Stories

Kenny's Daydream

As he approaches a very familiar street in his neighborhood he suddenly feels lost. He doesn’t recognize the magazine stand owner, who has been selling him the morning paper on his way to school, and eventually on his way work to work, for years. He doesn’t recognize the crossing guard who has been ushering the children across this dangerous intersection for longer than he can remember. For that matter, he doesn’t recognize the meter maid, who has been ticketing the cars on this street since he was a teenager. This feeling of unfamiliarity makes him uneasy, but he presses on, assuming that he’s the one who is a little off today.

As he passes through this torrent of unfamiliar scenery his thoughts turn inward. Kenneth is an average American fresh from college, and working as an assistant copy-editor for one of the largest newspapers in the world. He feels lucky to have been able to land this job, after returning home from college to help his mom and dad raise the children of his sister and her husband, who were killed two years earlier in a plane crash.

Kenneth, known to family and friends as Kenny, was an all-state athlete who went to college to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional football player. This was a dream that he wasn’t able to fulfill, due to injury. However he constantly daydreams about what it would have been like to be a professional football star, and all the nice things he would have done for his family if he could have “made it.” While Kenny is aware that almost everyone daydreams, he considers himself an expert. He pays attention to every detail, right down to the socks and underwear that he would be wearing on this particular day, in this particular daydream. As he catches the 7:15 a.m. bus to his downtown office, he is unaware of what is in store for him on this seemingly simple Wednesday in the city.

The bus slinks through the city stopping at every stop, and opening its doors to more unfamiliar faces. With every stop Kenny feels more and more sick. The tips of his toes are beginning to tingle and the bottoms of his feet are starting to feel like they are on fire. As this uneasy feeling is slowly creeping its way up his legs into his stomach and chest, he hopes it is merely a case of car, or in this case, bus sickness. He considers jumping off the bus, and taking a cab, or trying to make it to his office on foot. After a few more stops he decides that his best choice would be stick it out on the bus (in the back of his mind, he’s thinking that this would be a good time for a long, detailed daydream), and soon he will arrive at his destination. He puts his head back and tries to relax. This morning he decides to daydream about life after football. A ten-year career in “The League” and a Super Bowl ring is all he ever wanted, and he’s thoroughly developed that life in many previous daydreams.

In the background he hears the computer-generated voice calling out his stop, as he discovers that he has briefly fallen asleep. Kenny exits the bus and is greeted by a man much older than himself, somewhat anxious, and referring to Kenny as “Sir.” The older gentleman begins hastily reading from a PDA a list of meetings, objectives, and goals for the day. As they climb the short concrete stairs leading to his building something deep in Kenny’s subconscious tells him to look over his shoulder, and to his amazement he sees a long black limousine where the bus sat only seconds before. A quick glance up the block reveals no sign of the bus he just exited. The feeling of nausea suddenly rushes over his body, but again he shakes it off as he is more concerned with the older gentleman who has obviously mistaken him for someone else. Not wanting to be rude he decides to let the man finish his debriefing before clearing up the matter and continuing to his office, and cubicle. Upon entering the office building, the security guard, who has never spoken to him before, greets Kenny with an enthusiastic “Good morning, Sir!” Several other people in the lobby also say good morning to him as the older gentleman continues to read from his thoroughly detailed list. As Kenny and his new friend finally reach the elevator, he is sure that something is wrong. As the elevator doors close the man pushes the button for the top floor, and Kenny sees his chance to let this poor guy out of his misery. He apologizes to the gentleman for wasting his time, and explains that he is definitely not the individual whom the man thinks he is. Kenny says: “I’m just an entry-level copy editor and certainly no one of importance to this company, or anyone else for that matter.” The man looks puzzled before responding with a hardy laugh that includes some hand clapping and foot stomping. The man is so overcome with laughter that he causes Kenny to laugh as well. After finally controlling his laughter, he yelps: “You almost had me there, Mr. Manuel; I thought for a moment that maybe I was losing my mind, or maybe you had lost yours.”

Within moments the elevator doors opens to a luxurious office with a large sign on the wall behind a large desk where an attractive young woman sits. She quickly hangs up the phone and jumps to her feet. “Good morning, Mr. Manuel. How was your trip in?” “Fine, thank you,” Kenny spouts begrudgingly, as he begins to focus on the sign above the desk. The sign says “N.Y. Jets,” and immediately he is struck with that recurring nauseous feeling. The sign changes to different images, and eventually it presents a picture of him holding a Super Bowl trophy in one hand, and a very expensive bottle of champagne in the other. The sign changes again, and before he can ask what’s going on, his friend from the elevator, now known to him as Mr. Pennypacker, has shuffled him off to a large office half covered by mirrored glass, and the rest lined with clear glass providing a 180 degree view of the city. Pennypacker takes Kenny’s suit jacket, and hangs it in the closet, and asks him if he would like anything to drink, and says: “You seem upset; are you feeling okay?” Kenny finally manages a few words and asks, “What’s going on here?” And he says: “I’m not supposed to be here; I’m a copy-editor for the Times.” “Maybe in another life, but for now you’re the owner and CEO of the Super Bowl Champion N.Y. Jets,” states Mr. Pennypacker laughingly. “Me!” “Yes you, Kenneth Manuel, youngest Super Bowl Champion Owner and CEO in NFL history; this is your life! Now get yourself together, because you have a meeting in about 20 minutes.”

Mr. Pennypacker begins to go over the topics for Kenny’s 9:30 appointment, as Kenny reclines back in his plush Italian leather office chair. He cautiously determines that he is, in fact, in the middle of one of his extremely detailed daydreams, although it seems far too real. Of course he thinks it would be great if it were actually real, and decides to go with the flow. He wonders what he should do next. With the help of his trusty assistant, Pennypacker, Kenny breezes through his first two meetings, and has a few minutes before his lunch break, so he decides that he should do what he always wanted to do, which was to walk through the office, and speak to his employees. He always dreamed that if he were the boss he would do everything in his power to make his employees feel important. Make them feel that they are as important to the organization as the quarterback who throws the touchdowns on Sunday, and the General Manager who drafted the quarterback, or any other member of the team. Kenny believes that every individual deserves to feel like a king or queen; to feel that he or she is needed; that he or she is important. That would be his first and most important mission as the boss of any company, and now as the CEO of the N.Y. Jets, he heads out of his office in a quest to complete this mission.

Sitting in his office after spending time talking to many employees, including janitors, receptionists, cafeteria workers, computer techs, and many others who help the machine operate, he develops a throbbing headache. He asks Pennypacker to hold all calls, and turn down the lights. With the lights down low and total silence in his office, he can hear the faint sound of a woman sobbing. It sounds like his mother, as he remembers that sound from the time of his sister’s death. His parents were surprisingly subdued at the funeral, but he remembers his mom crying, a sound that he would not soon forget. Quickly he opens his eyes, expecting to see his mother before him, in a chair, crying. Instead, he sees what appears to be a light going out within the large mirrored wall behind the bar where Pennypacker stood only seconds before, retrieving a bottle of water. He springs to his feet and approaches the glass to investigate the light and the sounds of the woman crying. By the time he reaches the glass mirrors, the crying has stopped, and again there is silence. Kenny knocks on the glass and yells, “Who’s back there! Come out, and show yourself!” He asks: “Is this some kind of game?” The silence continues, and there is no response. Kenny bangs on the glass a few more times, but is distracted by the return of that excruciating headache that seemed to disappear when he rushed toward the mirrors after he heard the woman crying. This time his headache is accompanied by the strong nausea the he had experienced earlier in the day. That along with the feeling that someone is behind the glass watching him makes him dizzy, and he collapses.

Kenny can’t remember returning to his desk, but soon wakes with his face in a pool of his own spit, his cheek stuck to the oak desk. In the back of Kenny’s mind he again wonders if he’s dreaming, and tries all of his usual tricks to try and wake up. One smack across his cheek tells him that he can’t be dreaming, because “that hurt way too much!” He decides to sit and assess the situation, because he is more than ready to get off of this crazy ride. The emotional changes of the day have left him exhausted, and he is sure that he cannot continue to play this game. For reasons he can’t determine he decides to check the desk for clues as to what is happening to him. On top of the desk there is only a calendar and a telephone; neither reveal any clues. All of the desk drawers are completely empty, except the large drawer at the top of the desk.

The top drawer contains only a single envelope with a logo that reads “Dream Achievers, Inc.” Kenny knows this to be a company that was developed for the rich to experience “living fantasies” that give people the chance to do things they would never get to do in their normal lives.

Inside of the envelope is a single sheet of paper folded three times. He opens the paper and finds some words written on the page. He can only read the first sentence, which states, “The lower portion of this letter will not be legible until 5:00 p.m. Wednesday Oct 5, 2025. Please wait!” He frantically checks his watch: 4:53! He slams himself back in the chair in total frustration. He stares at the page as the clock on the far wall ticks. The second hand moving slower than an old world steamship through a sea of thick, choppy mud! Finally 5:00pm, and he is still staring at the page as the words slowly become legible.

Kenny begins to read anxiously. “Today is your day, and as we figured you would make the most of it. With the help of the people at Dream Achievers Inc. we were able to make this happen. We just wanted to remind you of your goals and dreams. We thought this would be a good way to show you what can be accomplished if you continue to believe! Don’t give up; don’t ever give up! Love, Mom, Dad, and the kids.” At that moment the words disappear from the page, and a door that Kenny had not seen before opens to reveal a hidden room behind the great mirrors, and out walk Mr. Pennypacker, Kenny’s niece and nephews, his dad, and last but not least, his sobbing mother.

squaresKenneth manuel


My name is Kenneth Manuel. I am a real estate agent and have been in the business for six years. I got into the business merely to help my grandmother sell a few income properties, and found that I liked it very much. I returned to school last semester after leaving 17 years ago to join my father in the trucking business. I had planned on continuing in my original major of physical education; however I am now considering changing to English or journalism because of the English 270 course (Science Fiction/Fantasy) I took in Fall 2010. (Editor’s Note: Kenneth wrote his short story “Kenny’s Daydream” in that course.)

I have always been a big fan of science fiction movies, but had never read any science fiction novels until this past semester. Most of my personal reading was geared towards military history. My favorite book is The Making of a Quagmire by David Halberstam. My dream job has always been freelance writer-photographer.