The Protagonist

Getting to work and finding you have a new trainee is like waking up to find some new pain in your toe, getting in your car and realizing a tire has gone flat, or going for leftover a hamburger only to find someone has eaten it.

Essentially, it ruins your damn day.

“Too bad,” Jim says.

“I’m Tony!” Tony says, eagerly.

“George,” I mutter.

“Coolio.” Tony says.

A back-ache, two flat tires; someone only left the soggy lettuce in the moist Styrofoam container.

I sigh. I walk to the security desk. I motion for Tony to go get his credentials checked. Tony does. He chirps away at Brandon. Brandon rolls his eyes at me but, lets him through.

In the elevator down Tony tells me all about his morning for exactly three seconds.

“So, today I decided to go—“

“Shut up.”

He pouts the rest of the way down.

“What do we do here?” Tony tries, once we make it into the office. I open the shade on the window. A man lays in a hospital bed on the other side, unconscious.

“We watch. If he moves, we press that button,” I point to the big red button, “if anyone goes in that room, we push that button, If anything at all happens out of the ordinary, we push that button, got it?”

Tony nods. I sit down and stare out the window at that same sleeping face I’ve been looking at for the past thirty years. Tony bucks up some courage within two minutes.

“Who is he?”

I groan.

An ear infection, the engine is bust, the hamburger has gone south.

“The protagonist.”

Tony frowns, “of what?”

“Our story, whatever that means, The science guys call it our dimension but, who knows.”

“You mean, like in a book.”

I shrug, “I guess. Didn’t they tell you any of this?”

“They said you’d explain,”

I grunt, “pricks, of course they did.”

Tony waits.

“Well?” he asks.

“Well, what?”

“What the heck do you mean protagonist?”

I shrug, “if it’s easier, you could think of him as the center of the universe. Basically, without him, we all stop existing so, you know, eyes open.”

Tony was taking it all pretty well for being so fragile looking.

“So, you think God might just be some guy whose writing about this guy here?”

I think about it, then raise my hands, non-committal. “If that comparison helps, sure.”

“But, what is his story about?”

“Dunno. Above my pay grade. Knowing what’s above your pay grade is as good as anything there is to know,” I say.

Tony eyes me suspiciously, “That sounds like just the kind of nonsense a writer would say,” he pauses, “how do you know he didn’t just write—what, what is his name?”


Tony motions to the unconscious man in the hospital bed.

“Dan? Or David?” I say, unsure.

“Okay, well how do you know the writer didn’t just write all this, like, David slept for one hundred years, Tony and George watched, bored.”

A missing limb, someone stole the car, the burger has been turned into a turd sandwich.

“I’m going to the bathroom,”

I stand up.

“Wait, what does the red button do?” Tony asks.

I look at the red button.

“Above my pay grade,” I tell him, and walk out.