Derek


Derek lifted the large plastic tub, which he had just filled
with ice, level with the counter, dumped the ice into the
stainless steel container, and sighed. He looked at his watch:
10:25, it said; almost mid-morning, and five eternal minutes left
until his fifteen minute coffee break. Fuck it, he thought, I'll
take it now. He bent down low with a much-practiced 'bowling'
motion and sent the plastic tub whizzing down the tiled corridor
into the dish room where it hit the surly dishwasher on the
ankles.
"'Bowling For Busboys'!" he yelled (out of habit, mostly,
since it had been a while since he had found the consequences of
that action really amusing), and paced off to the staff room.
"I'll bowl ya!" he heard the irate dishwasher yell, but the
dishwasher always yelled that, and Derek had long since ceased to
notice: he was already reaching for his cigarette pack. With
quick, practiced movements he withdrew one of the long tubes from
the cardboard package. With one hand he placed it in a precise
position in his lips while the other hand was occupied with first
replacing the package to his shirt pocket, then digging out a
half used pack of matches from his too tight jeans. He was
extremely conscious of the fluidity of his movements; lighting
the cigarette with the match was the hard part, and he wanted to
look as cool as possible, smooth and flowing, for all the eyes he
perceived to be on him. He managed to execute the task to his
satisfaction as he entered the staff room above the restaurant,
but only Karen was there, finishing a butt of her own. He didn't
give a shit about Karen and there was no one else around.
He felt a frustration welling up inside that seemed
incomprehensible. He thrust himself into one of the tattered
chairs which his employers had so graciously donated to
facilitate his comfort, and blew out a long stream of smoke from
his lips, like a visible sigh. Karen eyed him with wary
curiousity, but Derek was busy inspecting the floor. He could
hear the clank and clatter of dishes from the dishroom, and the
slamming of doors and calling of orders as the waiters and
waitresses bounced off of and around each other like atoms in a
solution. He realized he had to go back out there and face that
frantic pace again in only fifteen minutes. Unconsciously he
looked at his watch and saw that five of those minutes had
already passed. "Fuck," he said, without thinking about it.
"Whatsa matter?" asked Karen as she cracked her gum. She
could stand the silence no longer; it made her uncomfortable.
"Nuthin'," Derek lied, but it wasn't anything he could have
spoken to her about. It was a subject which seemed to be most on
his mind but least on his lips, and when he tried to articulate
these things he simply stopped talking: there were too many
things he wanted to say, all of them at once, and he couldn't
decide where to start. That seemed important: deciding where to
start. He feared that if he started in the wrong place his
listener might get the wrong idea, or make the wrong conclusions
about himself. It seemed like everything he wanted to say needed
to be qualified. So he said nothing, or very little. "I dunno,
just restless, I quess. Don't really want to be here either."
He chuckled, but there was no humor in it.
"Yeah, I know what ya mean. There's a good movie on T.V.
I'm missing," said Karen, cracking her gum again, and chewing
enthusiastically.
That's not what I meant, bitch, he thought. Derek hated the
tube. To him the T.V. was an insidious invention: it was far
too powerful a tool in the wrong hands, and too easy an excuse
for not doing anything yourself. Derek thought that "The Glass
Teat" was a perfect name for it. Still, there was a good side to
it: it helped tie together the world in a network of
communication, which was valuable, provided the communicators
were trustworthy. But Derek felt that most of them weren't.
Most of T.V. was blatant propaganda, and people like Karen just
lapped it all up, like kittens to milk, or junkies to junk. But
he didn't feel like explaining all that to Karen just now. Most
of those thoughts were coded as symbols in his brain, and
drumming up sentences to clothe those symbols with meaningful
dress was too much like work. So he said,