His head pinned to the mat, his shoulder a flat wall of floor. The memory rush-floods Tony on Wednesday morning. The long ago wrestling move that smashed his face into the slick mercy of his opponent.
Some days he thinks he has never fully risen up from that high school humiliation. Right now, at work in his clean-from-microbes office with the buzzing fluorescent lights and the mauve and blue color scheme, this moment as he stands in the hallway watching Mr. Frederick march toward him, his suit pant legs tiny flips of flags with each polished shoe step. Tony is held there twenty years ago in the high school gym, still, by Jimmy Jack. One, two, three. On the mat. Sweat-stained world snarling his nose. Pain, real pain. Snap.
“I didn’t have to sign that increase,” Frederick says, straight-faced and looking beyond Tony, already turning into the conference room past him, the room that Tony has overshot, aswim as he is in his morning musings. “Where in the hell are you going?” Frederick says. “Get the hell in here and explain it all to me. That’s where you’re going.” Frederick disappears. The lights pop on, making the curtained room a lampshade.
Tony rolls his shoulders, the way he’d learned to as a jock. Love sick and hungry, that wrestling match undid what was already undone. Just splayed out like a spatchcocked chicken for his town’s public to see. He’d fallen ever since then, hadn’t he? He had peaked too early, he understood, still standing in this hallway, still in between.
His co-worker Randall creeps by, his shoes always squeak-announcing his arrival. He pats Tony on the back, a single little sweaty-palms empathy pat, and enters the lampshade.
Love sick and hungry, still. Tony out in this world, leaning, leaning.
He pulls his shirtsleeves straight, turns on his heel, feels his weight push down through gravity on each foot-forward roll. Tony will never rise from that blank sea of the vinyl green mat. He’ll curl into a hyphen like he did that day, just to get his bearings, all over again.
Sherrie Flick is author of the novel Reconsidering Happiness, the flash fiction chapbook I Call This Flirting, and the forthcoming short story collection Whiskey, Etc. (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2016). Her stories have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Norton’s Flash Fiction Forward and New Sudden Fiction. She lives in Pittsburgh.