A Hero’s Lament

Lunch in hand, your hero crosses the cafeteria floor, his adrenaline sloshing around in a body carved for battle. His competitive eyes seek challenge, but there is none here. Rather, conversations about flower pot arrangement, weekend Ikea junkets, commuter expense reimbursement… such discourse is a prescription for warrior atrophy.

Defeated, your hero makes his way toward the bank of microwaves. At the other end of the line, a coworker has just placed her quiche tray at the center of her oven’s turntable, and now enters numbers on the touchpad. Your hero notes that quiche-eater’s data entry skills are pitiful! Her fingers are flaccid and her movements sluggish. In contrast, the office warrior will be able to enter the cooking figures in one third the time. Vegan textured protein pie in place, he slams the microwave’s door shut and hits the digits with the accuracy of a factory robot.

Where she is sloppy, he is precise. Where she is slow, he is fleet. Now your hero finds himself with a relative time surplus. Advantage: hero. Now the question becomes how he will use all this extra time. To bask in his superiority, that’s how. He looks over at his coworker—his pupil—and nods his head, “Take note.” But she is washing her utensils and doesn’t notice.

Acknowledgment of victory is unnecessary however. Your hero is reminded of this morning’s commute triumph, wherein he was able to take the highway offramp turn just inches from the inside wall, his speed even, his path sure, describing an arc of geometric perfection. However, the minivan in front of him took the turn like an overfed cow lumbering down a spiral staircase. While your hero steadied his turn with pinkies on the wiper and turn signal handles, respectively, minivan driver’s path was a series of erratic line segments joined by short, suspension-testing seizures.

The warrior aesthete looks upon such imprecise maneuvering with disdain. Spastic children with buckets on their heads bounce from the walls with greater predictability, and your hero refuses to allow motor skills to grow so lax. His grip is tighter, his eyes keener, and his lips more slick with the sputum of superiority.

Night falls on your hero conducting research into the nature of the modern man’s plight of stifled competition. Taking the library steps in twos, he dashes to the top floor with the grace of a dancer, the speed of a gazelle, overtaking an aged man for whom each step is a lesson in pain. With pity, your hero quietly acknowledges the compounded wages of a lifetime of imperfection, manifest as calcified deposits between swollen joints. “Go easy, hapless wretch,” thinks the youthful paragon.

Though superior in all measurable ways, your hero finds himself winded by the time he reaches the top floor, but refuses to break the silence with audible exhale. A little respiratory discipline is what’s called for here, all the better to impress his audience. They must be thinking, “How is it that a person can dash up several flights of steps and not be out of breath as they make their way to the reference section?” Aha! Through sheer strength of will, that’s how. And as he forcefully holds shut his epiglottis for nearly a minute, your hero’s pulse throbs in his beat-red temples. He embraces sacrificial restraint, that others might learn to refrain from their oxygen-slurping nasal cacophonies, if only in sympathetic appreciation.

And as strobes dance before his fading eyes, your hero recalls a passage from the warrior’s canon: Cowards fear loss of consciousness due to asphyxiation. Heroes welcome it.

Related Tales

» “Being You” (01 of Jan, 2005)
» “Failure” (14 of Jun, 2004)
» “Entropy OS” (03 of Feb, 2004)

Night falls on your hero conducting research into the nature of the modern man’s plight of stifled competition