The days of Joseph are mundane and boring by the perspective of everybody. Adulthood is given a bad name by the repetition and humdrum existance he carries out day to day. That is until he gets caught up in a mystery that defies logic.
A cold evening in June, a most unpleasant end to a harsh day of work with the only reprieve being the repetitive indulgences of modern life. Joseph turned the key to his apartment door, pushing firmly and jiggling the keys in a fashion only the occupier would do so. The lock had become stiff and taken on a personality of old age and no longer opted to open without a specific method to unlock it. The door creaked as the tall man entered his sanctuary.
Resting in the corner of his small apartment was an old, average sized television, surrounded by a somewhat tattered and well worn sofa. The single room was shared with a kitchen and two doors close by that made up a bathroom and a cupboard like hole that was supposed to be a bedroom. Joseph turned on the lamp from another corner of the room, lighting the area with a pleasant enough glow to walk around comfortably. The blinds were dusty, closed and hadn’t been opened that morning or for many nights previously. This apartment was more than just a bachelor pad, it was the apartment of a man who had given up trying.
Joseph walked in to the kitchen, reached down to a bottom cupboard and pulled out a box slightly smaller than a cereal box. A low humming sound brushed across his legs as he reached down to grab a plastic dish from the ground. A fluffy ball of fur purred as it wiped its long hair across Joseph’s black pants. The somewhat round, overfed cat meowed in excitement as its overdue meal was poured into its dish. He placed the food on the ground and in an instant the cat was crunching on the dried odorous cat food.
“Better than the shit, I’ll be having.” Joseph uttered, somewhat to his cat but partially thinking out loud.
The food smelled awful to Joseph and in response he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a cigarette, followed by a cheap plastic lighter. With the casual flick of his wrist, the deeply ingrained movement only a smoker could possess, he lit his cigarette. Joseph coughed before inhaling his first puff, as though his body expected the result before the action. Smoke filled his view as he navigated his tiny kitchen. Placing his glasses on the kitchen unit, Joseph headed to the refrigerator. Bottom compartment, first drawer, first item. Routine it was, as his hand did all the searching only to pull out one of numerous identical microwaveable meals. Pulling apart the cardboard packaging, Joseph placed his dinner in the microwave. Beep, beep, beep, the microwave replied rhythmically to his fingers setting the timer.
Joseph, upon first appearance was typical of any white collar worker, he wore a shirt and tie and a somewhat complimentary suit jacket with matching pants. Though the aged look of his shoes, mildly stained white teeth and slight beer induced pudge showed a man that had all but given up on life. If it was not for his dark skin, perhaps a few of his wrinkles would appear firmer and age him even further beyond his thirty four years.
Turning the television on for no reason other than background noise, Joseph pulled out an uncomfortable plastic chair by a small desk. The desk was meek in design and housed nothing but a laptop and a few coffee cup stains. Joseph sat down, widening his legs to comfortably sit on the tiny chair. He switched the laptop on, the vibrant blue boot up screen appeared and gave more light to the darkly lit room. “Shit..” he muttered, standing back up and heading over to the kitchen where he had left his glasses. It was difficult for him to see anything up close without them.
Despite giving the impression that he had all but given up on life, Joseph had recently created a new personal email address for the sake of internet dating. He’d been out of the dating game for a long while. Since his divorce, the only action he was seeing was from Friday night action movies. He did not put any effort in to let anybody know that he was free and single, the dreariness of the daily grind was his life and that’s how he thought he preferred it to be. Even though his life from the perspective of an outsider might seem like a depressing and lonely one, Joseph still had a good relationship with his sister and he loved her son, his little nephew. Though this relationship was not without problems, as his sister had been the one to pressure him in to trying out online dating.
Joseph worked with computers and was not a stranger to emailing, though his work email was all he had needed until he intended to involve his personal life. Signing in to his email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, his inbox contained a welcome email received upon creation and a confirmation email of the username funguyjoe for “Singles No Longer” dating site. His username betrayed him, masked the truth about him, but his sister Patricia insisted on making his account for him. Joseph interpreted that to mean the reality was, he was undesirable without heavy lying. His profile picture even displayed an image from before he met his ex-wife at the age of twenty six. Was that the last time he looked attractive?
Eyeing up the inbox and lack of messages, Joseph shook his head. “What else did I expect?” he thought to himself, starring at the screen whilst grimacing. Suddenly he noticed his spam box had mail, did he merely have the email settings too strict? As he was about to click, he noticed the spam box message count grow in size. Twenty nine, thirty, thirty one, thirty two and counting. Joseph clicked as his spam box became flooded with numerous messages. He took a short look, the email count still growing, the subjects were marked with numbers. Before he got a chance to further inspect, an ear piercing trill filled the silence of the room. It was his phone, the boring default ring tone at maximum volume.
Reaching in his pants pocket, he pulled out a sleek, expensive looking phone. It was a present from his sister, a thoughtful gesture mostly unacknowledged and played with for less time than it would take to change the default ring tone, however it was still appreciated, Joseph’s last phone had a battery life shorter than a movie.
“Hello.” Joseph answered.
“Hi, er, yeah, Joe?” a gravelly voice replied.
“Yeah.” Joseph said, he recognised the voice as his boss, Marco. He could almost hear a request coming from him before he spoke. Marco was a short, fat and balding man and smoked more than Joseph ever could even if he tried. Whilst he was Joseph’s superior, Marco was a man who didn’t like to ask anything of anybody and always sounded nervous when he had to tell somebody what to do or ask for a favour.
“Tony just called in, said his wife had a car accident. Goin’ to need somebody to cover for him tomorrow, Joey. So… Yeah.”
“Isn’t Tony your cousin?” Joseph asked, he knew the answer but he wondered how the family connection would tie in to him only covering Tony’s shift.
“See, here’s the thing…” Marco paused, choking back the discomfort in his throat.
Joseph interjected, “You want me to cover Tony’s shift tomorrow and supervise the rest of the team for you?”
Marco fell silent but Joseph could practically hear him nod his head before he spluttered out a yes. Joseph sighed, the cigarette in his mouth almost falling out as he did so.
“You know I don’t do that, that’s not my job description. You’re taking the day off too?”
“Come on Joey, it’s family.” Marco said, a pathetic meekness to his voice.
Joseph resented being called Joey, it was Joseph any other time anybody spoke to him but when Marco asked anything of him, he suddenly became Joey, another extension of Marco’s Italian-American family unit and “Joey“ had obligations that Joseph didn‘t.
Joseph frowned, “You remember that you’re my boss, don’t you?” acknowledging that he wasn’t really in a position to say no, despite it seeming like it.
“Thanks Joey, you’re a pal.” Marco coughed down the phone.
“Yeah.” Joseph replied, cutting Marco off and hanging up the phone, mostly forgetting the call seconds later.
Looking back at the computer screen, Joseph looked at the spam box, the emails had stopped at fifty. Slightly hesitant he moved the mouse over the emails and stopped the cursor over number twenty four. With a double click, the message came to the screen and Joseph read it partly aloud, his cigarette moving up and down as he did so.
The message read:
“Call from Marco.
Tony’s wife was in a car accident. She has whiplash. (She’ll be fine)
Marco wants you to cover for both of them tomorrow.
That cigarette burn ruins your pants.
Patricia will call you in about twenty seconds.
Have I got your attention?”
Joseph looks over the email again, quickly, reading it whilst sounding out the words under his breath.
“What the fuck?” he exclaimed in a semi-silent manner. His mouth was agape as he moved his head forwards causing his cigarette to fall out of his mouth and land on his pant leg, burning the material.
“Shit!” Joseph yelled in pain. He stood up and brushed at his pant leg. Taken back by the contents of the email, a surreal trance like state hitting him as he played back the last few moments in his head. A further shock struck him, running up his spine as an ear piercing ring broke the silence. It was his phone, vibrating on the desk and ringing obnoxiously. Joseph peered over to see the caller, it was Patricia.