COVIDALE19

Dale found himself walking into the kitchen during a break in his day of back to back meetings.

Dale finding himself wasn’t an out of body experience, but perhaps an out of mind one. After being promoted to a management role in Compucon’s Service Delivery branch, Dale often found himself sitting in meeting after meeting and wondering how he had got there and how he could re-enter his body and make his legs move to leave them.

Dale did not know how he had been promoted to management. His old team lead had proposed it as a career path back when Dale’s only skill was to nod along and agree to everything older people told him. Then after years went by that he couldn’t really remember he now found himself leading teams. He wondered if this was what they called male privilege, and if it was, it was a horrible misnomer.

But the worst thing about being a manager wasn’t the meetings, it was the times after the meetings when you didn’t know what to do with yourself. In meetings it was easy to be busy because someone else was talking and Dale’s ability to nod along and agree to everything had only improved over the years. And meetings gave you a justification to go out for a walk and buy a coffee whenever you didn’t have a meeting because it always looked bad if you fell asleep during meetings, and this also made it harder to get a good sleep on the toilet later in the day.

There had to be more to leadership than attending meetings, but there wasn’t enough time to think about it. Because of all the meetings. Any time there weren't meetings there wasn’t time or opportunity to explore these feelings because you needed to recover yourself mentally from all the meetings before the next meeting.

But today Dale found himself walking into the kitchen with a break between meetings, and time to reflect. At the same moment he noticed that the kitchen floor was covered in shards of broken glass from a large jar of white, clumpy, frothy stuff that had been knocked on the floor and left a huge mess.

No one else was around.

“I should do something about this,” Dale said aloud, energised suddenly by something more than the three coffees he’d drank that morning.

The time had arrived to become the leader that someone whose name he forgot believed he could be. Not just sit in meetings, but achieve something.

Moments later he left the kitchen, which was in the same state as when he’d found himself in it, except there was now a piece of paper stuck on the bench that said “Caution - Broken Glass”.


If you like Bradism, you'll probably enjoy my stories. It's my dream to be a famous author, and you can help support me by previewing one of my books from Amazon below, and purchasing it if you like it.

If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?


Anniversary Dale

Dale jerked awake. He grabbed the phone from his underwear.

"Big staff morning tea. There's platters! Where are you?"

Dale was fully alert now. Catered meetings equalled a free meal. If he stuffed himself enough he wouldn't need to buy lunch, and that would mean he could go his entire lunch-break without having to speak to another person.

He stood quickly, feeling a tingling sensation in his right leg. The whole limb still slept. He peered out the cubicle, the restroom was empty. He dragged his legs to the sinks and then out the door, heading for the big meeting room. He tried to walk like he wasn't limping. Faking it 'til he made it.

A woman with bright red lipstick was patrolling the empty cubicles. They made eye-contact. He glanced away.

"Hey," she called.

Dale froze. She'd noticed his gait! She couldn't mention it out loud, surely. It felt like it should be corporate policy to keep those kind of observations to yourself.

"I was looking everywhere for you," she said. "Everyone's already in the meeting room. Come on, don't keep Mike waiting."

Dale was primarily relieved she hadn't mention the leg, and found himself falling into stride with her brisk pace all the way to Meeting Room One. She pulled open the door and Dale stepped into the front of the room and most people's worst nightmare. The back of a podium, a crowd of hungry-eyed Compucon employees staring at it, and a long table of pastries and fruit protected by an invisible barrier of an impending public speech.

"Hey there." Mike stood beside him on the makeshift stage, leaning against the back wall. A small, expensive-looking carry on suitcase with its handle up stood next to him. Dale wondered if there were things in it, or if Mike brought it with him to make him look perpetually busy. He pondered if he should buy one for himself.

"Hello," committed Dale.

Dale knew who he was talking to. 'Michael Silvers - Regional Director, APAC' on company press releases. Mike when signing off his quarterly VLogs. Dale had watched them all on mute at his desk when he'd had audiobooks he wanted to listen to.

"Ten years, hey?" Mike chuckled. "I bet you know where all the bodies are buried."

Dale didn't know what it was ten years until, so he remained silent.

The woman, Mike's administrative assistant, stepped up to the podium. She demanded attention using only her body language, throwing sand over the smouldering hum of conversation.

"Thanks for your patience. Please welcome your regional director this morning to say a few words."

Mike took big steps and collected the microphone from her. "Thanks," he said as a flimsy applause petered out. "I won't take up much of your time, I know you've probably all picked out your cupcakes, and we're all busy people."

Dale felt a pang of guilt, which may in fact have been culpability.

"But," Mike continued. "I do think it's important to take a minute every now and again to reflect that it's the people who are ultimately the key to a business. We can sign large contracts, make big profits, deliver exceptional value to our clients, but none of these would happen without great people. Human beings, all of you, are Compucon's most valuable assets."

Dale wondered if this was the preface to another downsizing announcement.

"Today," Mike continued. "We're celebrating a milestone for one of those important assets. A man who needs no introduction to any of you, as today he is celebrating having been here for ten years!"

The crowd applauded. Dale went to slap his hands together too, until he realised the rows of people were looking at him while they clapped. Mike looked straight at him. He felt an uncomfortable notion wash over his entire body, including his half-asleep leg.

Ten years. Him? Was that possible?

At some point Dale had known the exact date of his first day at a global consulting firm destined to shortly be acquired by Compucon. Later on he'd at least been able to recall the month. Now the year seemed a little uncertain. Soon he might not even recall the decade.

While Dale spun his memory he half-listened as Mike spoke phrases about loyalty, pressure under fire, and attention to detail. He mentioned the synergy that emerged when one person remained in one job over ten years. The expertise that developed.

Dale considered if he had any expert knowledge. He knew that thirteen seconds was the required factor of multiplication if you wanted the kitchenette microwave to present your mug handle in the exact place it had started.

"A leader, even without the title," Mike said.

And it was true that at some point over the years, between restructures and promotions and retirements that Dale had gone from working at Compucon with people who'd started before him, to now working at Compucon with people who started after him. A certain level of unspoken respect had been shown to him the past few years. His colleagues seemed to draw the simplest explanation, that Dale had worked there so long because he knew what he was doing. Maybe he'd abused that assumption too much, his seniority by obscurity.

Mike was nodding. "And there are a number of projects that would never have been possible without his level of experience."

The only flicker of recognition he had for the projects Mike rattled off was the names. It was possible he'd been assigned to them, or at least charged his time against their project codes. Had he wasted the best years of his life working on them? Or procrastinating? Drinking coffee and reading articles on the internet?

Maybe he had been involved in those projects. Was the him he thought he was, really the him he had been? Mike spoke with such effortless confidence that Dale felt confused. Maybe Mike knew the real him?

It couldn't be ten years. But maybe it was?

Mike continued to extol Dale's virtues to the crowd. The speech lasted a harrowing seventy seconds. Then he beckoned Dale forward, into the limelight. Dale's guts squirmed. He forced himself off the wall. Mike shook his hand and passed him an envelope. A fifty-dollar coupon for Ultimate Fishing Supplies peeked out.

Fishing? Really? Dale didn't like fishing at all. Or maybe he did. Compucon seemed to know him better than he knew himself.

Mike turned back to the crowd. "Please give a hand to one of Compucon's most treasured people, Christopher Gurkeerat."

Compucon applauded. Dale looked at the front of the envelope, it said Christopher. Was he really Christopher? No, he knew he was Dale. But no one he worked with realised that. Or cared enough to delay morning tea.

After the speech I found Dale with a plate piled high with pastries, his back in a corner.

"Do you want to go get a coffee after that?" I asked.

He nodded, still chewing.

"Christopher was that Indian guy who they made redundant last year. He must still be in the HR system."

Dale swallowed. "I didn't think it could really be my ten year anniversary today."

I laughed. "No, Dale."

He look relieved, like he still had time to work out what the real Dale wanted to be.

"Actually your ten year anniversary was yesterday."

Not Sundale

I'm excited because today I completed the first draft of the longest story I've ever done.
It's not the longest story I've ever written, but it's actually finished. Beginning, middle and end.
It only took me four weeks! And not one scene is set on public transport.


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Choices

It was the first day of the week and Dale sat in the first carriage of the train. Even in peak hour, when other carriages resembled the 3:11 to New Delhi, there were always some free seats in the front carriage. Rumour had it that on rare occasion a preoccupied train driver would overshoot a platform by a carriage length and strand front carriage commuters for that stop. Dale had never had that happen to him, but he understood why others might be spooked. Personally, he believed that arriving to work late because your train driver was distracted was a lock for an instantly acceptable excuse. On trips home, however, the risk wasn't as appealing.
The train rounded a gentle corner and through the window he could see the trailing carriages stretching out behind him. Each held probably the same contents as the front carriage: business men and women listening to music on headphones, parents with prams listening to music on headphones, old people listening to music on headphones, high school students listening to music on shared headphones. Ahead of the train, looming high into the blue sky was the jagged row of teeth that was the city's central business district. The whole horizon was made of glass skyscrapers reflecting the cool, early morning light back and forth between them to give the city a glowing white halo.
The morning train service chugged on steadily as the buildings continued to slowly and ominously grow bigger. It was only when the train stopped at a station – the doors of the front carriage perfectly aligned with the platform – that Dale realised they were still becoming bigger even while the train was stationary. It was then the rumbling started, muffled at first but slowly echoing louder and deeper as the distant city began lifting from the ground like a launching mother-ship.
The rumbling started to alarm the other passengers and the lift-off of their destination caused a cascade of interested commuters to cram around the train's windows to stare up at the floating suburb that had broken free of the power lines, water pipes and bitumen that had meekly tethered it to the ground. When they realised it was steadily creeping towards their location the screams started. The still motionless train had its doors pried back open as passengers attempted to flee whatever natural disaster or apocalyptic event had possessed their city. Even the driver had flung open the locked door of the driver's compartment and shoved his way through the crowd to join the stampede.
The vacated driver's compartment offered the best view of the flying city block and Dale walked in and sat in the driver's seat to watch the spectacle. Through the radio the sound of panicked train drivers and confused network operators squawked. Most of the chatter was the same: profanity, prayers and confusion. Only one voice was steady and barking instructions:
"3 and 5 flank on the wing, 4 position centre and trap." They sounded like basketball plays. Then Dale heard a calm voice he had not expected to hear.
"This is 2, altering course for attack trajectory. Watch my back."
Dale picked up the radio transmitter cautiously and held down the button to speak, "Karl?"
"Dale!" said 2, or Karl, "what are you doing on this frequency?"
"I, uhh," Dale stared at the flying city above while he paused to compose a response. Streaking through the air above his head two full length passenger trains snaked through the sky in the direction of the worryingly close behemoth.
"Dale, are you in the driver's seat of a train?" Karl yelled.
"Yes?"
"Then quit fucking around, reach down to the floor beneath your seat and press that red button."
Dale followed instructions, found the button and watched as the lights and steering wheel of the train lit up. Dale felt the next steps come to him instinctively: he should accelerate and then pull up. There was a flat pedal on the floor which he pressed and he felt the heavy train shudder as it stirred and began to follow the tracks. A chime sounded and he heard the doors on each carriage slide back shut. Once he had the train up to speed he prepared to take off, pausing only to use the intercom to warn the few passengers who had stayed behind out of fear or engrossing iPhone games that they should hold on to something. Dale pulled the steering wheel down and towards him and felt the wheels of the carriage leave the track and slowly lift into the air. The wheel was shaking violently in his hands but he did not relax his grip. He used all his strength to pull down and closed his eyes. When he opened them he could see the ground below him was shrinking and behind him the carriages of the train trailed like the tail of a kite.
"Dale, fall into formation," said Karl, and the screen on the dashboard indicated the communication had come from the train in front of him that was streaking towards the city. Dale tried to straighten to reduce the drag and pushed the accelerator to catch up with Karl. With the third train they formed a caret with Karl at the tip. Dale could see the shadow of the floating city sweeping over the suburbs below.
"What does it want?" asked Dale into the intercom.
"Cut the chatter," a terse voice, speaker unknown, replied.
The flying city was close now, Dale could see the brand names on the tops of the buildings clearly. The whole thing leaned slightly to one side and what he had thought was colourful dust emanating from the edge of the sheared city blocks was now defined as a salad of vehicles, café tables, garbage bins and humans falling from the tilted angle. The city spun slowly and beams of sunlight reflected from buildings, momentarily blinding Dale. He smelt burning.
"Stay steady, 4," said the terse voice.
"I'm going in," said Karl. His train circled the edge of the city until he picked his gap, then increased speed as it sliced between towers and headed for the heart of the city. At the centre of the buildings the gigantic Compucon Towers glowed bright and Karl seemed to be heading there. With deft skills he passed by the top floors of the building and then banked hard, causing his trailing carriages to swing like a whip and crash through the glass façade of the Towers. A loud groan came from the heart of the city, it sounded like a cry of pain underwater. Dale felt the noise's vibrations in his seat.
The stranger's train made the next pass at the building, flying above the streets and whipping it in the same way. It wasn't as effective as Karl's strike but the noise the city made was even more guttural and sad sounding.
Dale, who had watched the tumbling glass and shrapnel from a distance, shrugged, and darted his train towards the tower to perform the same manoeuvre. The blood rush had made it seem like the right thing to do, but when Dale saw the image of his flying train mirrored in windows of the landscape of skyscrapers, he started having doubts. Dale tried to angle himself in the same way Karl had, and it was only when the Compucon Towers were metres away that Dale realised how amateur a flying train pilot he was and he screamed in a strangely half-hearted manner as the front of his train crashed through the exposed floors and sheared through cubicles, a server room and a kitchenette. He emerged out the other side of the building as his tail of carriages cut through floors and girders with random thrusts comparable to Dwight Howard running with an erection. A piercing shrill started from the heart of the city and Dale clenched his jaw tight to try and stay focused on navigating back out into the clear.
When clear, Dale joined the other two trains and tailed them as they looped back around the city. Karl looked for a new opening, but the punishment had been apparently been enough. The Compucon Tower was collapsing and the flying island began to descend back to earth as gracefully as gigantic piece of earth can fall from the sky. Maps were made redundant.
The dust settled and Dale altered his course to stay with Karl and the stranger, who were now cruising away from the carnage and out over the ocean.
"That was a ballsy move, 4," said the stranger's voice on the intercomm. "What's your name?"
"What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck?" said Dale. "What the fuck."
"His name," Karl explained, "is Tuesdale."
"Roger," said the voice. "Stay with me now Tuesdale. This will all make sense soon."
The three trains flew towards the sunrise.

Christmas Dale

It had been a while since Dale was last in the office. He was making a return from a week of holidays and was set to immediate unease upon exiting the lift. There were colourful lights strung up betwixt the cubicles, flashing off and on in chains of random colours. Red, green and blue splashed the walls. The shiny, metal water cooler in the corner of the walls reflected sparkling to the periphery no matter which way Dale looked.

It had been a while since Dale was last in the office. He was making a return from a week of holidays and was set to immediate unease upon exiting the lift. There were colourful lights strung up betwixt the cubicles, flashing off and on in chains of random colours. Red, green and blue splashed the walls. The shiny, metal water cooler in the corner of the walls reflected sparkling to the periphery no matter which way Dale looked.


"Merry Christmas!" cried Tina Cratchit, the new receptionist, as Dale passed by her desk on the way into the glittering fray.

"Merry Christmas!" cried Tina Cratchit, the new receptionist, as Dale passed by her desk on the way into the glittering fray.


Dale backtracked and turned to her, "What day is it?"
"November the seventh. It's a Mondale," she said.
"Oh. Good," he said. "I was afraid I might have used up a month's worth of leave and not remembered any of it."

Dale backtracked and turned to her, "What day is it?" "November the seventh. It's a Mondale," she said. "Oh. Good," he said. "I was afraid I might have used up a month's worth of leave and not remembered any of it."


Dale walked into his pod and found his cubicle neighbours ornamenting a miniature Christmas tree on his desk.
"Oh, you're back," said Miguel, "do you mind having this here?"
The tree was two feet tall and obscured most of his monitor.
"I would be against this in the last week of December, let alone in November," said Dale.

Dale walked into his pod and found his cubicle neighbours ornamenting a miniature Christmas tree on his desk. "Oh, you're back," said Miguel, "do you mind having this here?" The tree was two feet tall and obscured most of his monitor. "I would be against this in the last week of December, let alone in November," said Dale.


"But Dale," said Harold, looking at him with pleading eyes, "Christmas?"

"But Dale," said Harold, looking at him with pleading eyes, "Christmas?"


"Humbug," said Dale. He raised a palm to slap the tree down, but hesitated, and then lifted it gently and carried it to the desk next to his.

"Humbug," said Dale. He raised a palm to slap the tree down, but hesitated, and then lifted it gently and carried it to the desk next to his.


Dale sat to work while behind him his colleagues continued to drape colourful decorations across every available surface. He had intended to kill time by slowly reading all the emails from the last week in chronological order, but the natter of the others distracted him. Eventually they ran out of things to decorate and moved on. Only Joe stayed behind.

Dale sat to work while behind him his colleagues continued to drape colourful decorations across every available surface. He had intended to kill time by slowly reading all the emails from the last week in chronological order, but the natter of the others distracted him. Eventually they ran out of things to decorate and moved on. Only Joe stayed behind.


"Dale, one thing?" he said.
"Yes?"
"What you said before, about the last week before Christmas. I just wanted to check you know. There's a Christmas Shutdown here."
"A Christmas Shutdown? What does that mean?"
"The company requires that we all take annual leave over Christmas and New Years, from December 12 to January 6."

"Dale, one thing?" he said. "Yes?" "What you said before, about the last week before Christmas. I just wanted to check you know. There's a Christmas Shutdown here." "A Christmas Shutdown? What does that mean?" "The company requires that we all take annual leave over Christmas and New Years, from December 12 to January 6."


"They force us?" said Dale. "I didn't know this, and I just used up all my annual leave!"
"They will make you use more, in advance." Joe said. "Unless you can get an exception to work through."
"Do many people ask for exceptions?"
"Some ask," said Joe, "few succeed."
"Who do I need to ask?"

"They force us?" said Dale. "I didn't know this, and I just used up all my annual leave!" "They will make you use more, in advance." Joe said. "Unless you can get an exception to work through." "Do many people ask for exceptions?" "Some ask," said Joe, "few succeed." "Who do I need to ask?"


"Karl."

"Karl."


Dale knocked on Karl's office door with two fat, dull thuds.
"Come in," said Karl.

Dale knocked on Karl's office door with two fat, dull thuds. "Come in," said Karl.


Dale swung the door open and found Karl and Tina on opposite sides of an enormous desk.
Karl's office was dark, the lack of light made it seem cavernous and foreboding. Contrarily, there was no Christmas decorations, which made Dale feel more comfortable.

Dale swung the door open and found Karl and Tina on opposite sides of an enormous desk. Karl's office was dark, the lack of light made it seem cavernous and foreboding. Contrarily, there was no Christmas decorations, which made Dale feel more comfortable.


Tina left as Dale walked in.
"Let me guess," said Karl. "You think the office is too cold as well."

Tina left as Dale walked in. "Let me guess," said Karl. "You think the office is too cold as well."


"No," said Dale. "I wanted to talk to you about the Christmas shutdown. Can I please be exempted from taking leave? I..."

"No," said Dale. "I wanted to talk to you about the Christmas shutdown. Can I please be exempted from taking leave? I..."


"Stop," said Karl. There are no exceptions to the Christmas closure. The company feels it is very important for all employees to spend time with friends and family, relax and recharge for a successful and profitable 2012 financial year."

"Stop," said Karl. There are no exceptions to the Christmas closure. The company feels it is very important for all employees to spend time with friends and family, relax and recharge for a successful and profitable 2012 financial year."


"But," said Dale, "I don't have any family. Or any leave, because I just used all my hours up last week, which means I don't need resting or recharging. I can start delivering results and sustaining... sustaining..."
Dale was starting to panic. The Christmas weeks were usually slow, lazy days and the nearer Christmas was, the fewer co-workers he had to deal with. It was like a holiday from work at the end of each year, and the thought that he would have to use his leave and miss it was terrifying.
"Growth," said Karl.
"Growth!" said Dale, finally. "Growth three weeks ahead of schedule."

"But," said Dale, "I don't have any family. Or any leave, because I just used all my hours up last week, which means I don't need resting or recharging. I can start delivering results and sustaining... sustaining..." Dale was starting to panic. The Christmas weeks were usually slow, lazy days and the nearer Christmas was, the fewer co-workers he had to deal with. It was like a holiday from work at the end of each year, and the thought that he would have to use his leave and miss it was terrifying. "Growth," said Karl. "Growth!" said Dale, finally. "Growth three weeks ahead of schedule."


Karl carefully placed his papers on his desk and looked at Dale with a serious expression. "You speak of growth, and profits, but what about meeting the quarterly targets in your life? What about Christmas spirit? You can't work over Christmas, Dale. That's like a child not going to sleep on Christmas Eve."
"Christmas spirit?" Dale repeated. The phrase from a man who dedicated an entire drawer of his desk to socks caught him off-guard. In his mind he could feel the weeks of lighter train patronage, more acceptable thresholds of stubble and polo shirts, and shorter queues for the microwave slipping away. "Christmas... spirit..."

Karl carefully placed his papers on his desk and looked at Dale with a serious expression. "You speak of growth, and profits, but what about meeting the quarterly targets in your life? What about Christmas spirit? You can't work over Christmas, Dale. That's like a child not going to sleep on Christmas Eve." "Christmas spirit?" Dale repeated. The phrase from a man who dedicated an entire drawer of his desk to socks caught him off-guard. In his mind he could feel the weeks of lighter train patronage, more acceptable thresholds of stubble and polo shirts, and shorter queues for the microwave slipping away. "Christmas... spirit..."


"OK, look," Karl's posture relaxed a little. "I can tell you're not buying this bullshit. You're sharp, Dale, so I'm willing to level with you. When we have everyone on leave at the same time the company saves money. A lot of money. We can cancel the cleaners and the milk deliveries, we can stop running the air-conditioners. Payroll can do their December reports when they do November's, and the CFO is given a report that shows our leave liability is down a thousand hours. Your astuteness impresses me Dale, this just reinforces the potential I see in you. Unfortunately you will still need to take those weeks off."
Dale sighed, thanked Karl and slunk back to his desk.

"OK, look," Karl's posture relaxed a little. "I can tell you're not buying this bullshit. You're sharp, Dale, so I'm willing to level with you. When we have everyone on leave at the same time the company saves money. A lot of money. We can cancel the cleaners and the milk deliveries, we can stop running the air-conditioners. Payroll can do their December reports when they do November's, and the CFO is given a report that shows our leave liability is down a thousand hours. Your astuteness impresses me Dale, this just reinforces the potential I see in you. Unfortunately you will still need to take those weeks off." Dale sighed, thanked Karl and slunk back to his desk.


"Did it work?" asked Joe.
"No."
"I'm sorry to hear that, buddy," he said.

"Did it work?" asked Joe. "No." "I'm sorry to hear that, buddy," he said.


The day passed, then the week, and then the month.
The last day before closure came quickly. The start and finish times of each day crept closer together and the phrase "we'll work on that after the break" was heard more frequently. Those who had not learned the stress-relief strategies of multiple daily coffees and toilet naps started to crack and requested even earlier starts to their leave.

The day passed, then the week, and then the month. The last day before closure came quickly. The start and finish times of each day crept closer together and the phrase "we'll work on that after the break" was heard more frequently. Those who had not learned the stress-relief strategies of multiple daily coffees and toilet naps started to crack and requested even earlier starts to their leave.


At 3pm the night before Christmas closure Dale left the office along with the few remaining workers still billing their time.
"Merry Christmas, Dale," said Tina. "Sorry you're forced to use up your leave.

At 3pm the night before Christmas closure Dale left the office along with the few remaining workers still billing their time. "Merry Christmas, Dale," said Tina. "Sorry you're forced to use up your leave.


By 3:30pm the office was empty. Only the fluorescent light behind Karl's office door stayed lit.

By 3:30pm the office was empty. Only the fluorescent light behind Karl's office door stayed lit.


On the first day of involuntary leave Dale awoke, frowning. The light through his bedroom window was glowing brighter than it ever should have. He walked to the window to find the reason for the extra brightness and he heard the carols before he even pushed open the shutters.
The streets below were covered with snow. Under a clear sky it reflected the sunlight everywhere.

On the first day of involuntary leave Dale awoke, frowning. The light through his bedroom window was glowing brighter than it ever should have. He walked to the window to find the reason for the extra brightness and he heard the carols before he even pushed open the shutters. The streets below were covered with snow. Under a clear sky it reflected the sunlight everywhere.


Dale's colleagues had gathered on the snow below. Harold, Marcus and Tina were singing carols as they stood in front of a giant Christmas tree. Dale's eyebrow rose in curiosity.

Dale's colleagues had gathered on the snow below. Harold, Marcus and Tina were singing carols as they stood in front of a giant Christmas tree. Dale's eyebrow rose in curiosity.


I was working with Joe and Bry on a snowman. Miguel was behind a small hill, digging in the snow. I waved up at Dale and called him to join us.
Dale hurried downstairs and found himself looking up at the towering tree, confused yet intrigued.

I was working with Joe and Bry on a snowman. Miguel was behind a small hill, digging in the snow. I waved up at Dale and called him to join us. Dale hurried downstairs and found himself looking up at the towering tree, confused yet intrigued.


Miguel saw Dale arrive and ducked behind a shrub to retrieve his pile of snowballs...

Miguel saw Dale arrive and ducked behind a shrub to retrieve his pile of snowballs...


...However, before he could launch one at Dale a pre-emptive strike flew from Joe and thunked into his flannel shirt.

...However, before he could launch one at Dale a pre-emptive strike flew from Joe and thunked into his flannel shirt.


Everyone laughed, and for the first time that Christmas Closure, Dale smiled.

Everyone laughed, and for the first time that Christmas Closure, Dale smiled.


After the snowballs were spent, Santa Claus arrived and called everyone around.

After the snowballs were spent, Santa Claus arrived and called everyone around.


"Ho ho ho," he laughed. "Merry Christmas Bonus!" He passed out envelopes from his backpack to each member of the team.
"Thanks, Santa," said Joe.
"Thanks," said Tina.
They all smiled at each other.
"This is the best Christmas closure ever," said Harold. Everyone agreed.

"Ho ho ho," he laughed. "Merry Christmas Bonus!" He passed out envelopes from his backpack to each member of the team. "Thanks, Santa," said Joe. "Thanks," said Tina. They all smiled at each other. "This is the best Christmas closure ever," said Harold. Everyone agreed.


"Hey, everyone's here except Karl," said Bry. "Is he late?"

"Hey, everyone's here except Karl," said Bry. "Is he late?"


"Maybe he's on the naughty list?" laughed Joe, and he looked at Santa for confirmation.

"Maybe he's on the naughty list?" laughed Joe, and he looked at Santa for confirmation.


Dale, however, knew exactly where Karl would be: in his office, preparing tenders and writing cost-benefit analyses. All the office lights would be in power saving mode, the bins would be unemptied and in a few more days a thick carpet of stubble would cover his cheeks and be creeping down his neck.

Dale, however, knew exactly where Karl would be: in his office, preparing tenders and writing cost-benefit analyses. All the office lights would be in power saving mode, the bins would be unemptied and in a few more days a thick carpet of stubble would cover his cheeks and be creeping down his neck.


Santa tapped Dale on the shoulder, breaking the daydream.
"For you, Dale," he said and handed him an envelope.
Dale looked inside and found his Christmas bonus. He smiled, along with the rest of his colleagues. Perhaps an enforced Christmas closure wasn't so bad after all.

Santa tapped Dale on the shoulder, breaking the daydream. "For you, Dale," he said and handed him an envelope. Dale looked inside and found his Christmas bonus. He smiled, along with the rest of his colleagues. Perhaps an enforced Christmas closure wasn't so bad after all.


"Screw Karl," cried Tina. "Merry Christmas to the rest of us!"
"Merry Christmas!" the office workers said to each other. "Merry Christmas."
Santa walked away while they returned to frolic in the snow.

"Screw Karl," cried Tina. "Merry Christmas to the rest of us!" "Merry Christmas!" the office workers said to each other. "Merry Christmas." Santa walked away while they returned to frolic in the snow.


Around the corner, the red hat and fake beard removed, Karl smiled to himself.

Around the corner, the red hat and fake beard removed, Karl smiled to himself.



Note: My jQuery photo viewer thing is home-cooked and a tad buggy. If images fail to load then going back and forward again should fix the issue.

A non jQuery copy of this story can be found here.

This story is dedicated to Vanessa who put up with me spending all Christmas Eve playing with Lego.

Merry Christmas from the bradism.com team!

Sundale - A Mondale Retrospective

Five months ago I was walking home across a vacant sports field in Engadine, listening to music and thinking about story writing. This is a common scenario in my life. I had probably just listened to Rebellion (Lies) by The Arcade Fire because that song makes me think about story telling. I don't think I could ever write a major motion picture based on one of my novels without having that song somewhere on the soundtrack. I'm getting ahead of myself..

One day I would like to have movies based on my novels. Before I have novels I need to write stories, and to create stories I have to, well, write. To write you need characters and when it comes to characters I don't have many, but I do have Dale.

I've always liked writing, but I have a personality where I expect a high standard of my creations almost immediately and writing is one of those things where your first draft will almost always be rubbish. It's very easy to become discouraged. I've written a few short stories in my time, and started and left unfinished many more. I've also come up with four novel ideas in the past five years where I've written about a chapter of each before giving up. One of those books featured Dale. Two of the other story lines I figured Dale could participate in. So I thought if I was semi-motivated to write three stories I should be able to completely motivate myself to write three of them into one tale and as Dale was my most established character then it could be him being the star of an opening credit's vignette while Montreal indie rock played over the top.
And, before I'd arrived home I'd talked myself out of it completely.

After Winter came and I found myself with the time and energy constraints of a more demanding job and a longer commute it made my want to write skyrocket. Perhaps because I'd rather retire to the background of a dust-jacket photo sooner rather than later, perhaps because I started reading more than before on those long commutes, and also experiecing more inter-personal events than I did as a 100% teleworker. So, I decided to write that story of Dale, and to force me to write it I vowed I would publish one snippet every Mondale no matter how rough it was.

I'm quite happy with my decision to force myself to write, even though The Tales of Dale did not go in any of the directions that I'd originally planned. Writing to a schedule and with a target of quantity taught me a lot about how to write and what I should have done to develop and advance a plot. I learnt a lot of things I should do by learning what not to do. It was very rewarding. I received a bit of criticism for the stories I wrote, warranted, and the demand to keep producing eeked out some real stinky stuff. It also forced me to improve my writing to overcome those complaints, and by the end when I had ten thousand words of Dale stories I could see as a draft, I saw ways of pacing, foreshadowing, and hiding guns that I'd known about in theory but never been able to put into practice. A lot of the content will go through the metaphysical shredder, but I can edit, rearrange and change some of what I've written into something better.

Lastly, in this semi-apology for anyone who read through every word of every story I wrote out of love for me rather than any actual interest in the plot, I want to say that building characters is one of the coolest things that the human brain can do. Dale, Karl and to a lesser extent the rest of the gang are as three dimensional as a braille limerick as this point, but the more I wrote them the more they came to life to me. They started to do, and mainly say things that I never expected or planned to say. Sure, those things were mainly "ordering coffee" or "complaining about catching a train", but they did it themselves. It's amazing to write a dozen pages in one prolonged burst, read back afterwards and say "where did that part come from?"

I hope my readers found something worthwhile in reading Dale. He does share some qualities with me, and for that I thank him because it makes writing so much easier when you can relate to your main character. If this experience did make me a better writer then it will also hopefully mean you can read better things from me for free sometime soon. Essentially, I learnt that it's not the quality of your characters and ideas that help you write, those things help, but the most important thing is fundamentals and scheduling. It's true.

If you hate Dale, good news, he's gone for the rest of the year and you can read my upcoming thoughts about things like how to introduce polo shirts into a business shirt only office from my own perspective from now on.

End of Dales

The suburbs were waking and starting their weeks. Dale's head was pressed against a train window, watching the queues of cars idling as they glistened in the sunrise. Pressing Dale against that window was the flabby shoulder of a giant woman in a sundress. She'd eyed off the one remaining gap in the rows of facing bench seats in the carriage, put her index finger to the side of her lips to ponder and then backed herself in over two pairs of knees and filled the rest of the available space like a forkful of reheated curry landing on the middle of a keyboard. With gritted teeth Dale accepted that this was the tipping point that made the extra ten minutes of sleep worth less than the later train and tardiness it resulted in.

There is a pattern of body language cues that most peak hour commuters learn will help them escape to the exit without the need to speak whenever conditions get intimate. After the announcer declared Dale's stop as next he began the dance, sitting up straight, glancing sideways at the doors and putting his satchel on his lap. The ritual worked, but the cramped conditions slowed his progress and his feet barely arrived on the platform when the doors closed behind him and the train trundled away. Dale's usual perogative was to be the first to disembark to avoid the crowd swell around the turnstiles, today he found himself waiting to exit like everyone else.
His late arrival compounded, and with the whiff of lunchmeaty perspiration on his arm Dale felt a pang of surliness that his plan to impress Karl this week with his work ethic and professional grooming was already ruined. He wished he'd had a list of other priorities to fall back on.

At street level Dale engaged his upper-management speed strides to cover the distance remaining to the office with as much disdain for leisure as possible. He was still in second gear when he spotted Harold ahead of him, ambling at a less anxious pace. There were three options: catch Harold and listen to him talk the rest of the way; speed past with fake blindness and deal with the social guilt; or slow his roll and keep the current distance between them the rest of the trip – discarding any last hope of pseudo-punctuality. Dale voted for temporary blindness and put his head down to accelerate past the man. There was no evidence to suggest that Harold had any idea Dale was behind him. Somehow that did not stop him from being mid-sentence the instant Dale drew level.

'The air smells clean today,' he said. The speed went out of Dale's legs and he cringed as he slapped into the centre of Harold's conversational web.
'The air smells clean... today.' Dale parroted, clueless to how a statement like that should be answered but feeling his body traitorously locking into step with Harold's slower stride.
'Eventful weekend this one, for the world,' Harold stated. 'Did you see the news?'
The office loomed ahead of them but seemed to grow no bigger on the horizon as they walked. Dale felt like an interview subject being tortured by a tabloid reporter who meant to trick him into talking with open ended questions and uncomfortable silences.
'How was your weekend?' Dale asked. Finally sick of the awkwardness. 'Was there... weather?'
'Oh yes!' said Harold. 'So much to tell. And so unusual for this time of year.'
The conversation stopped abruptly as the walk brought the front of the office into view and the orgy of fire trucks and police cars was revealed. The building stood intact, but showed no sign of life or light. The two hurried closer and found the building supervisor standing in the delivery dock addressing the building's employees. Karl was not with them. Dale and Harold approached to listen when a loud bang and some crunching made him spin around. By the front doors a pair of firemen in hazmat suits were lifting two fabric walls of a cubicle assembly into a huge metal skip that was already full with more of the same.

'There has been a hazardous substance incident,' the supervisor was announcing. 'At this point we have classified the whole building as contaminated.'
There were worried murmurs from the crowd. A computer monitor and an armful of keyboards were hurled into the skip. Dale's mind turned to the fate of the last tub of yogurt he'd left the fridge over the weekend.

'What happened?' Joe asked. Dale wondered why that hadn't been his first thought, instead of yogurt.
'There is an investigation to come. We don't have any conclusive findings as of yet.
'What do we do now?' Miguel wanted to know.
'I saw Karl hurrying away with his laptop when I first arrived this morning,' responded Joe. 'Maybe he was going to the other city office?'
'Unfortunately,' the supervisor interrupted, 'due to our system of hot-desking and real estate utilisation we are already over legal capacity for workers at all our other offices. At this point if you have your laptop you can take it to our Alliance Partner McDonalds and use their free wireless, otherwise you are to return home to work as best you can and wait for further information. Someone will be in touch when we've organised alternative locations.'
Behind the supervisor Dale watched the firemen lift a cubicle wall with a Dilbert strip he'd seen every day still pinned to its padded surface onto the pile of the almost overflowing skip.
'That's all for now, please continue to check your emails over the course of the week.'

Dale left before the end of the sentence. He had lost count of the times he'd fantasized about the 9:30am train home. He did not want to wait for Harold. He knew in his heart that there was a high probablity that he would last less than a week at home before he drove back to the office in the middle of the night, dug his cubicle walls and coffee mug out of the dumpsters and reassembled his workstation in the middle of his living room. Until then he had a train station to make it to. He set off quickly, Karl style.

Penultimate Dale

The song Dale selected for his alarm on Sunday night was intended to make the following Monday morning more tolerable. He had a reoccurring experience where whatever song he woke up to would stay in his head most of the day. With that in mind Dale programmed Electric Light Orchestra's Mr. Blue Sky to keep his feet moving throughout the morning routine.
Dale's early rise was motivated by Karl, who he was finding rewarding to impress. Tuesday through Friday last week Dale had birthed a slow epiphany that hard work was sometimes worthwhile, even if it's only benefit was the satisfaction that came from completing a long period of working hard. I was a little disappointed when he told me this. I am an advocate of hard work when it's warranted, but my philosophy was to put the effort towards preventing hard work being required, not doing it unnecessarily.
'Finding easy ways to pass the day without exertion doesn't give me a reason for getting out of bed when my alarm goes off at 6am Monday morning,' he told me.
'No, it doesn't.' I replied. 'But it probably means you can sleep in.'
Dale didn't respond to any of my coffee break requests the rest of the week. He didn't give up caffeine; I saw him buying coffee with Karl instead. They both ordered espressos and finished drinking them in the lift before hurrying back to spreadsheets and shell prompts.

At the train station Dale stood in line, having not expected the queue for tickets this early in the morning to actually be longer than average. He stole agitated glances at the analogue clock above the station gates, calculating the time until his train left and dividing it by the number of people still in front of him. The early train was his goal; it would transport him to the office with enough time to send out an email to the floor's distribution list before anyone else arrived. The mail's contents were still under construction but its message was obvious.
The moment Dale finally faced his turn at the ticket machine he was, without warning, shoved backwards a step by a woman wearing an expensive, slate business suit. She did not say a word to him, merely inserted coins into the machine with her back to him and collected a ticket before walking away coldly. Dale also said nothing; she was clearly someone else's Karl.
After she left he rushed through his ticket purchase, grabbed the ticket and dashed to his platform. The train was already on approach and swarms of more leisurely commuters heading back out to the suburbs were impeding his path. He saw a shortcut - the two foot leap over the hand rail that other commuters and their bikes were forced to detour around. The train's departure was imminent and he realised it was the only way he could make it onboard, but he couldn't do it. Not in the crowded station. He followed the rest of the mass along the designated path and set foot on his platform as the carriages pulled away. Once it was out of sight he found a pole to lean against and stood, unmoving for the twenty minutes before the next train arrived. Mr Blue Sky wouldn't stop looping in his mind the entire wait.

'Where is Dale?' Joe asked the meeting room. No one had an answer; some checked their phones and came up with blank looks. Miguel looked apathetic. Karl sat at the head of the table looking increasingly perturbed at the time-sink this meeting was becoming. Harold spied a silence that ached for his voice.
'I will start by going over the action items from Friday afternoon's meeting.' He said. 'Number one...'

Karl watched Harold speak, staring at his lips that moved purposefully but couldn't produce any sound that was able to penetrate the white noise that buzzed inside his brain. Karl needed coffee and wanted drugs.
Illegal drugs.
Harold continued his summary and Karl found himself fascinated by the shape of the man's head, wondering if could be possible to tear out his skull and turn it into a makeshift coffee grinder.
'It probably wouldn't work,' he thought. 'If I could fashion a stopper out of his spine? Maybe...'
Harold was watching Karl and looked a little uncomfortable, his mouth hung slightly agape as he waited for his manager to give him some kind of prompt or response. Karl could not stop envisioning using Harold's jaws to grind Arabica beans.'
'Yes, that could work,' he said, not meaning to mutter it so loudly.
'It... It could?' Stammered Harold. 'Um, good. I'll start on it this afternoon.'
'Please, keep me posted,' instructed Karl. In his head he made a note: 'If Harold does something beneficial this afternoon, take all credit. If bad, make coffee grinder.'
'Where is Dale?' asked Joe again.

Dale sat at his desk, his email inbox beeped at him. The unread item was work for him to do. A task for him to investigate, from Karl, with clearly defined outcomes requested for him to produce. Dale smiled and inserted his headphones, ready to start pumping out deliverables to a soundtrack. He'd worked only a few minutes when the computer beeped again; loud clangs heralding another email's arrival. More jobs to do. Dale bopped his head as he typed, feeling the rhythm as he started chipping away at his tasks. Minutes later the email chimed again, three heavy rings that sounded too loud and distinct to be appropriate as email notifications. They sounded to Dale like the warning that train doors were closing.
'No. Don't be dreaming,' said Dale.
The realisation that he had been listening to his headphones for fifteen minutes without being interrupted once with a question from Miguel shocked him awake. The train he sat on jostled around a bend. The sun outside was high in a cloudless sky. Dale didn't know how many loops of the city circle he'd done so far, but he could see through the window that the skyscrapers were shrinking behind him. The train arrived where he'd originally boarded and he saw no reason at this point to make another trip back into town and he disembarked.
The station was different when the sun was directly overhead and the crowds had dispersed. He had the platform to himself as he departed and crossed over the tracks and towards the railing he'd chickened out of leaping before.
Dale looked around, the station wasn't completely empty but its occupants paid him no notice. He turned to face the railing, took a deep breath, and jumped over it. The business shoes he wore thunked onto the pavement below simultaneously and he felt his knees and hips absorb the impact in accordance with their design. He looked around, feeling a giddy rush on the same level as the only time he'd ever handed out his business card. He walked the several metres around, back up to the top of the walkway and then without hesitation jumped back down. A pair of parents were watching him now, keeping their toddlers within arm's reach as they monitored him from the other end of the platform. Dale briefly contemplated unleashing a passionate yell, but instead rounded the walkway and cleared the barrier again. A train rushed by. It was an express service and didn't stop. Dale stood back on the platform while it powered through, but intentionally left his toes over the yellow line. When it had finished passing he jumped the railing another three times and then, satisfied, he strolled out the station gates.
'What was that about?' the station guard at the exit asked him as he left.
'Whatever helps you get through a Monday, right?' he said back.
Dale whistled Mr Blue Sky's melody as he walked back towards his apartment.

Next week will be the gripping 2011 finale of Mondales. Will Dale find a way through the motivation barrier or will he succumb to the gnawing voice in his head that says there's enough evidence to justify going crazy. Will anyone at Dale's office work out what Dale's job actually is? Will I be able to use the words "cubicle", "train" and "kitchenette" in a single sentence? Tune in next Monday to find out.

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