Working: Friday Flash Fiction Post

Captain

Working

I juggled my cell as I maneuvered eight dog leashes. The pooches, all regulars, were good dogs but each one wanted to smell something in a different direction. “Mr. Malony, I have an opening for an interview between three and five pm.”

I jerked Fluffy away from a discarded food wrapper. The fat little Pekinese would eat anything, then puke it up once she got home and her owner would call and ream me a new one. “Yes, sir. At the moment I have appointments up till three.” I rolled my eyes. The appointment was another job. Not this one, this one was the first job. Six in the morning till eight, walking dogs. The same gig, would that be job three or four, between six and eight. The second job was barista at a coffee shop who could only pay me for four hours, five days a week. Between noon and three was ticket seller at a downtown theater. Not the best theater, by the way, but the manager thought that a pretty girl in the booth would sell more ticket in the slow period. So that leaves three to five for my interview.

I jerked Sammy away from an oncoming owner walking her husky. Sammy was always eager to prove his dogliness to any passing dog. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there.” I clicked off. I really wanted the job. A real, eight hours per day, real pay and holidays and benefits. I could give up all these pitiful make do gigs to pay the rent.

My share of the rent, that is. Six women in a three-bedroom apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of them but there is always a fight for the bathroom and paranoia over the food in the fridge. It would be so great to be able to have my own place or at least a share with just one other person.

My phone rang. “Hey, mom.”

“Hey sweetie. How’s it going?”

I pulled a doggie waste bag from my pocket and scooped up Freddie’s contribution. While I tied the bag shut, I said, “Great mom. How about you?”

“Great, honey. Your father and I booked a cruise to Tahiti for next month. Can you go? We’d love it if you’d join us.”

I sighed. “I don’t think so, Mom. I’m going for an interview this afternoon. I don’t want to commit to anything in the future till I know if I’ve got the job.”

“That’s great, sweetie! I’ve been wondering why you’ve been doing those make shift jobs.”

I had to shake my head. They refused to understand that it wasn’t 1950 any longer. Dad’s corporate job lasted thirty-five years. He did the whole promotion every other year, gold watch on retirement, the climb up the social ladder. Mom, of course, was the socialite on dad’s arm. She’d held a job just after college, where she met dad, and that was her entire working life. They were disappointed in me, not getting a big corporate job right out of college.

Dad got me interviews, of course. But the new corporations were all about the “contractors”. People they could hire short term, pay a salary agreed to on a contract, then they wouldn’t have to pay retirement or benefits. No one was interested in a career path for me like the one dad had. That was way too expensive.

“Doing my best, mom. I hope I make the new job.”

“We do too, hun. Well, let us know, would you?”

“Sure, mom. Sure.”

She hung up and I clicked off with a shake of my head. She seemed to think this was a lifestyle choice. Who would want to be on a constant hustle for enough money to pay rent and eat? But it seemed the majority of the people my age were doing exactly that. It wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity. Businesses just didn’t want full time employees. They cost too much. Stockholders wanted bigger and bigger returns. CEO’s wanted bigger and bigger paychecks.

I tugged Maybelle away from a parking spot that had what looked like a transmission fluid puddle. Then stopped the whole procession to pick up Raylar’s droppings. Very glamorous, being a dog walker, but I did appreciate the exercise. The ticket gig was creepy. The barista job was hardly better. Every would-be self-appointed ladies man made a pass. Why couldn’t they just order their coffee and move along? And none of their lines were original or clever. I liked the dogs better and the happy owners tipped well.

At three-fifteen I was at the office building, tugging my skirt straight and smoothing my hair. I took a deep breath and went in. Oh. My stomach dropped. A panel interview, three people. I smiled at all three of them as I entered. They had me sit and introduced themselves. At the end, I thanked them, left them with my resume, references and my card.

It didn’t feel like they liked me. I thought about my mom and her invitation to cruise. Oh yes. I’d like to cruise. But that was not in the cards. My last day off was six months ago, only because I’d lost an earlier job taking tickets at a parking garage.

I went home. There was two hours before my evening dog walking gig. I changed and ate a can of ravioli as my supper and ran the interview through my head over and over.

I was in the middle of the night dog walk when my cell rang.

“Hello, Mr. Donnah.”

“Ms. Roman, the panel loved your interview. Would you be interested in starting Monday?”

It felt like my heart had stopped. “Yes, sir! I would!”

“Excellent. We’re emailing some basic information for you. See you Monday.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you and the board.”

“You’re welcome.”

I did a little dance right on the sidewalk. Finally! A way out.

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Last Straw

Another of my writing exercises from the How to Write Flash Fiction that doesn’t Suck! I’m sure many people can relate to this woman’s need to find a new job.

The Last Straw

I was just sinking my toes into warm, powdery sand, a cold drink being handed to me by a very fit young man when…”Ann! Are you with us?”

I jerked back to my reality, the boss glaring at me from the end of the conference room table.

“As I was saying,” he moved his glare around the room, “it’s all hands on deck. This proposal isn’t going to write itself. All vacations are hereby cancelled until after the presentations.”

My heart fell and it felt like the room went dark. I’d been planning my South Pacific beach get away for over a year. I already had my plane tickets and hotel reservations for two weeks from now. “But…,” every head in the room snapped around and every eye focused on me.

“Yes, Ann?” He looked at me as though I were an éclair, the fat slob.

“Um, what about the employees who’ve made plans?” I looked around the table for some support but no one was stepping up. “Uh, they’ve bought tickets and stuff,” I finished lamely.

He snorted, “They’ll have to get refunds.” Standing up he continued, “I’ve sent sections of the proposal to each of you. I expect your drafts on my desk in a week.”

I delivered the bad news to my team. Of course they weren’t any happier about it than I was. I felt most sorry for Ben. He was getting married next month and had booked a honeymoon in England, hiking Hadrian’s Wall. It told him we’d see what we could do closer to the date. I thought about my old college friend Mike, who worked in consulting. What a plum job; do a particular project and then on to the next, able to schedule vacations between jobs.

We worked all week on our section of the proposal. At the Friday meeting it turned out everything we wrote actually fit into all the other proposal sections. What a stroke of luck! Maybe I could take my vacation after all.

I spent the evenings going to my hotel’s on-line site, imagining myself on that beautiful beach.

Tuesday, I was working a few details, meshing the proposal plan to everyone else’s when I got a call from Finance. “Hey Gary,” I said into the phone. “Our section of the proposal isn’t over-budget is it?”

“Uh, no, Ann, that’s not why I called.”

I relaxed into my chair. If it wasn’t the proposal, there wasn’t anything else in my department to worry about.

“I don’t know how to say it,” he took a deep breath. “Your bank just failed.”

A week later Ann sat her drink down in the sand next to her, adjusting the sunshade over her head. Speaking into her headset, “Yes, Michael, I’m ready to begin.” Selecting a file from her Ipod, it appeared on the screens of all the other teleconference members. “My section of the proposal is…”

The End

485 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: Growing Up Fern

I was thinking about names and what they mean, the other day. Just what is in a name. Names are important, how does a name influence people?

Warning, there is some sexual innuendo and mild cursing in this story.

Growing Up Fern

The money was spread out on a towel draped on an overturned crate. The chair teetered as she sat back with a sigh. Just twelve friggin’ dollars in tips for the whole morning.  She took a drag on her cigarette, glaring at the pitiful pile. Tossing the butt, she scooped the money up and shoved it into her jeans pocket under her apron.

What a joke. Three-fifty an hour wage and another two dollars an hour in tips. She lit another cigarette. Christ, the rent’s due this week. How’m I supposed to make a living on five bucks an hour?

Her boss yelled through the open back door of the diner. “Fern, get your lazy ass in here. Customers comin’ in.”

“Yeah, yeah, Tony. Keep yer pants on,” she yelled back.

She leaned back against the wall of the diner, careful not to rock the broken chair. Her face to the late morning summer sun, she let her cigarette smolder between her fingers. What the hell happened? I was smart in high school, book smart anyway, she corrected herself as she thought about her six-year old daughter, Elizabeth. Smarter than most. How come I’m barely scrapin’ by and they’re all makin’ the big bucks?

Tony stuck his head out the door, “Fern! Customers!”

She took a last drag on her smoke and got up, crushing the butt on the alley pavement. “I’m comin’.”

She washed her hands before going into the front of the house. Pasting on a smile she grabbed some menus and approached the table where three guys in short sleeved white dress shirts and ties were sitting.

“Mornin’ guys, coffee?” She passed the menus around and took her order book out. They came in this time every day and always ordered the same thing.

“Hey there, Fern, lookin’ good,” he leered. Coffee for everybody.”

She smiled back, “How’s your dad, Mark?” Mark was dumb as a box of rocks but he managed to graduate from college with a degree in business and was taking over his father’s car dealership. Even managed to bring home a wife.

“He’s better, comes into the office twice a week.” He closed up the menu, “I’ll have the same, two eggs over easy, hash browns, sausage.”

“White toast?”

“Yeah. Heard from Brandon lately?” He smirked at his tablemates. They all laughed. They weren’t from here, so she didn’t pay them any mind. But the dig about her old boyfriend stung.

“Brandon’s out in L.A. working for some solar company. Your mom plays Bunko with his mom every week, you should know that.”

He shrugged; winking at his crew.

She looked at the two other car salesmen. “You boys want your regular orders?”

They nodded.

“OK, coffee’s out in minute. I’ll put your orders in.”

She picked up the menus and hustled into the kitchen. Ripping the order sheet from her book she stuck it into the cook’s rack, and went out to pour the coffees. She fumed, Stupid ass, rubbing it in. I don’t know how he managed to hook a wife. What’s she see in him?

Taking the coffees to the table, Mark started in again. “How’s your parents?”

Her mind flashed to her parents, driving off in the old conversion van. “They’re fine. Out in Oregon.”

“Good, good,” he grinned.

She went back to the kitchen. Her parents were hippies; there was no other way to describe it. That’s why her name was Fern. They had lived on a now defunct commune outside of town until the year after she graduated high school. Her mother helped her through that first rough year. They set her up as best they could and took off, to a new commune outside of Eugene. She shook her head. It wasn’t their fault she and Brandon hooked up. He had the grace to man up, she got a child support check every month, but still. It wasn’t enough.

“Order up!”

She picked up a tray and the orders from the window. Maybe it’s my name. Everyone else has normal names, but Fern is so…hippie.

Setting the plates on the table she asked, “Anything else I can getcha?”

They all shook their heads as they reached for salt, pepper and catsup. “Nah, we’re good.”

Taking the tray back to the waitress stand she wondered. Maybe it IS my name, why the hell else am I’m stuck waiting tables? She scrunched her toes up in her sneakers. Her feet hurt and when she left here at 3:30 this afternoon, she had to go over to the hotel and cocktail waitress until 11pm. Serving drinks got better tips than serving in a diner but it was a race every month between her and the bills.

As she made a fresh pot of coffee, she overheard the guys talking about the local college’s business classes. The older salesman’s son was thinking of going. She had wanted to go to college but she was pregnant at her high school graduation. There was no way she could swing it with a baby in tow.

“Yeah, the damn government gives away scholarships,” she heard Mark say. “My parents had to pay the full ride, why should other people get government hand outs.”

If you weren’t so stupid, you could have had a scholarship, she thought as she started the dishwasher.

As Mark ranted she wondered, What if I could get some help? I could take business classes. Hell, I do Tony’s books now!

She filled out the check and took it to Mark. “Here you go boys. I’ll take it at the register.”

Mark smirked, “I’ll bet you will.” The three men roared, Fern shook her head as she left.

Ass. If he can run a business, I sure as hell can. She pulled the phone book out and wrote down the admissions office number for the college. Closing the phone book, she tucked the number into her jeans pocket and smiled as Mark came up to the register.

The End

997 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: The Drive Home

Do you ever get those days where it’s all going wrong? You wonder why, and even more, how you got to this point in your life? Ever ask yourself, is this all there is? So do I. Here’s a story about it.

The Drive Home

Pat stood in five inches of snow beside her car. Once the car was unlocked, she tossed in her purse and grabbed the snow brush from the floor of the back seat. Snow was sliding into her pumps. She’d already started the car and turned on the defrosters. By the time she finished brushing off the five inches of snow, the windows would be clear and the car would be warm.

Perfect, she stepped into the pile of snow she’d just brushed off of the rear window and trunk. I might as well be barefoot. It wasn’t supposed to snow today. Damn forecast.

The wet snow was soaking through the leather gloves she had on. Nothing’s gone right today, why should the drive home be any different. And what was with the programmers today. Sheesh, did they think I was going to swallow the excuse their computer has been down all week so they couldn’t get their assigned tasks done? All they had to do was call the trouble desk. She brushed the snow off of the side windows so hard it flew in a spray, sparkling in the parking lot lights, ten feet.

And the Financial Officer, my God, it’s a computer development company, yes, I need more servers. He needs to let go of a nickel now and then. She finished cleaning off the windshield and threw the brush back into the back seat. Once in the driver seat, she turned the heater vent onto the floor. Her feet were wet and half frozen.

The parking lot hadn’t been cleared yet so she had to back up carefully and creep slowly out of the parking lot. She breathed a sigh of relief when she reached the road.  Thank God the plow has been through.

It was an hour after the standard 5pm quitting time but the snow had delayed everyone in the city. Roads were slushy and the snow was still falling. Getting to work in the morning is going to be a treat. She maneuvered through the traffic lights and to the on ramp of the cross-town highway.

The four lane highway was bumper to bumper, delayed motorists anxious to get home. At the toll booth of the New York State Thruway, only a few lanes were open causing cars to criss-cross in front of each other to find an open booth. Pat saw several cars sliding uncontrollably, miraculously missing other autos as they all jockeyed for the booths that seemed to be moving the fastest.

She slowly moved through the chaos until she was on the Thruway. The three lanes were all clear, at least here, close to the city. Plows must have started clearing as soon as it started snowing. Pat could relax a little, driving in the middle lane, so the people with no sense could race along the fast lane but out of the way of the people getting off on these near exits.

She didn’t turn on the radio. She wanted quiet, time to decompress. It was an hour and a half drive home on a good day, so she had time to try and get over the frustration, anger and tension of the day.

After most of the motorists had left the highway she could relax a little more. She cranked the heat up another notch, her feet were still cold. Taking a big breath, she let it out slowly. The Chief of Operations had chewed out her boss that afternoon in a meeting with her, because the project was behind schedule. She shook her head. Why is it always the project manager’s fault the programmers didn’t do their jobs? Seriously, I told them the schedule was too compressed at the start of the project. And the building manager, what’s his problem? Why snipe at me in a meeting when I asked how long it would take to install the electrical for that room? That’s his job!

She glanced at the clock on the dash. Six thirty, I’m still fifty minutes from home in this weather. Why do I bother? I could just keep driving. Just keep going, all the way to Buffalo, across Ohio, all the way to California. I’ll bet it’s not snowing in San Diego. I wouldn’t have to put up with the building manager, the programmers, the crazy clients. I could sell the car and live in a camper on a beach somewhere, tending bar for a living. I did it in college, I could do it now.

She glanced at the road sign for the next exit. Two exits to go. I could just speed on by. I could use the credit card to get some cash, sell the car, buy a bus ticket. No one would know where I went. Nobody yelling at me. No responsibilities. No 4-H club meetings to plan, no more worry about the dog’s arthritis, just me; relaxing on a beach. No more snow shoveling. No more refereeing arguments between my brothers.

The road sign for the last exit before hers went by. I wonder if I could change my name? How hard can that be? Do you need a new Social Security number? How do people disappear anyway? They make it look so easy on TV. Bill would worry, I’d have to give him a call, just to let him know I was OK. It’d be unkind to take off and not at least let him know I was OK.

Pat passed the road sign warning that her exit was in two miles. She sighed. He’s making me spaghetti for supper. The other women are envious, a husband that makes dinner every night. She flipped on the turn signal and pulled onto the off ramp. Spaghetti’s my favorite, that’ll be good, I’m starving.

The End

964 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story – The Diner

I had the idea for this post while watching a PBS Special on of all things, breakfast and breakfast places. One such place was run by a woman with a bit of a rough background who hired people that normally wouldn’t be hired: ne’er-do-wells, people who’d been in jail, reformed addicts. There are not enough of those people around, so this is my homage to them. Warning, some mild cuss words.

The Diner

Maggie stood on the sidewalk, outside the door of her restaurant, The Rider Diner. She took a last drag on her cigarette and threw it on the sidewalk, grinding it out with the toe of her boot, picking up the butt to throw in the trash.

She paused as she stepped to the door as three Harley Motorcycles pulled up to the curb, all three backing into one parking spot, front wheels out. She pulled her sweater around her, waiting to see who was under the helmets.

“Andy, Bill, John, you old coots,” she called out as they hung their helmets on the bikes, “Come on in, I just put on fresh coffee.”  They each had a big hug before they went in. They sat at the end of the counter.

“Ed,” she called through the window, “the boys are here.”

Ed came around the end of the wall; he slapped them all on the back while Maggie poured coffee.  “Nice to see ya,” he said after the shoulder punching was done. “Same breakfast all around?”

They all laughed. While Ed was cooking their breakfasts, Maggie chatted with them. “Nice to see you boys.”

Andy looked at her closely, “How you doin’ Mags?”

She shrugged, “I’m alright. I got this diner with Hal’s insurance money. Keeps me busy. I miss riding though.”

“Shit Mags,” John snorted, “Come on out Sunday;  my old lady will be along for the ride.”

Bill jumped in, “Mine too Mags, come on out to the club house, have some beers with us.”

She laughed as Ed brought the plates around to the guys. “I might do that.”

Letting Ed chat with the boys, she went to check the receipts. She did miss hanging with her old friends but it just wasn’t the same now that her husband had passed. Sighing, she brought the inventory up on the computer screen. She was just glad the cancer was quick.

When she heard the door open, she looked up. A scrawny girl with shoulder length brown hair came in, standing shyly by the door, looking from the men at the back to Maggie at the register.

###

Crap, Becky thought, I was sure no body’d be in here at ten. She looked at the woman at the register, whatta old battleax. She sighed; then stepped to the register. She pulled up the manners she hadn’t used since grade school.

“Excuse me ma’am,” Becky gripped the hem of her old Army Field Jacket, “I’m looking for a job. I can do anything.”

Maggie’s eyebrow went up, “How old are you?”

Becky gulped as her stomach knotted tighter, “I’m eighteen, last June.” She glanced to her right, to see if the men were listening.

Taking out her bandana, Maggie wiped her face, then tucked it back into the pocket on her apron. She shook her head. “I don’t know, I do most of the waitressin’ and bussin’ myself.”

Becky’s throat grew tight and in a small voice, “Thank you ma’am.” She turned to leave.

Maggie called out, “What’s your name girl?”

She turned back, “Becky, ma’am.”

Scratching at her collarbone, “What trouble are you in?”

Becky’s stomach lurched, “I’m clean, really. Just got out of county.” She began to wilt under Maggie’s stare. “Sorry to take up your time.”

The door was half open when Maggie called out. “Wait a minute, come on back.”

The guys at the end of the counter stopped talking, looked at the door then to Maggie, “go back to your breakfast boys,” she waved them off.  They shrugged and went back to their gossiping.

“Come on back Becky, don’t let the heat out.”

Closing the door gently, Becky hardly dared to breathe. She inched her way back to the register.

“Where you stayin’ girl?”

“The YWCA gave me a room for a couple of days, but I gotta get a job or they’re gonna kick me out.”

“Hmm,” Maggie said. “What were you in for?”

Here it comes, Becky thought, she’s never gonna hire me. She looked at her feet, in a small voice, “shopliftin’.”

Maggie drew in a big breath, scratched her head. “Lunch starts in half an hour; can you bus tables and wash dishes?”

Becky’s head shot up, heart pounding, “Yes ma’am. I can do that.”

Maggie nodded. “There’s a clean apron hanging behind the kitchen door. Go on back, there’s breakfast dishes still to do.”

The End

739 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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