Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

by Colleen Sutherland

(Note:  I've returned to my series of depressing Christmas stories intended for those readers who really hate the holidays.  By next year, I hope to have enough for a collection.) 

“What can you do well?”

The caseworker at the Schmallen County Human Resources office wasn't all that much interested in Jackson's answer but she had a form to fill out. She had been talking to unemployed old guys for years. He had been looking for work at her office for two years. They both played the game. He had seen her before but doubted she remembered him.

“I was good at stuffing Twinkies,” Jackson said.

“You're kidding, right?”

“No. That's what I did for thirty years. Just stuffed Twinkies.”

“Not much future there. They closed the last plant this week down in Tennessee.”

“I know.”

“Maybe you should look into training for something else.”

“I've already taken two re-training courses. The feds won't let me sign up for another. Even with new skills I never get past the first interview.”

The caseworker stared at him. “Maybe if you presented yourself better.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

“Dress better for one thing.”

“I have one good suit that I save for interviews. I'm sure not going to wear it out when I come down here every week.”

“OK, but how about getting a haircut and shaving off that beard.”

It was a luxuriant growth, his beard. It was deep brown, full and curly, a thing of beauty. He trimmed and combed it daily. “They can't refuse to hire me because of a beard. It's unconstitutional.”

“No, they can't give that as a reason, but they'll sure as shooting hire someone clean shaven instead of you and say he's more qualified. And face it, you're not all that qualified for much of anything. So, tell me, do you anything else well?”

“I grow a great beard. That's about it.”

“If it was white, you could work as a Santa and get seasonal work. Too bad.” She finished the form, handed it to him and crossed his name off her list. “Next!”

Friday, November 16, 2012

One Day in November

Philip looked around the doctor's office, noting the seams for the flowered wallpaper were centered on the sharps disposal container, and wondering if one had to take a class or get some kind of certification to decorate such a space. It was a strange mix of modern and country, a chrome and glass container holding sterile depressors next to a calendar showing a picture of a cross-stitched rooster pillow.

“It's like those dreadful trips to your mother's house, except with the possibility of a colonoscopy,” he said to June, sitting next to him.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mistaken Identity — Part 2

 There’s something you should know,” Robert said on the phone that night.

Yes?” Uh-oh, here it comes, Margo thought.

Well, technically,” he began, “I’m married.” Before Margo could respond, he rushed on. “It’s been over for a long time. We just haven’t finalized it on paper …”

I see,” Margo said, feeling a bit mean. “What does that have to do with me?”

There was a lot of hemming and hawing on Robert’s end. Good, Margo thought.

It’s just that I thought … and maybe I’m out of line here,” he stammered, “but I thought you and I ...” He left it there. 

Margo sighed, feeling sorry for him.

So, you’re married, but you’re separated and just haven’t gotten around to ...”

No,” he interrupted, “not exactly separated ...”

Not exactly?”

I pretty much live in the top floor of the house and ...”

You live together?!”

More like coexist,” Robert said, then rushed on. “Ingrid and I can’t afford to live apart right now. She’s saving to go back to Norway and we’re working out the details of splitting property. We really have very little to do with each other. We eat dinner together, that’s all. Ingrid’s a wonderful cook.”

How nice for you, Margo thought, her stomach sinking.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mistaken Identity – Part 1

It started with an email.

SUBJECT:  Horse statue

Greetings from Seattle! I recently attended the Great West Living Trade Show where I picked up a copy of your very fine publication. It’s the issue from November, 1996. Vo. 3, Issue 101, it says. On page 33 there is a picture of a room in the featured home of Gayle and Norbert Clausen (what a great couple!). On a side table, there is a small sculpture of a horse rearing back on its hind legs. I collect equestrian arcana and this statue would suit my collection perfectly! Is there some way in which I can find out where I can purchase one like it? I know it’s a long shot, but ever since I saw it, I had to have it.

I would appreciate any help you can give toward this endeavor.

Robert C. Bowen, Administrator
Little Museum on the Hill

Margo sighed when she read it. Ever since she’d become the editor of Fancy Stuff magazine just six months before, she’d received similar requests:  Who made that rug on the front cover? You did an issue back in 1989 that had a bowl of fruit on the cover (I think it was fruit, it might have been dogs or something) and on one of the pages there was this woman wearing a red vest …