Still Working by Tobias Haglund

typewriter

December sweeps her dead hand around my throat. My capuche swooshes open and I come to life in the morning hour rush. A beggar scratches the furrows between the cobblestones outside the metro station. When I get close to him, the automatic doors open and the warm breath of the subway hits me. He looks up at me, then back down again to the cobblestones.

I walk out on to the escalator, a boy runs past me, then a girl, then another boy. The latter boy shoves the girl when he rushes by her, down the escalator. She yells, but keeps going. Yesterday the fungus to the right was green, but today it’s covered in white foam.

The subway train comes in and I get on. It’s full, so I stand. I can always tell which state the country is in by looking at the adverts. Education, insurances, job seminars and cheap groceries. I’m reminded of what the prime minister said; the lowest unemployment rate in Europe by 2020.

Promises aren’t worth much to the poor. That’s why the adverts look the way they do, and why the beggar scratches the furrows of the cobblestone.

The youth unemployment is either 25 % according to the government or 35 % if you ask the opposition. When the opposition was in power they told a different story. It seems the parties only take turns, both in governing and in using different statistics. The figures have been constant for the past twenty-five years and if there’s one thing history will teach us, it is that they won’t agree on 30% youth unemployment. I know I’m part of the problem. My generation and I. We are too many and take up someone else’s seat. I never sit on the subway train. They have reserved seats for me, but I prefer to stand. That’s a drop in the ocean. That’s not contributing anything. It’s literally nothing. I’ll just keep doing what I do as long as my memory is fine. I’ll keep being a fungus on society until someone comes along and sprays me with white foam.

Beside me I have a cup of coffee. I won the cup by answering Ulan Bator as the capital of Mongolia for the final question of the office trivia. They laughed of course.

“You probably know all the capitals in the world, right?“

“No”, I replied, “just the ones I have seen on a map.”

“If I tell you a secret, would you remember it thirty years later?”

“No. Not hearing. Only seeing.”

I like to burn myself, just a little, by sipping on the coffee too early. The liquid slides from the back of my tongue down my throat. I can taste the bitter blackness. When I retire they will cut my position. A computer can do it better. Once upon a time I was indispensable. What ten employees needed binders for, I kept in my head. Then computers came. I’m obsolete. They keep paying me, as a benefit I guess, and I keep coming in for work, every day at 8 AM.

I was a good husband. I was there, I helped raise our two daughters and I was faithful. But that’s not being a good husband, that’s just being a husband. No I was a good husband because I remembered what mattered to her. I noticed her. I remembered every small measure she took to look nice, every important step in her life or in our daughters’ lives. When her mind went soft, I remembered if she had taken her pills or not. I remember her face as she lay in the hospital bed, in and out of consciousness. The look of goodbye in my daughters’ faces. I remember it so well. But I can’t for the life of me remember her last words to me.

 

 Tobias Haglund

 

banner Image:- By Ingo2802 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

11 thoughts on “Still Working by Tobias Haglund

  1. Hi Tobias, The word that popped into my mind after reading this was, obsolete. Do we really become obsolete as we grow old? The youth of the world rushes past oblivious, oblivious to the fact that what they have is based on the foundation of the past. Perhaps nature plays its trick by making us, as we grow old, forget the sad times and search for happiness in the youth around us. I found this an interesting read, although I felt it was politically driven at first until we reached the final human touch at the end.
    Regards,

    James.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, James. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Let me start at the bottom. I don’t think I’ve ever written a piece which isn’t at some level political in a sense that it is message-driven. I tried to give him the perspective of time. He has after all a tremendous memory so I figured he would be a bit cynical when it comes to politics. Regarding being obsolete or not, obviously I think he’s not obsolete. He feels like he is. But he’s still a father and an employee. In every sense does he still have a purpose. And on another level, just as you said, how can progress even exist without the achievements of the past. Which also means that the MC will still add value long after he dies, just as past generations have paved the way for the current generations. I hope I did your comment justice. Thanks for giving me your honest opinion. ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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  2. “I’ll keep being a fungus on society until someone comes along and sprays me with white foam.”
    Tobbe, it’s great lines like that which make you such an awesome writer! When the day comes that I forget this wonderful story, I’ll never forget that line! What would our veterans think of it? Best, June

    Liked by 1 person

    • That means a lot to me, June. Thank you very much! I hope the veterans aren’t feeling like a fungus on society. Because if they are, society has failed them. Not the other way around. Thanks as always for your very sweet words.
      ATVB my friend
      Tobbe

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  3. There’s an air of gentle desperation in this piece. it’s not quite hopeful but it seems that under it all your MC is hanging on to what he believes. It was a moving story – yet another of your moving stories Tobias. .

    Liked by 1 person

    • My stories never keep still do they? Another one that’s moving! I’m sorry for that stupid joke. But thank you very much, Diane. He is hanging on, isn’t it? He keeps getting up and keeps going to work. In some case I would have liked to add a paragraph about the MC being the one on the whole planet that remembered the most about his loved wife. He was the one who knew her the most. As long as he keeps the memory of her alive, he’s also in a sense keeping her alive. I liked that thought. Very romantic of course, but it is how I want to love, with that passion. Thanks, Diane!
      ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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  4. Sometimes bitter little pills are too, well TOO; but this one has the taste and refinement necessary to sustain itself and conveys a sense of subtlety which is found only in spaces even slimmer than those which lie between consecutive thoughts.
    Irene

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Irene, that’s very kind. I’m glad you used the word subtlety. It signifies a sense of making the piece larger than the written word, but in a dignified way. It is what I hope for. Thanks for commenting! ATVB
      Tobias

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  5. Hi Tobias, this was very interesting. Looking back always is. But what I enjoyed was the thoughts around the last line. Your MC had a superb memory but it was all to do with the visual. The audible that he craved to remember was outwith his reach. This brings home to us, not so much anything to do with memory but those parts of our lives that have been missed and always crucify us.
    This was an excellent story.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Hugh. I think this whole story originated from that very thought. He’ll never forget the faces of their children and the face of his dying wife, but her last words died with her. I fear such a moment myself. I think it’s why I write such stories. Not so uplifting and an awful thought, but it is some sort of therapy I guess. I’m glad you liked it and thank you very much for the kind words. ATVB my friend
      Tobias

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