Todays February Writing Challenge, took another one of the 5 minute exercises and expanded it out. This one disturbed me a little as I had to recall all the things that people with obsessive compulsive behaviour. Then apply those habits and routines that they would use to start their mornings. Exercise is to show in detail through the character the effects of OCD, and not use the words “obsessive compulsive”.
I wasn’t disturbed at how the character got to that point, but the willing fact that I put in one event which upset the whole routine. I don’t think I’ve done the main point of this story justice. I’ll probably come back to it at a later date. Or scrap it entirely and never broach the subject again. Not unless it’s for a really interesting character that I will use time and again. I am reminded of Murder on the Orient Express, where Poirot begins his nightly chores of waxing his moustache, etc. Seemed so neat and precise, think I borrowed some of that here.
As well, I’ve never wrote a guy character named Shannon. Until now. Apologies to those with OCD, I know I haven’t described the symptoms or did enough research for this. And to guys named Shannon.
Shannon dreamed of grid paper, immaculate and precise in white blue fluorescent. Unspoiled by mark of ink or graphite. The hint of a smile contrasted the brow which furrowed in stress. The alarm rang four times, his hand smoothly ran across the crisp linen sheets to tap the snooze button twice, then reached for the switch to turn the alarm off. He looked to the upper corner of the room that displayed the time in bright green LED’s.
Blinking twice, he sat up slowly, allowing the sleep to be left behind. He swung his feet over the side of the bed into the slipper loafers. Grabbing the folded bundle of laundry from yesterday, he stepped deftly to the laundry nook and placed yesterdays clothing that he held into the washer. Taking the cups he filled the night before, added the soap and softener to the load. Nodding in approval to the awaiting chore, he stopped and looked to the upper corner of the room and was pleased that the green LED lights showed he was ahead of schedule this morning.
Shannon was comfortable in the rut of habits he had. It wasn’t so much of what he did, but the precision which pleased him, the efficiency soothed against the chaos which lay outside his door. He unrolled the yoga mat in front of the clothes washer. Kneeling down he deftly fired off five pushups then lay on the mat, rolled over and fired off five situps. Eyes once again looked up to the time then stretching out his length slowly reached forward to his toes five times. His head spun a little but he was pleased at his progress so far this morning. The washer kicked into the next cycle and Shannon stood up, putting away the mat. It was a bit stubborn and would not roll right, frowning he lay it out on the ground again, and counted the hand curls it took to roll it up. He did miss the one, and reminded himself that a job can be done well the second time around. The clock reported that he was now just on time, due to his minor setback.
No time to waste, to the crisp clean bathroom, everything laid out in precise 90 degrees to the counter. Shannon found that he slept easier knowing that the specialty toothpaste he ordered came with a straight tube instead of a traditional cone tube. To stay with that would have ruined the precise lines and Shannon could not have that. He tolerated the bend in the toothbrush, barely, but managed to keep those thoughts away by counting the strokes for each tooth. When he reached 40 he moved to the next two teeth. Precisely half way through, he put more paste on the brush and continued, his tongue tingling from the paste was not unpleasant. Rinsing and swishing 10 times for each side. He allowed the luxury of only gargling once with mouth wash, and tried not to think of what would happen if he actually had to leave his house. Checking the clock in the upper right hand corner, he was still on schedule.
He quickly washed his hands and then after squirted some hand sanitizer into them. He counted the degrees as he turned the taps on the shower, then after the bathroom had sufficiently filled with steam, he forced his body under the blazing hot blast of water. After drying himself off with the one large white towel, and one small hand towel, Shannon decided it was a good start to the day.
Expeditiously walking to the kitchen, fourteen steps. Hands found bleach wipes and began running the sterilizing liquid over all of the surfaces. He stopped counting the times it took to go back and forth, as that did not match what he did yesterday. Finally after stepping on the lid pedal for the garbage, he dropped the lone sanitizer sheet in.
The toaster and coffee maker gleamed as he took them out from under the counter. Almost frowning at the fingerprints into the stainless steel surface, there was something amiss. A vibration, a sound, spilling and water. His eyes glanced upwards to the upper corner of the room noting the time then rushing to the laundry nook.
Steel cold fear and shock ran through his gut. Soapy dirty water puked forth from the washer churning out and heaving it’s load. A puddle encroached the china white carpet with the inevitable speed of an iceberg. Shrieking, he ran to the supply cabinet, quickly grabbing a fresh new mop. Tearing the plastic away from it, he did manage to get the wrapper near the garbage can. Half way through mopping up the water, he stopped went back to the kitchen and dealt with the errant plastic wrapper to find his bagel was burned, and the coffee maker pinging happily that it’s job was complete.
The green lights of the clock glared down at him as he rushed back to the laundry nook with papertowels and garbage bags in hand. Shannon rushed trying to sop up all of the mess and then looking to the clock again, felt another shock of guilt through his system.
He forced down the bagel then spotted his hands. They were filthy. Thoughts of all those remaining fibers of cloth, dead skin cells, and remaining dirt that was drying on his skin made his stomach retch.
Back to the bathroom, he dared not look up to the identical clocks that glared, but risking a glance, he saw the numbers flashing 12:00 over and over again. The tension ran across his shoulders as he returned to the supply cabinet, removed the 9v battery from the pack. He went to the three places where the shopping lists were kept and updated for 1 battery. He couldn’t forget something if he did it that way.
He had to start over.
Back to the laundry nook, he unrolled the yoga mat across the neatly mopped floor and performed the same exercises again. This time, he unplugged the clothes washer, then returned to the bathroom again. Under the blazing hot shower until his stomach stopped heaving, Shannon decided he would have to have the washer sent out. Can’t have other people in the apartment, no that wouldn’t do.
Even under the shower, he sweated again, cleansing out. He would have to double time it now, out of the shower, grabbing the coffee and burned bagel and cleaning supplies he quickly clothed himself and ran upstairs.
Unlocking the door to his office, he quickly grabbed the ringing phone.
“Shannon, it’s John. Listen, I had a great brainstorming idea and the clients want to meet on this.”
“Oh?” Another shock of fear ran through Shannons system. The anxiety built up already running rampant with the looming of the clock.
“Listen, I know you do your best from home, it’s just for lunch, okay?”
Shannon looked at the green clock and saw that it was approaching lunch. He would have to hurry through his rituals before leaving the house. “Al-yeah, yes. I’ll be there. Could you do me a favor though? What’s the weather like?”
“Windstorm, kicking up dust from the valley, wear a hat, it might rain later on.”
“Yeah Shannon, hey you can’t grow a garden in a sterile environment. See you at the Barking Hound at noon.”
Shannon absently hung the phone back up, saw that he had spilled a perfect quarter sized droplet of his coffee. He used the cleaning supplies then regretfully looked to the blinds. He had to work them a little, trying to remember which way they went.
The caramel sky reflected the amount of dust and wind for the day, setting a beige light into his office. Stray pieces of paper eddied and lifted up on an updraft. Trees swayed back and forth from the storm winds.
His mouth went dry. It was all falling apart. He would have to go out. Into that place. With the dirt. And the people with their greasy hands, spreading the germs. The habits wouldn’t protect him out there.
But that was mother nature, dirty and invasive and the true order of things.