The boxes, they were endless. He looked out into the vastness of the warehouse and it seemed like that’s all there was. Endless boxes. Most of these boxes held nothing at all. Most of them would never even be used. Bobby had sent an email once asking if they really needed all of these boxes. Of course there was no response. He guessed that half of the warehouse was just that. Boxes. They were all different sizes and stacked from the concrete floor, to the rafters 50 feet overhead. This made his already difficult job even more so. He needed something from those boxes.
He hadn’t slept and his hands were shaking. You can sleep when you’re dead. Wasn’t that what they said? The thought comforted him in a strange way. He remembered the time Beth Taylor had offered him coffee. Holding out a Dunkin Donuts cup he’d stood there like he’d seen a ghost.
“I don’t drink coffee” he’d said almost apologetically. Her short blonde hair hung to her face and she brushed it aside. He could see an almost sense of dread in her almond eyes.
“Don’t drink coffee?” to her it was like asking someone why they don’t breathe air.
“Gives me the jitters.” There was a look she’d given him. It was the look one would give a puppy that you couldn’t bring home from the pound. You could’ve just taken the coffee. You didn’t have to drink it. This happened 8 years ago but it was still fresh in his mind like it had happened yesterday.
There was unease in his voice as he asked Philip one of the night installers to stay. Phillip looked at him, laughed, then realizing that he was serious, made up an excuse about going home to his family. He doesn’t have a family. The warehouse was almost empty now and he knew that there wasn’t anyone else he could ask to stay. Every one of these people made more than enough money in a year to have no money worries. Offering someone overtime was a waste of time.
The men in the white lab coats, who always came in pairs dropped off a crate beside him. He stayed sitting on the concrete and signed the tablet. Surrounding him were dozens of opened boxes strewn about, most of them empty, a few filled with papers and others filled with various wires, circuits and switches. He looked at the wooden crate the men had left and wondered again, like he’d had a hundred other times, how they expected him or anyone else to open it. The crates came completely sealed. There were no edges, no openings, no covers or sealants. They reminded him of large pieces of 2x2 lumber only a lot bigger.
He thought back to the time he’d asked ‘the suits’ if they really needed to bring the units down in hermetically sealed coffins. When they ignored him like they usually did he told them he just wasn’t going to sign for it. Of course he’d been kidding but that split second of defiance was his last. One of the men seemed to groan and placed the tablet on a table they’d been standing next to. He then grabbed Bobby’s arm forcefully and did the signature motions for him while squeezing the ever living hell out of his hand. The signatures were always a mess anyways and anyone could sign anyone else’s name and no one would be the wiser. The act of aggression though had shocked him. At least I came prepared!
The sound of the hammer hitting the crowbar was deafening. Chucks of wood flew everywhere after each hit. Clink, clink, clink. Sweat pooled down his forehead stinging his eye. He wiped it away with the sleeve of his white work shirt and looked around. Several other people were opening their crates as well. Janet Dixon had a power saw and seemed to make quick work of opening hers. Bobby dare not ask her to use it though. I don’t want to get involved with the employees.
Brett Salyer already had his open as well, though he had no idea how. What a waste of time! He was getting frustrated but didn’t want the others to see. Deep breaths seemed to only bring on more sweat and his heart was beating hard against his chest. Maybe the floor will give me more leverage? So he sat. It didn’t help. But he chiseled away. Clink, clink, clink.
He saw Tyler Jordan walk into the warehouse just after 10am. To say he was surprised was the understatement of the year. Tyler was either still drunk or hungover, Bobby couldn’t tell which but it didn’t matter because he was here. It was a struggle to get up. His oversized pants had gotten caught beneath his shoes and he almost tumbled to the ground. Even when he did get to his feet he stood there motionless for a moment trying to gain his balance. His legs felt wobbly and weak. Bile filled his throat for a moment but before he got sick he swallowed- hard. He wondered if he was coming down with something. Yeah you’re getting ‘sick’ just like everyone else! He got as far as he could seem to manage and leaned heavily against the concrete wall. Tyler stood there looking at him, waiting. Or was he looking through him?
“Tony’s out.” He barked more than he had meant to. It sounded demanding and he regretted speaking so soon.
He waited now, breathing deliberately, trying to compose himself.
“We’re sending out 20 units today …”
He knew Tyler wouldn’t hit him but there was a brief moment of questioning. Clearly Tyler wasn’t happy. I know I’m not happy either. What can I do? What can any of us do? But that’s not even the best part Tyler….
“Need you on install” Bobby whispered. He’d hoped that Tyler heard him because he didn’t want to say it again.
“I’m sorry Tyler” he wheezed. “Let’s do what we can and see what happens” He said nothing more and trotted away. He knew Tyler was staring at him. He didn’t have to see it. He could feel it.