October 30, 2014

Creative Writing Assignment: Plot-Driven Narrative: "Condition"

 The time has come to consider the many problems faced by a young man named Zachary.  Truly, there was never an individual so rolled up and tossed aside by the system and fate itself as Zachary has been, and I am sure you will agree.
 Examine, first, his family; or perhaps the lack thereof.  Before Zachary had a chance to be able to comprehend the meaning of the famous one-fingered solute he had come to feel all people and situations left him with, he was the unsuspecting, unborn recipient of it from his father.  Left with a single mother and a younger sister, Zachary grew up in an apartment and fed at the hand of federal dependency programs.
 Worse things were to come for our tragic hero.  Much of Zachary's life was dictated by the many chronic physical and mental conditions he was unrighteously cursed with.  The first he was made aware of was ADHD, which he was diagnosed with in kindergarten.  Details of the exact incident which provoked this diagnosis are shrouded in the mists of the past; however, Zachary will gladly regale you with what he knows of the story, most notably the part where he threw a stapler at his teacher's face in response to being told to “stop bothering the other children.”
 Thus fate landed unfortunate Zachary into the lifelong path of special education.  The various teachers, principles, deans and superintendents had what can only be characterized as a debilitating lack of understanding for his many problems.  A report card littered with C's and D's was testament to their poor work as educators.  Time was what he needed!  Time to allow for his crippling inability to focus on his studies, whether itwas at school or at home at night, so that he could also fit in his essential need to socialize and enjoy himself for some time while at home.
 While all his conditions were irreverently thrust upon him, not all of Zachary's diagnoses were.  Throughout highschool he was thoroughly depressed by his apparent lot in life, yet because this malady did not result in any blunt objects being thrown at his teachers, it did not result in a swift diagnosis by a school nurse as had been this case with his ADHD.  His diagnosis for major depressive disorder took more than a year of explaining himself to doctors and many negative results in mental status examinations to finally show them the effect on his mental state his many problems incurred.  Zachary faced the same problem in achieving a diagnosis for his hypothyroidism.  The doctors simply couldn't wrap their minds around his issue; ADHD medications were supposed to reduce his appetite, therefore an underactive thyroid was the only logical explanation for his significant girth.  It was only after visiting multiple doctors that Zachary was able to find a doctor that understood him; that understood his problems could not be written off by a negative blood test.
 So we find our tragic hero at his present state: twenty-three years old, living in a single apartment hidden behind a highly developed strip mall.  The time is 3:08 in the afternoon, which is an important time on this day as it means Zachary's alarm has been sounding for eight minutes and has provoked his neighbor to begin knocking at the door of his apartment.  The combined noises of the grating alarm of his phone, the rough knocking of his neighbor and frantic cries of his neighbor's baby are finally sufficient, and so Zachary begins the day.
 As quickly as he can, Zachary reaches out with his right arm to the bedside table his phone is on and, in spite of knocking a motley assortment of beer and soda cans on the floor, he manages to abate his alarm; he always has problems pressing only one button at a time on his phone's touch screen.  The end of the alarm also means the end of the knocking, and as the crying recedes down the hallway Zachary finally opens his eyes.  The brown stain above his couch seemed larger than usual.
 Shifting from a slumped position into an upright one in his seat causes an Xbox controller to slide down his ample front onto the floor below.  Waking up isn't the hardest part of waking up; rather, standing up is the major obstacle currently between Zachary and arriving at work on time at 3:30.  Rest assured, he is a valiant hero, and after a five minute internal battle of wills he is standing.  Next to his couch is a half empty case of Mountain Dew cans; a brilliant display of efficiency in Zachary's mind, just like his ingenious idea to rest in his work clothes so as to speed up his morning routine.  He always feels particularly chipper in the morning once he has had something to drink, and eat.  The last remaining donut in a box on the coffee table in front of him will suffice for this morning, though Zachary is sure the powdered sugar on this particular specimen is just a little more gray than white.  Over stained carpet and debris he travels, and into the bathroom and holy medicine cabinet.  The mirrored door of the cabinet calls to his attention the unkempt appearance of his dark mat of black hair, a mess which he is wont to remedy with utmost efficiency.  Seeing his image in the mirror, he gains firmer resolve to someday remedy his uncontrollable acne and the ever-growing dark stain on the chest of his dark blue work polo.
 On the highest shelf of the medicine cabinet are Zachary's holy grails; the divinely inspired substances without which he fervently claims he will surely go insane.  Perhaps he has been falling into insanity these past few weeks, since he has been taking his Cymbalta, Abilify and Focaline less frequently.  They make him feel dizzy and nauseous, and won't help him focus on his work, he'll claim.  Instead, he grabs the bottle of Prandin and thrusts it in the pocket of his khaki cargo shorts with his free hand, taking another bite of the slightly odd donut held in his other hand at the same time.  The other bottles of pills, along with a razer, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant, could wait.  Dusting the powdered sugar off on the sides of his shorts, Zachary unlocks his phone to see that – yes, it's just as he expected, – he has only ten minutes to make it to work.
 Locating his wallet and keys is always an unreasonably lengthy task for Zachary.  It is always prolonged by the piling remains on his kitchen counter of last night's snacks – or is it last week's?  After checking under the empty Budweiser case at the end of the counter, behind the pile of dirty cereal bowls in the sink and next to the ever-growing pile of junk mail by the door, he manages to find them on the table next to where his phone had been; another ingeniously efficient move.  Zachary feels oddly focused this morning.
 Work is only a couple minutes' drive away.  Some of his coworkers walk from the same apartment complex Zachary lives at, but he is unable; the hand fate dealt him included a painful pair of knees, a condition which Zachary is lucky enough to have a handicap plate to accommodate, though he was forced to fight for that as much as any of his diagnoses.  There are many handicap spaces at the large department store he works at, the nearest available one of which he parks his car in.  His car always drives smoothly in the morning.  The dazzlingly bright sun high in the clear, ocean-blue sky bothers Zachary more than usual; something beyond the discomfort of the light in his eyes, the pain in his knees, the all-too-familiar taste of his last sip of mountain dew and the sweat beading on his forehead as he slowly makes his way into the air conditioned confines of the massive expanse of his workplace.
 Due to his many disabilities, Zachary only works a four hour shift on weekdays.  He spends his time there cashiering, a job which he has begun to take pride on his proficiency in.  The hours seem to rush past in the flurry of directing barcodes to the infrared scanner at his register, remembering PLU's for vegetables and fruits, price-matching other stores' advertisements, and constantly chanting, “Here's your receipt, have a nice day!”  Zachary gorges himself on the feeling of mastery over his realm of knowledge.
 “Mommy, why is he sweating?”  The question of a little girl in the front seat of a shopping cart to her mother is just enough to break Zachary out of his trance.  His phone on the counter next to the register's monitor indicates his shift is only a few minutes from being over.
 “He's working hard at his job, sweety.”  The mother doesn't seem phased by her daughter's question.  Her curt, gray business suit indicates an ability to answer questions quickly and correctly.
 “Is this like your job, mommy?”  Who could slight this genuine, young girl for not being able to differentiate between one job and another?
 “No it isn't, sweety.  Mommy works downtown.”  There is an apologetic look on the mother's face.
 “Here's your receipt, have a nice day!”  Zachary takes notice for once of the contents of the cart he had just scanned: cases of soda and above-average quality beer, chips, various dips, frozen appetizers, salad kits and a party tray.  He also notices the total on the receipt as he hands it over, a number exceeding his weekly paycheck nearly twice over.
 Shortly after, Zachary has run through the motions of closing his register and is standing in line at the sandwich shop inside the department store near the entrance.  A new girl is working there, and the veteran employee Zachary has always ordered his sandwich from is helping her on her first day.
 “New hire, Miranda?”  Zachary is genuinely interested; the atmosphere of that corner of the store always helps him open up.
 “Gettin' the usual, Zach?”  Miranda seems unimpressed by Zachary's interest.  Her lips are pursed and her arms are akimbo; it gives her a sarcastic, almost sassy look.  Her displeasure at seeing him is often the largest source of entertainment for Zachary.
 “Of course!  Aren't you happy to see me again?”  It's what Zachary says every day.  Miranda was already ignoring him, turning her head to the new girl to show her his order: herb and cheese bread, a double order of steak, extra american cheese, onions and jalapeno slices, toasted well-done with lots of mayo.  It is in the completion of this final step which gave the new hire pause.
 “Is this enough mayo?” she asks shyly, having put three lines on the sandwich from a squeeze bottle.  Zachary chuckles jovially, gesticulating wildly with his arms as he shouts,
 “No, put more on!  More!  More is always better!”  The look on the new girl's face stuck with him all the way home that night.
 Zachary's ratty old, gray Dodge Neon seems to creak more loudly than usual as he steps out into the late evening light in front of his apartment complex, a bag holding his unreasonably heavy sandwich in one hand, a large container of Diet Mountain Dew in the other.  The night bothers Zachary.  He can't fall asleep at the same time as other people do.  Is it because he stays up so late?  No, his depression medication worsens his insomnia.  Zachary shuffles into the lobby, stopping briefly to open his mailbox and retrieve a couple letters from within, knowing his disability check is due any day now.
 After a brief elevator ride, Zachary finds himself back in his apartment.  The brown stain on the ceiling looks even bigger now than it did in the morning; it disgusts him greatly.  Frustrated, he makes his way back to the couch, places the cup next to so many like it on the table in front of him and sets the sandwich bag to his side on the couch amidst a heap of empty chip bags and makeshift ashtrays.  There are three letters in his hand which he peruses slowly.  The first is a paystub for $158.90, his paycheck from last week.  The second is his monthly disability check which, upon inspection, has increased slightly from last month to $852.00.  Zachary doesn't smile.
 The third letter belongs in the junk mail pile.  It is a brochure for a community college that has a location just a few miles from the strip mall.  Today, though, Zachary has decided it does not belong in the junk mail pile.  Instead, he digs his laptop out from under a jumble of empty beer cans on his bedside table, opens the third letter, and decides he ought to take out the trash.
 Considering the many problems faced by Zachary, I think it's safe to say he will prevail over the system which has tried so hard to take advantage of his poor fate.

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