The Almost Heroic Octopus

May 1, 2018

        Brantley was an overly optimistic octopus who worked at the post office in the postage sorting department. Brantley’s work production unquestionably stood out from the other clerks at the branch, as he could sort letters at ease to eight customers with a single swish of his tentacles.  The downside of this situation was that the mail received by Brantley’s customers was often retrieved in a damp and often sopping state, which was prone to receive vigorous complaints and highly critical reviews. Brantley knew that as an organism that was traditionally bound to sea life that it was in his nature to carry a certain level of moisture that was rare in un-aquatic lifestyles.  He knew it, he knew that he was naturally moist and that he could never truly be a perfect government employee, which was the one thing he sought to be.

        Charles held a position of employment at the same post office.  His situation was marked, however, by extreme external and internal differences.  Firstly, Charles was not moist. Charles was rather dry, in his physical state and his emotional aptitude.  He was an older man, probably around halfway through his life, who had a simple goal of getting through the day in pursuit of returning home to the same hot meal and primetime television he enjoyed every day.  To label Charles as a bad worker would be in false pretenses, as he met all of the requirements set forth by upper management. He was often described as “average” in all aspects of assessment, and he wouldn’t wish to be described in any other way.

        It would be natural for these two low level government employees from different departments to view each other with emotional indifference.  That, however, was not the case. Charles and Brantley were the first employees to enthusiastically greet in the morning and always closed with a courteous adieu at five PM.  In between the routine niceties exchanged throughout the day, the pair tried to coordinate their lunch breaks for a passionate conversation of comic book heroes, a shared hobby of them both.  They discussed potential victors of villain and super hero match-ups and debated the strengths and weaknesses of the few brands. Their favorite topic to fantasize about was how different their lives would be if they themselves had super powers.

        “If I had super powers,” Brantley would beam, “I would be able to grow even more arms! Maybe sixteen! I could do my job twice as fast!”

        “I would want to be invisible,” Charles would say, “I could just sneak behind shipping and help you, so I wouldn’t hold up my own lines.”

        The day dreamers would continue back and forth for the entirety of their designated thirty minute meal break.  Brantley always wishing to be more spectacular in order to avoid the constant criticism of his performance, and Charles wishing for anything to make his day-to-day just a little bit easier.  But regardless of their wild alternative realities, at the end of their lunch break Charles would saunter to the front counter, Brantley to the sorting room, and they would continue their lives as they always had been.

        On one particularly busy day at the post office, Charles overheard a sweeping symphony of erratic apologies echoing from the receiving room. Of course he didn’t want to intervene or have to take on a possible responsibility outside of his own, but his curiosity for his friend got the best of him as he peeked his head around the corner.   The sight that visited him next was not a surprise, but the lack of surprise did not make it a less unsettling sight. Brantley was invisible under a massive pile of sopping envelopes that spanned the entirety of the sorting room. Charles stared in terror as one of Brantley’s tentacles mustered it’s way through the postage rubble and into view.

        “Brantley! What happened?!” Charles asked as he walked towards the wreckage.

        “I don’t know.  I was a super hero.  I was doing the best I’d ever done and people were cheering for me.”

        “This isn’t lunch break anymore.  Brantley, I don’t have powers. You don’t have powers.  Fantasizing too much will just ruin the little you already have.  Don’t try to be a hero just do your job.” Charles turned to leave.

        “Charles, wait! You need to save me, I’m going to be in so much trouble.  I might lose my job. I know I’m an octopus, and that it’s not my place to achieve success in this type of environment, but I want to so badly.”

        “I’m not a hero.  It’s not my job to save you, it’s my job to deliver packages.  Well to prep packages for delivery and various administrative tasks, but you know what I mean.”  Charles wasn’t trying to be dramatic or to create a scene. He had always been very proud of the fact that he understood who he was and what his limitations were.  If he was able to get home at the end of the day without screwing up any of his miniscule duties he was pleased and slept like a baby. Brantley was his friend, but Charles knew that stepping outside of his boundaries would be dangerous, if he started day dreaming like Brantley he could find himself in the same position.  So, he kept walking and sat back at his post in the front of the office.

        This was exactly the type of position Brantley knew that he would find himself in.  In all of the comic books he had read, the heroes were always unheroic until adversity forced them into action.  Especially after having his good friend question his heroics he knew that if anything he needed to prove to Charles that being heroic was anything but a waste of time.  In a moment of grandiose emotional momentum Brantley thrust forward through the pile of letters, to unsuccessful results. Brantley knew that success usually didn’t happen on the first try so he thrust forward again and was able to free one of his tentacles.  Letter by letter he began to toss the mail aside and reveal his other tentacles to do the same.

        There it was.  Just an empty room, an overly optimistic octopus, and an unusually large amount of moist letters scattered across the receiving room floor.  Brantley sat and watched as silence and stillness consumed his embarrassed mind. Charles sat in his front desk overcome with a feeling of guilt for leaving his friend in a state of distress, but still content for following his very specific set of instructions.  The clock struck the hour of five and both of the low-level government employees went home.

 

 

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© 2023 by MCLA Spires.