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Riley is Late


Staring at the faint brown water stain on the ceiling, Riley arrives at a thought. Late. He is late for work. The minute hand has been losing its race to the second hand all day. The hour hand, tortoise-like, has tricked Riley into thinking time was on his side.

Hours have slipped away like neglected guests since eleven o’clock when Riley got out of bed and ate some cold pizza and a bowl of Cheerios. Now it is three o’clock in the afternoon, time for swing shift to begin, and the choice has been made for him. No letters to congressmen will be written, no classics of world literature will be read, no bicycle rides taken, no suicides attempted, nor lives saved, languages learned, bad habits altered, women made love to, small-scale building projects embarked upon, motors tuned up, new religions founded, old friends called, view-obstructing trees cut down, vegetables planted, toe nails clipped, windows washed, starving children fed, missing buttons replaced.

Not until tomorrow.

Riley grabs his lunch pail and gloves and lopes out the door, then back again. “Keys!” Riley addresses the unresponsive living room. He runs to the bedroom, scans his desk, the floor, his bed. The bed. Swinging his size 12 steel-toed boot like a wrecking ball, Riley kicks the mattress, which emits a muffled chime.

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