A Crash And A Misstep

Chapter 2

Joseph's day was tiring, to say the least. He had spent the first half of his workday drowning in a mixture of stress and curiosity. After what Derek had told him that morning, he was almost bursting with a will to sprint to his apartment and research the articles and blogs that Derek was referring to. Despite his best efforts, however, he was becoming overwhelmed by the stress which came from his previous procrastination and his short-attention-span. He tried to bury his head in his work, knowing that he had to finish the report otherwise he would be scolded by his floor manager and thrown multiple steps away from a promotion. Even though the threat of a verbal beating was enough to make him write with increasing speed, Joseph couldn't shake the thoughts of the crash from his head. This time, unlike every other reminder of the incident, he wasn't ashamed, embarrassed, bombarded with a will to curl into a ball and hide in the corner. Instead, he was almost excited to discover the truth, all the while nervous about what the truth would entail. He could have been correct all along, crashing his motorbike because of a lack of skill, or he could have been incorrect, a somewhat amusing, typically non-impactful detail being the only reason why the accident happened. Either way, it was both frightening and adrenaline-boosting.


After his lunch break, Joseph returned to work and started to tackle the last quarter of the report with a fresh mind. Having thought about the conversation with Derek sporadically throughout the morning, Joseph had managed to come to terms with the fact that it wasn't a dream; that it wasn't one of the only pleasant things to occur to him for a while only for it to be revealed as fiction. It may have taken him a few hours to realise, but he had managed to overcome the shock and the majority of the excitement.


With his new-found focus, Joseph managed to complete his report within the first hour after lunch, valiantly sliding it away from him, watching as it collided with the wall of the cubicle that sat behind his desk. Deciding that he had done a fair amount of work already, Joseph turned to his computer and opened the internet, wondering about whether it would be a good idea to start researching the articles that Derek had mentioned. Though, even if it were a good idea to get a head-start in restoring his confidence, where would he start looking? In the depths of websites and accounts, where would he find what he was searching for?


After a minute of thinking, his head in his hands as he rested his elbows on the desk, straining to think of something which would lovingly envelope the results he wanted to him with a pink, frilly bow, he decided to start with a logical first step.


Typing the name of the tournament he participated in into the search engine, Joseph took a moment to take a deep breath before almost slamming his finger onto the 'enter' key, watching as a glorious list of results loaded. As he scanned through the titles, disregarding almost all of them as they were either the wrong dates or racers, he decided to search using different keywords and phrasing.


Though, unfortunately, as Joseph was about to type his name into the search engine, he heard footsteps growing gradually closer from behind him. He closed the engine and hastily debated with himself about what to do. What could he do to make it look like he was working? As he struggled, stress building slowly as he tried to find a solution, he felt a heavy hand slam on his shoulder. Joseph spun his head around, a wave of shock and surprise rushing through his body, jarring his mind for a moment as he almost jumped out of his skin.


"Turner!" Joseph's floor manager exclaimed with what seemed to be a forced expression of happiness plastered on his face, almost as if looking anything other than happy would cause the world to implode. "Have you finished that report yet?" He asked, his eagle eyes scanning Joseph's desk in an attempt to locate the hastily finished record.


"I have," Joseph replied slowly, reaching towards the back of the desk to grab the paper, sliding it towards him and his floor manager with confusion evident on his face. "I thought you wanted it at the end of the day," he stated, making it clear to his floor manager that he was prying for information as to why he was being asked for the report four hours early.


"Oh, is that when I asked for it?" Joseph's floor manager asked rhetorically, an evil gleam flickering in his eye for a moment. "I correctly assumed that you'd have it done early. You're such a... considerate and productive employee, after all," he added, flashing a forced smile as he took the report, not even glancing at it for a second.


"Is that all?" Joseph asked, unsure about whether or not it was wise to lightly shoehorn the man away, not knowing if it would cause him to snap and fire him on the spot. While he wouldn't expect anything less from his floor manager, it wouldn't be ideal to be kicked out.


His floor manager paused for a minute, taking an exaggerated amount of time to ponder Joseph's simple, one-word-answer question. "No," he said, Joseph feeling as if he had deliberately taken what felt like ten minutes to answer. "If you don't mind, I have some extra work that needs to be done, and it looks as if you're not busy, so would you...?"


"Of course, sir," Joseph replied through gritted teeth. What more could this man do to inconvenience him? First asking for the report early, then taking ages to answer a simple question and now punching him with extra work?


"Thank you, Joseph," the floor manager replied, flashing a hint of another coerced smile, clearly trying to make it known that he was forcing every small aspect of what was perceived as positivity. "I'll send it to you via email. I'd like it all done by the end of the day if you can."


"As long as I get a raise for it," Joseph replied, making it seem as if he was joking via the tone of his voice but meaning what he was saying. After everything that this man had put him through throughout the past few months, a promotion or a raise at the very least would be welcomed by Joseph with open arms and a bottle of the finest champagne.


His floor manager let out a sarcastic chuckle before smirking at Joseph, proceeding to wander away, leaving Joseph to silently give the man's back his middle finger, concealing it under his desk as to not risk being caught. He turned to his computer screen and stared at the email icon at the bottom. Joseph could tell that he would be left waiting for a few minutes before the work came through, and it wouldn't be an accident or for a valid reason. If there was any opportunity that the man had to inconvenience Joseph, he’d snatch it up immediately.


Knowing that he had some time to spare, Joseph started to glance around, searching for Derek's cubicle. Both of them had walked in the same direction that morning, most likely because they were stationed close together. Of course, Derek might have been simply following him so they could talk for as long as possible, but Joseph doubted it. His cubicle was roughly in the middle of the right-hand side of the room. The room was large, as well, meaning that if Derek had gone out of his way to walk with Joseph, he would be walking for another minute before he'd reach the parallel side.


A quick scan of the cubicles that he could see was useless; Derek wasn't in sight. With a sigh, Joseph retracted his head, turning to look at his computer screen. Sure enough, he hadn't received the email yet. Why did his floor manager have to be so overwhelmingly annoying and petty to the people he didn't like?


With his fingers lightly tapping on his desk, Joseph pondered what he could do to pass the time while the work was being sent to him. He could start researching again, but he knew that his floor manager would observe what he was doing on his computer remotely before sending the work. The best result that could come from that man seeing Joseph researching himself would be non-stop harassment and passive-aggressive ridicule for the remainder of the year, while the worst result would be getting fired for failing to work even though he didn't have any to do. Taking this into account, Joseph realised that his only option was to sit and wait patiently, counting to one thousand to pass the time and forget his boredom. Though, as he was about to start counting, Joseph had an idea.


Sliding from his chair, Joseph stood up and started walking across the room towards the coffee machine. As he walked, he gazed at each person in their respective cubicles. He aimed to find Derek's location, though he knew that aimless wandering would get him into trouble. Therefore, searching while making himself a coffee would disguise his true intentions.


After reaching the machine, Joseph inputted his order before he leant against the wall, gazing at the room as he waited. Scanning what he could see of the left side led him to conclude that Derek wasn't there. While he couldn't see every cubicle, he could see the cubicles which resided on the outer-wall and could tell that Derek wasn't seated in any of them. Turning his attention to the right side of the room, he investigated each person before he spotted Derek in the corner on the outer wall.


With a slight smile on his face, Joseph grabbed his freshly made coffee and started the journey back to his desk. He took a mental note of Derek's whereabouts, intending to talk to him when he had a chance or at least before leaving at the end of the day. If he didn't find what he was looking for by the end of the day, Joseph would give him his email and ask Derek to send it to him.


Returning to his seat, Joseph sipped his coffee before placing it on his desk and gazing at the screen. A small icon displaying a '1' sat next to the email icon, indicating that he had received the work. After opening the email, Joseph sighed and wished that he had called in sick that day even though a few details were meaningful to him.


It took Joseph three hours of rushing through everything he was requested to do before he was finally done. Despite having to do extra work, the work that he was presented with wasn't the hardest: organising lists of payments and making graphs from them was the most prominent and time-consuming task, though it was slightly satisfying to finish and gaze at the final product.


By the time that he was finished with the extra work and had sent it to his floor manager, he had more or less half an hour to go before he was allowed to leave. Taking this as an opportunity to continue his research, Joseph reopened the search engine, hastily typing his name along with the name of the tournament and the date. If this didn't yield results, what would?


Luckily, Joseph's use of specifics was rewarded as he was immediately greeted by a link to an article entitled: What happened to Joseph Turner? - The most unfortunate crash in a long time.


"That makes me feels much better," Joseph murmured to himself sarcastically as he clicked on the link. It didn't seem overwhelmingly promising at first glance, but it seemed as if it could include speculation and extra details as to why the crash happened. With any luck, it would be as specific as Joseph needed it to be, addressing every possibility that could have caused his sorrowful misfortune.


'Earlier this year, on the third of January, Joseph Turner suffered a painful loss due to losing control of his motorbike,' Joseph read quickly before pausing, feeling a spear of sadness stab him in the heart until he saw the next line: 'or that's what appeared to have happened.'


He leaned back, starting to swing on his chair a little as he braced himself, trying to keep the overwhelming excitement away. Despite the heart-wrenching opening that caught him off guard, it seemed as if the article was going to discuss what he wanted to hear from someone else. Leaning forwards again, he continued to read, bracing himself for another possible punch in the gut that would be accusing him of poor riding.


'After battling his way through the race, Turner was on the last stretch, zooming towards the finish line when the incident occurred. With no more than 60 metres ahead of him, Turner lost control of the motorbike and was launched into the air along with his trusted vehicle. It appears as if the front tire pops, making that the cause of the crash, though no one is certain why. No one has determined what truly happened, though it's speculated that a rock or a pebble had found its way onto the track, inevitably tripping Turner in the last stretch to fame.'


Joseph stared at the words on the screen, the bright light starting to burn his pupils, though his gaze showed no sign of faltering. He wanted to hear what was on his screen so desperately, though when reading, he couldn't fathom how useless it was to him. A rock had possibly been kicked onto the track and, because of that, he crashed his bike. Now that he was thinking about it more, it seemed like bad luck that he happened to be speeding directly towards a hindrance. Though, despite Joseph's sudden change of heart towards the situation, he decided to continue reading. Maybe the hypothesis was incorrect. Maybe a mole had dug into the track, emerging from the ground at the perfect time to send him soaring into the sky.


'In an interview with the winner of the tournament, Gary Chaser, he was asked about how he knew to steer to the edge of the track when passing where Turner crashed. This question was intriguing to hear as it seems foolish to ask something which would have such an obvious answer, Chaser's reply being exactly what you would expect: "I knew that someone had crashed while riding in the centre of the track, so I made sure to weave around that spot in hopes that the same wouldn't happen to me." This response was questioned as Chaser most likely hadn't seen the accident with his own eyes. The crash occurred almost straight away after Turner had rounded a corner, roughly thirty metres from the turn, and all other opponents would most likely have been preoccupied with the turning. The obvious assumption is that no other racer would have seen exactly where the crash occurred, only seeing the wreckage of the bike and a writhing Turner on the side of the track. Taking this into account, it seemed strange to the interviewer in question, Hazel Smith, that Chaser knew where to ride. After challenging his answer, Chaser stated that it was "only logical" for Turner to have been riding roughly in the centre of the track, meaning that was most likely where the accident had started.'


Joseph read and re-read the paragraph, absorbing every word in hopes to fully comprehend what he was reading. Gary Chaser's answers seemed logical, providing almost a fool proof excuse as to why the same didn't happen to him. It would also be expected for the other racers to follow suit, riding on the opposite side of the track, as far away from him and his bike as possible. Even though the actions of the other racers were justified, they didn't give any insight as to why the crash happened. Chaser seemed inclined to believe that there was some sort of an obstruction on the track, so it seemed likely for that to be the case. If someone so close to the crash didn't have a clue as to why it happened, then no one would ever figure out the answer. After months of pondering, nightmares and self-doubt, it seemed that the answer to all of Joseph's questions was illuminated in front of his eyes, waiting for him to re-read the entirety of what was relevant, waiting for him to jump from his seat and shout in victory.


He scrolled past an account of the race which described the crash to a sickening extent. After the recital was an embedded video which looped the crash, highlighting a dark pixel on the screen, which was interpreted as a rock, further solidifying the theory. The silent video depicted Joseph's steady approach towards the rock, noting the increased acceleration as he neared the spec on the screen before, once the bike touched the smudge, both the bike and Joseph were rocketed forwards, landing in two separate heaps on the side-lines. The video began to play again and, even though he had already studied it, Joseph proceeded to pay meticulously close attention to every detail, even changing the speed of the video to watch it in slow-motion, wanting to confirm that the dark grey pixel was in fact what caused the crash.


Once Joseph had watched the video four times at varying speeds, he smiled to himself and closed his browser, not wanting there to be a chance for him to see anything which contradicted the article. Derek had said that there were a few articles and, while Joseph had only read one, he had been told that they had the same opinion. There was no need to do any more research as he was thoroughly convinced already, and any more research would send his stress levels higher than they should ever be for something so mundane.


After checking the time, he saw that his shift was almost over. With a smile and renewed pride, Joseph switched his computer off and grabbed his bag before he stood up and headed towards Derek. To everyone else, it would seem as if he was checking up on Derek as he was new to the job, as if he was giving tips or as if he was asking for a favour while in reality, Joseph wanted to tell him that he had found the articles.


After briefing Derek on his discovery and repaired confidence, he bid farewell to his new co-worker and left the room, making his way down the stairs and towards the exit. Joseph didn't notice the journey, not being able to stop thinking about how pleasant some aspects of his day was. Not only did he find out that the crash which had tormented him for months wasn't his fault, but he had also started what seemed like a new friendship which could blossom over the subject of racing.


He jumped into his car, started the engine, and drove away, making sure to silence the radio as he didn't want anything to distract him from his new, bright thoughts.


While approaching his apartment, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Once he had parked his car and clambered out, he checked his phone and saw that he had received a text from Caitlyn. With his heart starting to beat a tiny bit faster, Joseph walked up the stairs to his apartment while his mind raced, searching for something to reply with. It wasn't as if she had asked him to go on a date, so why was he so flustered?


Joseph balanced his phone on the arm holding his bag while his other hand unlocked the door. He grabbed his phone with the hand that held his keys as he stumbled in, dropping the keys on the counter with some difficulty as he closed the door with his foot. Joseph hadn't decided on what to say as a response, though after a moment of consideration, he typed his reply and sent it, immediately feeling his uncertainty wash away, thinking that it felt similar to how water would feel flowing into a drain from a bathtub.


Joseph flopped onto his couch, dropping his bag at his feet before he turned the television on. Skipping through the channels, he landed on a re-run of one of his favourite shows. Smiling to himself as he remembered the emotional rollercoaster that came with the show, he decided to order a takeaway and have it delivered to his apartment. After what happened that day, he felt as if it could be a congratulatory gift to himself.

A Crash And A Misstep