Vignette:The Future Isn’t Here Yet

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The Future Isn’t Here Yet
Somewhere in Ostovo's working class neighborhoods
The Present

od damn, it’s cold as hell outside”, a stout short man walked in, slamming the door behind him and sending dust flying across the old cellar. A dim light illuminated the room where four men sat around a large cable reel fashioned into a cheap but rather comfortable table. Their surroundings were dusty and grimy, clearly showing signs of not having been maintained or cleaned in several days or maybe weeks or months. Several empty bottles of assorted alcohol types and brands were strewn across the floor from past days of drinking. The men were all still wearing their work uniforms, all of them from the same local foundry in Ostovo. It was clear they had already spent several hours drinking.

“Garei! Took you long enough, you fat fuck,” one of the men shouted from across the room. The table burst into laughter at the remark, which clearly stung the large man a little. He quickly brushed the banter aside and walked down the stairs to sit by his side. “Angielo, I’m going to slap you across your bald head if you keep that up,” Garei responded. Once again, laughter exploded among the men. He continued shortly after, with a slightly exasperated expression across his round face. “It took forever for them to release me today. Major issues with the machinery; had to essentially fix a few sectors entirely by myself because the new guy was slacking off, the fucker.” He sighed and looked around the table for a second, plenty of half-empty bottles of a wide variety of alcohol ranging from beer to strong spirits. “Pass me a bottle will you Angielo? Make yourself useful for once.” Angielo grunted at the idea of having to get up from his little stool. Nevertheless, he conceded and got on his feet to bring a few bottles from storage. His lanky figure moved across the room rather ungracefully, trying to avoid kicking across the room any of the many old bottles of beer and spirits across the floor.

“So new guy, huh? Know the name or just some temporary worker?” A scruffy bearded man asked from across the table, scrubbing his beard with one hand and holding onto his glass of spirits on the other.

“Temporary, not going to last a week if he keeps that shit up.” Garei retorted before looking back at Angielo and telling him to hurry. Grunting again, Angielo brought back six bottles of beer, a cheap generic brand, in between his long sleek fingers.

“Yeah, they really don’t last shit here, bunch of teenagers with no understanding of what hard work is. Today’s generation is fucked really, it’s-“ The man was quickly interrupted by the youngest one at the table.

“Ah come on Coan, not that again.” The rest of the men chuckled.

“Listen here, boy,” Coan interjected in a noticeably angry tone and to the chagrin of everyone at the table. “Your generation doesn’t know shit about what living in this country was like! You are a ’99 baby, you were born into good living. We had to deal with the civil war and decades of crises, now you reap all the benefits by yourselves.” His face quickly turned red with anger and it started to discomfort everyone at the table. The young man rolled his big green eyes and sighed.

“Coan, I think we should go back to drinking, I don’t feel like having this conversation again.” He took a swig of his glass of beer. “Let’s just agree to disagree, alright?” He tipped his glass towards the man; the bearded man stared at him for a few seconds before making a dismissive hand gesture and going back to drinking. The rest of the men showed clear signs of relief that the situation didn’t escalate into violence as it had already done in the past.

The fifth man at the table, the most silent of them all, grabbed a cigarette from his long winter coat’s pocket and played with it for a few seconds before putting it in his mouth. “Oi, Adan, you know what we say about smoking in the cellar, chief.” Angielo interjected, Adan sighed and stood up slowly, his body looked rather frail but he was no older than 50.

“You bastards are huffing machine fumes all day and worry about my cancer stick? I’ll be back in 15.” he shuffled up the stairs slowly and out of the cellar. One could imagine his bones creaking all the way up as he anxiously played with the cigarette between his fingers.

“He’s not wrong, you know.” the young man said, causing the rest of the table to stare at him, clearly tired of the topic. “Hey, I’m just saying. Anyway…” he continued with an anxious tinge in his tone of voice. “Council elections are coming and I was thinking that-“ A groan erupted across the table from the older men.

"You have to be fucking kidding, right?” Coan erupted in anger, showing clear frustration at the young man. “How many times do we have to tell you? No politics at the table, especially not your kind of democratic socialist bullshit. We don’t want to get bagged because of you.”

“All I’m saying is- The man tried to continue before Coan quickly stood up, casting his large shadow over the smaller young man.

“All I’m saying is shut up before I shut you up.” Everyone stared silently for what seemed like an eternity before Angielo also stood up slowly and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Oi, Coan, calm down. He’s just a kid.” Coan stared him down for a few seconds before giving a little annoyed shrug and sitting down again.

“He’s 23, he’s no fucking kid. He knows what he’s doing. These dumbasses love to talk about their little dream utopia but don’t realize the consequences of their actions. They don’t know what living through the war was and they won't until they cause a new war of their own! Garei put two fingers on the bridge of his nose, clearly frustrated by it all. The young man sat down in silence looking around the table for someone to support him. Angielo slowly sat down, his hand still on Coan’s shoulder.

Finally, Garei spoke up. “Listen, Sari,” he took his fingers off his nose and pointed them at young Sari, still looking down at the table before raising his head slowly. “I know you’re young, and you’re a nice kid. But you have to understand that you can’t just bring this up every week, we have rules at the cellar for a reason. It keeps everyone content and most importantly, safe.” Angielo nodded in silent agreement, he had been working with the older men for years and knew exactly what speaking freely about these sorts of issues could lead to. Coan on the other hand stared almost blankly at his now empty glass of spirits, calming down from his outburst. Sari sighed.

“I’m just tired of this shit, man. It’s all fucked and all we do is sit here and take it. The future is-“ He was once again interrupted, this time by Garei.

“The past is dead and the future isn’t here yet, but the present is. And the present says you take what you can and you live with it. There is no time to care about the future, only time to care about the now. Just be glad Adan wasn’t here or he’d have the Red Guards over you faster than you can blink.” Just as he finished, Adan opened the creaky door of the cellar, some snow managed to get in before he slammed the door shut.

“You weren’t kidding Garei, I’m frozen to the bone,” he said chuckling, before looking at the men at the table. “Did I miss much?”

“Not really,” Garei said. “Just the kid being a kid.” everyone laughed nervously, Adan didn’t seem to catch up on the shared nervousness of the group.

“It’s getting late, you know; you all need to get back to your posts early tomorrow and I don’t want any of you hungover. We have to fulfill the quotas we’ve been slacking on.” Adan said, in an authoritarian tone.

Everyone sighed, some cursed under their breath even, but when Adan spoke in that tone it was no longer a friend gathering. It was time to go. The men stood up from their seats and went on to grab their belongings. Adan looked at them from above. Outside, snow continued to cover everything in a layer of white, as it always does and as it always will.