Wednesday at 11:37 I reached the time clock, cane in hand, having crossed the front end without limping, or even using it. It’s a heavy T-cane that is really designed for leaning on while standing, which I use at the bus stop for that purpose and to rise from squatting on my haunches, which is a stretch I do often to maintain my ability to straighten my back. However I had done no good at all in appearing not to be injured. At a glance it was obvious that I am broken.
At the clock a young female form stood and I waited for her to move, without looking at her face and then discover that she was not moving, not a current employee, but rather a former coworker who stood, mouth open and eyes wide, in obvious shock at my condition. The most demoralizing happening since running to catch that bus on January 21st, and having a wicked hitch in my step ever since, has been when people who have not seen me for a while look at me like they see a dead man, a ghost. I am shunned in a strange way at work, like a bad luck charm, as people react in shock at the most physical person in the building suddenly creeping along like a withered elder.
The Lady in Red, her hair now blonde under a black headband, looked at me worriedly and said, “So how are you?”
“Still lurching along.”
“You walked and took the bus in that condition?”
“I yet take strange pride in the fact that I am the last man of my race to walk alone through the nighted streets of my evil city—besides, when the wind chill gets below twenty the Dindus stay inside—afraid of the abominable snowman I guess.”
We were now walking across the front, me attempting to heel-toe a short gait, her politely keeping my slow pace.
“I hope you bounce back from this. And I’ll have you know you’ve just gotten an upgrade. There’s something about you that’s even menacing in your current condition—and I should know, I work in a facility for the criminally insane!”
It was time for her to head out the open lane and for me to head back to the meat room, so we stopped and faced each other and she smiled awkwardly and said, “You’re no-longer Creepy Old Guy, you're Leather Face! You own it, Mister Jim. Enjoy your upgrade.”
I headed down the detergent aisle and Steevo was there, burly, back-haired, gorilla-like collector of horror movies and he asked, “So you made it in?”
“Unfortunately, I’d a much rather went down under a pile of Dindus in the middle of Northern Parkway, ripping guts out with my knife hand, reaching my bloody paw up out of the pile to offer a Dindu heart to the moon.”
“Fucking nice—please do it somewhere where there’s a security feed so I can watch that shit on You Tube.”
“Hey, Blondy said that I got an upgrade.”
“What, no more Creep Old Guy?”
“No, she said I’m Leather Face. Is that some gay super hero? Who is Leather Face?”
“Dude, Leather Face rocks! He’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, wears a leather apron, cuts off faces and wears them for a mask—I’ll bring in the movies—got the whole collection. Congratulations, dude.”
“Hey, if you learn how to walk again, maybe you ought to invest in a leather apron and a chainsaw?”
Laughter, as I limp to my appointment with toil.