Franklin Is In by Iris N. Schwartz

The Falling Man by Brianna Johnson
March 26, 2018
March 28, 2018

Due to an urgent need to urinate, Franklin had been lower-body-dancing in his seat for the past twenty-five minutes. He’d completed his subordinate staff evaluations. It was precisely one p.m. Staff meeting was at two. One to two: lunch. He could shun his full bladder and need to refuel no more.

The thirty-three-year-old tugged open his crammed bottom desk drawer. Retrieved his black canvas tote; pushed aside zipper-locked bags of receipts, tissues, and diminutive Purell dispensers until he located the right reclosable for the job — a plastic zippered pouch containing another zippered pouch, the interior one of which held twenty size-large pairs of food industry plastic gloves.

Franklin allowed himself to exhale. Every day he packed forty gloves. Every day, whenever he needed them, he felt light-headed and trepidatious until he could see the clear, pristine sacks.

Wall clock: 1:11. Opened office door. Glanced left, then right. Strode back to workspace; pitched one pair of gloves into shirt’s chest pocket, hurriedly pulled on another.

 Franklin stepped out of his office and into the hallway that led to the nearest bathrooms. Too late he spotted Shari and Elena walking in his direction. He offered a perfunctory nod. The women smiled, but after they passed he knew they’d covered their giggling, painted mouths with germ-befouled hands.

He recalled the dreadful day, almost one month ago, when cafeteria hordes forced Franklin and Elena to lunch together.

Elena had only recently started working at the agency. His psychotherapist had been hounding him to socialize, so Franklin did what he was told: talked about something he knew. It wasn’t his fault one field of expertise was the alarming number of New York eateries inundated with roach and rodent feces.

Elena steered clear after that, as did Shari and countless others Elena no doubt informed. He should quit therapy. Or that therapist. Socializing was overrated. And, like everything else, filthy.

Watch: 1:15. Sufficient time to evacuate and refuel? Franklin clucked with irritation, trotted to the men’s room.

 Bathroom empty: what luck! Opened stall door, locked it behind him. Double-layered toilet seat. Sat. He’d forgotten his headphones! Through willpower and humming Franklin survived the odious sounds and smells of micturation and elimination. Now a chill journeyed through him as he heard his own body betray him — tinkle, plop, fart…Would it never end?

Discarded tainted gloves; washed, rinsed hands — one more time due to fart. Donned fresh gloves. Finally: out door, back into hall.

Watch read 1:37! No choice — peanut-butter crackers, additive-laden apple pies from snack machine.

Loathsome! Franklin refused to ponder the evening’s flax seed and bran, plus the enema he’d endure afterwards.

Time: 1:54. Third-floor conference room empty. These fools wouldn’t arrive on time, much less early. Franklin opened one jacket button, sat in the leather chair next to the exit, and placed his briefcase on the large round table before him. He opened his laptop; he refrained from drumming his clean fingers on the table while awaiting the other psychologists.

Iris N. Schwartz is the author of more than forty works of fiction. Her literary fiction has.been published in dozens of journals and anthologies, including 101 Words, Anti-Heroin Chic, Connotation Press; The Drabble, Foxglove Journal, Jellyfish Review; Litro Magazine; and Spelk Fiction. Ms. Schwartz’s debut short-short story collection, My Secret Life with Chris Noth: And Other Stories, was published by Poets Wear Prada in 2017 and nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. Shame: Short Stories by Iris N. Schwartz is scheduled to be published in 2018.