Thinking of Ben Franklin, the young printer smiles walking into work late again. Nodding to himself in bemused assurance, he considers the tenure of Mark Twain; he ponders the constant flux of moveable type during the many editions of Leaves of Grass. The risk had been worth the sleepless night and the foreman’s menacing glower. Workmates sneer at him because they have witnessed such belated and disheveled appearances at work before. Yet the young printer’s smile broadens while comparing last night to a friend back in high school.
His friend Dan had raced from the football field after practice as if he were trying to beat everyone back to the locker room. While teammates showered, Dan had splashed on cologne and quickly jumped into his street clothes. Before others could towel off, he had slammed shut the car door in the parking lot and set the tires squealing and smoking en route to his girlfriend’s house. Teammates and townspeople alike all knew where he was and what he was doing. Try to call Dan about practice tomorrow or the game on Friday, though, and you didn’t exist. Nothing could distract him from his attention to his girlfriend. She was his muse, the meaning in his life.
Home from work as fast as he could drive, the young printer had set straight to writing, scrambling in a panic to put something on paper. He couldn’t be bothered with showering or cooking a proper meal. He had needed to write as much as he could before time ran out and work would haul him back to prison, handcuffed from writing and chained to the printing presses.
Angered by so many days after work he could write for only an hour or two, he had written past sundown and the ten thirty bedtime he knew he should meet if he wanted to focus at work the next morning. If he had taken a break from writing, it was to switch off the bedside alarm to prevent it from distracting him at five thirty.
Possessed, he had written page after page, making corrections and revisions instead of the dreaming about adjustments on printing presses that usually kept him from restful sleep at that time in the morning. He had written past the moments he would think he had awakened minutes before the alarm would sound, past the longings for just another half hour of sleep—his mind had pressed a Snooze button so he might continue writing sentences.
The young printer’s routine would have had him put away the dishes that had dried in the rack overnight, but he hadn’t washed them, had left them piled in the sink. As the time to leave for work had grown closer, he had written in a frenzy to get as much down as he could. He had forfeited a shower for the sake of a few more sentences. In lieu of breakfast, he had written his last paragraph before he had dashed out the door several phrases late for work.
Co-workers turn at the sight and sour smell of him. The young printer has heard rumors that he is a drunk coming in hungover. He sees in the faces of his workmates an indignant leer that wants him fired. Doubtless, they see his dark bush of ratty hair, his puffy, ruddy face and blood-shot eyes as evidence of an unkempt and degenerate life. Surely, he wears his shirts backwards or inside-out, his fly unzipped, and his shoes untied. Yet he walks past them toward his station brimming with self-satisfaction. And if he looks like he feels, then he knows the florescent lights in the printing warehouse are shining down on him, catching the clumped facets in his greasy hair at odd angles, and reflecting an angelic iridescence of unfounded superiority.
B. E. Smith is a freelance writer from Utah. In addition to essay and article publications, his stories and poems have appeared in anthologies and magazines such as Gutter Eloquence, Zygote in My Coffee, The Legendary, Static Movement, the delinquent, and in the current issue of The Binnacle. He lives in Salt Lake City and is writing a memoir.