Like Clockwork

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           Every day was a winding clock. It was a clockwork routine of shifting gears and moving parts. That's the way Josh felt about his life. It was an unstoppable machine of necessity, forever toiling away and grinding the years into nothing. Maybe it was the way he always seemed to wake up exactly four minutes before his alarm went off every morning. Or maybe it was the monotonous job he worked behind a desk as a programmer for a huge software company. Or maybe it was the way, like clockwork, that his life never seemed to look any brighter or any dimmer than it already was.

            So, today, like every other day, Josh was up at 6:56 AM. He had the same breakfast he had every day. Peanut butter on toast, a cup of coffee and an egg he had boiled the night before at around the same time every night. His suits were not identical, nor were his ties. If anything, this was the only variety he ever saw in his life. He always cut his hair the same way, although he couldn't remember the last time he had gone to have it cut. He picked up his briefcase and locked the door to his very tidy and orderly apartment.

            The drive to work was usually uneventful. Josh almost prayed for an accident or the sounds of sirens. But, alas, not this time. He never took note of the weather, but couldn't remember the last time there was a bad storm, flood, or natural disaster. He dreamed of hurricanes and landslides, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Unfortunately, he lived nowhere near a volcano. There had not been a hurricane warning in years and there were no fault lines or mountains. He thought about people he had heard about-not actually known but heard about-that constantly complained about how hectic their lives were. He must have seen it on TV. But, Josh didn't have bad days or even very good days. He just had days.

            His nights and weekends were spent at home, watching television. He had no close friends and his parents had passed away many years ago. No siblings or relatives to speak of. He didn't even own a pet. He liked board games but never had anyone to play with. His only other distraction was collecting shot glasses. They were mostly gifts, however, because Josh had never taken a trip anywhere outside of the state. Why bother, when he could watch the Travel Channel? He held a similar philosophy about a lot of things, whether it was food, friendship, romance or sex. It was already all there, packaged more neatly than reality.

            Besides, Josh felt he was living definitive proof that reality can be utterly boring.

            The name of the software company was Learton Industries. They specialized in educational software, training and tutorial programs, study aids and things of that nature. Josh worked with many other programmers who went through their day as enthusiastically as he did. Josh often wondered why he hadn't moved on to something more exciting, like designing video games. Unfortunately, he was a slave to his routine and he was afraid that any deviation from it would be too much for him to take. It was the only thought that caused him any great deal of anxiety.

            On this particular day, Josh had decided to take his break at his desk, instead of wandering the halls like he usually did. This was no huge break from his routine. After all, he didn't have to have everything exactly the same every day. He did wear a different suit every day, and different colored tie to match. And not all the same TV shows were on every night. He was surfing the internet and decided to bypass the usual three or four websites he always looked at.

            He had three co-workers that sat near him that he considered friends. Well, at least as much as co-workers can be. Amy was a newlywed and she and her husband were trying to start their own custom Teddy Bear business. She had badly permed brown hair, large round glasses and often wore dresses that were too big for her. Barry was a middle-aged, balding divorcee who was trying to break into the real estate racket, with little success. He spoke as if he lived in the forties or fifties with lots of "Now, look here, buster." and "Let me tell ya something, mister." Jim was a tall, lanky fellow with an outdated haircut and a penchant for Star Trek analogies. Everything that happened in the office was apparently just like something that had happened on the Starship Enterprise at some point. 

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