Note from Brian:
For September 2017, I’m posting “Mama’s Sleeping,” another brand new story.  As I’ve mentioned before, don’t be surprised if there are changes (maybe lots of changes!) between this version and the one that eventually appears in print. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thank you again for your support! — BJF

“Mama’s Sleeping”
by Brian James Freeman

Someone had shoveled the crumbling sidewalk, and Jacob was grateful for that small favor as he made his way toward the brick apartment building, but he was also fairly certain he should have called off sick like most of his coworkers apparently had. Temperatures in the teens, wind chill less than zero, and most of his stops so far had required him to trudge through two feet of snow from the previous week’s storm.

He wondered again what he was doing with his life. This was no way to make a living. Not only was the pay significantly less than the vo-tech program had promised, but people genuinely seemed to hate him. Sometimes kids threw snowballs or chunks of ice at his distinctive red and white work van with the VeriNet logo on the side. Adults yelled things he couldn’t hear over the drone of the engine, although he was surprisingly good at reading lips when it came to the nasty names he was called.

Jacob had spent time in the joint and he never would have guessed that “cable repair technician” might end up being the most despised thing he could be known for. Some days he felt like public enemy number one, as if people thought he was personally responsible for the lies the flashy VeriNet advertisements used to get suckers locked in for two years of substandard service.

That said, he had a job to do–a job he did appreciate having, given his record–so here he was, making his way past the battered cars sleeping in the snow valleys their owners had excavated. There were also dozens of vehicles still cocooned in dirty mountains of ice, either because they were abandoned or because no one cared enough to liberate them. This had once been a nice part of town, maybe fifty years ago, but now you wouldn’t want to be caught walking these streets after dark.

Jacob entered the lobby of the apartment building. Three of the overhead lights were busted and a fourth flickered as if taking a few last gasps of breath before dying. The green tile floor was wet with melted snow. A trashcan overflowed with junk mail. There was a dark puddle that Jacob slowly realized was blood no one had bothered to clean up.

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