The (Virtual) Life of Rob Whitman

January 25, 2008
By Claire Bobst, Arlington, VA

The man was panicking. His world was redundant, for everything was going wrong and nothing was going right. The sand in the hourglass was slowly running out, and he only had one life left to live. He was at risk for losing his job as a cashier at a small office supply company, and was lucky he even still had it. His attendance record was scarred, and every time he arrived late, his boss said the exact same thing: “That was not a good decision.” This was all, nothing more, nothing less. When the man bowed his head in shame, he was once again mocked by the nametag on his bright blue polo, which read, “Rob Whitman” followed by, “My job is to improve yours!” "Ironic, isn’t it, when I’m about to lose my job?" he thought to himself.

Not only was his career, if you could call it that, threatened, but as a consequence so were his three children. Two years ago, Rob and his wife had gotten a divorce. There had been no understanding, and the commitment they had once felt had drained into nothing. So, Rob had gotten custody of their three boys. Henry, Joshua and Timmy were not just hungry; they were starving. Each day their meals got smaller and smaller, and sometimes they had nothing but a sandwich. Their daddy never played with them anymore, and all three were becoming depressed. Strangely, their blank faces showed no signs of pain.

On this particular day, the boys went off to school with empty stomachs. Rob was reminded that the bills needed to be paid, the house needed cleaning, and that he had a dentist appointment that afternoon. His familiar blue uniform stirred in him a reflexive sense of urgency as he stepped into his car. Before he set off, he quickly glanced at the time. 7:48 glared back at him, causing his heart to jump inside his chest. He realized gleefully that he was not going to be late today! His world starting to look a little brighter, Rob started up the car and drove away.

A while later, he noticed something that was strange. The car was making a sort of scraping sound, and it was not going as fast as usual. Confused, Rob pulled over and got out to check that everything was okay. With dismay, he discovered that a large nail had pierced the right tire. Exasperated, he breathed out a puff of air and trudged to the trunk to get the extra. He half-heartedly got to work. Suddenly, when he was about halfway done, it was as if Rob had seen a ghost. He froze and stared straight ahead. Slowly, he looked at the time. 7:58.

A storm of panic waves collided over him, nearly knocking his knees out. Following his impulses, he ran. He abandoned his car, one of his most valuable possessions. He was, literally, running for his life. With each step Rob took, his breath came more difficultly. Yet he persevered, for his kids and for himself.

Exhausted and panting, Rob saw the door of the store. In his eyes it was not just an entrance; it was the Holy Grail. Time seemed to slow down as he took those last couple strides. He gripped the handle in his sweaty palm and yanked with all the force left in him. He barely heard the loud tinkling of the familiar bells, for he had thrust himself straight into the face of his boss.

“That was not a good decision.” The middle-aged man stared into Rob’s eyes as he said, “You have failed. I am sorry.”

“GAME OVER” flashed on ten-year-old Rob Whitman’s computer screen. He paused for a moment, then sighed and clicked “NEW GAME.”

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

Parkland Book