Please, if you have a moment and if you have the interest, I would love for you to read my first attempt as fiction writing. I want feedback, even though the thought of it makes me quake. The following is a section of a larger story I’m working on. That story is post-apocalyptic (non) fiction taking place in the near future. This piece is setting up the scenario for how we get to the collapse. Pull no punches and I will try not to be a snowflake.
One drink won’t hurt. What a god awful day it had been. Five minutes late punching in, Wanda looked up to see Michael staring her down. It was that look. Usually the look was from behind his desk, on which he kept a tire iron and a name plate declaring him the manager of Tinkle Bells. But today there he stood, his shrunken trousers revealed slightly mismatched blue/aqua socks. A deep oil stain blotched his TB logo necktie and growing circles of wet drained from his armpits where deodorant had long ago given up..
“Why the fuck corporate drops you lazy good-for-nothing, dumb-assed idiot welfare cheating hos on me I’ll never figure out. If’n I had my way, I’d fire your sorry butt. But noooooo, we’re told we’ve gotta keep ya and train ya. Like training fuckin monkeys. Get your self out there now and don’t even think of leavin’ fore you make up the missed time. Half day yesterday and late this mornin’. No god damned tears about babysitters. What ya get for breedin’. Damn, now I’m late for upstairs. I ain’t taken no shit on your account.” She jumped when she felt his hand brush her ass on his way by.
Smart boy there seems to not understand that “corporate” gets money for hiring her and other out of work “hos” as “trainees” for 6 god-damned months, she thought. Six months to learn how to do a job a monkey could learn in 2 days. By her first night after work in the grease pit she was filling orders in her sleep, dreaming of endlessly finishing every sale with “Thank you for choosing Tinkles!” But “trainee-ship” means shit wages and no benefits, and about 20 hours a week work, to supplement the money she picked up from minding other people’s kids. Yeah, corporate was really dumb to have us around. Free labor and all.
Wouldn’t ya know. First customers of the day and he wanted his burger “medium rare” with no onion and extra cheese. “$1 extra for the cheese,” She cheerily advised. “I don’t give a fuck. Do I look like I give a fuck? You think it matters to me? Dumb-ass bitch.” “And make sure to put some extra ketchup in with the fries.” “And not too much ice in the drink. Don’t think I don’t know your tricks. Too much ice, cheatin’ me out of drink. Cheap ass sons-a-bitches.” “Here’s your order sir. One burger, medium rare, no onion and extra cheese. Fries with extra ketchup and a extra large cola with little ice. Will there be anything else sir?” “God damn don’t sir me, do I look like I’m 80?” The woman in the car behind him revved her engine and the screams of the two kids fighting in the back seat hurt her ears. The day never really got too much better.
Two kids, screaming. She unconsciously reached for her belly, where her second was no more than a pinhead. “Why do we have to find out so early?” she mused. Here in Texas you can’t hardly do anything about it anyway. Used to be that you would find out around the 2nd month, and have just a little time to take care of it, or take on 7 months of either fear or bliss. and a lifetime of mothering. Of course, when her mom had her, there was no choice at all, except for a Mexico border run for an abortion from a questionable doctor. Her terrified teen-aged mother carried on. Now you find out almost the next day, and in south Texas, it’s back to being difficult or impossible to get abortions again. Even getting the confirmation and health care was difficult, now that the family planning clinic near work had been closed by the protesters blocking the doors, before that it was difficult anyways, and the new laws had made the closure permanent.
Wanda’s trip to the doctor, which had cost her the half day she has missed work, the cost of the deductible payment, 4 hours’ pay, and a reaming out by Michael, from behind his desk, had delivered some very bad news. The tire iron actually looked inviting. That or some high stairs. Her six month training period would end about the time she was really showing, and that would be the end of Tinkle Bell for her. By then her welcome at the shelter, Safety House, would be well worn out, and, with one hanging on the ankle and another on the way, well, no job, no housing, no childcare, it really terrified her.
The bus home stank of poverty, hard work and unchanged babies. At work the smell of body odor and stale grease saturated everything. At the shelter a different olfactory assault awaited her. Sometimes it seemed to most overwhelming sensation these days arrived in her nose. It was the early pregnancy, of course, and keeping from barfing on the bus was a real challenge.
She would go to her brother and submit herself to his good-will, or, at least to his constant desire to be right and to demean her. The banker in the family, he had single-mindedly gotten himself out of the house and through university. This feat fed his relentless belief that anyone could do likewise. He was his own Horatio Alger, his own morality tale. Wanda knew he would relish the opportunity to have her captive in his Escalade where she would endure toxic right-wing radio commentators and his harangues about her miserable life, and god damned beaners, and useless people in general. She would never live it down, but she would likely never live down having a second child and a lost job, either. Yes, a 4 hour ride to Austen, a little procedure, and back to work. On her day off of course. Her brother, Eddie, would agree, happily.
Wanda decided to stop in the little hole in the wall bar, which stank of stale beer and men straight from odious jobs, near the shelter. There was no booze allowed at Safety House, and she just wanted to have one beer to take the weight off the day. Walter looked over the glass he was drying and was discouraged to see a one-crap-beer customer take her place on a stool. “What’ll it be, lady?” “A Pabst”, she answered, unironically. “Need a glass?” “Nah, what’s that on the TV?” “Obama’s speech, State of the Union or some such.”
Wanda focused on the screen. A lot of well-fed, well-dressed people sitting in a big room laughing and smiling with contentment listened as the famously first black president of the US gave his final State of the Union speech. Both sides were hanging out together, representing, literally, the entire nation in a way that could make one believe in Cumbaya and all that happy shit. We all get along, it would seem, and times are good. She had arrived just as the speech began:
“Let me start with the economy and a basic fact. The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.
We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the 1990s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever.”
Obama went on the talk about the challenges for working people, but he and his friends wanted to change that, “Say a hardworking American loses his job, we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him. If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills. And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.”
Wanda knew about the retraining stuff, corporate being paid to retrain her and spit her and the others out like assembly line of misbegotten worker drones. Save for retirement? Savings? What universe? She drained her beer, paid and tipped the barkeep, and, more morose than when she entered, dragged herself out the door.
At the sidewalk she stepped over a sleeping body and made a hard right turn, away from Safety.