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Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

They're falling. All of them, falling.

Up the Mountain




He turned his head.  His hands, which had been resting on the table, suddenly picked up again of their own accord and began folding cardboard into boxes and placing packets from bins 1, 2 and 5 inside.

“Yep?” asked John.

“Where’d you go?”

John shrugged.  “Nothing.”

“Bullshit!” Paul stormed.  “It’s the third time today I’ve caught you napping!”

“Didn’t sleep well.”

“All month?”

“Yeah.”  He mumbled it.  “Yeah.”

“This … this is a problem, man.  The hourly quota’s for the whole table – so you’re fucking with my numbers, too.”

“All of our numbers,” said Ed, who placed packets from bins 1, 3, and 7 into the cardboard boxes he folded.

Around the table Tod and Jenny and Steven looked away.  They didn’t want any part of it.  They’d said everything they had to say around the table a long time ago.

“Yeah,” said John.  “Yeah.”

“Is that it?  ‘Yeah?’  Is that … all you have to say?”

John reached into bin 2 by accident, and then pulled his hand back sharply.  “I’ve got a problem,” he muttered.

“Yeah,” said Paul.

“It’s personal.”



There was nothing to say to that.  They went back to work.

Boxes were folded.




This time Paul slammed his fist down on the table and that did it.

“What?”  It was an admission of guilt.

“Were you sleeping with your eyes open?  Is that what you’re telling me?”

John shook his head as his hands went back to work.  “Where are we on quota?”

Ed cleared his throat.  “We’re good this hour.”

“I wonder where these things go?  Why haven’t these jobs been shipped to China?”

“John,” said Paul, “we two – we’ve been here longer than anybody.  What’s going on?”

“Mexico,” said Ed.  “These jobs should have gone to Mexico.”


“Chinese get the jobs that take some high tech knowledge – the jobs that machinists used to do.  This shit?” Ed asked.  “Mexico.”

“Makes sense.”

“What the fuck?” asked Paul.

John sighed.  “I’m … daydreaming.”

“Yeah, you are.”

“It’s like it’s real.  Very real.”

“Like a movie?”

“It’s personal.”

“It’s personal?”

“It’s personal.”

“Must be some movie.”

“What kind of movie?” asked Ed, wiping his forehead.  Everybody though Ed was supposed to be some kind of super worker because he was Japanese, but once they made quota he never went for the productivity bonuses.  Ever.  “I mean, is it like a horror movie?  An action movie?”

“Chick flick?” asked Steven, who only said something if it could be insulting.

“It’s personal.”

“Uh huh,” said Paul.  “And not talking about it’s doing so well for you.  Winning strategy.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you,” said Steven, generally.

“What kind of movie?” asked Ed.

“You my therapist?”

“C’mon, man,” said Paul.  “We’ve got history.”

“No,” said Ed.  “But I once took a film studies class at the college.”

He laughed.  Steven laughed too, but differently.

John laughed, a little bit.  “I haven’t been eating much either,” he said.

“You’ve got 12 minutes ‘till next hour,” said Paul.  “Then there won’t be time.  12 minutes.  Make ‘em count.”

John took a deep breath.  “There’s a mountain,” he said.  “There’s always a mountain.”

“Documentary?” asked Ed.

“This isn’t funny,” said Paul.

“It’s a really big mountain.  Huge.  Maybe it’s … what’s that one?  Snow on top?  I don’t know.  It’s got snow on top.  And I’m going up it so fast – I must be flying.  I must be.  And up at the top, there’s a village at the top.”

“What kind of village?” asked Ed.

John turned his head.  “How the fuck should I know what kind of village?”

“How the fuck would he know that?” asked Paul.

“It’s his dream.”

“It’s not a dream,” said John.  “It’s only when I’m awake.”

“Okay,” said Paul.

“Okay,” said Ed.  “Can you describe the village?”

“It’s red,” said John.  “All the buildings are made out of this red rock.  None of the other rocks on the mountain are red, but this village is made of red rock.  Except for the roofs.  They use something else for the roofs.  I don’t know why.”  His hands picked up their work – boxes 1, 2, and 5.  “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“It’s okay,” said Paul.

“No it isn’t.”

“Did you know I’m writing a screenplay?” asked Ed.

Nobody said anything.

“I’ll let you read it,” said Ed.  Generally.

Todd called out to the floor manager that they were out of parts in box 4.  They needed more parts in box 4.  Everybody looked busy for another two minutes.

“There aren’t any people there,” said John, after the floor manager had left.  “Not a single person.  Anywhere.  It’s a ghost town.  Empty.”  He began talking faster now.  “They’ve got fires in the fireplace.  Food cooking.  Musical instruments.  There are paintings, half finished, on the walls.”

“Paintings of what?” asked Ed.

“But there’s nobody there,” said John.  “It’s all empty.  And then … and then … and then I go around looking for them.  You know?”

“That’s box 2, John,” Paul said gently, grabbing his hand.

“What?  Thanks.”

“You’re looking for them.”  Paul nodded.  “It’s what I would do.”

“Of course,” said John.  “And I can’t find them.  And then … then I look over the cliff.”

“Over the cliff?”

“Down the mountain,” clarified Ed.  “Right?”

John nodded.  “Down the mountain.  And that’s when I see them.  All of them.  They’re falling.  All of them.  They’re all falling over the side of the mountain.  This whole village.  Kids.  Women.  Grandparents.  Probably the mayor.  The guy who was painting that painting.  They’re all falling.  I can see … I can see the looks on their faces, as they fall.  They’re people.  Just like me.”

Paul nodded.  Ed nodded.  Even Steven nodded.

From across the table, Jenny whispered, “there’s nothing you can do.”

“That’s …” John looked at her.  “That’s not true.  That’s not true!  That’s the thing!  That’s it!  Because how did I get up the mountain?”

“What?” asked Paul.

“How did I get up the mountain in the first place?” John’s eyes beseeched.

“You flew,” said Ed.

“I can fly!” said John.  “I can fucking fly!  I can fly – if I can just remember how!  But … I don’t know how.  I don’t know how to fly.   I don’t remember how it happened.  And now … they’re falling.  All of them falling.  And I don’t remember how to fly.”

“Fuck,” he swore.  “Every time.  Every fucking time.”

The floor manager walked back over.  “Hey!  No profanity!”

For a moment, John’s mouth was open to argue.  Then he closed it.

“I hate this job,” he whispered.

When the hour passed, they switched stations, and started with a fresh quota.  In two hours, it would be lunch.





Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media, Playboy.com, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at www.TheWachsGallery.com.


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