Gordon Fleck was an ordinary man, until he did something decidedly not ordinary. After that, he was still an ordinary man, albeit one who had done something not ordinary and would consequently spend seven years in prison. This is not his story, but it is important to know his part in it.
On the morning of Thursday the twelfth of June, Gordon Fleck woke up in his ordinary house and skipped breakfast as he always did, in order to beat the traffic to work, which he never did. Mainly because every other ordinary person had the same idea. By all leaving half an hour early in order to avoid each-other they inevitable met each-other at the same spot, half an hour earlier than they otherwise would have.
He arrived at his place of work - a medium sized office building not far from the city, but not close to it either - at the same time as ever, eight twenty-five. He said hello to the same faces he’d said hello to five days a week for the last eighteen years, and ignored the others, just as he’d done for the last eighteen years.
He sat at the same desk, drank the same bitter instant coffee from the same mug. Copied and updated and the same spreadsheets he copied and updated every week. Gordon was, as far as he knew, competent at his job. He’d never been told otherwise. Then again, he was never surprised when he was overlooked for a promotion. He was always overlooked for promotions.
Gordon’s title had the word Senior in it, and it hadn’t always, but he still did the same things he’d always done. As far as he knew, Senior meant he’d been there for five years or more. Or maybe ten. He didn’t remember, and didn’t care. He’d never asked for it to be changed, and as we’ve already established, he still did the same things as ever.
On Thursday the twelfth of June, he planned to work eight hours and then go home, just as he always planned to, but stayed nine in order to finish his spreadsheet, just as he always did. Which meant, by the time he eased his car onto the freeway, it was full of the same other ordinary people who’d caused the slow and heavy traffic in the morning, making their ordinary ways back home after spending an hour more at their jobs than they’d intended to. So a fifteen minute trip would take fifty.
It always did.
At the halfway point of his journey, marked by the grubby budget service station on the intersection of the freeway and Boatowners Road, Gordon checked his fuel gauge, and found it satisfactory - a little over half a tank. Now his only decision was - would he go straight home to his nearly empty house and check his nearly empty refrigerator for any remaining edible items before retiring to the TV room where he would have one too many beers before bed? Or would he stop at the grocery store and buy a small variety of ingredients to mix into the same boring meal and four serves of leftovers he always made, before retiring to the TV room where he would have one too many beers before bed?
He thought about it for a moment, then decided. He would do the same thing he’d done every Thursday night for the last eighteen years. Stop for the groceries and beer. And for the same reason - by Thursday he could never be certain about his remaining stock of beer; was it two cans, or three?
Three cans was one too many, and he decided he needed one too many, after his long day of work. He always did.
Gordon found an empty park rather too far from the supermarket. He made sure to put the parking brake on, because he’d heard once that it was legally required even if the park was on flat ground, and he had no reason to doubt that.
As he walked towards the brightly lit store he noticed the discarded shopping trolleys, clustered around bench seats and lamp posts like cattle around a feed trough. Gordon would never leave a trolley like that. He prided himself on always returning them to the store, or to the bays that had been provided throughout the car park. It seemed like the decent thing to do.
The supermarket was over capacity, as it always was at six o’clock on Thursday. Full of pink wet vacant eyes peering at labels and price tags as though doing so would impart some sort of meaning to lives that would inevitably see them doing the same thing every week until the sudden end. Full of kids hyped up on junk food or reined in with ADHD mess but either way totally undisciplined by whichever pair of staring eyes they belonged to. Full of old people and poor people. Thursday was pension day.
And when Gordon had finally ‘excuse me’d and negotiated his path falteringly through the aisles which held most of the necessary ingredients he needed to make his tasteless but sustaining meal of the week, he took his place at the back of the long queue for the two remaining checkouts. The others had been replaced by a do-it-yourself system that relied on honesty and the watchful eyes of a sole assistant-cum-security guard, and probably a hidden camera or two.
Automatic Checkouts they were called, though there was nothing automatic about them. You just had to scan and pack your own shopping. Gordon found them annoying to use, and often faulty. And besides, he had no idea whether you were supposed to go through with a trolley full, or even if it were possible. He supposed the trick would be to use two trolleys, and scan items out of one before placing them in the other.
So he waited in line. There was a curious sense of achievement as he got closer to the front of the line, and the back of the line snaked further into the store than it had been when he joined it. Gordon knew this was not actually an achievement on his part, nor did it serve anyone any better to have such long lines, not the store, or the customers, or the staff on the checkouts.
The girl serving him was efficient, and more importantly didn’t bother getting chatty. Her name tag said Hi I’m Megan. Gordon disliked chatting for its own sake, particularly to people he didn’t know. It seemed better to just stick with Hello and Goodbye. Polite without being fake.
There was a small pause between punching his pin into the card machine and it telling him the transaction was approved. There was always a pause, just long enough to make him wonder if today would be the day he was declined, even though he knew he had almost nine thousand in savings in the account. But it was approved of course, as it always was.
“There you go Sir, have a nice evening,” the girl called Megan said, handing Gordon his receipt.
“Thanks. Can I have an extra bag?” He asked her. “Actually, make that two.”
She shrugged and peeled two more thin green bags from the hangers on her side of the counter and gave them to him.
Gordon placed one bag inside the other and shook them to open them out as Megan impatiently waited for him to move on. Then quick as you like, he reached across the checkout counter, wrapped the bags around her head, and held them there, despite the faces of the onlookers and despite her fingers desperately clawing at his arms and her neck. He held them there until she stopped fighting and slumped forward onto the vegetable scales.
And nobody tried to stop him.
Made With Paper
That was… a surprisingly pleasant 23 hour visit. Well played, Melbourne, well played. (Taken with instagram)
Good morning Melbourne. Nice job with the weather. (Taken with instagram)