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Monthly Vignette: Read The Manual

Vignette time again.

This is a vignette from some time ago; the theme of the 13th challenge was Luck. Sometimes, according to some, you make your own luck.

The current vignette challenge is on the theme of Bad Guys, and can be found Here.


He had a set routine every morning. Routine was important. It wasn’t as though he had anything else to occupy him. He didn’t have a job to go to. He used to have one. He hadn’t liked it, but there were people there. Not that they liked him, or even talked much to him. But at least they knew he existed. When they arranged to go out after work, they never invited him. Still, he could sit near them at lunch and pretend to be part of their conversations.

It was almost like having friends.

And then the firm had made cut-backs, and obviously it chose him to be the one to get the sack. It had been a surprise to him, but everyone else had known what was coming. They had seen the memos, although he’d never bothered with them, never read them.

The first step in his morning routine was to wash. When chance resolved his problems, gave him his opening, he had to look his best.

Not that his best was anything much. He’d never had a girlfriend. He could barely talk to women, although he sometimes daydreamed about them. There was a girl at the coffee shop he went to that smiled at him. She smiled at everyone, but he’d thought she gave him an extra special smile. As he sipped his coffee, he would pretend to work on his laptop, and he’d watch her as she worked.

He imagined all sorts of things. He imagined that how, if someone was rude to her, he would tell them off, they’d back down, and then she would start going out with him, and they’d get married. Only, when someone came in and was rude to her, he kept his eyes fixed on his screen.

He’d daydreamed so many scenarios, and he was sure she really liked him.

And then one day she’d come in wearing a badge that read: “Baby on board”, and she’d been happy, and told everyone that she was pregnant and that she was getting married to her boyfriend. He’d daydreamed that her boyfriend was killed in a car accident, and that he’d comforted her, and then she’d realised that he was the one for her, but after a couple of months, she’d moved away and he no longer saw her.

The second step in his routine was to make his bed, and to collect everything he’d need for his time at the coffee shop. You never know, she might come back. And there was another girl there, and she smiled at him. He’d even overheard her talking with another customer, and he learned that her name was Anna.

He’d googled everything he could about the name, and he found lots of things. His favourite wasn’t Frozen, although Anna looked a bit like Anna, but The King and I. He daydreamed about suddenly finding out he was an heir of the King of Siam, and he called Anna over to look after his household out there.

Maybe he should get his head shaved, like Yul Brynner. Although that might make him look strange.

The third step in his morning routine was to think through what he would do today if he didn’t get lucky. He knew that he ought to do something about the issues that he felt strongly about, but the trouble was, he didn’t really feel as though anyone wanted him to help.

He’d once summoned up the courage to volunteer to help at a charity shop, but the other volunteers hadn’t talked to him much, and at the end of the day, the world wasn’t a better place. It was just too difficult, so he hadn’t gone back.

He didn’t like reading newspapers. They only ever gave bad news, and he didn’t like reading much, anyway.

There was another regular at the coffee shop, an old man. Everyone liked him, and everyone felt sorry for him. He only had one arm, but he was always polite.

He couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be missing an arm. It must be horrible, and he kept thinking about it, and it made him so depressed.

It was annoying that the man seemed so happy. He should be unhappy, but he just seemed to take it as just being one of those things.

He felt bad about this, and feeling bad made him feel worse that he felt bad and the old man didn’t.

Everything was now ready for the fourth step. He was always quite excited by this. It gave his life some meaning, and it was all a matter of chance. It was the only time that he really felt alive. He sometimes wondered if he should do it at the end of the day, so that he had something to look forward to.

But he had started the routine in the morning, so that was when it had to be. It was pure chance, and he’d been doing it for fourteen mornings. This was number fifteen.

He started to feel nervous, and he opened the special drawer. He moved the manual to one side. He didn’t need to read the manual, although it said on the front: “Read this manual before use.” But he didn’t need to, because it would only be safety instructions, and safety really wasn’t important.

Then he took the old revolver out, and he cleaned it. Cleaning it helped build up the feeling, it gave him a sense of anticipation. He checked to make sure there was just one bullet in the old-style revolving chamber. Just one bullet and six chambers. One in six. He could take it to the window, point it at someone, and there was a one in six chance that the person would die.

He looked through the window, like he always did. There was a middle-aged woman walking a dog. One pull, and she might die. A second pull of the trigger, and the dog might die. He didn’t pull the trigger; that would be wrong. The postman; three. A man cleaning his car; four. Two children talking in a doorway; five and six.

If he had chosen to, one of them would now be dead, and chance would have decided which of them it would have been. It was exhilerating to think he could have done this.

Exhilerating and scary. He shouldn’t have such power. No-one should. Now for the moment of truth. Was today going to be his lucky day?

He spun the chamber three times, and then put the barrel of the revolver into his mouth, and waited, savouring the moment. Was it going to be oblivion, or would he have to go through another meaningless day of pointless existence?

He pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened, and he put the revolver back in its place. Fifteen tries, and still nothing. He would try again tomorrow. That’s chance for you. He left for the coffee shop, where maybe he would be able to summon up the courage to talk to someone.

He held the manual and put it back, square in its place. He wondered what the chances of not firing on fifteen separate tries were.

If he had read the manual, he would have known. Section 3 of the manual explained about the safety catch.

Comment on this vignette Here.

David Flin is editor of the anthology Ten Years Later, where all proceeds go to help rebuild Ukraine, the author of the AH series Building Jerusalem and Six East End Boys, and the owner of Sergeant Frosty Publications.


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