Clock Watching

Caleb struggled to stay awake on the Atlanta bus that took him to and from the job that would never allow him to buy a car. Upon reaching his stop, he staggered out of the bus and checked his watch. Reading 7:48, Caleb grumbled as he walked the streets, heading for a rundown old storefront with a sign reading "Neighborhood Video" that always seemed ready to fall off. Already tired, Caleb still entered the store, receiving the usual semi-coherent greeting from his coworker, a lanky kid named Joseph. Although Caleb depised most of his coworkers, he had a begruding respect for Joseph, and thus, referred to him as such, rather than a title such as Stoner or Hick.

"Hey Joe," Caleb responded casually, firing up the second cash register. With that, the work day had truly begun. Caleb processed the tapes left in the drop box while Joseph restocked the shelves. Neither one spoke while they worked. The store remained blessedly free of customers, although neither employee knew how the store stayed in business. Silence fell upon the building. Caleb checked his watch, and frowned when he saw 8:28. Caleb began to consider sleeping on the job, but he was certain that if he tried, his boss would show.

Breaking the oppressive quiet, Caleb spoke to Joseph.

"Hey Joe, you mind turnin' the radio on?"

"Sure," Joeseph replied, putting a stack of tapes aside to turn on an aging radio. It was tuned into a generic station, one that had been designed to appeal to as many focus groups as possible. The machine started making sounds, and with that, Joeseph returned to his work. Although the dull sounds could hardly be called music, it was a welcome break from the despairing atmosphere. Caleb hated Tuesdays. True, Mondays were difficult, but Tuesdays were far more stagnent, as most people had adjusted to the reality of the work week. After a while, Caleb checked his watch again. Reading 8:51, he went back to work. This shift would last forever at this rate.

A few minutes later, the radio seemed to shut down, prompting the two clerks to turn their attention to the machine. Shortly after, they heard that a passanger jet had crashed into the World Trade Center. A different sort of silence engulfed the store, ushered in by the echo of tapes hitting the floor.