Sam had an extra hour for lunch, so he went home, and he took off all of his clothes and sat on the couch, and he massaged his aching feet. He lay beneath a throw and stared at the ceiling. He managed to think of his life as if it were a thin dark line on a large piece of white paper. At one end was his birth; at the other end, the end. He tried to think to the edges of the paper, and to see how far it went, and what happened at those edges, and it was all murky and slippery. He thought like this for some time, and dozed off.
He woke, and jolted when he looked at the clock. If he’d moved quickly, dressed in a hurry, taken the stairs two at a time, and strode with purpose along the street, he’d have made it back to work just in time. Out of breath, but on the hour. But he didn’t want to do any of those things. Instead, he got up, and he didn’t get dressed. He took a shower. Then he tried on some clothes that he hardly ever wore, and realised he’d put on a bit of weight in the last year or so. He splashed some cologne from a bottle that he kept at the top of his wardrobe. The smell had evened and softened, and it was rather delightful, like the smell of an old leather purse.
The boss phoned him. ‘Lunch was just the two hours,’ he said, in that creeping, tiptoeing voice he had.
‘I know it was only two hours,’ said Sam. ‘I know.’
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.
4 thoughts on “The Long Lunch”
Apologies if this is repeating what I thought I just sent.
I love this story. It is complete in itself, yet we are also intrigued to know what happens next.
I particularly like the smell of cologne like an old leather purse and the boss’s ‘tiptoeing’ voice.
The idea of life as a thin black line with a beginning and an end reminds me of a Steinberg cartoon that I’ll try to find for you. A man is walking between two bookends (or similar things). One has on it the date of his birth. The other has no date.
Thanks Jenny. I wrote this on one of my own long lunch breaks last week. It in no way reflects the way I spent the time. But there are people, aren’t there, who leave work at lunchtime and never return. I wonder what happens. There’s something about lunchtime. It’s a window, or a door. Into what, though?
I agree with all Jenny’s comments Barry. I love the ‘completeness’ of this short story. I think it will resonate with many readers. It straight away tapped into my own lunchtimes at work when I would often just want to either run away or stay in the café all afternoon without any pressures. Finally I did – both!
I’m glad you like this piece, H.
Before going to university, I got a summer job picking lettuces, and I went home for lunch on the first day, wet and cold, and filthy. My parents took one look at me and told me I wasn’t going back. I didn’t hate the job, but I was relieved. So, lunchtimes always hold a promise of change for me.
I’d love to hear more about your running away from work sometime.