The Slow-Cooked Sentence


Rachael Conlin Levy
Photo courtesy of Stephen Mcleod, Creative Commons

Steve felt tense and jittery, like he did after drinking the sludge at the bottom of the communal coffee pot. It looked like everyone was feeling the same way when they came into work, heads tucked into their shoulders, as if it’d keep their necks off the chopping block.

He looked around to see if anyone was missing, but apparently no one had lost a job — yet. The tweakers were still in shipping; Steve couldn’t figure out how they were passing their pee tests. And there was the Mexican always trying to sell tamales at lunch. And the two old ladies in the front office who fussed over him like his mother. And then there was the driver — the big, bald guy who always wore overalls. What was his name? Bob? Steve wished he could ask one of them what was going on, but he’d never bothered to get to know them, hadn’t wanted to, and now, after working there a year, it was too late.

He’d taken the job because it was the first one offered after he’d graduated and moved, and because it left him time for his music. But his mom and dad were always bugging him about when he was going to use his degree, and how he was going to pay off the college loans. Fuck ’em, he thought as he shoved car parts into the assigned slots. Fuck ’em and fuck the job, and he pocketed one of the parts, not knowing or caring what it was for. Maybe it’d fetch something on Craigslist.

One of the guys from receiving walked past, biting his lip, shaking his head, not making eye contact. Steve was next. In the conference room were his boss and two men in suits — from headquarters, the boss said. Papers were stacked on the table. A briefcase lay open. Shit, Steve thought.

“I don’t know how to say this,” the boss said. “Don’t want to say this. But … well… There’s nothing I can do about it, it’s the law and all.”

The boss coughed, moved some papers and looked at the suits. They nodded back.

“It’s about Bob. He’s been with us forever, and well, he’s quitting. Well, not technically. He’s returning on Monday. He wants to be called Tiffany.”

“Bob. Tiffany,” Steve shrugged and stood. “I’m cool with it.”

And as he walked out, the car part lay heavy in his pocket.

Written in response to Sunday Scribbling‘s prompt: Quitting.

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