A Knuckle Sandwich for Ned
by Chester Holden, 3:49am July 10th 2022

Ned worked nearly twelve straight hours from home before remembering he needed to cook dinner. But when he finally shut his laptop, he became overwhelmed with intense head-aching fatigue. And so, abruptly changing plans, he removed his phone from his sweatpants pocket and placed what was, by even American standards, an unhealthy and expensive order for delivery. Ned then entered his bedroom, got under the heavy covers of his bed, and pulled them over his head before closing his eyes and struggling not to fall asleep.

Sometime later, Ned jolted awake to the vaguely familiar ringing of an incoming call. He could scarcely believe someone thought their time so valuable they would waste his without so much as a warning. His outrage, however, dissipated as soon as he realized his brother was the one calling.

When Ned answered the phone, his brother asked if he was sitting down. This caused him to fear the worst and feel sick to his stomach. But then his brother became excited and told him their favorite football team since boyhood had just pulled off a miraculous trade for the best quarterback in the league. Ned weightlessly shot up out of bed and paced around his apartment, discussing the good news with his brother until running out of things to say. And after sincerely thanking him and ending the call, he sat back down on his bed and searched the web to confirm it.

Less than thirty seconds later, Ned was relieved to learn the trade was, in fact, a reality. But he didn’t stop there. He searched the web for every imaginable video and article he could find about it. He’d been watching and reading such content for over forty minutes when there was a loud knock at his door. Naturally, he got up to answer it. But then he suddenly remembered something and sat back down, intending to wait it out.

Nevertheless, the loud knocking persisted until Ned became concerned it was bothering his neighbors. So, after reluctantly rising and leaving his bedroom, he flung his front door open with evident frustration to discover an unusually stout and expressionless man standing on the other side. The man said nothing; he simply handed over a plastic bag containing the food Ned ordered and walked away.

Ned bit his tongue until the man had walked about ten steps from his door. Then he couldn’t help himself. “Since you clearly lack the slightest understanding of what ‘leave outside the door’ means,” he said, becoming more confident every second the man didn’t turn around, “let me help you out. It means leave my damned dinner outside the door and go away.” Ned then bitterly shook his head and started back inside his apartment.

Of course, he only heard the man’s fast reapproaching footsteps when it was too late. He turned around and was, at the same instant, knocked unconscious by a powerful punch in the mouth.

The next thing Ned knew, he was sitting alone with his back against the inside of a locked and bolted door to somewhere he never felt much at home, moving his tongue back and forth along the uneven break of his chipped front tooth. His lip was severely split and staining his favorite white t-shirt while he futilely wondered why anyone like him was ever granted such a bittersweet miracle as life.