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Barrett's Secret Talent

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.

originally published on

originally published on

Working for the rat race

You know you're wasting your time

Working for the rat race

You're no friend of mine

— from "Rat Race" by the Specials

Morning came to suburbia and the winners of the Rat Race emerged from their Spanish-tiled palaces. They made a quick, clumsy dash to their cars while balancing a coffee mug in one hand, a briefcase in another and various little items clutched within their armpits, fingers or mouths. Others made the smooth transition from their door, through the manicured lawns to the Lexus, Mercedes or BMWs sitting in the driveway. And others found the time to pick up the newspapers, toss it in the car with everything else in their hands before taking off to work.

In suburbia, everybody was on the go. That is, except for one man dressed in his finest and darkest suit. A key dangling from his index finger as he strolled to the driveway with a slow, confident stride. His eyes caught something on the ground and made a path to this object, the morning paper.

He didn't pick the paper up, immediately. He craned his head to and fro, watching his neighbors race to their cars. These winners, Barrett Luce thought as he observed them on this particular morning rushing off to their high-paying jobs, were out to make deals, bring wealth to their company, and come home never really accomplishing something of true significance in their own pathetic lives. They're losing the race, and they don't even know it.

Barrett was one of them: a member of the rat race. He had his suit-and-tie and briefcase in hand. But that was as far as he felt like or related to them. Success as a lawyer, deacon of the local church, father of two and a husband to a beautiful wife didn't seem like it was enough. He came to realize he was in a race with his neighbors in which he wasn't a clear-cut winner or wallowing in last place; he was somewhere in the unrecognizable middle.

Something was missing. Something that had been held deep inside for all his life, until it finally started to gnaw on his inside and played with his well-being. That thing, that unfulfilled thing, was making him feel empty, incomplete.

First, apprehension swelled, and then a sense of elation exploded within him. A smile cracked his face. He made the front-page news. What an accomplishment!

That was, until he opened the newspaper. The weight of the newspaper was heavy; but it wasn't the thick pages of the sport and entertainment sections or the plethora of advertisement inserts that made it so. It was that headline that first introduced itself to him after he slid the rubber-band off, and unfurled the paper to come face-to-face with the front page. Emblazoned in large letters, the headline screamed: “NAIL POLISH STRANGLER STRIKES AGAIN.”

First, apprehension swelled, and then a sense of elation exploded within him. A smile cracked his face. He made the front-page news. What an accomplishment!

Quickly, his eyes fell to the photo of the crime scene. There, police surrounded a body, blocking it from the scrutiny of the cameras. Barrett was a bit disappointed to see that. But, a closer look revealed that not all was covered. Near a police officer's foot was the lady's hand. He squinted for a moment, trying to see the tell-tale marks he left on the hand. It didn't take him long to spot it. Even in the grainy black-and-white photo he could tell that the lady's nails had black nail polished.


What joy! He thought as one hand slid to the outside of the pocket where the contours of a small nail polish bottle created a hard bulk. He squeezed it, caressed it like it was his favorite pet.

Barrett perused the article. He found what he was looking for: “Police are still sketchy of the killer's profile. However, they agree the killer is cunning and skillful.”

Cunning and skillful! The words bounced around off the edge of his tongue and back into his head where shot to every part of his thought processes. He accomplished something that all his neighbors couldn't do. He became famous! He became a genius and the paper was there to prove it.

A sense of satisfaction came to him. Luce always knew he was good at something. He knew he was better than the rest of the fools who rushed off to their jobs thinking they were something important for making lots of money and buying expensive cars. But he, Barrett Luce had the power to decide who lives and who dies. Deep inside he knew he wasn't a loser. He was smart, cunning, calculating. Those were the words he always wanted to hear.

He had to be ready. After all, he was now the top rat of this new race...

A huge glowing smile crossed his face. As he walked to his car, opened it up tossed the newspaper onto the passenger side seat. Today was a beautiful day. And as Barrett glanced up and down the street, taking a hearty deep breath, he realized what he needed to do. He fished in his pocket for the nail polish and gingerly placed it in the cup holder. Then, he tossed his brief-case full of his favorite instruments of destruction and mayhem on the seat behind his.

He had to be ready. After all, he was now the top rat of this new race; even if he was the only one, for now. He jumped into his car, pulled out of the driveway, and headed down the road to compete in his own little race.

Original photo posted on Modified by author.

Original photo posted on Modified by author.

© 2017 Dean Traylor