding band on his finger, imagined that it was the man’s wife that took the picture.

42

He read the obituary, painfully bland as to not corporately offend. Wife and 3 kids. Excellent marriage. Energetic personality with a wonderful laugh and a love for life. He preferred boating in the summer and wine tasting. The oldest son was just beginning college and had some potential at a football career.

42

He passed after succumbing to a three year long battle with testicular cancer. He fought bravely through it all and remains an inspiration.

42

He is survived.

The mouse pointer hovered. The silent minutes of that slow Friday dragged on, dragged on. Bob looked at his calendar and crunched the numbers. In ten weeks he’d be turning 42. He found himself staring at that black and white photo, at that easy smile and the raised martini glass. He wondered how the man’s children were doing, how they were holding up. If his wife had stopped crying yet. If she had sold the boat they used to take out as a family. Outside, a cold breeze pushed through the bare limbs of the trees.

Bob glanced at the photo of his own family and grabbed his coat. On his way out the door, he informed his secretary to voice mail his calls, he was going home sick. Before she could say sure thing, Bob told her to take the rest of the day off as well. When she asked why, Bob never answered.

He is survived.

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