The Tyranny of Bread

BY NATHAN WALTON

 

CHAPTER I

The Beginning

 

It was a cold, calm morning and rain was falling gently on the Gatleys’ house. Brian Gatley, the husband of Valerie, was woken up by his five-thirty alarm clock and he got up. He walked into the kitchen, and after turning the jug on and making his coffee, he waited for it to boil, and poured his coffee. Two sugars, one coffee, a bit of milk, and some boiled water — every morning — and as Brian finished his coffee breakfast came to mind.

He went to the cupboard, looked in, up, down, left, and right. There was no bread. A sudden, rapid, chilling thought passed through his mind, before fading into nothing. Brian immediately forgot it, but a vague sense of uneasiness lingered in the air. He looked in the freezer, again to no avail. Every day he enjoyed toast, but he had no bread.

However much he missed his breakfast, he knew that he needed to get ready for work. He went back to his bedroom and slowly opened the drawer, so it wouldn’t creak and wake his wife, and took out his clothes. Though the time was only quarter-to-seven, and so Brian put his wallet in his pocket, got on his jacket and shoes, and walked to the dairy down the road, carefully avoiding puddles. The rain was still trickling steadily from the dark purple-grey clouds and sky above.

After around five minutes, Brian got to the dairy and noticed the bread-shelf was bare. He looked around. There wasn’t any bread. He left the dairy with an awful feeling in his stomach. It was not hunger. It was — indescribable, and he felt a strange feeling suddenly and momentarily wash over him.

Not long after he got home, did a bakery truck zoom past. He put his jacket and shoes on again, opened the tall white door, and returned to the dairy. When he was halfway to the dairy, hailstones began falling from above, and though initially small, the hailstones got larger, and his pace quickened to a slow jog. He went in the dairy.

“I saw the bakery truck, any bread?” said Brian.

“Bakery truck? — No, no bakery truck.” said the shopkeeper.

“Yes, there was,” he replied, “I saw it drive down here and park in front of your store.”

“Nope, no bakery truck,” he said, “It came, err, last Thursday.”

“I saw a bakery truck, a grey one with a blue stripe on the side, say Roland Bakery, and it parked right in front of your store.”

“Oh! Yes, of course, Roland Bakery.”

“So there was a bakery truck, then?”

“Of course, but they delivered no bread, only biscuits and muffins.”

Brian left grumpily and returned home. To further burden, he realised he was late as he looked at the clock which read ten past seven. His wife, Valerie, then walked into the kitchen, noticed him and the time, and shot her angry eyes at Brian.

“What the hell are you still doing here?” she said.

“There’s no bread in the cupboard or freezer, so I went off to the dairy to buy some and —”

“It took you a half-an-hour to buy a loaf of bread?

“Well, there wasn’t any bread at the dairy anyway so —”

“Oh, god, just go already!”

He said goodbye to Valerie and received tense silence. Putting on his jacket and shoes, he ran out the door to his old green car. On his usual route, which is via Edwards Street, York Street, and Pines Road, there was little traffic. The roundabout off Pines Road, however, was packed with cars. Perhaps five minutes had passed before Brian got to the roundabout and was second-to-go.

good heavens traffic gee what a time to be alive bloody council fix up the road or something probably the governments fault something like that. idiot in front doesnt know how to drive come on just go already go go drive drive fast quick i need to get to work the bossll be mad thanks a lot council government idiot in front drive drive drive. oh god cars everywhere its my turn to go shut up in the cheap seats behind me god. go go go oh was that close gee-whiz nearly hit me in the rear oh honk your horn all you want bloody impatient rot.

Brian sped into the busy carpark and parked up. He ran frantically to the main entrance. Upon entering the office, everyone looked at him. Their stern, grumpy eyes burnt into his mind, as he went anxiously to his cubicle. He sat down on his creaky office chair.

Although the office was dead-silent, Brian could still not focus. All he could hear was his breathing and the gentle humming of cars outside. There was something deep inside his mind, a recurring thought, a subconscious urge, something which he did not quite understand. He tried to regain his focus, and begin on his day’s work. He knew that if he didn’t meet his weekly quota, he would be on his first and only warning. He tried hard to regain his focus, yet he could not, he had a subconscious urge for something. It was overpowering his conscious effort to do his work. He could not bear it any longer.

bread

“Excuse me,” Brian started to a co-worker, “do you know when lunch break is?”

Ignored, Brian asked the co-worker to his right.

“When’s the lunch break; do you know?”

“Uh — do you know when lunch break is? In the red sweater?”

The man in the red sweater turned his head backwards to Brian momentarily, before turning back in his seat to his computer.

why wont they listen to me. im being ignored. they are they are ignoring me. what did i do wrong i did nothing wrong nothing. i just need to know when the lunch break sandwich sandwich is whats so hard about that god i they no i need to know god just tell me when lunch break is is its no hard or jam or its easy easy! i just wanted to know when the lunch break is whats so hard god im being ignored by everybody they hate me just because i was late this morning and now they ignore me whats wrong with them stuckup and everything god i need to know. i need to know.

And with that Brian stood up in a cold sweat, his eyes darting rapidly around the room, left leg shaking uncontrollably.

“When is lunch break!” he yelled enraged, “Tell me! Dear god  — tell me. Somebody?”

Everybody in the office looked at him simultaneously for perhaps five seconds apathetically. Around ten minutes later a message interrupted the radio on the speakers.

“Mister Brian Gatley, your presence is required in the manager’s office.”

Brian paused for a second, unsure of whether he wanted to go to the manager’s office or scurry off cowardly to his car.

The loudspeaker repeated itself.

“Mister Brian Gatley, your presence is required in the manager’s office.”

He meekly stood up and staggered to the manager’s office, and his strained face flushed red, and his shoulders visibly rose and fell with heavy breaths. He felt his mouth dry and a lump form in his throat.

all the loaves of bread in the world combined will crush everybody combined good lord and god can save us on earth if we all no no gods greater than any damn bread.

Approaching the cold metal door, Brian began to shake some more. He stopped at the door, took three deep breaths, then knocked, without acknowledgement.

Again he knocked.

“It’s open.” said a deep booming voice with a thick Italian accent.

He walked in and the boss was sitting in a brown leather chair. There was silence for a second, as the boss took the cigar out of his mouth and put it on the cigar tray.

“Mister Gatley,” he said, “why have I brought you here?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Do you find yourself to be amusing?”

“I don’t know what you mean by that.”

“You were late this morning, very late. I don’t care what your reasons were — you could’ve called in. ”

“I —”

“You will find your letter in the letterbox.”

“But —”

“Get!”

Numbness washed him out bare as he got into his car, leaving the office carpark a final time. He looked in the rear-view mirror before he drove out, and the office building stood tall and unsympathetic as if it were purposely ignoring him.

no job no money no nothing be on the benny now till i get a new job. she wont be happy about this old valerie god im gonna get a screaming tonight shes gonna scream all night and ignore me for the rest of the week like she does when shes really angry with me but shes only done that once or twice in nine years but i know shes gonna scream now that ive got no job oh god god. its a bit like snakes and ladders aint it well you go up and you go down but eventually you might get there i guess but i suppose ive just gone down a real long snake right down near the bottom but theres some ladders and theres always another go i guess but till then itll like there wont be no money to buy nice things good thing valentines has just passed or i wouldnt have had any money no money to buy valerie a nice necklace 8 metre heirloom or something like that. suppose the holidays gotta wait now therell be no spare money to save whichll annoy valerie but oh well fiji can wait therell still be the nice beaches and sun its not going anywhere is it so whats there to worry about really. sooner or later at the end of the day ill get another job get some money get to fiji yeah.

As Brian was driving his car down Pines Road, going home, he felt something.

bread

no not you again no no no no

bread

no leave me alone leave no no leave

bread

get out of my head get out stop god leave me alone

He turned on the car radio, switching between stations, to drown out the urge.

“The clunky funky sound sound junkie,

Yes it sound so

Junkie,”

“I’ve got grapes on my grapevine,

but I’ve never drunk wine,

Oh!”

“One to the left

Two to the right”

He switched back to the first one. Though, even still, it wasn’t enough of an ear-worm to get the thoughts of bread out of his mind.

bread

no get out get

bread

stop just leave me alone just go get

bread bread bread

get out get out leave me alone god god please

bread bread bread bread bread

god please just st

Regaining his concentration momentarily, he realised he was swerving about the road like a drunk and heading towards a pole. Gripping the steering wheel and slamming on the brakes — he crashed. In a half-conscious state, with vision blurred and body painless with adrenaline, he saw a front door fling open, and a young woman rushing out of her house.

“My god — are you okay?”

To this, he didn’t respond, still not fully conscious.

“I saw it happen. You looked — I don’t know — like you were talking to somebody else. There’s nobody else in the car is there?”

“No, no, just me.”

“I’ll call an ambulance.”

 

The Tyranny of Bread has four more chapters, download the full story here: The Tyranny of Bread

 

This story was submitted for The Common Room, a place for all young people to share their work and views. Got something to say? Everyone’s welcome – click here to contribute!

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