Lloyd Dudley woke up one early morning in Seattle with a strange suspension between perfect calm and a sense of impending doom. His dreams were vague and free of concrete thought, like colors passing through a window with no deliberation or purpose. He opened his eyes and sat up, and his surroundings returned him to his usual sense of life; uninteresting and disappointing. His room was the same stale slate of beige, accented with browns and blacks that were easy on the eyes, but killed the imagination. Lloyd, being an insurance broker, had all but completely forgotten what imagination was.
“Good morning, Seattle! This is SABN; it is seven-fifteen on this bright and sunny Tuesday morning…”
Bright and sunny? Lloyd stood and stepped to the draped window, pulling back the curtain with doubt. Sure enough, in late March, the sun was coming up on a brilliant, clear sky. The buildings of downtown glittered in the approaching sunlight, and all traces of last night’s brutally-cold downpour had vanished.
“Huh,” Lloyd said aloud, with no one else in the apartment, “that’s unusual.” He tuned back in to the radio to hear more.
“… absolutely no chance of rain today and traffic is quick-moving and only getting faster! Everyone will be getting to work on time, as usual!”
Lloyd stared at the radio. “As usual? That’s a laugh” Was it sarcasm? It certainly hadn’t sounded like it. He turned again and looked out at the streets. Sure enough, everyone was moving along at a quick pace, no honking or cursing could be heard in a continuous roar from his open window. Lloyd wondered if he was still asleep. This was too good to be true.
A deep buzzing sound came from his night table. His cell phone was vibrating, and when he checked the Caller ID, he cringed and half-considered not answering.
Alas, he was too nice for that.
He flipped the phone open. “Cheryl?”
“Hello, Lloyd! How are you this morning?”
Lloyd sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose in tired irritation; the typical mood of someone who never expected to be divorced after only three years. “I don’t know, Cheryl. Seeing as you’re probably calling about those papers or something…”
“Papers?” Cheryl laughed. It was Something Lloyd hadn’t heard in years, certainly not since he caught her and his co-worker, Thomas, in bed together today. “That was taken care of ages ago, darling. You know that.”
Lloyd paused. “The hell are you talking about? My lawyer hasn’t even mailed me the—“
“Lawyer? What on earth is that?”
“Oh, don’t be cute, Cheryl.” Lloyd was not in the mood for games like this.
“Cute? Aw Lloyd, you’re too sweet.”
Lloyd sighed loudly in exasperation. “What is it that you want, then?”
Cheryl was quiet for a moment. “I wanted to know if you’re coming to the bake sale tomorrow! For the women’s book club, remember?”
Lloyd remembered the bake sale, but he hadn’t gone to one in two years. “Cheryl, two years ago I was working too much to come. And last year, you didn’t invite me, nor did I have any interest after what you—“
“So are you coming or not?”
Lloyd gritted his teeth. “Why the hell do you want me there, anyway? Isn’t Tom going?
“Of course he is, but we wanted you to come, too!” Cheryl’s voice was different. She was being charming and extremely friendly.
Lloyd quickly reminded Cheryl of this.
“What? Lloyd, you’re saying such silly things. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What, you think pretending it didn’t happen is going to make me forgive you? You hate my guts. You said it yourself.” Lloyd wanted to put his fist through a wall.
Lloyd sighed. “Quit patronizing me. I’m going to work now. And as for your bake sale, I would rather die then come.”
“Alright! I’ll talk to you later, darling!”
Lloyd hung up and threw the phone down on the ground. She didn’t even sound phased. That was extremely unusual, and irritating.
“Whatever,” he muttered to himself, getting up and walking into the bathroom so he could get ready for work.
Lloyd left his apartment that morning, and came out of the building even more confused than before. First, his landlord hadn’t nagged him about the rent. Then, the elevators were in perfect working order again, and the water stain in the ceiling of the lobby was gone. By the time he had stepped onto the street, he was feeling extremely unusual.
He rounded the corner, expecting to see the grubby mascot of the complex; a haggard and rundown old homeless man. He sat out there everyday, and always begged Lloyd for money.
Lloyd was prepared to just walk by like every other day, but to his shock, the dirty old man wasn’t even there.
Lloyd then bumped into someone coming out of the coffee shop he was passing by. “Oh, sorry,” he muttered.
“Nice suit!” the man replied.
That made Lloyd look up. Sure enough, there he was; the homeless man. But he wasn’t homeless. He was dressed up, with his hair and face clean, and shiny black shoes on his feet. Lloyd could barely recognize him. This made Lloyd angry; had the man been playing homeless to trick people?
“Cheap bastard,” Lloyd said in a low tone.
“Have a nice day!” the man replied, not even noticing the side comment as he walked off.
He sounded a lot like Cheryl. It would have sounded like obnoxious sarcasm if it didn’t seem so sincere.
Lloyd was too pressed for time to pursue these matters. He was going to be late. As he thought about this, a taxi pulled up next to him, and a friendly man nodded to him from in the car.
Feeling rather dazed, Lloyd got into the back of the cab.