A Man's World

The alarm clock started it's usual morning routine at seven forty five. Three sharp, high pitched beeps. Five minutes later, three louder, sharper, high pitched beeps would then echo through-out the bedroom.

Then the one man would draw back the covers, revealing himself to be wearing a plain white t-shirt and jocks. He would lazily draw his legs off the beds edge, and slip his feet into a pair of crisp white slippers.

The alarm would then begin it's third stage of waking up the sleeper, and right when it was about to, his hand would slam down onto the off button. Peace at last he would think.

He would drag his feet his feet as he walked out of the bedroom and into the hallway, and he would begrudgingly close the door. 

In the hallway, seven other men done similar acts. All wearing the same white slippers, white t-shirts and jocks. Mutterings of good morning and sleep well? were passed from man to man. 

Only Bernard ever seemed genuinely enthused to see his fellow housemates in the morning. His greetings weren't thinly veiled with sarcasm or a wish to be elsewhere. "Morning James." Bernard had one of those faces, which science had yet to explain, that screamed hit me! - But of course no one ever did. Violence was frowned upon. 

"Morning," James would say back. Chit-chat was cut short by another beeping sound, this one much more intrusive than the alarm clock. 

One by one, the eight men walked down the hallway. James was last in the queue, Bernard just in front.

The hallway forked, the first set of four men turned off to the left - The bathroom. The second set steered right - The kitchen. 

It was routine that one day the first four men washed up and cleaned themselves first, whilst the second four prepared breakfast for the eight. It rotated daily. 

The kitchen was crisp white, but simple. Everything one would expect to be in a kitchen, but in the place of a ceiling light there was a round metallic dome. A robotic eye. 

Each man had his job, the first two men fried eggs and sausages, Bernard set the table and James made the tea and coffee. 

Bernard spoke first, as always. "You cannot beat a morning cuppa." He lay the knives and forks on the large dining table. "I feel it really makes it easy to operate for the day." 

"I think you would find it easy to operate even without it Bernie," Charlie taunted - He was buttering the bread. 

"I have asked you before not to call me Bernie!"

Charlie didn't pay his cries any attention, just continued to spread the butter. "Hey James?"

James just stared at the kettle, as it boiled. "Yeah?" 

"Did you hear that Brad here," he nodded at Brad, who was flipping an egg, "is getting checked out today?"

The kettle pinged, and James started pouring the water into the cups. "Oh yeah? And how did he manage that?" 

Brad spoke up before Charlie, "my mother just loves me more I guess."

James took the cups, two at a time, over to the dining table and set them down. Brad divided the food up, whilst Bernie carried the plates over. Charlie set the largest plate of buttered bread down in the middle of the table, and as if on cue the other four wandered into the room. 

Edward, a burly gentlemen in his fifties, Francis, a scrawny lad not long out of his teens, Paul, a tall bloke in his thirties, and Albert, a grumpy later aged trout. 

Edward spoke first, after they had all began to tuck into the food, "where is our Oct off to today?" 

"Oh, didn't you hear?" Bernie replied, "we are not an Oct today." 

Edward wanted to ask what he meant, but he was preoccupied chewing on some bread and egg. Brad read between the lines and answered the question on the lips of the man.

"I'm getting checked out for the day." 

Francis smiled, he was a sucker for good news. "That's fantastic Brad!" 

As always, Albert could only see the pessimistic side of things. "I guess this means we are getting in some scallion of a substitute. He better bloody-"

"Albert!" Bernie cried, "you know we don't cuss here." His eyes cautiously wandered to the metallic dome above them. "Cussing is the first step to violence." 

Albert didn't seem too interested in the dome, and went about taking a rather large sip of his tea.

Paul's deep voice cut across any sense of worry when he spoke. "Is it someones birthday Brad? W'all know people only get checked out for special occasions." 

"It's my sisters. My mamma is checking my pops out too, gonna surprise her. Cake and all."

A rallying call echoed around the table at the mention of cake, sugar was prohibited and the very idea was enough to put a smile on even Albert's face.

After breakfast was finished, the men rotated roles. The ones that didn't cook, cleaned up. Whilst the ones that cooked, cleaned themselves up. 

The clock's just struck nine when the men exited the apartment. The eight became sixteen, then thirty two, then sixty four, and before long every man in the apartment building was outside in the courtyard. 

All in white t-shirts, jocks, and the crispy white slippers. 

Then the announcement system came online. 

"Good morning men," a woman's voice called out, "today's assignments are as follows..." 

She called out assignments first, and then the group. Sometimes soft moans could be heard, if a group got a particularly bad assignment - But the men mostly stood in silence. 

"Pipe repairs - Oct Group, exception, Bradley R, checking out." 

Albert's shoulders slumped, but there was no audible signs of annoyance from the group. When the woman had finished giving out the days assignments, the men had to file into their appropriate bus on the courtyards far side. 

The courtyard was the center of the mans world, the very middle of the eight great apartment complexes, where eight floors housed two sets of eight men on each. 

The bus that had repairs etched onto it's side awaited the Oct. The bus was big enough to carry sixty four, but there was only twenty four assigned to pipe repairs. 

One by one they clambered onto the bus, still in just the white t-shirts, jocks, and crispy white slippers. 

As they passed by the driver, each man ran his hand under a green scanner. When it beeped, the driver nodded, and the man took a seat. 

Once the twenty four men took their seats, the door shut and the driver bellowed, "high-ho, high-ho, it's off to work we go..." 

The End

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