He Makes Lists (excerpt)

(from a short story I was working on a few years ago)

Get things done I say. Do your laundry do your dishes get a job eight hours sleep, and do your banking on a day off. Things need to be done or you’ll turn into one of those neighbours that I’ll have to watch out for. I don’t want to have to get bars on my windows but I will I tell you I will because I am a good guy and I am not going to get killed or maimed even by your stupidity. I try hard in this world and I am not going to be one of you.

There is a real problem today with people not respecting the planet and if we don’t watch out we’re not going to have any where to live soon you’ll see this is what Mr. Sayers, my manager Mr. Sayers. He says, you watch out Dominique. You watch out Dom. We’re destroying our homeland, it’s like tearing up the carpets in your house when guests come over and then setting fire to your bedsheets when it’s time for bed. I couldn’t even imagine! What kind of thinking is this?

This is when I first started noticing the bad people. Mr. Sayers introduced me to an eyes wide open world, so now I can see where before I didn’t. Before now, I didn’t know what was wrong with things. I knew things were wrong sometimes, sometimes I even thought they were wrong all the time, I didn’t understand. I hated it I wanted to get out and climb away maybe I’d reach and a cloud would have a hard bit I could reach and pull lots with my arms and swing my left leg over the side and I’d be up there away. But maybe clouds are all fluffy soft. Maybe they don’t have hard bits. I haven’t found out yet.

So I keep working down here except now my eyes are open where before they couldn’t see as much. My work is sorting through bottles and drinking vessels that people have brought in to the shop. My math is okay to work the calculator but Mr. Sayers says I’m best for his operation doing the sorting. And I’ve been working for Mr. Sayers for almost two years that’s coming up soon it’ll be two years soon, so now I’ve got a “method.” Methods are good I think. Everyone should get one. If you are a bus driver you should develop a method that you can count on as making you better and better at your bus driving. If you are a fisherman you should develop a method that makes you catch fish and pull them in and then gut them so that you get better at catching fish and people want to buy your fish because someone like Mr. Sayers would say you are good at what you do.

Mr. Sayers says I am good at what I do and I would move on up in the company except there’s no where to go at the moment. There has been no where to go for a long few months and I’ve seen some other workers, like Jack, I’ve seen other workers move. They move to somewhere mustn’t they? I know Cassandra, she left because she had to go back to school, and she had to finish her degree she said. She said she’d come back maybe there was a chance when she’s done. That would be next April. It would be nice to have Cassandra back. She was a nice girl. I don’t think she wasted any of her time. This is why she went back to the university to finish her degree. She had started something and it’s always best to finish what you started. Things start hanging around if you leave them hanging and this is why people get upset. They missed an opportunity, they say. I don’t miss any opportunities; I do everything as it should be done so that I don’t get things hanging. Like dust and the big furry fluff balls that group up under things and you wonder how it happens, how it groups up to be big and ugly like that when you go to find the phone directory under the couch. I don’t like things hanging around.

Johnny also left. He left and didn’t move, he wasn’t even going to school. He said one day to me, Dom, hey, how can you work here, doing this? Johnny had only been here at work for a month and a half so I said Johnny you will get better. It will get easier, you’ll develop a method and the work will run like a well oiled machine. I said these words that Mr. Sayers had said to me when I was new and he was right. The words helped and I did develop a method, things have got better and although Mr. Sayers hasn’t mentioned my well oiled machine I know he will. He is a busy man. Johnny seemed like a busy man, busy especially in his head. He had ideas, he said, and they didn’t include working for the bottle recycling plant. I thought Johnny needed a coffee or maybe he was just tired from a restless sleep because he said once he had those restless sleeps, but I didn’t see Johnny ever again, not after he went into Mr. Sayers’s office before lunch. It would have been nice for Mr. Sayers and Johnny to have gone for lunch together, maybe for a soup and sandwich across the road, they could’ve talked and I would have seen them walking back into the shop with the sun on their backs, their arms crisscrossed across the shoulders like that, a lazy hand aside the other’s neck.

Instead, I was told to have my lunch outside. It was really hot that day, not enough clouds to thin out the beam of the sun encompassing our city that day. I wanted to go to lunch with the both of them. Maybe they would come out together and tell me the joke Johnny had told Mr. Sayers and we would have soup and sandwiches together across the street. But I waited outside for the whole half hour and didn’t see them come out laughing. I didn’t see Johnny at all. He left quietly. He didn’t say goodbye.


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