Roger Angel

Responding to a reddit writing prompt

Roger Angel works hard. He knows his tools. His fingers fly across the screen of the smartphone with its extra large external battery pack and bar code reader, deftly processing customers at truly remarkable rates.

Management comes by every now and again to commend him.

“I’m very pleased with you,” Management says. “I just love my job,” Roger responds.

Management smiles at him, and pounds his back jovially.

Every once in a while, when there’s a new product release, Management will come by with some helpers– they re-arrange the shop, put up posters selling the new product, and assist in processing once the customers start coming in.

They haven’t really needed to come by in ages. The last time was during the a great marketing campaign for the company’s flashiest product, War. Roger had never seen such numbers in the shop, and it stirred his heart to see how efficiently they whirred through the waiting crowd, helping each customer cheerfully, congenially chatting while they helped them to their final purchase.

The success of War during that time had been foreseen to some degree. The wonks Management employed to help predict the market were able to catch the signs, the humiliation of a major power at the end of the last conflict enabling the rise to power of a small, petty, militaristic man. The nicely coincident invention of new technologies which revolutionized the ways Roger’s Company’s products could be used. The marketing guys he doesn’t trust used the word “synergize” overabundantly during that era.

Management had seen fit to remodel before hand, even on top of the expansion they had made before the preceding great campaign, which was branded The Great War, and shrouded in all kinds of militaristic kitsch, tales of honor, etc. Roger still had a soft spot in his heart for the old posters from that campaign: The man in the Officer’s Cap wearing the magnificent mustache, points his finger at the viewer; “Your country needs you,” reads the caption. It must have paid off. That was a time of record profits. Roger got a bonus at the end of it.

They hadn’t had any years like that in an awful long time. Some of the business wonks were starting to re-examine the positioning of War as the jewel in the crown, so to speak. The emergence of a single super power dramatically weakened its position in the market, and there were other, cleverer products that, though last truly successful centuries ago, were regaining their luster. Disease, always a work horse for the company, seemed to be finding ever more interesting applications– an interconnected world made certain product lines irresistible. The joke about Disease had always been that with the right marketing and sales model, almost everyone could get one; the irony being that it never seemed to work out that way.

The shop, in it’s latest incarnation is one enormous enclosure. It’s rectangular, with one solid wall, a glass roof, and glass walls on three sides. Light and airy, Roger thinks it’s ripping off the Apple store, a popular past-time among high-end retailers these days.

It’s still morning. Bright sunshine shines through the shops glass walls, but he’s reading a newspaper and drinking coffee under the halogen lights of the back office. He sips his coffee, and looks at his watch, sighs. An hour to opening.

Just then his phone rings. It’s Jerry, with logistics and provisioning:

“Hey Roger, looks like we’ve got a some merchandise coming in last minute to you, and a whole lot of it!” Jerry says.

“Alright,” says Roger, “I hadn’t heard about this, what’s in the shipment?”

“I’m not entirely sure myself, the marketing material had something to do with smashing atoms. The boys who brought it in seemed to think it’d fly off the shelf– hard to believe, since it just came in in the middle of the night last night, and that’s the first anybody’s heard of supply, let alone demand. Anyhow, some of my buddies in logistics have been up all night trying to figure out how to get the merchandise from warehouse to distribution center to retail. Should be there in twenty minutes or so.”

Roger whistled, drained the last of his coffee and went to the loading doc to oversee the arrival.

When it arrives he knows this is big. The shipment is an 18 wheeler, looking awkward in the little loading dock, full of around thirty thousand units. Each unit bears a smart logo: three yellow triangles inscribed in a circle, arranged symmetrically. Once the stocking is done, he checks his watch and sees it is time to open for the day.

He walks to the sales floor, and can already see the people in a snaking line around the block.

“Oh boy,” he sighs to himself. He looks at his sales team, all recently arrived, takes a deep breath, and opens the door.

The people flood in, more than he imagined could fit in the store, all of them clamoring and toying with the new kit– Some of them are trying on Radiation, a peculiar intersection of War and Disease nobody thought would do much. Others are all about Fiery Explosion with it’s dramatic, jagged red and orange splashes of color. The patient, or perhaps just budget conscious seem curiously attracted to futures for Crop Failure, Starvation. Even Suicide is selling well. The best seller, by far, is Fire Storm in the City, firmly in War’s product line.

None of this makes sense to Roger. Handgun is hardly budging. Malaria, usually a strong seller, isn’t moving at all. In the off seconds he gets between helping customers fit themselves into their new burns, radiation poisoning, or shrapnel, he wonders if he should call up the guys in charge of keeping Mosquitos healthy and at large, just to see what’s going on over there. It’s hard to see how one aging kleptocracy, barely able to feed its people (this is the story he gleaned from the truck driver), was able to spike so much demand for such an unusual combination of products.

He’s glad the shipment came in time for opening this morning, but as he notes what’s selling and how much, he realizes they won’t have enough to satisfy the crowd still snaking down the block. It’s all mercilessly computerized– you don’t get to be big like this without certain efficiencies of process, but he still feels its prudent to call Jerry himself to make sure he knows what’s coming.

He grows weary as the day wears on. Ashen snow flurries down from oddly shaped clouds. A sheet of inky rain blankets the roof, and he puts a call in to maintenance to get it cleared off. He knows how important it is to keep up appearances.

He barely breaks for lunch, swigs another coffee and munches a power bar before wading back in to help with the crowds. Staff had been moving fast all morning and still they come. He’s running low on inventory, and his people are growing tired.

He puts in two hours of overtime once the next shift leader comes in, finally getting off at seven. He walks home, shoving his way through customers still eager for Wars popular sequel, Desolation. It’s dark unusually early, and very cold for spring. He gets home, microwaves a tv dinner, props up his legs on the easy boy and eats.

After dinner, it occurs to him that should the rates he saw today continue much longer, they might finally realize the old company dream of bringing a product to every person alive. Even those they don’t reach today will surely buy a budget product like Suicide as they see all their friends buy in! With this happy thought, he lies his head down to his rest.