Fiction: The Daily Routines of Mike Smith Jr.

The beeping alarm jolted Mike Smith Jr. awake at 5:30 a.m. He stabbed at the button on the electronic Rolodex that had been waking him at the exact same time every morning for at least eight years, and the device stopped beeping. Mike swung both legs to the floor, pushed the on-button of his computer, and walked into the kitchen while the computer booted up. He poured a cup and a half of water into the Mr. Coffee reservoir and pushed the on-switch. The night before he had measured out two scoops of coffee grounds, took down a plastic tub of Honey Gone Nuts Granola from the cupboard, arranged a cereal bowl, spoon, and a low-dosage aspirin on the kitchen table so he would be ready in the morning.
While computer and coffeemaker were working, he yawned his way to the bathroom, peed, stripped, showered, and shaved. He walked to the bedroom, dressed, checked his e-mail, and walked to the kitchen to begin his breakfast. It was 5:55 a.m.
Mike Smith Jr. had tried every shortcut and had long ago settled on this morning routine. He wanted to do it all quickly and efficiently so he would have time to read the news on Yahoo!
“Rain continues, could set June record,” one headline read. “Sox outlast Twins,” another item proclaimed. Mike read on: “In the lowest-scoring 14-inning game between these two teams in which both starting pitchers had the same first name, the Boston Red Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 Tuesday.”
On the drive to work, a DJ repeated the same cell phone commercial as the day before, and the day before that, and at the same time: 7:09 a.m. Mike switched the radio to NPR, where a Morning Edition announcer mispronounced the word “president” three times, just as she did on Monday and Tuesday mornings. How could someone mispronounce “president,” Mike wondered. “Nuclear,” maybe. But “president” does not rhyme with “Dresden.”
At work, he finished the article on fund-raising, which was pretty much the same piece he wrote the year before. At 10 a.m. he walked to the lunchroom, grabbed a coffee and an apple, which he ate at 2 p.m. when he took his afternoon break. At 4 p.m. he clicked off the light in his office and went home.
The beeping alarm jolted him awake at 5:30 a.m. the next morning. He stabbed at the button on the electronic Rolodex. After the usual routine, he checked his Yahoo! news.
“Wettest June in six years,” the headline said. “Yankees set record for most foul balls to visitors’ dugout in any sixth inning in Major League Baseball history,” said another.
The DJ advertised the same cell phone at 7:09, as Mike waited at the same intersection as yesterday. The NPR announcer talked about Prezden Obama. At work Mike wrote cutlines for photos of people sitting in office chairs with telephones to their ears. They looked like the same offices and telephones as last year. The people looked the same, but they had different names.
Coffee and an apple at 10. Eat the apple at 2. Drive home at 4.
Beeping alarm at 5:30 a.m. Computer on, coffee pot on, pee, strip, shower, shave, dress, e-mail, breakfast, Yahoo! news.
“Most rain between 2:30 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. in New England history,” a headline said. “Mets pitcher is tallest right-hander to win a 5-3 victory against a Phillies team in any rain-shortened game during any June in National League history,” said the sports news.
Drive, DJ, cell phone spot, Prezden Obama, write headline for page one, coffee and grab apple, eat apple, drive home.
Beep, boot, Mr. Coffee, pee, strip, shower, shave, dress, e-mail, eat, Yahoo!
“Only thirty-fourth time an accident involving a Ford Escort and a Chevy Malibu in any New Jersey location occurred on the same night that a rain shower in any New England town whose population is below 4,372 produced between zero-point-two and zero-point-seven-six inches of precipitation,” said a headline. The subhead said, “Longest headline in this paper’s history appears above.”
“Seventy-third anniversary of the shortest game between any two baseball teams in which both had starting pitchers between six feet and six feet three inches,” the sports reporter said.
The next morning Mike Smith Jr. ignored his alarm and rolled out of bed two minutes late. This time he started the Mr. Coffee before booting up his computer. He shaved before any other bathroom activities, then showered, then peed, but not during the shower. Dry but still naked, he checked his email. He dressed in pants, shoes and socks but no shirt. He poured his coffee and ate his granola. Then he finished dressing and had just one final task to perform: Yahoo! news.
“Rain ends,” said a headline. “Boston to host Tampa Bay tonight,” the sports head said. There were no details.
On the car radio, at 7:09 a.m., the DJ read a new spot, this one about Office Max. NPR’s Morning Edition featured a different reporter who talked about interest rates. At the office, Mike just had proofreading to handle. He missed his breaks and forgot to eat his apple. He left the office two minutes late.
The next morning Mike Smith Jr. was jolted awake at 5:30 a.m. He stabbed at the button on the electronic Rolodex, and the device stopped beeping. He swung both legs to the floor, pushed the on-button of his computer, and walked into the kitchen while the computer booted up. He filled the Mr. Coffee reservoir and pushed the on-switch. He ate Honey Gone Nuts Granola and checked the news on Yahoo!
“Communications satellite records the 47th time it streamed the movie Fever Pitch in any single 84-hour period in June to households between Spokane and Albuquerque,” a headline proclaimed.
“Boston-Tampa Bay game features only time a second baseman for either team works a count to 3 and 1 and then reaches on an error by an outfielder with the initials L. B. during the third inning with one out and no one on base and fails to score.”
“Thank God,” Mike Smith Jr. said. “Everything’s back to normal.”

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Candy Today?

There was a blind man who sat outside the bank calling out, “Candy today?” Sometimes you would see him in the park, sitting on a bench under an antique red maple, sensing the approach of a human being. Like a motion-sensitive kiosk in Target, he would call out, “Candy? Candy today?”

I once bought a box of candy from him. He fingered my dollar bills and determined they were genuine and said, “God bless you.” I went home and gave the candy to my wife, Jean Sands. It was Valentine’s Day.




There was a Girl Scout troop at a table outside Stop & Shop, taking orders for Thin Mints. I ordered a box or two, and a Girl Scout delivered them to the place where I worked. I wrapped them up and gave them to Jean. It was another Valentine’s Day.


There were rows of heart-shaped candy boxes in Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, even Big Lots and Ocean State Job Lots. Year after year, I bought them and then bought a card from Family Dollar (she would get mad if I spent Hallmark prices on it) and gave them to her. Sometimes I would buy a second card and sign our cat’s name to it.


Jean loved the big and little gifts of candy – York Peppermint Patties or Godiva Chocolates, it hardly mattered. And she loved Farino’s paw prints on the Valentine cards.

The blind man has long since passed away. I haven’t seen the Girl Scouts lately. But those rose-colored shelves of hearts have been mocking me in the stores lately. “Buy me! You always have!” they shout. “You know she loves us!”

I don’t answer them. I don’t want shoppers to know how crazy I am. I just walk past the displays and into the cat food aisle or the paper goods section. I have a house to maintain, and I am the only one to maintain it now.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were hard enough. People told me they would be. Her birthday was hard. But Valentine’s Day – that just makes me cry.


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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 290 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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CultureMax to the Max!

CultureMax to the Max!.

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Thank you, Joseph Timothy Quirk, for thi

Thank you, Joseph Timothy Quirk, for this great review!

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The top 0.0001214 percent = the bottom 50 percent!

What kind of a world would this be if the richest 85 people were more than 41 million times as rich as the poorest 3.5 billion people?

You already know the answer, because this is that kind of world. The total wealth of the poorer half of the world is equal to the total wealth of the richest 85 people alive today.

How is it possible even to comprehend this?

Let’s say every person was as tall as he was rich, with the poorest 3.5 billion people averaging five feet tall. If they stacked themselves on top of each other they would reach higher than 3.3 million miles. Then ask the 85 richest people on earth to stand on top of each other. That stack of people would also be 3.3 million miles. For every one of the 85 rich people there would be 41,176,470 poor people.

Remember this when you’re torn between giving to a relief fund that helps the 3.5 billion and spending the same money on an $800 gadget made by a corporation owned by one of the 85.


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Come to my book display Aug. 29, 5 PM, T

Come to my book display Aug. 29, 5 PM, Torrington Main Street Marketplace! Corner Main and Maiden Lane. #Sting_of_the_Heat_Bug

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