An entry in the Crocodile Prize
PNG Government Award for Short Stories
AS he walked into work that morning he knew nothing would be the same again.
Stepping out of his mom’s car, he couldn’t tell her it was on the rocks between Grace and him. He hid behind a shipping container as he smoked his cigarette.
Smoking was one of Johnny’s stress busters; it gave him just a few minutes of relaxation and stimulated his thoughts to analyse situations.
But, alas, only a brief sensation of relief and back to reality. He was tormented by his fears. Johnny was seen as happy and cheerful by his friends and family but they didn’t know that deep inside he was struggling with his life.
Graduating with a degree in accounting, Johnny was looking forward to life but nothing was working out the way he thought it would.
In everything he did he wanted to prove his family wrong because they saw him as lazy and unproductive.
Each night, as Johnny planned to talk to his parents about the decisions he made and the great money making ideas he had, he would hold back, thinking his parents would just brush him aside and give him the usual pep talk on the traditional way of life.
Working hard, earn money and make sacrifices to get ahead.
Well Johnny had tried hard to save, but his meagre income and his lifestyle didn’t allow it.
The thought would plague him each night, and sometimes he would complain to Grace.
“I wish I had the money to do my own stuff. I’m bored wish I could do something else, I can’t save up with this job.”
Too much of this was driving her mad and she would tell him to stop.
“Just because things are not going well for you doesn’t mean we all have to suffer.”
“You might as well move out and go home,” Grace would shout at him. “Too much negativity is taking its toll on me as well.”
Johnny would just put his head down, knowing it was all true, but he could not stop complaining.
Johnny and Grace shared the rent for a small room a suburb. They’d been together since university.
They seemed to enjoy each other’s company but Johnny’s complaining kept dampening the mood.
Finally the pressure started to take its toll on Johnny’s will to work, his performance decvliend and eventually his resignation followed.
He felt it was better to end it rather than complain all the time.
The resignation led to Johnny’s decision to take a holiday at his parents’ house, which he thought might help him overcome his stress, but Grace felt abandoned with no good explanation.
With Johnny soon to be jobless it meant they would not be able to afford the rent, so Grace needed to know Johnny’s intentions.
Johnny wanted to explain himself to Grace to save the relationship and perhaps change for the better, but Grace would not give him the chance. She already had it with waiting and complaining.
And now, walking into the office, he felt lost and heading nowhere: his relationship on the rocks; his future staring down the barrel of unemployment.
His friends and family assumed he had planned everything, like he usually did, but this time Johnny was out of ideas.