Note: Yet another snippet from my work-in-progress for NaNoWriMo (click here to read this story from the beginning), picking up right after I have reported to the headquarters of the convenience store where I worked, circa 1986. The powers-that-be wanted me to take a polygraph test, because somebody at my store was raiding the chicken coop. I didn’t want to take the test, because I hadn’t raided anything. But I also wanted to keep my job. So…
Now, I’m sure things have improved since then. But at that time, the whole polygraph experience was so unsettling that you could easily be accused of lying about the most mundane things, like what day of the week it happened to be or whether or not a yellow balloon was, indeed, yellow. Or even a balloon.
I have a nervous nature as it is, so when I arrived in the corporate offices and was given directions to the Polygraph Room (they actually had a room dedicated to such a thing?), I was already on edge. The mere fact that you were being required to take the test made all the office workers view you with suspicion, so as you proceeded through all the Checkpoint Charlies in the place, your nerves were further shot by all the people who refused to look directly at you. The intimidation factor was at red alert. I could have been Mother Teresa, feeding the homeless and saving souls as I trotted along, but their body language made it clear that I had been belched from the Ninth Circle of Hell.
I finally arrive at this creepy room, one dedicated to the fact that some people are lying suck-holes of humanity so you might as well shuck the cobs, and the first thing you notice is the chair where you assume that you will have to sit. It looks like an ancient electric chair, where hungry people got fried for stealing chickens during the height of the Great Depression. All kinds of wires and tubes and high-voltage lines are hanging from it, an octopus of torture and deceit.
Off to one side is a man sitting at a machine that is connected by various cables to the death chair. I notice that he is fiddling with knobs on this machine while he studies a graph that is being produced on a roll of paper that is spooling on to the floor. I also notice that he has incredibly greasy hair that has simply been yanked away from his face and secured with what looks like a binder clip, rather than being washed like it should have been for the last several years. And the body odor oozing from him that has the potency to wipe out the rain forests overnight? It took my breath away.
“Please have a seat,” he says, as I’m imagining that he probably has fungus growing on his body.
Well, the only available seat is the death chair, so I steel myself and gingerly lower my ass into the thing, fully expecting a bolt of electricity that will turn me into ash and bone.
Greasy Man clicks something that causes his machine to quit spooling, wipes his sleeve across his dripping nose in yet another example of how disgusting a human being can be, and then approaches me as I quiver in the Nexus of Soul-Depletion. He attaches something to my right index finger, something else to my left wrist, straps yet another thing around my neck so that it dangles down and he can affix it to my chest over my heart, and finally grabs this flexible tube, which appears to be breathing organically on its own, and wraps it twice around my stomach.
“Just relax,” he mumbles, before returning to his station on the Starship Enterprise.
How in the HELL am I supposed to relax in this condition, with enough wires, tubing and electricity attached to my body that if I cross my legs in the wrong way I might send all known satellites spinning out of orbit? Real easy for you to say, Stinky Grease Man.
He turns his little machine back on, and the spool of paper starts dripping on the floor again. “I’m just going to ask you a few questions to set a baseline reading. Don’t think about the answer, just respond with the first thing that comes to mind.”
Don’t think about the answer? What the hell does that mean, don’t think? Don’t you want me to think about the answer so that I can say something that makes sense? Because otherwise, my answer is going to be “screw you, and please wash your hair.”
My thoughts of hatred do not deter him in any way, so at least I understand that he is not psychic. “Please state your full name.”
“Brian. Gregory. Lageose.”
Even with all the torturous devices affixed to various parts of my body and thereby hindering my functional abilities, I can clearly see the spindly printing needle that is making the seismographic line on his paper, and right after I answer I watch the needle shoot to the top of the page with alarming velocity and power. The needle makes tiny whipping movements in this position, with such agitation that it finally tears the paper and causes the whole machine to shut down. A small red light blinks on to indicate that we have a showstopper, all of the various appliances roped around my body emit beeps of displeasure, and the lights in the room actually dim.
“Oh my,” says Greasy Man. “Something seems to be amiss.”
Amiss? Well, I would think so. I simply said my name, and now we have a rolling brown-out sweeping across the county. And this is the part where I’m supposed to relax?
Greasy Man then heaves himself up, wanders over, checks all of the connections to me, to his machine, and to the national power grid in general. He doesn’t find anything worth any commentary, since he only emits a few grunts and a couple gushes of body odor, then returns to the Starship. He reloads the paper supply in his oversensitive machine, checks the printer cartridges, then unsnaps the needle printer from its frightened position at the top of the chart, forcing the needle back down to baseline.
“Let’s try this again,” he says.
“Okay,” I say.
“Please don’t speak unless you are responding to a question.”
Oh really? Is that how we’re playing this? Fine. At this point, my overwhelming displeasure with his existence is nearly equal to my anxiety-attack level of discomfort with this whole situation. I have done nothing wrong, but corporate incompetence has led to me being a guinea pig in some twisted attempt to find the person who actually HAS done the wrong. Game on.
“Please state your full name.”
There’s a flash of sparks and the room goes dark.
Click here to read the next bit in this series…
Originally published in a different form in “Memory Remix” and “The Sound and the Fury” in 2010. Modified considerably for this post. As a bit of whimsy and if you feel sporty about it, share your vision in the comments about what you think might happen next. The more bizarre the better, because it’s Bonnywood…
Categories: My Life