When it was over—all of it, not just the shouting—Lulu had no regrets. “Girl can only take so much,” she’d shrug, prodding her updo with a long lacquered nail, “And I had had enough.” Enough of the endless forms, the calculations, the Excel spread sheets, the constantly blinking phone, the humming shredder. The glitz of temporary office work had flaked off quicker than the electroplate on her former fiancé Trevor’s engagement ring.
A shame, really—the interview had gone so well. Lulu had worn her Blue Lagoon garters—under a sensible skirt, of course—and her future boss had seemed pleased. “Here at Alamance Community College,” he’d quipped, eyeing her décolletage, “We encourage our employees to be cheerful, flexible, and enthusiastic.”
“Well, gimme a pole,” said Lulu, “and I can be all three.”
Who wouldn’t have admired such spunk? The bustier hadn’t hurt, either. And she’d been so ready for a change! Answer phones, fill out a few forms, scribble her name—how hard could it be? No sweaty horny patrons, no haze of cigarette smoke, no Trevor hulking by the stage door, cracking his knuckles over his near-beer.
Mornings, though—mornings had been the worst. Mornings were for beauty sleep, not tending to endless forms that clamored like brats from a two-tiered inbox. She’d triage them quickly, scanning for what her boss liked to call “VIPs”—Very Important Papers. Keywords like “Urgent!” “Immediate Response!” and “Deadline!” warranted prompt attention, alright—straight to the bottom of the inbox.
As for the rest—this student was not enrolled, this student was enrolled, but only part-time, this student was receiving additional need-based financial aid which would negatively impact his Rotary Club-Optimist Club-High School Math Club-Evangelist Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Club-scholarship. Blah blah blah, thought Lulu; Who gives a fuck? It wasn’t real, not like Mr. Goolsby in the front row with a hard-on and a C-note. This was some giant word problem, like the ones that used to scramble her brain in algebra. Only, these problems weren’t worth extra credit. There were no answers at the back of the book. And she couldn’t ask Trevor for help. “Does that suck,” she heard his familiar sneer in her head, “or does it fucking suck?” Her life was a wadded up mess of red tape, and she’d somehow misplaced the scissors.
On the morning of what turned out to be her last day, Lulu moved a week-old VIP— “Compliance Mandatory!”—to her boss’s inbox, and bent to catch a check that fluttered free. A five thousand dollar check. From The Blue Lagoon Lounge. For a Miss Laverne “Tiara” White. Tiara! That skanky ho! After she—! What about, “Downsizing?” What about, “Sorry, Lulu, no severance package?” What about—no. Too soon to be thinking about Dewey. Damn, she missed that snake. Lulu’s fist clenched. Beside her, the shredder hummed in anticipation. The check crumpled, wadded up and helpless in her hand. Her fist clenched again, briefly but fiercely, and she smiled.
Agnieszka Stachura is a former baker whose fresh master’s degree (Liberal Studies at Duke) has not yet freed her from the 7th level hell that is temporary office work. Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared in Funny Times, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and The Sun, among other publications.