Driven: a short story.
"Did you know they're calling you 'Slayer'?"
Peter's fingers stroked the fuzzy walls of the cubicles as he passed. He turned his head at hearing this - he didn't know.
"Yeah. It's something I've always thought, fuck, sure, why not?"
Though he stared at his hands for some time, he never noticed his knuckles were beaten; a dark brown and red."Well, it means something today, Pete. You killed man. You fucking killed in that meeting."
Peter nodded, lips slightly pursed. He found this to be his most useful expression - he admired the way smokers could pause and give weight to any moment. He strived to emulate that effect with a firm nod.
"I dunno if I can take the credit...I was just the right guy at the right time with the right team." Humility here, he thought. He could afford it.
"Well you stepped up. They failed. End of story." Then mock whispering, "...Slayer."
They'd reached Peter's desk. Peter nodded again and gave his co-worker the thumbs-up sign with his left hand as he jabbed at his mouse with the right. The monitor sprang to life - dozens of emails waited unread.
He scanned the subjects. "Congrats" and "Great work" were repeated often. He decided to read them later. They weren't important enough. Praise played second-fiddle to putting out fires. And he'd just put out a business fire the size of motherfucking Hiroshima.
"Pete!" A finger and thumb in gun formation floated near the open cube wall. "Looks like this time next week, I'm gonna be reporting to you! That was a breath of fucking fresh air in there."
Peter toggled quickly away from his email. And said without turning: "You'll need hazard pay. I'm committed to this project and I'm going to ask for matching commitments from my team. This deal is the One. This is a deal with vision." He turned around. "That's something that's been lacking around here."
The voice outside the cube softened. "No shit, man. I have faith. If you're blazing the trail, then I'd be happy to be the -y'know- cook on your wagon train or whatever." Then even less certain, head down: "Won't mind getting my hands dirty for this."
Peter had already turned back to his computer before his co-worker had finished. "Glad to hear it," he said while closing his email and shutting down. "Now, get outta my cube and go have fun before the shitstorm starts. That's what I'm planning to do." He turned off his monitor. "Right now, in fact."
Everything was in place. Locked and loaded. Peter marched to his car...
...and never took notice that he nodded gravely in beat to his stride. He rode away quickly, a slick silver rocket, jerking his shiftstick like a police baton.
Within a few miles, traffic slowed. And red light piled upon red light. Bored, Peter took out some gum and chewed forcefully. His phone rang and he grasped for it; a lifeline.
"What?" he yelled. "No. Stuck in traffic." Chewing. "It's bullshit. I can barely get around this fucking town anymore." A nearby dirty brown sedan accelerated hard and pushed into his lane. Peter stepped hard on the brake. He jerked the phone away from his face. "Hey! Asshole! We're all trying to get somewhere. What. The. Fuck." Phone to face again: "No, it's some jerk. Why?" Peter listened and his fingers stiffened on the steering wheel.
"No! That is complete crap!"
Peter's mouth set into a hard thin line. "I will be taking care of that bit of disconnect as soon as I get in tomorrow. So - so - so, just keep it to yourself." Breathing hard, more in control: "I have some leverage here and can make a serious play. Don't scare the troops." He shut the phone slowly.
A car honked. Twice.
Peter gunned his engine and shot out of his lane to the shoulder. Racing down an off-ramp, he jerked the car into the empty lot of a factory.
Hitting the dashboard with a open hand: "Damn! Damn! Damn! Damn!"
He opened the car door and flung himself toward a concrete wall. Without pause, Peter began to punch it furiously. He used the full force of his weight and could only manage a few punches before the pain made him crumple.
Gasping and staring at the ground, he steadied himself with both arms extended, palms flat. Minutes passed, and his heavy breathing eventually steadied. Though he stared at his hands for some time, he never noticed his knuckles were beaten; a dark brown and red.
Peter climbed into his car and sat.
With little fuss, and for some time, he repeatedly turned the keys and the ignition on - and off - and on again.