Tucker was dreaming:
He was in a small room with a low ceiling. There were too many doors for it to be his bedroom, but it looked similar. He walked through the closest door to him without thinking, and it lead straight back, only this time he entered the room through a different door, but he barely noticed; he simply did not want to notice, and without thinking again - unpanicked and passive - he strode through the door closest to him. He remembered nothing as he walked from door to door, from room to identical room. He felt only the immediate small sphere of his vision, the short-lived pleasure of believing he'd escape beyond the next door, and the crushing disappointment that awaited him on the other side, of reality.
He awoke to the sound of a man calling out numbers that for reasons he did not know meant something to him: "Twelve-twenty," the voice bellowed, "Twelve-twenty?" The room was a long, tall rectangle with white walls brightened by the squares of lights in the ceiling. The carpet was brown with wet, muddy footprints.
"Identification number," said the man behind a tall desk. Tucker seated himself in a low seat and looked up at him. His dark eyes remained very still, fixated upon a close computer's screen that was not visible to Tucker. "Your identification number, what is it?"
"Seventeen, thirty-four, cue, nine million -"
"Don't know what the hell you're saying," said the employee, groaning. "Just say single numbers and letters."
"One, seven, three, four, cue, nine, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. Zero, double-u, one."
"Your network number."
"I don't have it on me," said Tucker, pointlessly checking his pockets.
"Wait," whispered the employee. His head stumbled with an expression of doubt and fear. "What?"
"Yeah, sorry. I-uh, I don't have my network number with me. I told you guys last week that I'd ..." - the employee's lost eyes met Tucker's own. They looked at each other for a long time - "lost it? Someone told me last week that they'd be able to recover it for today. I don't suppose you've heard about it, or that if you hadn't perhaps you might know a way to find something like this out? My name's-"
"No one can't have said that," said the employee.
"I don't know who it was; I don't know anyone's name here."
A slow smile crawled up the employee's cheek. He smerged his playdough like hands together, and from them stubby fingers shot downward, simulating a podgy pistol pointing toward Tucker's groin. "You think they weren't joking?"
"Why would they joke about such a thing?"
"Because-you-retard! Duh, it's like, impossible to re-get a network number. You - at the very least - won't be seeing it in a week, that's for certain, nah, whoever told you this was having you on, you fuckin' retard." The employee laughed deeply with an open mouth and without shame. Tucker felt bad for not joining in; soon enough he found he was smiling, then laughing, too.
"I will get paid though?"
The employee stroked at his chins thoughtfully, still chuckling.
"Couldn't I just say who I am?" said Tucker, shaking his head. "Then you can check the records and messages, maybe someone might have left you a note."
"No, I can't do that. How would I ever know that it's the real you? You may have heard the name from somewhere else, or stolen that there card you've got." He waved a hand dismissively and resumed looking into his computer. "Yeah, I see it. don't get it out. It could be anyone's. The photograph could have been edited on to make it appear as though it belongs to you. How do I know you ain't a criminal, sitting there and looking up at me, expecting me to pay you, where you may already be employed? There's a lot of them scum coming in here each day, you know - or so they tell me. How do I know you ain't taking me for a ride?"
"Look," started Tucker, not knowing what to say, or what to feel, or how to show what he was feeling if he knew what it was. The pause grew. I feel sad, he thought, but I don't want to look sad to prove it. I guess I could wipe my eyes? I could bite my lip to show how angry I am? I shouldn't. But the pause grew, and Tucker had accomplished nothing within it and would accomplish nothing from it. With a straight face and a forced smile he said, "I've got no money. I mean, I have enough. I'm not starving. But, look at me. Look at my clothes. I'm wearing a tracksuit with trainers and no underwear. I can't even afford to get a haircut." He tugged at a few straw like strands that he'd like to have believed had been flickering below his eyes for a while now, and wore a nodding expression of persuasion. "Doesn't that count for something."
"Not really," replied the employee, "and again, you could've stolen them clothes and paraded yourself as a twat just to make more money."
"I can remember the first couple of digits of my -"
"Numbers. Of my netword card."
"Great! Go on, then."
"I think it's eight, four, nine -"
"Yes!" said Tucker, fists punching toward the ceiling, not quite knowing if his joy was sincere or not.
"What's your name, mate? Oh, it doesn't matter; I see you." He pulled a face at his computer screen. "And, how long have you been here?"
"Four years? Are you sure? Think about it." The employee looked at him with his tongue playfully skipping from one side of his mouth to the other.
"But, you said four years first. Look here, I have it," - the employee pointed at his screen whilst licking his lips, but made no attempt to show it to Tucker - "I have it all here, but to earn your allowance you should've been able to give me a straight answer." The employee looked down at Tucker with his mouth open, his tongue suddenly stiff. Tucker expected him to say something, but nothing was said, and for a long time - ten seconds, thirty seconds, a minute, or more - nothing happened.
"On today's show," said the employee, "Tucker arrives at the employment finders office, hoping to find work. He waits patiently for his name to be called, thinking and dwelling on his mother's recent death - a five year losing battle with cancer - his father beats him regularly." A sadness appeared in the employee's squishy face that had not existed (or had not been noticed by Tucker) before. "Go on. Give us your name, then," he said, his face glowing with a reassuring smile.
"It's Tucker, Tucker Moon." Tucker said flatly, hesitantly and with an unwanted thought to follow it with and what the fuck is wrong with you, you stupid fat fuck?
"Wait. Sorry, I shouldn't have asked that; I don't know why I did. I guess I was just trying to make you feel better. It says here that your name - what was it again? it doesn't matter - it's a match, but again I can't give you anything. You could have lied."
A printer groaned, a computer's speaker clucked, and the ringing of a phone slowly bit into the atmosphere and at Tucker's ears, into his skull, his brain. The employee whipped up a sheet of paper from nowhere, holding it out - not far enough.
"Fill this form out."
"I won't get paid, then?" asked Tucker.
"Well, it's compulsory to do these tests if you have a meeting. No, you won't get paid. Even if by some miracle you manage to recover your network number by next week - I doubt you will - you'll still have to confirm that you were here, the week before, but that's simply not possible, not without a network card at this present meeting, but ... " His voice trailed off. Tucker looked to a poster hanging slightly slanted behind the employee's head and thought despairingly of the bus ride home. Out of his eyes' corners he scanned the walls, hoping to find a clock, and failing; the motivational poster had charmed him. A face large enough to obscure its ears, the bottom of its chin and most of its forehead - a smiling, cheerful, elderly man's face with eyes blissfully shut - beamed back at him, overwhelming him, undermining him. The longer Tucker looked at it, the broader the smile became. There was small lettering beneath its thin lower lip that he could not quite read. Two words: the first was 'Be', but he could not read the second.
"What's the time, mate?" he said, tearing his eyes away from it. "It won't take too long, will it - to fill out this form?"
The employee's eyes flashed, not to Tucker's own but beneath and undoubtedly to the tracksuit he was wearing. He could almost see a thought churning behind their cow-like windows: I wouldn't know; I've never needed to complete such a form myself because I have a job. However his eyes were blank and back to looking at a glass screen before either of them could blink.
"Can I borrow a pen, mate?" he asked.
"Don't be retarded - I don't have one." replied the employee.
Tucker gently tugged and released the form after slowly leaning forward in his chair. "Do you ever feel like all of the good stories have been told?" He now wondering why he'd bothered to take the form, or why the employee hadn't protested, for each of them knew to the fullest extent that the form could not be completed without a pen. "Do you ever feel like all of the good lives have been lived? What are we doing?"
"I'm making a living," breathed the employee, "and I feel pretty good doing it." He answered this without moving save for an obvious expression of self-congratulation and smugness.
Tucker reached into his trowsers and grabbed his penis. It was erect within a few slow gropes. His eyes went back to the poster and rising to his feet he shuffled awkwardly toward it. The employee's face twitched whilst trying to resist looking at the movement behind the nylon material. "What are you doing? You can't do that in here, not in front of me."
Tucker wanted to reply, but was preoccupied. Be - what? he thought whenever his mind was not fixated upon the images of pornography now darting like flames between his ears, becoming warmer and moaning encouragement.
'Be Independant!' it read.
Tucker's hand stopped, and with his other he reached for the top of the poster, the old man's large, lined forehead. "Please don't do this," came a voice from behind him, but he could barely hear anything now, not beneath the sounds of his fantasies growing wilder and louder, and more terrified, and Tucker's hand grabbed the poster, and now he no longer felt aroused, or anything else - nothing - and he left his pulsing erection to deflate and crammed as many fingers from both hands as he could between the poster and the white wall and lifted his leg and kicked his trainer into the wall to gain anchorage and trying to rip through it he failed: the plastic wallet he could not see and the staples he had not noticed reflected his efforts, sending him hurling backwards, swaying, dizzy, the voices in his head screaming, his arms flailing uselessly. He fell, bottom first onto the carpet, but using the momentum from the fall used it to roll backwards and onto his feet.
"What?" said the employee, wincing, shaking his head as if he'd witnessed something that could never happen. "Wait, woah. What are .. the fuck are you doing?"
"That poster," said Tucker, pointing, angry. He could feel his erection growing again. "It's pointless. It's ri-god-damn-diculous."
The employee laughed at his joke. "Man, that's funny. You're retarded. You're great - I think you're great. But retarded." He looked away from Tucker and stood up, filling his chest with air. "Twelve-fourty."
Tucker was dreaming: