Just like every morning for the past three years, Louis opened the dealership at seven thirty in the morning. He cleaned the bathroom, made the coffee, and checked the overnight voicemail. At five to eight in the morning he unlocked the door for the salesmen, then he took his seat at the reception desk and tried not to fall asleep. The four salesmen filed in around eight, and their boss, a man named Smith (it was his first name), walked onto the sales floor. He was a lumpy sort of man, not quite fat, but definitely not trim, and he bore his weight in odd places, testified to by his ill-fitting brown suit. This morning he was wearing a shiny green tie.
Smith walked around the floor, looking at the cars and nodding to himself. He swung his arms a little too much and exercised his smoker's cough. He made eye contact with each of the salesmen and said some pithy motivational saying or other. None of the salesmen actually liked him, and Smith was a bit afraid of them, afraid the owner would fire him and replace him with one of the salesmen. Smith sauntered over to the reception desk.
"What are you wearing there?" he asked Louis.
"You know you can't wear jeans to work."
"Yes I know but my landlady's washing machine broke down last night and I didn't have time--"
"I don't care to hear your excuses, Louis--"
"Yes, but this is--"
"I said I don't care. You're not allowed to wear jeans to the workplace when it's not a Friday; it's just not professional. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"I do, it's just that I didn't have anything else to--"
"I'm just going to write you up this time. Next time you pull this sort of stunt you're getting fired!" As he said it, Smith sprayed a bit of spittle on the reception desk.
"So you're saying that you'd rather I'd wear dirty clothes than clean clothes?"
"That's not the point. The point is, everyday you must wear proper business attire. No exceptions."
"Quit ragging on Louis!" said one of the salesmen. Smith turned red, but didn't reprimand the salesman.
"No exceptions!" said Smith brusquely.
"Okay," said Louis. He clasped his hands together and smiled. Smith started to walk away, but kept his eyes on Louis.
The morning passed glacially. Only one person came in and she was looking for a public restroom. Since only customers were allowed to use the restroom Louis convinced her to take a car brochure. At one point a wasp came in, and the salesmen spent several minutes trying to trap it with a paper coffee cup. Mostly though they wandered the lot or paced the floor. Louis started nodding off several times. Finally he laid his head in his arms and took a nap on the desk.
"What do you think you're doing!" screamed Smith after he emerged from a lengthy stay in the restroom with a grubby copy of Sunset rolled up in his hand. Louis woke with a start.
"I ah, uh--"
"You were sleeping, weren't you?!"
"I was just resting my eyes."
"Resting your--why I should fire you right now!"
"Stop it Smith," said one of the salesmen. Again, Smith didn't turn around. Instead he pointed the magazine at Louis nose. He turned scarlet and opened and closed his mouth a few times as if he were about to speak. Louis fought to keep his eyes open. Smith finally just grunted and stomped off to his office, where he sat heavily in his ergonomic chair and scowled at Louis through the glass wall.
Then the last little thread of hope snapped inside of Louis. He stood up, and put his chair neatly back under the desk. He strode to the front of the sales-floor.
"Where you going?" asked one of the salesmen while munching on a donut slathered in confectioner's sugar. Several crumbs fell out of his mouth and dotted the floor. Louis didn't reply. He opened the door and blinked in the pale, overcast, ambient sunlight. He looked at the cars in the lot. They still had a little dew from the morning, and they were packed three deep to save space. Plastic triangle flags fluttered above in the breeze. A semi-truck passed by in front of the dealership lot.
Louis walked to the nearest car, then climbed up on the hood. All the salesmen ran to the windows inside. Then Louis climbed up onto the roof. The salesmen shouted things silently from behind the windows. Smith had joined them, looking totally apoplectic. Louis surveyed the town from his vantage point. The town stretched no more than a mile in either direction, and the dealership was on the main road through the town, a state highway. Across the street was the elementary school, and kids were playing outside or texting on their phones. Behind that was where the forest started. Louis jumped up and down once on the roof. He slipped in the dew and slid down the windshield, cracking it, onto the hood of the car, where he laid momentarily, splayed out.
The salesmen fought each other to get through the door. Louis got up and started running down the street. He passed the post office and loosened then removed his tie. He threw it in a garbage can that was overflowing with fast food containers and half-empty bottles of energy drinks. Then he ripped off his button-down shirt, popping the buttons in all directions. He passed the Chinese diner, and turned left down a side street that led to a one lane bridge. A passing jogger, a women in a pink and gray tracksuit stared at his bare chest. He ran down to the bridge and across it. His apartment (a small hovel over a garage) was on the far side of the bridge, but he passed it. He stooped to take off his hard leather shoes and left them strewn on the sidewalk. He nearly tripped taking off his jeans, and left them in a pile. In nothing but his boxer shorts, he veered into the woods. He drank in the smell of moss and wet wood. He ran up to the top of ridge, then he sat down in the leaf litter, panting.
Louis spent the afternoon in the woods. He listened to the shuffling of little unseen mammals on the ground. He watched the birds chitter to each other above him. He watched fingers of sunlight comb through the tree trunks. He smacked at mosquitos that landed on his arms.
As the forest grew dark, he got up and walked down the ridge. Then he padded barefoot down the sidewalk, and collected his jeans. He checked the pockets, and his wallet and keys were still there. He went back to his apartment, found his backpack, and dumped everything he owned that wasn't a suit or a tie into it. He got into his car that night and drove off towards the west, and no one in the town ever heard from him again.