Outside Thunder Pallets by Michael Seidel

June 4, 2012 Comments Off on Outside Thunder Pallets by Michael Seidel

The toilet paper roll has fallen out of the truck and stopped moving under the axle. Carl, in his blue satin Thunder Pallets jacket, looks like he’ll burst as he bends down on the blacktop to retrieve it. He needs that toilet paper roll. Whenever his boss comes over to him and asks him to take the forklift to some unexpected corner of the warehouse, Carl presses the roll to his mouth like a trumpet and says the same thing each time: “Yes, yes, ok.”

He looks at it like this: Work is for working. Talk is for talking. Toilet paper rolls are for talking at work.

His boss never looks up from his clipboard when he speaks to Carl, but Carl is always worried that one day, his boss’s concentration will snap apart in a fury, and he’ll pull the job rug right out from under Carl on the spot, then roll him up in it, and drag him to the curb where eventually he’ll get compacted in the back of some city truck. Carl’s dependence on toilet paper rolls is not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act — he’s looked it up.

But now, prostrate on the blacktop under the truck, Carl hears a jovial, “Carl! My man!” and sees soft brown boots. Carl doesn’t understand what’s being said or who’s saying it, the boss’s salutation being so devoid of its usual order-ushering directness.

The toilet paper roll is just out of reach, and Carl hits his head on the exhaust as he snugs his round frame out to meet his boss’s gaze. He feels the hand of fear go through his back and rattle his spine, and as his lips begin to move in reply, he realizes that no one, not even the finest among us, is anything more than a simple ventriloquist dummy.

What if I’ve been given the voice of a girl? is the nervous thought that comes to mind.

His beard goes to ice. He moves his knuckles to his teeth.

© 2012 Michael Seidel, first appeared at Fictionaut

Michael Seidel writes in a former boarding school for Catholic girls & edits in an unfinished basement in a neighborhood called Tippecanoe. His writing has appeared or will soon appear in publications like Dogzplot, Kill Author, Red Lightbulbs, Thunderclap!, and Untoward Magazine. He blogs at http://oldstandby.tumblr.com

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