Two months on the job and every day seems like a Monday, thought the young man, dragging his middle fingertip along the glass cabinet in his kitchen, eventually stopping in front of a squat green mug. Having put it silently down onto the granite countertop on top of a Fitness Monthly magazine, he knelt to the floor and reached into the front of a cupboard for a yellow plastic bag of Aspartaste Sweet Cubes and two large 500-capsule bottles of FiberCaf tablets. Standing up to his full height, Shinar looked at the two flavors in his hands: Sumatra Groove or Mocha Tango. After a moment of deliberation, he pinched the lid on the Sumatra Groove and twisted off the child-lock cap, shaking two tablets into the green mug, followed by a cube of sweetener. A trill next to the sink announced that the water was boiling, so he unplugged the electric kettle and trudged across the room in a fatigued shuffle to fill up his coffee cup.
At the foot of his bed lay the jeans he’d worn the night before, bought at a downtown store on a 30% discount and kept in a box between wearings. Shinar folded them over and pulled a pink receipt from the back pocket. He turned it over. “4431149571” was written in blue pen next to cursive handwriting reading “Eva, the spandex girl XOX.” He folded the paper in half and put it on top of his dresser next to the clock. 8:20. Shit. What kind of guy throws a 30th birthday party on a Wednesday night? After taking another sip of his coffee, he slipped off his undershirt. He chose a light pink shirt and a pair of black pants from his closet, with trouser socks from the pile of clothes on his bed. Nobody would notice. In the bathroom he straightened his second nicest tie, a gift from an ex-girlfriend. 25% percent Spanish silk. You couldn’t find that anywhere since the last silkworm nursery went under. Stroking his jaw in indecision, he opened the medicine cabinet and took a razor, turning on the faucet with his other hand, then deciding against it and walking back into the bedroom.
Brown wingtips or black oxfords? He hadn’t gotten the wingtips shined in a week. Maybe two. He sighed and took the oxfords from the rack. The Sunday paper he hadn’t read was sitting on the kitchen table, its synthetic pages a putrid taupe color. “Winnipeg Docs Still Suspect Melanoma,” read the headline. Bullshit. That woman probably just had an extra nipple or something. It’s not uncommon. Shinar shoved the Living section under his arm and picked up his briefcase on the way out the door, then walked out and pressed the up arrow on the elevator. Leah from next door was already there, her blonde hair bound in a tortoiseshell clip. She wore a tight grey pencil skirt and a smart pair of black heels that made her ass look even better than usual. Five years older. Hot as hell and five years older. The elevator was stuck on -11 again. Leah briefly shot him a demure smile with pursed scarlet lips. Just another yuppie living a double life. He opened his newspaper to an ad shot on a beach. A tan girl, covered in bronzer, of course, knelt in the sand with her hands on a beach ball in front of her. “California Crystals” read the text, “Try Sun-thing Good.” Shinar rolled his eyes. As a new member of the marketing division of D-Licious Products, he knew that his company had pretty much monopolized the vitamin-D-fortified food industry. The elevator finally budged, and Leah got on first.
When Shinar moved south, he was picturing a glamorous high-rise with a train line direct to work and a corner office in the top floor of a modern building, but fate and a seniority bias at work had forced him into this windowless concrete underground beneath the city outskirts, in the charming district of Riemann Heights. The Healios Corporation’s twelve-year construction plan was ten years in, and the pylon was still at least five years from completion. Taxpayers like himself were outraged by the expensive and hideous structure in their vicinity, but the UN mandated one in every city with a population greater than 20 million. Since they built the Dome, people were getting unsettled. Now, as he walked out from the lobby, the shadow of the climbing pillar shrouded his face from a scant mile and a half away. He gazed at the metal arm reaching for the concrete heavens, which shone an artificial pastel blue in the morning light. Though he couldn’t see them, he knew that twenty five thousand builders were walking to their stations along the horizontal crossbeam a thousand feet above the ground. They had been working around the clock. They always were. At the end of the beam dangled a silver bauble, one fourth of which was illuminated in a gleam of white.
“Over twelve hundred LED’s a square foot,” came a voice from his right. He turned to see Leah looking him in the eye.
Shinar looked straight ahead. “That so?”
“They’ve been improving the resolution on more recent projects.”
“Waste of money.”
“Well, the psychologists say we need one. Something about moving lights.”
“You work on the Dome?”
“I’m a cloud programmer. I did those stratonimbuses at the Fourth of July parade this year. Did you see them?”
Shinar grinned. “I did! Very impressive. You’re one of the lucky ones with a fun job.”
“I guess. I wanted to be an astronomer.”
Silence. “I’m sorry.”
Leah nodded, crossing her eyes in front of her nose, then looking up and laughing. “I’m not crazy. I saw one once, you know. A star.” She bit her lower lip and the corners of her mouth tensed. “I was there when they capped the Dome at Green Bank. I was eight.”
“So you saw all those people–”
“My dad put me in the car when the ambulances came.” She seemed to be checking her makeup in his oxfords.
“What did it look like?”
“Like heaven. It was like… A snowflake. A tiny snowflake on a mitten. I named it.”
“Jesus,” abashedly. “My dad preached.”
Shinar laughed. “My dad put my galoshes in a shadowbox.”
Leah’s grey eyes blazed through him. Suddenly, she reached her hands out and held his head, standing on her toes to reach his level. She pulled him towards her face, kissing him once, firmly, on the forehead. At that, she took a step back and spun, her heels clicking like hail on the pavement.
Elizabeth Hopewell Rogers
Age 15, Grade 10
Marymount School of New York