The Tired Day by Benjamin Woodard
Benjamin Woodard’s “The Tired Day” is written in a true omniscient voice, something we don’t see very often in our queues. This narration is in pitch-perfect alignment with the subject matter, resulting in a piece strong in concept and humor. There is no singular protagonist, rather two collectives intersecting: the town, and the Powers That Be. Well, and an intern…
In his author’s note, Woodard discusses resuscitating abandoned work, and asking the right questions of it. The question we find central to this piece is what happens when we get a peek into the machinery—what changes? When the Powers That Be have a slight misfire, nothing can ever be the same. If only we all had such an intrepid intern! —CRAFT
Nobody at the Powers That Be figured out the source. But something happened. And below, the town experienced a tired day.
Everyone woke. Carol showered. Alfred ate breakfast. Sandra contemplated suicide. Others kissed spouses or parents or pets or love dolls. Then all, in unison, yawned.
Four car accidents during morning rush hour. Four more during lunch. The result: one fatality—Shawn, who was forty—and three concussions.
At a bakery blaze, volunteer firefighters nodded off. They napped on the sidewalk while smoldering icing imbued the air with a sweet char. This odor was the last thing Elizabeth remembered before she let go of her son’s carriage and dropped to the ground. The buggy rolled down a hill and tossed the snoozing blue-eyed boy onto a pile of leaves.
Alarms roused sleeping factory workers.
Students drooled on elementary school desks.
Teachers tattooed their heads against dry erase boards.
Surgeons slumbered in operating rooms, scalpels hovering over (and plunging into) unconscious bodies.
And in an empty parking lot, Louis, a junkie, dropped his syringe before the heroin could enter his vein, saving his life, if only temporarily.
Excuses sprang from exhaling mouths. Late night. Too much air. Too much exercise. One restaurant manager told his server that she ate too much during the day, because everyone needs a reason for everything in our world.
Only it wasn’t the air, the food. It was a mistake, and the Powers That Be let it play, complete with swerving cars and flaming cakes. In response, some residents wrestled to stay awake until safely reaching home. Others took to bed while sunbeams warmed closed blinds.
And later, once the town grew quiet as a kitten’s sigh and the final table lamp was extinguished, the Powers That Be came to life and tried to fix their error under a pale moon.
They worked diligently. They practiced breathing exercises to remain calm. They double-checked their solutions. Stared at blueprints. Hunted for frayed wires.
But because the Powers That Be couldn’t pinpoint the source of the problem, every adjustment resulted in failure. At two a.m., the town dipped into a comatose state. Around three, an accidentally flipped switch overwhelmed the town with horrible nightmares.
All hope of normalcy appeared lost.
Then as dawn approached, the Powers That Be’s intern made a desperate suggestion: reboot the system.
The Powers That Be pressed the power button.
Answered the prompt.
Confirmed their answer.
The system dimmed, restarted.
And somehow everything reset in the town below. The coma lifted. Residents woke feeling refreshed.
The Powers That Be celebrated. The intern was added to the payroll.
For most of the town, what was remembered about the tired day slowly faded until it was forgotten, like so many of life’s larks. In the end, only a few held onto the memories and began to question coincidences, to look to the clouds for answers.
BENJAMIN WOODARD is editor in chief at Atlas + Alice. His fiction has appeared in Best Microfiction 2019, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, and others. His nonfiction and literary criticism have appeared in Barrelhouse, Kenyon Review Online, the anthology Miscellany: Essays By Young(ish) American Voices, and others. He teaches English and Creative Writing in Connecticut and can be found at benjaminjwoodard.com.