What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Desperate Student, Episode 6: Saboteur

My life was in the dumps. I was ... okay, you don't read this blog to hear me whining about my pathetic life. If you do, please consult previous episodes. You'll get a nice bellyful. Let's skip the review and dig straight into the gory details of the plot.

My roomie forced me to get a job. I wasn't spectacularly motivated about it until he started passing threats about starvation. Then they escalated to threats about setting my Tom Cruise poster on fire, then of dumping the shattered bits of his former laptop onto me while I was in the shower. Next thing I knew, I was sitting at the public library surfing Monster.Com.

Lo and behold, an ad was sitting there that fit me to a T.

"WANTED: Unscrupulous fellow willing to risk incineration so his company can get a microscopic lead over the competitor in exchange for minimum wage and no benefits."

I called the advertiser, which happened to be an Exxon gas station. Within minutes, I was hired. I showed up the next day, showered and ready to begin work.

"Welcome to duty," Said the manager. This struck me as a distinctly inauspicious way to get started. "Take a look out the window. What do you see?"

I looked. "A Chevron station," I replied.

"Very good," Said the manager. "You're working for us, but you are not working with us. You are working with those people over there."

"I don't understand."

"Yes, yes, very good. Gas stations can be very dangerous places. There's lots of gasoline flowing out of them. To be safe, federal law requires that there be an emergency shut-off switch in the back of the building. If there is a gas leak, you can throw the switch and the station is shut down. It takes about two hours to get everything running again."

"I don't understand ..."

"That's because you're not listening. I want you to go over to the Chevron station and throw their switch."

I hesitated. This seemed too easy. "Throw the switch," I said. "That's it?"

"That's it. Then you can hang out here doing whatever you want and collecting minimum wage."

I kissed his feet. Then I went outside and walked around the target, sizing it up. I saw the shutoff switch in a prominent place in the back of the building next to the machine people use to inflate inner tubes. I looked both ways to make sure no one was looking, then casually walked up the switch, hands in pockets, whistling merrily.

The switch was about six inches long with a large red handle. I closed my hand around it and pulled it down. A high-pitched siren started and the lights inside the building turned off.

I walked away as casually as I could, still whistling. I heard a Chevron employee screaming that everyone should run for their lives. Several minutes later, I was back at Exxon, watching the mayhem through the window. Fire trucks pulled up, all kinds of detectors and meters were presented, measurements were taken. People postulated and muttered. Then they shook their heads and threw their hands in the air. Then they shouted at each other and shook their fists. Then they all left and the lights came back on. I looked at the clock. The Chevron station had been down for two and a half hours. The lines for the Exxon pumps ran into the street.

"We've done it!" Shouted the manager, clapping me on the back. "I'm a genius!"

Then a high-pitched wail sounded from the back room and the lights clicked off. Customers started fleeing the Exxon station in all directions. Some jumped out of their cars and ran. The panic was immense. A few people were trampled into the pavement.

"No!" Shouted the manager from the front door. "Come back! It's a false alarm!" His efforts were futile. Within minutes, the place was deserted.

The manager clenched his fists in silent rage. "Go back and shut them down again," He ordered.

"But I already ..."

"I'll pay you double!"

I went. I circled around to the back and peeked around the corner. The Chevron station was empty at the moment, save for the manager, who was filling up at the pump. He looked up for a split second and our eyes met. Recognition flashed across his face.

"You!" He cried. He vaulted over his car and raced toward me. I abandoned the lever and ran. A Chevron employee leapt out from behind a dumpster.

"Gotcha!" He shouted, waving a wrench menacingly. I reversed directions and accelerated past the Chevron manager just as his bulk was rounding the corner. The man bellowed and dug his heels into the ground, changing course. I heard the screech of rubber on asphalt.

As I dashed past the pumps, I noticed that the Chevron manager's unattended car was brimming with gasoline. In fact, there was a growing pool of it under his car that already covered most of the front area in a thin layer. I dodged into traffic and glanced behind me. No one was following. Then I saw the manager, partially obscured behind the building, pulling the emergency shutoff switch.

Time seemed to move slowly. A tiny flake of old metal crusted off the switch as it was pulled and ignited from the friction as it went. A single spark. It fell to the ground and sat there for a millisecond. Then there was a flash of light and a tremendous boom. Cars were picked up and tossed over my head into the Exxon station, causing tremendous damage. When the smoke cleared, all that remained was a thoroughly blackened Chevron manager holding a two-inch handle.

I shoved my hands into my pockets, struck up a merry tune, and went wee, wee, wee all the way home.


Christopher Yeriklewski said...

All I can think of to say to that is 1: you are a cruel person and 2: You might make a good fiction writer.

Iaintelinu said...

Perhaps I could add to that #3: You are weird. Although I should know that from previous experience, this tops it all.

Jacqui said...

wow. that was great. ditto to #2