The third but not final story of Bradley. The rest haven't been written yet.
Bradley did not feel ambitious, positive or indeed even human. He'd woken up (in a manner of speaking) over 20 minutes ago but had yet to open both eyes. The left stared vacant at the coffee pot across the room, unmoved by caffeine's vague appeal. The right eye was closed and compressed by his head against the pillow, creating a building and now insistent pressure that begged him to at least roll over. He shifted his weight to lie on his back. Dissatisfied with the plaster's ability to entertain him, he swung his stiffened legs onto the floor and made his way across the room.
Coffee would be first, then shower. He sat on the low cabinet next to Mr. Coffee while he waited for his breakfast. The idea of making a plan appealed to him. He wanted the adrenalin rush of minor ambition. An opportunity presented itself almost immediately; he was out of cream. He was also out of money except for the pockets full of change on his endtable.
He sorted out the pennies and scooped up the rest. He liked the heavy jangle of it in his pocket.
The minimart across the street sold coffee. They also had a machine that dispensed what appeared to be real cream. Bradley grabbed the smallest cup and lid and filled it to the brim.
The clerk glared at him, but she rung him up. Outside he got a paper to look for work and read comics. He felt good.
He realized he hadn't checked his mail in a week. He emptied the contents of the overfilled mailbox on the lobby table. Included among the junk ads and bills was a letter from Arby's. He felt a ping of guilt for deserting them, but it passed quickly when he remembered the red splotches he still had on his arms from their cheap dish soap. Inside the envelope was not the threatening letter he expected, but a severance check for 83 dollars and 26 cents.
He was surprised, to say the least. He hadn't done much work. He had taken long breaks and done a lot of wandering off with claims of needing to use the restroom. That didn't matter to them, though; he had been there. He had shown up and he was a warm body, so he got paid.
He discarded his junk mail and the letters from the video store. He movies would not be returned and he wasn't going to pay for them. He took a sip of his coffee and then remembered it was cream and spat it into the trash can.
He climbed the stairs, passing his studio on the second floor and continuing to the third.
Leo was a good guy, of which there was a severe shortage in Bradley's eyes. He and Patti had two kids, a five year old and a one year old. They had been together ten years and they still looked like they were in love.
Bradley heard the sound of a family as he walked down the hall. Screaming and tv commercials and a washer and dryer. Leo was in the doorway smoking trying to decipher garbled messages from the people inside. He would turn to answer then take another drag and blow it into the hallway. When he saw Bradley coming he nodded.
"Sup, dude?" He punctuated his sentences with small puffs on his cigarette.
"Not much. You guys still doing hookups?"
"No, not till tomorrow. We're still waiting on Patti's brother. We have some personal, though, if you want to smoke."
"That works." Bradley grinned. He was ready to break his three day forced abstention.
Leo offered the rest of his cigarette. "Help me finish this, I'm getting ready to head out."
Bradley inhaled deeply and released the smoke with his nicotine craving. "Can I get a ride?"
"The check cashing place."
"No problem. Thought you quit."
Bradley looked at the butt in his hand. "What? Oh, right. Yeah. They still paid me for two days."
"Cool." Leo looked at his watch. "Shit, I gotta go soon. Let's smoke."
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