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Lock and Key

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Jim dragged his tired eyes slowly from the computer screen in front of him as the office door swung open and a head poked in.

“Nelson wants the system report by this afternoon,” John Mitchells said, eyeing the mountainous piles of papers, receipts, and empty Chinese take away boxes scattered on the desk of his colleague.

Jim nodded absentmindedly and John left, but not before casting one last disgusted look around the cluttered office, curling his lips at the rotting banana peel that had been sitting on the window sill for who knows how long.

But Jim did know. He knew that his sloppy lifestyle will probably attract colonies of insects soon. He knew that John Mitchells was passing judgements about the room and would undoubtedly make him the fool of the office. He evens knew the names of the specific organic chemical compounds responsible for the specks and blossoms of black bruises along the yellow banana skin.

He just didn’t care. He had learned that caring leads to consequences.

As his eyes made the long and tiresome journey back to the lines on his computer screen, a ray of amber sunlight wrestled its way through the crevice in the drawn blinds and tapped on the limp hand resting next to an old battered calculator. Jim glanced up, eyes widening at this sight.

Suddenly, the overstuffed trunk blockaded in the back of his mind burst open. In front of him, the “1”s and “0”s turned into vibrant landscapes: flowing rivers and hills that twisted off the edge of the screen. The white chipped ceiling above transformed into a clear blue sky, wisps of cotton candy clouds floated where cracks resided previously. Even the piles of trash rearranged themselves into emerald ferns, looming maple trees, flushing carnations, and multihued birds of paradise. For the first time in over twenty years, Jim was filled with a feeling of exhilaration that bubbled from the tips of his toes in the golden green grass up to the individual strands of dull brown hair on his head. Overcome by the necessity to record this scene, he suddenly found himself with a paint brush and easel, the exact ones that his father had burned all those years ago. Letting out a laugh of pure delight and excitement, he ran his fingers over the wooden handle and reveled in the familiarity. Just as he was about to dip the brush into a pot of sizzling red paint, the phone rang.

Jim glanced down at the caller ID and his gleeful expression froze. The paintbrush in his hand clattered to the floor. In the blink of an eye, he was back in his dimly lit office with the plain white walls. With shaking hands, he lifted the phone to his ear.

“Hi dad… nothing… just working.” he muttered.
Sighing, he secured a new lock on his memories and added an extra bolt just in case.






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