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Good Job

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Each night, when Stiletto took off his hat, before placing it on the bedpost, he examined it. Not for wear or dirt or scorch marks; he looked it over only to consider the dent in the felted top. The fabric had become pliable from constant wear, but the top wasn't crushed in for style. Circumstances of the day were at fault—all of which led up to various things such as pipes, canes, magazines, and the occasional fist smashing in his hat. He didn't begrudge it, although he just wished the blows would come to his hat when it wasn't on his head.

He always tried to do exactly as the Baron instructed, down to the letter, but somehow despite his attempts he always came short by the mile. And by all reason, the Baron couldn't be blamed for bashing in Stiletto's hat. A crushed hat didn't bother Stiletto. Vaguely identifiable disappointment was far more crushing.

He couldn't pick through his thoughts or give good names to feelings or speak of anything eloquently, but he knew for certain he was disappointed in himself and constantly longed for something to resolve that. He never succeeded and never earned anything more than a well-aimed insult and a better-aimed crack to the hat, even though he put every effort into doing what he was told. It was rather disheartening.

He brushed a few crumbs of plaster from his hat, remembering how plaster and paint and dust had flown earlier today when buildings collapsed. What would be nice, he thought, was a "good job," for a change of pace. He had nobody who could tell him that, and the only one he did have wouldn't tell him. But, then again, how could he expect to be praised for a good job when he never did one?

The Baron was none too generous with compliments to begin with, but Stiletto kept it a silent hope that possibly, one day, the Baron would at least take notice of his efforts. After all, Stiletto was caught in exploding machines and frying circuits and burning vehicles just as often as anyone else. But never regarding how often Stiletto went through danger, the Baron gave him nothing more than a disgusted glance that was cold as a polar icecap and went on his way. A mosquito would have garnered more positive attention than Stiletto did.

Why did he want something that didn't seem attainable? Stiletto would have looked at himself with disgust too. Other people worked for their bosses and didn't wait on pins-and-needles for a word of praise or gratitude. They didn't tend to care or revolve their lives around waiting for an approving look. They did their expected duties, they did their job, and they went home. They didn't go home to ponder long hours over their boss in rue, longing for his attention. Affection from one's boss wasn't supposed to be something that anybody would really want. So why did Stiletto waste so much time wishing for it?

He rubbed his thumb over the dent in his hat. The Baron's fist had made a perfect tidy indentation there over time, so he always knew precisely where to aim. Stiletto sighed.

"I do a better job tomorrow," he said to himself. His voice was small in the cramped room, and the determination which he intended sounded far more akin to wistfulness. He clenched his hands around the brim of his hat and tightened his shoulders as though the Baron's ever-too-familiar cane were brandished above his head at that very moment.

"Good work, Stiletto," he said in a mutter, his eyes still squeezed shut. Without opening them, he ducked his head and cast his hat away.