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[Please comment on this. If you don't like it, rip it apart and tell me why. If you enjoyed it, I'd like to hear what you liked about it, and if applicable, what you think I can do to improve. Either way, you won't hurt my feelings. - SD]


It's been a long day for you.

You are in a nondescript drinking hole, nestled between a rather large bearded woman and a thin, wiry man in coat six sizes too big for his body. The bearded lady reaches over and gives your thigh a squeeze, but you slap her hand away. She takes the hint and wanders over to the drunk teenagers laughing in the corner.

After a few drinks you strike up a conversation with the man next to you.

'So what type of job do you do?' you ask.

He puts down his drink and leans over.

'I die for a living,'

He tells you this in a whisper, his words barely audible and swimming from his thin lips until each syllable penetrates the retina of your left eye. Your brow twitches spastically.

'It's an industry that can take you places. Not many people realize the opportunities that they have.'

'Here.'

His hand materializes, holding a palm-able slip of paper.

Curious, you take his card. You squint at what appear to be indecipherable ink scrawls marring its surface.

'I work in an office,' you blubber. 'I make reports.'

'What kind of reports?'

You try to recall what it is exactly that you do. Despite efforts to recall even the faintest memory, you remember nothing of the last eight hours.

'Does your vocation make you happy?' he continues.

You tilt your head back and deposit the last bit of alcohol into your gaping word-hole.

You think about the austere shoebox masquerading as your office, how it reeks constantly of nail polish remover and soiled bandaids, and how you have to sign a never-ending white scroll every time you feel the urge to expel bodily fluids.

You think about the three legged chair you've been assigned, the one that seems to move a foot to the left or a foot to the right every time you try to sit in it, and how week after week your pleas for a replacement get lost in an asphyxiating sea of corporate jargon.

You think about how your parking spot is not even five feet wide, and how the fat man who works in the mail room always parks his moped in your fucking space.

You think about the low ceilings that force you to walk on your knees, and the curiously flavored, cloudy yellow liquid dripping from the water cooler nozzle.

You think about your coworkers: faceless Q-tips shuffling silently down cubicle row, carrying files and overloaded cardboard boxes from place to place like sedate lemmings.

You think of the line of cocaine you did in the men's room at lunch.

(You forgot to sign out).

'No,' you finally say. 'It has sapped my will to live.'

At this point he claps you on the shoulder, then shakes his head somberly and gives it a friendly squeeze. 'Maybe it's time to start looking for a new job.'

'How did you get into the business of dying?' you ask him.

'I know people,' he tells you smugly, producing a thin, hypodermic needle from the penumbra of his coat. He lifts it absently to his gums and continues. 'It's easy money, you know.'

He begins to outline the various assignments he carries out on a daily basis:

1. Testing the flame retardant capabilities of spandex shorts.

2. Ingesting rat poison.

3. Measuring the toxicity of felt pens.

4. Drinking gasoline.

5. Handling highly unstable explosives.

(Here he pauses to explain that there is no greater rush than that of spontaenous, remorseless dismemberment.)

'You sound like you enjoy your work.'

'We all have to go- why not get paid for it? I see no point in rotting away at a desk in a wretched hole that some inhuman machine dug out of the ground. Besides, once you die, you begin to cherish life that much more.'

'Does it pay well?' you say, suddenly interested.

'How could it not?'

'Do you have dental?'

'Of course.'

'Will I get my own parking spot?'

'We accommodate everyone. No one gets preferential treatment.'

You study him for a minute or two, though by now you are so inebriated that it becomes a struggle to maintain consciousness. Still, you suppress the urge to vomit and find the strength to open your mouth.

'Well, I think I might look into switching jobs. You know, play the field a little.'

'I know.'

'What's the risk?'

He smiles.

'There is no risk. And, trust me, everyone in this business has a future. We truly value our employees. If you die well, it's very easy to be promoted.'

'When can I get an interview?' you ask abruptly, cutting him off.

'You just had one.'

'When's my first assignment?'

'You're living it. Here,' he says, sliding another drink under your face. 'This one's on me.'


------
"Imperious, choleric, irascible, extreme in everything, with a dissolute imagination the like of which has never been seen... there you have me in a nutshell, and kill me again or take me as I am, for I shall not change."

From his Last Will & Testament, Marquis de Sade


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Comments

The following comments are for "Dying for a Living"
by strangedaze

Frisky Bearded Lady!
You've got a disturbingly funny short story, here, SD. The frisky bearded lady is a nice touch.

I like the use of the vague pronoun "you" as character -- reminds me of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books. Small quibble -- since the rest of this story leaves this "you" as relatively gender neutral why use the term "men's room"?

Some of the details of office life read like they've been directly inspired by Being John Malkovich (especially the bit about the low ceilings). I think your story might work a bit better if these details were just a wee bit more believable by focusing on the real torture of cubicle drudgery -- mind-obliterating mundanity.

I really like your closing. The final line "You're living it. Here." struck me as a great finish to a fantabulously off-beat tale.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: December 7, 2004 )

Being John M...
...You aren't the first to compare this to Being John, but I've really never seen it, to be frank (or John ;), though if there is such a striking similarity maybe I best rework it a little bit. Your comment about the men's room is also very much appreciated - never thought of that!

Anywho, I tried to make the story as absurd as possible. I'm not sure my intent is to make 'your' office life seem real. I've always found that whenever I work in an office setting *yugh Telephone jobs* the background kind of fades away and the whole freakin' place seems surreal. Just wanted to build upon that.

Sincerely, thank you for your comments (especially the suggestions!).

-SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: December 7, 2004 )

good
best story I've read yet. good pacing, and setting of scene. also, there actually was a story in the traditional sense. i do tend to get confused with dialogue that's not referenced specifically with "he said", she saids" so you might work on creating extremely clear voices for the distinct characters for the benefit of people like me. the always perceptive hazel's comment re: the you and men's room is right on. i enjoy allowing myself to determine certain details of a person's age, origin, gender, etc -- and you spoiled it for me. But...well done. Dialogue is so tricky (just look at some other examples @litdot), and you do it well. Hope you appreciate comment -- I know I crave them.

( Posted by: brad [Member] On: December 7, 2004 )

Brad...
...thank you ever so much for the kind words. I'm sort of a dialogue rookie, so I'll work on it in the future. Definately appreciate the comment!

-SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: December 7, 2004 )

SD: Living Dead Guy
SD: You write dialogue very, very well to the point that I feel like ripping the gift out of your hands and throwing it onto my paper! It reads so believeably for such a fantastic story. Very movie-esque from the get-go. I did not thing Malkovich, though. I thought more Jarmusch due to the quality and quantity of dialogue. Or along the lines of "Naked Lunch" the film version.

I'm glad to see more from you. It's been too long since my SD fix. Everyone needs to get a little freaky-deaky 'round us!

Lans

( Posted by: GibsonGirl [Member] On: December 8, 2004 )

L-Dawg...
...you flatter me :) Always great to hear from you! After taking one of Tef's comments to heart, I've decided to inject more dialogue into my writing, and it looks to be going well. As for you throwing my dialoguing mumbo jumbo on your page, I'd give my, ahem, for your poetic talent. Thanks again! Oh, and my writing will likely be a bit sporadic, here and there, with school and all.

-SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: December 9, 2004 )

Stuck in a deadend job
I get jealous when I read you stories SD because they're always so damn good. This is no exception. Cool.

( Posted by: Emlyn [Member] On: December 13, 2004 )

Office space?
I see the Being John Malkovich connection, what with the short ceiling description and all, but I also see a hint of the movie Office Space. And being fed up with the "daily grind."

This was a great story. "Gaping word-hole," great description. Sorry it's taken me so long to read. You are an excellent writer, I apologize for taking so long to get to reading more of your work. I very much enjoy the wide spectrum of job tasks, from flame retardant pants to felt tip pens. Shows what great imagination you have there. Can't wait to see what else you have in there. Great job.

( Posted by: Everybodyelsesgirl [Member] On: December 28, 2004 )

*tilts head*
Very interesting. For some reason the quote " On the subway today, a man came up to me to start a conversation. He made small talk, a lonely man talking about the weather and other things. I tried to be pleasant and accommodating, but my head hurt from his banality. I almost didn't notice it had happened, but I suddenly threw up all over him. He was not pleased, and I couldn't stop laughing. " from the film Se7en pops in my head.lol. I really love this. It's a very interesting story.
{Spooky}

( Posted by: AbbyNormal [Member] On: December 29, 2004 )

Nice job
Wow, sd... I just popped in here to check on things, saw that you'd posted a piece, and decided to read a couple of your stories (I also read "Randomness", which I absolutely loved). I'm really thrilled to see how much your writing's grown since I started reading you over a year ago. Here, I especially liked the descriptions of office 'life' (and it makes me that much more glad I don't work in one). Original and well done. I'll check back again soon and see if you have something else up!

( Posted by: Elphaba [Member] On: January 10, 2005 )

Em, Abby, EBEG, Elph
Thank you all so much for the comments - I really appreciate them!

Em - Your praise makes me blush :) Thank you, a thousand times over!

Abby - Seven blew me away. Flattering comparison.

Everybodyelsesgirl - Gaping word hole is the product of one two many drunken nights. Glad you like it! Can't wait to work with you...

Elph - !!! I'm so glad you stopped by. I was going to email you - in fact, I still might. It's been a crazy crazy time lately here at lit and it feels good to see a familiar face. I am honored to be your acquintance. Feel free to email me anytime - emufarm13@hotmail.com

-SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: January 10, 2005 )

strangedaze: Commenting !
Great piece. Funny, how comment lead me here.(It was posted just before I discovered this site)Will be observing...

BrianJones

( Posted by: Bobby7L [Member] On: January 11, 2005 )





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