It was Monday night when Greg decided to call in sick. All afternoon the skies were blue and the sun was hot. And that night the air was clear and warm. Greg didn’t have to check the weather forecast; Tuesday was going to be hot and sunny.
Normally Greg was loathe to call in sick. Especially this week he was loathe to call in sick. Several people were on vacation. They would need his help. But sometimes you have live a little. Sometimes you have to do something bad once in a while, just to know you’re still alive.
Tuesday morning he slept in a bit, but not too much. It is hard to sleep in when you have the routine of waking up early every day. Even if you are only in the routine for a few years, like Greg, who is only in his mid 20s.
Just as he predicted, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Little white clouds hung in the air and slowly drifted bye.
“Why don’t I feel good?” he asked. “I won’t get fired for calling in sick. It’ll be ok. What am I worried about?”
But Greg knew what he was worried about. There was that awkward feeling about calling in sick. Would they care? Did they think he was really sick? Would it matter? He didn’t call in sick often. Certainly he was a more reliable employee than most of the ladies in the office. They call in sick all the time because their children get sick, or they get sick, or they have emergencies with their children or the house or the dog. Always something.
“It’ll be ok. It’ll be ok. It’ll be ok…”
After eating some eggs for breakfast, he stared out of the apartment window at the sky for a few moments. Not so much contemplation as reverie. He didn’t have a plan for today when he went to bed Monday night. But he quickly drew up a plan. He would go for a bike ride. No sense in getting tangled in congestion. No sense in wasting a good day in a car. No sense in the rat race.
Once the idea of a bike ride was seized upon, the path became clear. He would bike to the park. Not the nearby park, but the one further out. It was a bigger park, and tended to be used in the evenings and weekends because it had some baseball diamonds. During the late morning and early afternoon it would be empty.
Biking in the late morning hours was hot. July is a hot month, and today was no exception. Greg chose a loose fitting white sleeveless collar shirt because it would keep him cool. Still, it was hot and he was perspiring heavily as he approached the park. The back of his undershirt was wet and beads of sweat were starting to form on his forehead.
Stopping around the corner from the park, he went into the gas station to buy a bottle of Boonesfarm. Greg had never been inside this gas station, and it surprised him with its relative opulence. It was new and spotless. Everything was painted in earth tones. The ceiling was a bronze color with red trim. The floor was a sand color. The shelves were the color of the desert during a sun set; a golden yellow. There was a brown counter with stools under the front window. The air was cool and dry and refreshing. It had unlocked bathrooms, which he used, and a walk in cooler, which he also used only because it was refreshing. There was even a bakery.
The selection was mostly cheap beers in cans or 40 oz bottles of malt liquor. A 40 would get too hot in the sun. The bottom would be warm and nasty in no time. Besides, beer tended to make him have to pee more, and he knew that with the sun beating down, he would already be dry. Too dry leads to hangovers.
There at the bottom was the wine. There were only 2 choices for Boonesfarm; some blue monstrosity or Strawberry. The blue monstrosity looked interesting. It had the color of windshield wiper solution. Maybe it would make him imagine he was sitting on a deserted tropical island? But instead he went with the strawberry for more practical reasons; it has more alcohol than the blue monstrosity and costs the same.
Back on the bike, Greg turned the corner into the park. He zipped past the playground equipment and around the backstop of the baseball diamond. The sprinklers were on, and he rode underneath them, letting the spray fall on him. It was refreshing but brief. He pedaled hard, but not too hard. He held the bottle in one hand and the handlebars with the other. Finally he reached the hill on the far end of the park. Dismounting, he walked the bike up to the top of the hill.
With decidedly slow movements Greg unscrewed the cap of the bottle and took a long slug. It was cool. It was sweet. His mouth tingled with the electricity of the alcohol. He carefully sat down on the grass and stared up at the sky, and wiped the sweat from his brow. For a few moments he did nothing. Then, he put the top back on the bottle and laid it down next to him and reached into his pocket. He withdrew his phone and plugged in his earplugs.
“Something relaxing,” he muttered. Then, “Ah-hah, perfect.”
Once the music started he again unscrewed the cap and slowly worked on emptying the bottle. The park was empty, as he predicted. The roads that ran near the far end of the field were busy with people driving on their way somewhere. But on the field there was nobody. And here on the far end of the field, far away from the road, it was quiet.