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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)

TITLE: Quitting Time
By Preacher Johnson


Franklin Johns sat on the edge of the bed with his arms straight down at his side clutching the edge of the mattress.

“What is it Honey? You so excited you can’t sleep?”

“No, no it’s not that.”

“Stomach bothering you?”

“I’m not sure what it is.” Giving a loud sigh while placing his head on his pillow, Frank, with eyes wide open, opens up. “Helen, I’m sixty-seven years old, I have been working at the same place for thirty-six years, when I clock out tomorrow it will all be over.”

“Sweetheart, there’s nothing to worry about. We’ll have enough money.”

“You don’t understand. It’s not the money.”

Snuggling close to her husband, her head now gently on his shoulder and her arm firmly wrapped around his chest Helen gave Frank comfort from an anxiety that neither of them could understand.

The silence at the kitchen table was as hard as butter left in the fridge for a week.

“Coffee so good you can’t think of anything to say?”

“No just a thinking. You know most guys can’t wait to get to this day. They talk about how they will love not coming back; about how much they hate the place. I don’t hate the place. Oh sure there were days, but overall, I can’t say I hate the place.”

With a slight shake, almost to small to notice, Helen peeks overtop of her coffee cup. “You seem reflective. Do you not want to retire?”

“Oh no, it’s not that, trust me. As old as I am I have been there over half my lifetime. I’m going to enjoy our time together with the kids and grand-kids. I remember the first day, I was so scared. Had never worked in a factory. Oh, Honey, the things that have happened there. I was at the factory on 9/11. After the first plane hit there was a buzz going around, no one understood what was going on; but after the second plane the boss sent us all home.”

Standing up, leaning across the table, Helen gave her husband a kiss. It was time to go to work one last time. After not being late for thirty-six years there was no reason to start today.

Punching his time card for the next-to-last time and placing it in slot 007 as he always has, Frank notices the names on the other cards. “I am old. Most of these people were not even born when I started working here.”

Frank went to his machine, a Header, by proper name, but his name for her is Kimberly. Wire goes into one end of Kimberly and rivets come out the other. Standing next to her side for over twenty-five of his years at the plant, Frank knows Kimberly’s moods.

Looking at the clock Frank realizes that there is only fifteen minutes left in the work day. The thought, “A day like any other day.” comes to Frank’s mind. He pushes the button that brings Kimberly to a halt; five minutes early. Frank looks into the large tin bucket filled with thousands of rivets from today’s production. “A day like any other day.”

“What ya say Frank?”

“Oh, oh. Hi Pete, I said a day like any other day.”

“Yeah, they all seem to run together. Don’t they?”

“I reckon they do, but should they?”

“Hugh? Sounds like your gettin all philosophical in your old age.”

Pete keeps moving and Frank is standing there alone.

Frank bends to one knee and runs his hand through his bucket of rivets. Clutching a handful of rivets as he stands he drops them back into the bucket. The sound of machines being turned off from all around the factory hits his ears. It’s ten till, now there is silence.

“What was it for?” As loud as the going home buzzer Frank’s voice was ringing through the factory.

“Thirty-six years of making metal fasteners; what was it good for? I made a living, I provided for my family, but wouldn’t God had done that anyway? I came here day after day after day after day. And why? My family was worried that I wouldn’t have much to do. But if all I did was sit on the porch for the rest of my life what less have I done than what I did last thirty-six years?”

Frank walks to the time clock and pulls out the card from slot 007 and waits about four seconds.

Buuuzzzzzzzz. Quitting time.

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Member Comments
Member Date
c clemons09/18/09
Interesting, not sure by the end the anxiety Frank felt at the beginning had been resolved. Overall writing was good but try tying up a few loose ends.
Lisa Johnson09/25/09
This is a sad entry because it sounds as if your MC truly feels his life had no purpose. It would be sad indeed to spend that many years working somewhere just to wonder what good it ever was.