You have 4 free member-only stories remaining for the month. Subscribe now for unlimited access

No One Cares, Kentucky 

Hands grasp box. Hands lift box. Glance at the label. Turn body backward. Step up into the truck. Place box on a shelf labeled 400. Turn body around. Return to the belt.

Hands grasp box. Hands lift box. Glance at the label. Turn body backward. Step up into the truck. Place box on a shelf labeled 700. Turn body around. Return to the belt.

There were no thoughts in his head. Not real thoughts. He was on autopilot, experiencing the thoughts of a robot designed to do a minimal task over and over again. He couldn’t think. He needed to be still to think. He needed the never-ending hum of the machinery to cease to be able to think. Sometimes bits and pieces of thoughts would zoom through his ears like cars on an interstate, but they were gone as fast as they appeared. There were a few boxes stacked outside his designated truck’s trailer. Stacked packages outside the trailers were frowned upon by the higher-ups. But everyone had boxes stacked outside their trailers. He had fewer boxes stacked than most of the other packages. He was young, mid-twenties. He could move quickly. That’s why he wasn’t let go. At least that’s what he figured. His body moved a lot faster than most of the people who were fired the day before.

“They’re taking our fucking raises,” a bearded man said as he passed the young man’s stacked boxes outside his trailer.

The young man wasn’t too surprised. Good news rarely passed through the walkways between the belt and the trucks. They had just gotten a twenty percent raise due to the risks they were taking every day they showed up for work. The coronavirus was changing the landscape of the warehouse every day. But it all still felt the same.

He was back to making fifteen bucks an hour. Fifteen dollars times eight. That’s 120 dollars a day. Before benefits. And taxes. They couldn’t afford to pay him more? They couldn’t afford to keep other people on? He bet they could have. He’d gone to college to avoid the places like the one he felt trapped inside of. He even received an English degree. But here he was, back inside. Inside another place where “They don’t give a fuck about us, we’re just bodies,” the same bearded man bitched aloud from the trailer right next door to the young man. The bearded man was typically racist and sexist when he would converse with the young man. Nobody could do a job like loading a truck as good as a white man according to him. The young man avoided discussion with the bearded man. The bearded man was the embodiment of ignorance and bigotry that the young man had learned to detest in college. But here he was, working next to him. The young man did agree with the bearded man on one point though, the men walking around in khakis and a polo didn’t give a single fuck about the men and women loading the trucks.

The boxes kept coming down the belt. They wouldn’t stop when the young man’s shift was over. They would continue bombarding down the belt and an employee on the third shift would be the next victim. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, people were ordering even more products than normal. It was like the holiday season with no end in sight. The place was open all hours all days. It never ran out of boxes to launch at the bodies waiting in front of the trucks.

The young man’s back hurt. “Work hard now, so you don’t have to later,” someone’s voice said through his ears. A memory. Who had said it? It must’ve been someone who supported his decision to return to school and finish his degree. His mom’s best friend, his sister-in-law? He couldn’t grasp it. He couldn’t remember what he was thinking about when another large cardboard box came down the belt with his truck’s code on the label.

A neon yellow earplug fell out of his ear and the sounds of manufacturing became louder in his left ear. He was supposed to always have those lodged in his ears. A young woman had been fired last week because it was discovered she had some wireless headphones in her ears under a beanie. As hot and sweaty as the young man felt, he could understand why the girl took the risk.

I am blessed.

The thought shot like lightning across his brain a couple of times and he could just acknowledge it. He slowed down inside the trailer and slowly placed a box on a shelf. I am richer and more fortunate than most, but why am I so miserable? How do people keep going on when it’s far worse than this? How do I accept that this is the best it can get? When so many have it so much worse than you? What’s the easy answer to happiness? Moving up in the company here? Taking another gamble and walking out the door? What will you tell your next interviewer when they asked why you left? You won’t be able to use the supervisor as a reference. Whichever corporation you go to next will not like that.

“What’s going on?” Mike asked the young man, peeking into the trailer. The young man turned from his daze.

“Oh, you know, same old,” the young man replied as he passed by Mike and returned to the belt.

Mike was wearing polo and khakis. He was wearing cologne and the young man became aware that his deodorant wasn’t holding up.

“What’s with all the boxes?” Mike asked, nudging one of the stacked boxes outside the trailer.

“It’s a little crazy today,” the young man replied as he reentered the trailer with two boxes.

“I expect this from you neighbors, but you?” Mike asked, with a smile that was trying to pass as being friendly.

“Who?” the young man asked after pushing a package a little harder than usual into its designated spot.

“What?” Mike asked.

“Who is you?” the young man asked. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. He was feeling a rush of something, something human.

“You, buddy,” Mike replied.

“My name,” the young man said.

“What?” Mike asked. “Listen, we just need you to speed it up a bit.”

“My name,” the young man said. “What is my name?”

Mike looked offended, as though the question was beneath him. “Listen, buddy, we can’t be wasting time.”

“What is my name, Mike?” the young man said. “I’m the one who is typically the fastest at this shit on your line. Now, what is my name?”

“Don’t make a scene or cause trouble, bud,” Mike said or maybe he threatened.

“I should be a goddamn celebrity in this place,” the young man said. “Fastest at placing boxes in the truck. That’s what you guys are looking for, right? I’m the fastest and one of my supervisors can’t remember my name.”

“You’re lucky to be here,” Mike said, angry. “Don’t you want this job?”

“Why would I want this job? Why would anyone want to waste their gift of life handling cardboard all day? Why don’t you people care about us? Why don’t we help each other? Did God or the universe put me here and give me all these thoughts and emotions so that I can suppress them fifty hours a week to place boxes on shelves? Did millions of people die in wars to fulfill the American dream? Is this the American dream? Isn’t the American dream the best that Earth has to offer? This is the best it has to offer? I did everything, I worked hard, I got educated. But I’m here, just like my father was. And his father. And It’s a better place to be than most but it is still depressing.”

“Comply,” Mike shouted at the young man. “This is it. Not everyone can be an artist. Take your piece and go home and do it again and again and don’t bitch about it. You unappreciative piece of garbage! This is the point of your existence, to load boxes onto shelves.”

The young man pushed Mike out of the way and sprinted down the line between the belt and all the trailers. He sprinted towards the windows that led to the outside of that place. He broke the glass with his body and spread his arms out as to fly away but he was embraced by a safety net that had just been mounted to prevent that sort of thing.

A young woman arrived for her shift and walked inside her truck’s trailer.

Hands grasp box. Hands lift box. Glance at the label. Turn body backward. Step up into the truck. Place box on a shelf labeled 400. Turn body around. Return to the belt.

Hands grasp box. Hands lift box. Glance at the label. Turn body backward. Step up into the truck. Place box on a shelf labeled 700. Turn body around. Return to the belt.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Culture and Current Events, Fiction, Horror, Humor, Satire