Patterns in the West – flash fiction

"Denver", Robert Adams, 1974
"Denver", Robert Adams, 1974

Susie worked at the chair factory drilling holes in arm-rests where cushions would later be attached.  She average ten chairs an hour, drilling two holes on each arm rest from seven am to five pm.  She had done this for five years since age 16.  She had a scare on the top of her left hand from a time when the drill slipped and nicked her.  The other factory workers rushed Susie to St. John’s to get stitches and came back to work later that day.
At five pm the night shift would begin and Susie would go to her locker to change into a yellow dress and heals. At six o’clock she would have supper with her high school friend, Mary and then they would go to the “The Snowman” to get drunk.
Susie was known for being a loud drunk.  She would laugh loudly at anything, regardless of a young man’s intent.  Then she would go home with whomever she felt safe enough with, and would likely bed them. One night Susie got up early. She didn’t know whose house she was in.  The owner was snoring in bed next to her.  An obese unshaven Latino man.  But this was normal.  And she did what she normally did.
The Latino man must have cleaned his gutters the day before as shown by a ladder still placed on the front porch of this anonymous house.  Susie climbed the ladder and sat on the roof. The sun was beginning to rise, and beams of light crept out from the distance, grazing the top edges of  the vast residential landscape.
Susie then realized all the houses in the neighborhood looked the same. and moreover she saw another person about a mile in the distance watching the same sunset. A chill wafted through her was she looking at herself in a smaller world where she could see all the way around to the back of her head.   Or was it a clone?
She then noticed that there was a number of people in the distance all watching the same sunset, on an identical house, and all women, or at least that was the impression that the silhouettes gave.  A large grid of Susies, spaced uniformly each a mile apart.  Something was wrong, she must have been drugged.  So she began to scream.
Dogs began barking.  The person in bed with her earlier ran outside.  “What’s going on!?  Get down from there!” he yelled in his white briefs.  But Susie continued to yell.  Then there was the sound of cracking and shattering as the glass from the windows of the house began to break.
Susie could hear other people screaming as well.  At the same pitch, amplifying the oscillations of the sound waves.  It was those other women on the roof.  Windshields cracked and triggered car alarms.  Cats roamed the morning streets after escaping through shattered windows.  And then Susie ran out of oxygen and fainted.
She awoke five hours later in recovery ward of St. John’s.  The doctors said she had fallen of the roof, but had no major injuries, and could go home as soon as she felt well enough.  As the doctor left room Mary noticed that every single bed had an occupant, and next to each bed was a chair from the factory where she worked.  This was enough to motivate her to leave that very minute.  She called Mary, and was picked up and dropped off at her home within the hour.
Susie stayed up all night worrying that she was going mad, rocking back and forth in the corner of her kitchen.  At six am her alarm went off and she began walking to the chair factory without eating breakfast.
The factory was a mess.  Her fellow employees swept the glass from shattered windows and scared kittens away.  She could see the chair she didn’t quite finish from the night before, still perched on the work bench, ready to be worked on.  As if all was normal.  Perhaps the chair was right.  There was no reason to react to this situation.  In five days everybody would forget the incident, and all that would be left was worker complaints about the cold draft let in by the missing windows, begging the supervisor to get the new windows rush delivered.  This would not be possible because the entire town was demanding the same.
Susie soon forgot too.  Over ten days she settled back into her routine of drilling holes in cushion-less armrests.  She continued to have dinner with Mary, and sleep with strangers.  But every morning when the sun rose, she didn’t dare go outside to watch the sunrise.  Instead she carried a copy of the Bible, and would read a passage every morning.  This didn’t make her feel any better.  There was no mention of experiences like she had witnessed.  Most of it was a catalog of wars and battles, followed by retellings of the life of Jesus.
Susie opened a savings account at the local bank and began depositing her pay check and not cashing it.  She stopped having dinners at restaurants with Mary, and instead had canned tuna and rice for every meal.  After a year of savings she purchased a train ticket to the East coast.  This town Susie lived in was large and homogenous.  And perhaps anything so vast but uniform is likely to produce a repeating pattern or Susie-like characters, the same way poppies will evenly distribute in a meadow.
The whistle blew and the train began to leave the station.  Susie got out her ticket prepared for the ticket man to hole-punch it.  She was conservatively dressed in a long black skirt with a white blouse and trench coat.
“Tickets?” said the teenager on duty to collect tickets.
Susie offered it to him.
“Wow.  How you got that scare on your hand?”
“Oh this?  I worked with a drill in a factory, and it slipped. But the doctors stitched it up.  It was okay.”
“Have I seen you on this line before maam?  Oh, you couldn’t have, I would have noticed a scare like that.”
Susie laughed.
The teen looked worried.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to make a big deal out of your scare.  I think it’s cool.”  The teen left to collect the tickets from the remaining passengers.


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