Monday, June 8, 2009


Bill was, by most accounts, a reasonable man. Bill watched his kids play rugby on cold winter mornings, and Bill paid his taxes. He didn't like paying his taxes, but he did it anyway. Bill was a straight up kinda guy like that. A straight up kinda guy in every sense of the word, even – the sort to call a spade a spade, and the sort to have a few DB's down the pub on Fridays, after work knocked off early. Bill knew the guys down the pub, and they knew him. They talked about work, and family, and sport, and cars. Mainly about sport and cars. Sometimes there was crossover. Motor sports were a popular topic. Bill was a “lifting equipment salesman”. He thought he liked his job, and it paid the bills. Kept the missus happy. Mouths to feed. That sort of thing.

Bill got broken one day. It was, ultimately, the oatmeal soap which broke Bill. Cause and effect, determinism, modern life and all that played its necessary part too. It is easier to say that the oatmeal soap broke Bill, though.

The soap at Bill's work had been the same for as long as he could remember. White. Non-descript in almost every way – yeah, it cleaned your hands alright. There was a new manager at this office, a young bloke, had his degree and everything. Got on fine with Bill, but y'know, a boss is a boss and all that. He was making changes alright, but nothing major. The coffee in the break room changed. The timesheets were electronic now – you needed to log in each morning. And the bathroom soap had changed too. Bill didn't notice the soap change, until some of the other guys were talking about it.

“Yeah, the boss was saying. Oatmeal and honey soap. Gentler on your hands, or some limp-dick shit like that”.

And Bill laughed. Fucking soap. The day progressed. Pneumatic hoists were sold.

Two days later, Bill drove to work like usual. The traffic was heavy down Blenheim Road. The weather was messing with the radio reception – Hauraki was cracked and edged with static. Bill punched his code into the computer ten minutes late. “Another day, yeah, another dollar”. Make a coffee, drum out of time on a free desk pad with margins of printed advertising, yeah waiting for something to happen. Check your emails, read the news. Maybe do some work, if the boss is in.

Bill went to the bathroom around 10 o'clock that day. Good to take a walk, at least, get the blood flowing. And Bill used the oatmeal soap for the first time. Bill wondered about the soap. Why is our soap made out of food? Are people somewhere eating soap? Life was confusing. Bill wondered about the endless days in which the old soap had featured. How many more times in his life would he look at a different-but-the-same bar of oatmeal and honey soap, in this same bathroom stall? Synapses fired blankly. Cum to infertile eggs. Resulting in no life. “This is not life” though Bill, as the procession of old--soap days, all constumed in the same drab grey cloth, danced through his mind. “Yeah, this is nothing”.

Bill left the bathroom, and left work entirely. He didn't bother with his jacket. He never even clocked out on his work computer. Bill was shaken. It wasn't that he couldn't face the soap. It was that he couldn't face the days that would be punctuated by soap. A daily reference to the crushing boredom. The soap would become a symbol. From the first thoughts about soap, everything fucked with Bill. He didn't know why, but it did. The pace at which people in malls would walk. The way his teenage daughter would blank eye stare at the sixteenth birthday parties of spoiled Americans. Before, this was just “life”. Things that just happened. A good look at the daily soap had opened Bill's eyes, replacing squinting acceptance with a wide-eyed view of caustic banality. Bill was fucked.


Darian James said...

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