Stepping high over yet another obstacle in his path, Michael instead chose to ponder what he would do when he managed to return home. It was Sunday, Michael mused, and as Sunday was pay day, he could afford to make the last batch of tea. He could pick up more tomorrow, if he managed to get there before The Shop closed. If he got there early enough, he might even be able to get some oranges before they were snatched up by everyone else. It had been awhile, Michael thought, since he had an orange. If he concentrated hard enough, he could remember the feel of the thick skin underneath his fingernails, staining them an unnatural shade that had taken four scrubbings to get rid of. The actual flesh of the orange, he recalled, had been segmented, with each segment playing host to many seeds and small cells of extra juice. Still, if pressed, he wouldn’t be able to describe the taste, or how it had felt to bite into the orange and feel its juice burst across his tongue.
There were more obstacles in his path this evening then when he had gone into work this morning. This annoyed Michael, even though it increased his chances of getting to The Shop before it closed. It seemed that the nightly cleaning crew hadn’t had a chance to come through yet, which was odd, as they were usually moved through this area very punctually at every evening. Michael picked up his pace. He didn’t want to be outside when the cleaning crew came through.
Ahead, he could just barely make out the lights of the few businesses that were allowed to leave their lights on to guide nighttime travelers. There! That splash of green signified the pub that he had visited yesterday. Saturdays were his one allotted day off a week, and he had spent it at the pub, laughing and having funs with the others on his work group. Like most businesses, the pub was open everyday of the week, as everyday had a different group of people with a day off. Michael had heard tales, from his parents whom he could barely remember, and from faint whisperings that no one seemed to say, that there were some people that had two, or even more, days off a week. Inwardly, Michael shuddered and hoped that such a thing never happened to him. One day off was perfectly fine, thank you very much. On the day off, everything was free, so last weeks had been spent at the Art Museum, and the one before that had included a visit to The Capitol Building. He hadn’t been able to go inside, of course, but the outside was impressive enough.
If he had more than one day off a week, Michael wouldn’t know what to do with himself. He had heard tales of Libraries full of more books than a person could read in a lifetime, but had never actually been. He had heard that many people had visited these places, and had subsequently been promoted at their places of employment. He had also heard of those who had visited the Library, and then had never been heard from again. So, Michael would rather not take the chance. There really wasn’t much more to do on a Free Day, and one couldn’t simply stay at home all day. No one stayed home more than absolutely necessary.
Blast! He had stumbled over one of the obstacles, being more caught up in what he would do on an extra free day than in watching where he was going. Michael froze, listening. In the distance, coming from somewhere behind him, thankfully, there was the faint hum of the large motors of the Vehicles belonging to the cleaning crew. He waited for a moment, and when there was no other sound forthcoming, Michael continued his way home, now nearly jogging. There were still a few blocks before where he would be able to reach the relative safety the lights promised, and Michael was determined to make it without actually running. Running, when not expressly for exercise, was a weakness. One simply did not run to or away from anything.
Once he reached the lighted areas, Michael slowed down to what could possibly be considered a walk, albeit a very fast one. He was paying more attention to his steps now, it wouldn’t do to trip over one of the many obstacles lying in the sidewalk. Why they couldn’t just stay in the road, Michael had never been able to figure out. There was no point in moving them either, being so numerous and heavy as to try would end up costing him an extra hour or two, and do him no real good. It was due to this extra attention to where his feet were going that Michael noticed Julia. She worked at the desk next to him, and although they weren’t on the same work schedule, she was one of the few people he had more than a passing acquaintance with. He froze, one foot hovering, about to step over her. He then reconsidered; she had gotten one of the last heavy jackets The Store had, and it was a man’s that was slightly too large for him. It practically swallowed her small frame, and with the cleaners coming…
He knelt and began to remove the jacket from her, cursing the cold that had made her stiff limbs that much harder. Finally, with the hum of the cleaner’s motors entirely too close for comfort, he was able to extract her from the jacket. He tossed it over his arm, and quickly continued on his way, stepping over her. She was just another obstacle, after all.