Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Great Expectations (not about the book) (08/25/11)
TITLE: My Route Out
By Marita Thelander
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“Excuse me, but I think you’re at the wrong table.”
I glanced up mid-chew, and saw from my level, the effects of a good push-up bra and blonde hair dangling over the left mound. I chose to ignore her.
“Ahem.” Blondie wiggled her pink-polished come-here-finger.
Without warning, her jersey clad grunts lifted me chair and all, and deposited me against the wall. The remains of my lunch were scooped into the trash amidst ruthless laughter.
Between classes, the hens squeezed me out of the restroom line. I could either forget the urgency of my female monthly issue or be late for class…or use the boy’s bathroom. Since there wasn’t a line there, I chose the latter.
A week later I missed my bus because the doorway in my last class was conveniently congested. A few days after that, I scooted along among the throngs of hallway traffic and found myself shooed against the lockers. I walked in the wake of the head hen and chicks from then on.
I learned if I yielded to the hierarchy, the bottom of the pecking order could slide through the halls unnoticed. It’s the ones who tried to gain ground that feel the wrath of the hen-peckers. The final bell of the day became my goal. Just make it until the final bell.
Diploma in hand after 1,080 final bells declared my freedom from the coop. I envisioned a band of WWII prisoners breathing fresh air after they emerged from their tunnel on the other side of the fence. The prisoners worked to overcome struggles on the run to maintain their freedom. I, on the other hand, flew the coop and landed in the factory.
In the work world, everybody starts at the bottom. Only losers like me stay there. Instead of the school bell, I now waited for the time-clock buzzer. In the factory, there’s a different form of pecking order. The big bosses at headquarters sit on their leather thrones in expensive suits, dreaming up performance expectations they personally could never achieve. They insist to their management that the quotas are not only feasible, but demanded. The management then pushes the unrealistic rules onto the supervisors, who in turn crack the verbal whip and curse and shout their motivations at the hirelings.
Every day, after the final buzzer, my beat-up Dodge truck operates on autopilot straight to the bar. Ahh…liquid gold, sheer escapism, albeit temporary.
Weeks turned to months, months turned to years. After 1,825 final buzzers I realized there was no freedom from this particular coop. No piece of paper to hold in my hand to show some sort of purpose for the pecking I’d endured.
Unnoticed in the world, I began to think of a route out. I forced my little truck to take alternate roads home: lingering on the waterfront, gazing at the tallest buildings in the city, scoping out firearms in scummy pawn shops.
At night I’d toss and turn in bed, an inner battle raged within me. Surely there had to be a reason for me to be on the face of the earth. The final buzzer at work began to interrupt my thought process. A need for purpose hammered at my brain to the rhythm of the factory sounds, and time flew by unnoticed.
After work I drove through the city, but instead of my usual search for a perch to jump from, my eyes scanned the alleyways. For the first time, I noticed scads of people below me in the pecking order. How could anyone be lower than me? My heart began to feel compassion mixed with conviction.
I slipped into the mission where free meals were served and listened while a toothless old woman shared how some day, sweet Jesus was gonna come and take all His people away, and how she used to escape life via the bottle. But now her eyes are heavenward, awaitin’ the Great Escape.
I no longer wander and wonder how to end my misery. I don’t live waiting for the final bell or buzzer. Now I wait for the final trumpet. Thanks to sweet Jesus, I’ve found a better route out.
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