Author: Michelle Deulane PM
This is a little story I wrote for the school paper last year. I'm still getting the handle on formats less than 30,000 words.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 1,494 - Reviews: 2 - Published: 04-04-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2655947
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Adam Deulane hated alarm clocks. He saw them as idiotic devices used by people who ran mouse-wheel lives, people who got up at six o'clock every morning so that they could 'get to work on time' and 'please their boss' and 'not get fired.' Such prattle was below him.
Instead, Adam was typically awoken by traffic, a far more economic method than the wailing of a magnetically manipulated, vibrating plastic cone. A glance at the digital watch on his wrist told him it was 16:43, nearly five o'clock in the afternoon. Twelve-hour watches were another thing he didn't like. Using army time, he could figure out exactly how much of the legal day had passed with a single calculation in his head. Regular watches threw another simple but annoying step into the process.
Adam frowned slightly as he pulled himself out of bed and headed for the bathroom. He had slept through 91.277% of the time before all the department stores closed, and that was an issue of some concern, for today was Christmas Eve.
He had only two presents to buy, both for his half-sister. Nora was nearly a decade his junior and still lived back home in Oregon. Shopping for her was never hard; she'd love a greasy napkin if he sent her one. Nora was just sort of stupid that way.
Adam took a quick shower, more for warmth than anything else, and threw on several layers of clothing against the heavy, already dark winter afternoon. One hand groped across the top of his dresser for his contacts, running into an old college graduation certificate on the way. It was dated some nine years earlier, despite the fact that Adam couldn't have been more than twenty-five. Beside that sat a pile of letters, some unopened and others reread dozens of times. All of them used large, feminine writing, and all of them came from the same Portland address. Surrounding all of these were stacks upon stacks of notebooks. Dog-eared and tattered, there must have been over two hundred in the entire apartment. They were filled with an incomprehensible maze of numbers and figures, calculations, and forests of Greek symbols.
Adam was a mathematician, and a brilliant one at that. He loved numbers more than eating and sleeping combined, and he spent his days writing and solving equations. He worked as a mathematical consultant, a specialist that institutions called for help in desperate cases. When he didn't have work, he created and published his own theorems, which had already won him several awards of scientific distinction. In all honesty, Adam didn't have a job. His life was math, he just happened to get paid for it as well.
But at the moment, it was seven hours until Christmas day, he had presents to buy, and a minute and a half after he found his contacts Adam was outside his gray apartment building and fumbling for his car keys. 15.7 blocks and .08 gallons of gas later, he stood in the entrance of a large toy store, cold dripping from his nose. He had to icily decline three salesladies and bluntly insult a fourth before they finally learned to let him find his own gifts.
After snarling a few more people into offended silence, Adam settled on a volume of riddles and a Choose-Your-Own-Ending mystery book. When the checkout lady politely asked if he'd like his purchases gift wrapped, Adam replied that he'd rather have bowel surgery in the woods with a stick. After that, the employee didn't even ask if he wanted his receipt.
The door of the store swung shut behind Adam two minutes before six. Red taillights streaked by and wet signs gleamed from every corner of the empty sky. Fat, wet flakes of snow were falling to the grimy streets of Boston, and Adam turned the collar of his coat up, hunched his shoulders together, and set off for his car.
But on the way, he saw something that he hated more than alarm clocks, twelve-hour watches, and sales people combined. A stack of magazines flapped by the entrance of a grocery store, and on the cover was a picture of a very attractive, red-haired man whose rigid cheekbones and strong brow line mimicked Adam's own.
Four slow steps took Adam to the display, and he picked up one of the tabloids. His mouth moved silently, forming the words of the headline. Exclusive interview with Stephen Hunt, recently nominated for his fourth Oscar. Adam's knuckles turned white on the paper handles of Nora's gift bag.
In one swift motion, he sent his foot sailing into the wire stand. It crumpled with a rattling clang and papers went flying everywhere, joining the snowflakes in their quest to the damp ground. Before anyone could take action or even register the fact that a grown man had just knocked over a magazine rack, Adam had vanished into the crowd. But now, instead of wearing a scowl, his face looked like was sculpted from plaster.
Merry Christmas, Dad.
Adam probably wasn't the safest thing on the roads that evening, as he could hardly see straight for his anger. There was a reason he'd taken his mother's last name. Yup, dear daddy Stephen had it all, and yet he still got more. More more more, more stuff to pack into his glittering white mansion, more girls to catch at cocktail parties, more three-piece suits and blinding shoes to buy. Maybe he could even pick up a moral compass while he was at it.
When he got back to his apartment, Adam bellowed himself hoarse at the first person he saw, who happened to be an elderly janitor sprinkling salt on the walkway. Adam explained to the man, at the top of his lungs, what exactly the chemical would do to the grass when it leeched into the lawn. The man squirmed under the inquisition for only a minute or two before fleeing back down the sidewalk.
Adam managed to find three other people to shout at on the way to the front office to pick up his mail, but none of them stayed long enough to defuse more than a whit of his temper. As he dug his key out of his pocket, Adam thought sullenly about how irritating the flickering yellow lights of the office were, and how inefficient. Why, they were probably wasting upwards of 10,000 watts a year.
He had already begun calculating a more approximate estimate for that figure as he yanked open the little swinging door to his PO box. Inside was a letter and a package wrapped in brown paper. They were addressed to Adam Deulane, with 'Deulane' spelled correctly and written in even, loopy handwriting. As he stared at them, he felt his anger leaking out of his chest and congealing into a sickly puddle at his feet.
He pulled out both the envelope and the package, turning them over in his hands.
Christmas Eve, how could he have waited until Christmas Eve? Seized by a sudden fist of urgency, Adam bolted outside, grabbed the gift bag out of the passenger seat of his car, and lunged up the stairs to his apartment, taking the steps two at a time. Nora wouldn't get his gifts until Saturday at least. He unlocked his front door, set down Nora's present and letter, and began searching madly for something to wrap his gifts in.
In the end, he took them back down to the main office covered in pieces of paper ripped out of his notebooks. Parts of equations lay jumbled across the surface, and a gap on the front of one of the packages had been filled by a receipt from the grocery store.
Everyone in the office flinched when Adam opened the door, but he simply proceeded to the front desk and set his packages on the counter. "I'd like these mailed First Class, please." The secretary nodded timidly and fetched several stickers out of a drawer, and ten minutes later Adam was stumping back up to his apartment.
As he found out the next morning, Nora had sent him an alarm clock.
The handmade card that came with it explained, among other things, how much trouble she knew he had getting to bed at a decent hour, and she thought that an alarm clock would help him make it to appointments and things on time. It went on for pages, telling him all about life back home and how her friends were doing and how she'd gotten an A on her last English test.
Adam Deulane hated alarm clocks, but when he went to bed that night, it was with a softly blinking, twelve-hour, digital alarm clock on his bedside table.