Worst Day On A Job: Charles and The Phony .44

It's hard to top a job where you get paid to evaluate strains, so we thought we'd take it the other direction: Here's our team's Worst Day On A Job stories


CHARLES AND THE PHONY .44

By Martin Strazovec


By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.

I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.


The nights snapped out of sight like a lizard's eyelid:

A world of bald white days in a shadeless socket.


A vulturous boredom pinned me in this tree.

If he were I, he would do what I did.


- The Hanging Man by Sylvia Plath


Chapter One


Once I determined the course of my life, gentle reader, I required funds to purchase an art school education. I obtained employment as a security guard in a prominent financial district office building in Toronto. Minimum wage, 12-hour night shifts, either sitting behind a desk or patrolling random floors in a Stygian corporate monument with only a few fellow guards for company.


In those days I gobbled up books with all the discrimination of a street pigeon feeding, so I coped relatively well at first. Eventually, however, I too joined my colleagues in succumbing to boredom. Not a benign, fleeting sort of ennui mind you, but a boredom so acute that it began to undergo a freakish psychic cell division, festering night by interminable night into something palpably alive, hungry little eyes glinting in the darkness of a cavernous travertine-clad lobby.

Looking back now, I understand that the group who perpetrated the unholy act that fateful night was under the influence of a presence, a thing. I swear we had no inkling when it began to feed, so natural was its tentacled embrace, at first. Even later, it was more erotic than psychotic. I say this not to deny responsibility for our actions, but in my humble defense I ask you, gentle reader, to consider the isolation, the feral petri dish blooming within that glass and steel cage. Consider also the mandatory security guard attire oddly reminiscent of a schoolboy's uniform forced upon adult men, and you will begin to appreciate my situation as some warped urban version of Sir Golding's oft-rejected firstborn.


Oh, Piggy (not his real name).


Chapter Two


Forgive me for what I must relate to you now, as I do so with a heavy heart and the hope that the central figure – no, I must present him with all honesty as the victim– has forgiven me as well.


The individual to whom I refer was named Charles Friendly (not his real name). Charles was a clean-cut young man in his twenties, earnest, honest and well-bred, pursuing a professional degree while working as a security guard to supplement his income. As is often the case, it was his very kindness and lack of guile that made him the target of a foul, ill-considered prank.


Another of our company, one Bruno Nutella (not his real name), was deeply committed to security work as a career and embraced all of its trappings with gusto. He had extensive training in law enforcement tactics, possessed a firearms license, and indulged his gun-collecting passion as budget permitted.


One night, as our small crew chatted idly during a break, Bruno mentioned that he had recently acquired a replica Smith & Wesson Model 29, otherwise known as a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world. It was accurate to the last detail except for a firing mechanism exclusively for blanks.


It pains me to admit that we collectively insisted – if not demanded – that he produce this object for our inspection at the earliest opportunity. We would realize later as we compared notes after the hazy veil of insanity had lifted, that none of us save Bruno had any interest in guns, in fact professing a common distaste for the harm they so frequently caused. Clearly, the ravenous thing was already nibbling softly at our day-sleeping souls.


The next evening, as we gathered in the locker room before the start of our shift, Bruno showed us his "Dirty Harry" replica. Enormous and heavy as a sledge hammer, it was intimidating even within a gym bag, never mind in one's grasp. Time seemed to stand still as the obsidian revolver reclined arrogantly on top of a Soldier of Fortune t-shirt. With a chill, I sensed it had fixated on me in particular.


"I have but one purpose, " it said. "You must help me fulfill it, Johnny (not my real name)."


"Yes sir," I replied, as though in a trance. "Wait, I mean ah, no thank you. I'm flattered and I admire your focus, but my weapon of choice is a paintbrush so –"


"Coward," the .44 replica hissed. "I am a mere simulacrum. If you lack the courage to do my bidding as this sadly disempowered version of my true magnificence, you are indeed a pale shadow of your own true self."


"Oh. Ok," I said. "Good point. Still going to be a no from me, but maybe I can –"


"Yesss...?" the gun purred with sly, slavering anticipation.


"Maybe I can talk to these guys and suggest a way to use you. Sometimes I'm the one that comes up with an idea and it's my friends who actually do it. That has resulted in some really stupid shit over the years, yet I often escape blameless."


"Tell them then," wheedled the gun. "Tell them to do some stupid shit."


"Yeah, I don't know... you look pretty realistic. Maybe we should just–"


"TELL THEM NOW!" the .44 Magnum roared with what suddenly seemed to be two voices, causing the epaulets of my official crisply-ironed short-sleeved shirt to flutter.