Face Off, a new short story is now available for Kindle.
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Natalie sat shivering at her desk. The furnace was broken; it was just 42 degrees in the office. Karen started early, and could have messaged her, but she didn’t. Chris got the memo. He was working from home today. Anna had clearly gotten the memo. She walked in dressed in her expensive snowmobile gear and looked like a commercial for Klim. Anna didn’t even have a snowmobile. She just had a boyfriend once who did.
“Oh my God, Natalie! Aren’t you freezing?” Anna exclaimed.
“Yeah… Pretty much.”
“Well why didn’t you dress warmer then? Didn’t you get the text from Karen?”
“Oh no…” Anna trailed off, then stood there for a moment twirling her hair. Realizing the conversation was now over, she retreated to her own desk.
Natalie would have run to the hardware store and bought a space heater if it were an option, but the old wiring in the building wouldn’t take it. Anytime they plugged in anything with a draw larger than that of a fan, the fuses blew. So she sat, and she suffered, but she tried not to let them see her shiver.
She didn’t get a lot of work done that day but felt oddly satisfied with that fact. They deserved no work from her if they could not even provide heat on a cold day. No heat, no work. She did get a lot of thinking time in though. Her mind wandered from topic to topic, but eventually it settled on one; was Kevin becoming more like her father? She hoped not.
(c) Rusty Henrichsen 2013
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Monday, December 23, 2013
It was Kevin’s favorite time of year. The leaves were changing and the hot summer heat had faded meaning perfect temperatures for working outside. He sat on the tailgate and watched the river lazily flow, enjoying a hot cup and a smoke. Vern and Troy pulled in about five minutes later and hopped out of an old, white Econoline. They were arguing over last night’s game, Chiefs vs Packers, and Vern threatened Troy with a long walk home after work if he didn’t shut the fuck up about it.
“Fine, whatever,” Troy said, “Either one of you assholes wanna buy a gun?”
Boys love guns so Kevin and Vern gave Troy their rapt attention…
“It’s my Glock 17, two hundred an’ fifty bucks.”
“Why you selling it?” Kevin asked.
“I just need the money. Hell, I can’t afford to shoot it anyhow… Plus, this way I can be sure I don’t shoot the ex,” Troy chuckled. He was only half kidding. The wife and he had had a pretty nasty split a few years back. It still came up fairly regular in conversation. Kevin didn’t really know all the details, but he knew the important one; Troy hated that fuckin’ bitch.
Kevin couldn’t necessarily afford a pistol right now, and Natalie would be pissed…but that didn’t usually stop him from pulling out his wallet and it didn’t stop him today either. It was a goddam Glock, man! How was he expected to resist such an item at such a price? Maybe he would just keep it under the seat of the pickup for the time being…at least until he could come up with a better back story…
After work, still at the job site, Kevin knocked off a handful of beers so he would have something to shoot at. He liked the weight of the pistol in his hand. It was well balanced and it shot true. He was so delighted in fact, he had to have a few more brews to celebrate. Before he had lost his ass in Sandpoint, he had quite a gun collection. He had AK’s, an AR15, pistols of every caliber, hunting rifles, and few old collectibles too. It felt good to shoot again and he wished he could share it with Natalie. She didn’t really like guns though which baffled him to no end. Nothing beats blasting the shit outta stuff and if she would just try it; he knew she would like it.
(c) Rusty Henrichsen 2013
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Solemn, Natalie walked through the door of their home, a 1930’s Bungalow, a few miles outside of Emmett on the Old Black Canyon Highway. The five acres it sat on and the mature trees offered a nice level of privacy. It was a cute little place, with ornate details, lots of built-ins, a beautiful old growth, fir floors. It was just a rental, but Natalie loved it as her own. It was always clean and she kept it just so. The flowers were all dead now, down for their winter naps, but Natalie had a quite a green thumb. During the fair weather months, their quaint little cottage and beautifully landscaped yard could appear on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens. As lovely as it was, financially it was a bit of a stretch at eleven hundred a month plus all the utilities. Kevin could be happy living in a single wide out in the weeds, but Natalie liked nice things; so that was that.
Kevin was drinking Coors on the couch when Natalie entered. He was almost afraid to ask, but as was customary, “How was your day, Hun?” Natalie just shook her head, put down her keys and shrugged off her purse. She looked absolutely defeated, like a stray, injured dog out in the cold.
“Babe, you gotta get outta there,” Kevin reasoned. “Just quit, we’ll be okay.”
“I’m trying, Kevin, but not until I have another job,” was always her reply.
“Nat,—NO job that pisses on your whole day and sends you to the pillow in tears is worth it, and Bolts-Inc. sure as hell ain’t worth it.”
“Don’t you think I know that, Kevin?! I cannot quit until I find another job!”
“I understand that, babe, but c’mon! It ain’t worth it!”
“You don’t understand, Kevin. It’s so easy for you to say, we’ll be okay, but you’ve said that before and we wound up living in fucking van at the tail end of winter! Or do you not remember?——Well I remember, and I’m not living in in a goddam van again, EVER. We are barely getting by! There is no way on God’s green earth I can quit my job, and we will be okay in any way, shape or form! Jesus, you just need to grow up.”
“Fuckin’ whatever, Natalie, I guess this conversation is over.”
“You think?!” She rushed to the bedroom in tears, anxiety and panic her companions. Kevin remained on the couch with Miss Coors and she soothed him. He wished Nat could just chill. Have a beer or whatever and chill the fuck out. She was always so stressed and the bigger part of that was that crappy job.
Natalie cried into her pillow, seeing no way out… no-way-out. She could call her parents and ask for money, but even if they gave it, the price was way too high. The lecturing, the, I told you so, and the blow to her pride. She just could not face that right now. Amy Ward had always forced her daughter to grovel in the past while Dean bellowed his drunken conjectures in the background. No, no thank you very much, not happening. What sick satisfaction did her mother derive from breaking Natalie down anyway?? Natalie suspected it was a simple case of, shit runs downhill. Of course it does. These days she would rather step aside than be buried in their waste....
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Natalie got to work at 7:15 and prepped her soul for another blightful day. Karen’s red PT Cruiser with the faux wood paneling and ridiculous vanity plates, “HAWT1,” was already there. How Karen Akers could justify labeling herself as hawt, was waaaay beyond Natalie. Karen wore a cheap home perm job, red with gray roots, and bright green eye shadow. She wore buckets of foundation trying to cover up her pock marked, pasty face. It was a fat face too. Sort of like Miss Piggy’s.
She walked past the other cars, through the pothole riddled parking lot toward the entrance of her discontent. Bolts-Inc. was a well weathered, single story, brick shit hole in the industrial district of Emmett, Idaho. Most of the mortar between the bricks was gone or falling out and the glass in the door was cracked, just as it was the day that Natalie had started. She pushed the door open, holding her breath and squeezing her coffee mug a bit tighter, though she didn’t realize it.
Onward to the slaughter, my child.
She shivered and swore it was colder inside than out. The leaves were falling off the trees, yet these cheap bastards wouldn’t turn on the heat. The door caught her sharply in the elbow, spilling her coffee when the wind blew it open again, just as it was about to close. The long since, broken hydraulic closer was no match for any breeze, save that of a dying man’s last breath perhaps...
“Good morning, Karen,” she said cautiously. You can’t be too careful around a lunatic.
“Oh Gawd, is it that time already?!”
“What time is that?” Natalie asked.
“Time for you to be here,” she snarled.
Karen was about the nastiest person Natalie had ever met. Cold, incompetent, mean... She tried not to let it get to her, but Karen had a sharp tongue; finely, finely honed. For whatever reason, Natalie was Karen’s favorite target. Maybe she didn’t like her because Natalie was still young and pretty. Women can be so goddam catty sometimes. Maybe she didn’t like her because she was the newest hire, but for Christ’s sake, she’d been with the company for nearly seven months now. She did her job and she did it well; maybe too well? Perhaps Karen was afraid Natalie would move up and replace her? Anna had confided once that she was sure glad that Natalie had been hired because Karen was a lot nicer to her now.
Gee, that’s swell.
Whatever the reason, Nat was sick of it, but powerless to change it. In this economy, she told herself she was lucky to have a job at all, though some days, a cardboard box in an alley didn’t sound all bad...
She walked past the viper’s desk and to her own, press board with a dark, wood patterned laminate that was chipping away. She sat down in that worn out chair that squeaked with every movement or when it rolled. It was bound together with duct tape and screws, and it leaned slightly to the right. She just knew that this chair was going to wind up putting her in a chiropractor’s office one of these days. Flickering, overhead fluorescent fixtures cast light on her workspace which made it feel all the more like a sanitarium.
Hallelujah, another fine day in Hell.
Theirs was the office that supported the northwest division of Bolts-Inc.com, a fastener company and industrial supply.
“Welcome to Bolts-Inc.com, your One Stop Industrial Source! With over 350,000 different products offered, our customers save time and money. You’ll find our products are in stock and ready to be shipped, same day when your order is placed before 3pm PST. From bolts and fasteners of every variety, hand tools, power tools, to safety and shop supplies; we have everything needed for industrial and construction projects! Bolts-Inc.com backs every product we sell with exceptional service from ordering to delivery. We look forward to becoming your One Stop Industrial Source!”
Natalie wrote that blurb, but what she really thought was, “Bolts-Inc.com, a soul sucking shit hole run by malevolent bastards.” It had a much nicer ring to it in her opinion.
“Good morning, Natalie; good morning, Karen,” Anna chimed, walking in through the door.
Karen merely grunted and Natalie returned the salutation, though she did not feel the good morning in any way, shape or form. In fact, it was another horrible morning; APO reports, P&L, check runs, invoicing, and an ungodly heaping of abuse. Sometimes she wished that old bat would just keel over. Maybe one of these days.....
She would be at the coffee pot, ripping on Natalie for this or that and just generally being a nasty witch. All of a sudden, the Good Lord above would just strike her dead with a massive heart attack or something, maybe even something worse... Coffee cup drops from her hands and shatters onto the cold concrete, she clutches her soulless chest, with a seized expression on her wretched face, falls hard and smashes her ugly cake hole on the counter and then it’s finally over... Blood pours and most of her teeth lie scattered on the floor... Maybe her foot goes on twitching for a while... The thought put a smile on her face, but she felt a little guilty wearing it.
Anna interrupted Natalie’s bliss and began her customary babblings about shoes, shopping and her boyfriend or whatever. Natalie had to get out of here. The wicked witch of the Northwest on one side and a bobble headed floozy on the other. “Lord, help me,” went through her mind on a never ending loop most days.
“Natalie! Where is that APO!! NOW!”
...TPS report anyone?...
“Kill me faster,” Natalie murmured...
(c) Rusty Henrichsen 2013