The Rich Bitch

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
'The Rich Bitch' tells the story of a man in charge of a flock of women who thrives on his night shift. By day he lacks power; by night, he feels like he owns a harem. But when an unlikely woman joins his team, what will the effect be on his world?

Submitted: November 06, 2016

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Submitted: November 06, 2016

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The Rich Bitch (5600w)

 

You clock onto your shift at 11.50pm, hug 20 girls, kiss their cheeks, sniff their necks. Nicholas is standing by the automatic doors waggling his clipboard, like ‘Hurry up.’ This is the biggest Kmart in the country, it closes at midnight, and Nicholas wants to lock up.

Nicholas is the same age as you, but white and skinny and goin bald and married obviously he’s on a higher salary than you. Most of the world is. Nicholas inspects the shelves aisles, peering at the dust on his fingertip. He says he wants four pallets of Huggies pull-ups unloaded in the Infantware – no, wait, scratch that. Mark-up’s higher on oil. Put out 2000 gallons of motor oil instead.

You notice some of the girls are eavesdropping. Chances are Nicholas is distracted, thinking about tapping that ass.

‘Although, bear with me – Mother’s Day is coming up, I’ll bet those pull-ups would move quicker… .’

‘Just tell me what we need to put out, Nicholas. We got this.’

He doesn’t need to know who you’ve rostered on for nightfill and he doesn’t need to know you got a map showin the black spots where the CCTV doesn’t cover. You’ll get the work done, for sure, but there’ll be some other shit tonight, too. Some stress relief. But you’ll get the work done.

You escort him to the city limits and press the Exit button. He lifts a sheet of paper on his clipboard, says ‘Oh: and you have a new team member starting tonight, by the way.’ He puts his foot out so the doors can’t close on him.‘Sheee… she has retail experience, I can certainly say that.’

‘I thought I got a say on who’s in my crew? I already rostered Misty and Nevaeh. Cazandra’s on, even.’

You see what looks like a Mercedes pull into the parking lot. Piglet, your 2IC, comes squealing up beside yous and jumps out of his forklift, still short even in his rubber-heeled work boots. Piglet points through the glass at the car.

‘New girl starting, eh. She gonna pay tax?’

‘Course, Pig. She gonna pay.’

‘G’night, homies,’ Nicholas says. Piglet spits on the floor. Nicholas crosses the woman in the parking lot and they exchange some words and the woman shifts her handbag from one shoulder to the other, looking scared of Nicholas for some reason. She’s disappointing, this newbie, only about a five outta ten. Old-ish, classy-looking. The woman’s skinny as fuck, okay, you could throw her around in the bedroom, for real, but her haircut’s short and yellow and dyke-y and her throat’s loose and wobbly. Lady’s 46 years old, maybe. She’d be the 19th hottest piece of ass out of the 22 bitches who work under you, and brother: she’d better be prepared to work under you.

Before you let her into your glowing store, Piglet points towards her whip, buried under so much night you can only just read the licence plate. It reads RCHBCH.

‘What’s that sposda spell?’

Rich bitch, I think.’

You keep her standing on the cold side of the glass for two minutes, three, sizing up how much self-esteem she’s got. Finally you let her in and the door hisses closed behind her.

‘I’m Richelle,’ she goes, ‘With an I, ha-ha.’ She sticks out her hand for you to shake, like she’s your equal or something.

Piglet pulls his head back. ‘Sup with the licence plate?’

‘The licence plate from hell, you mean, ha-ha. Anniversary present from my former beau, you know, R-C-H for Richelle… he’s, erm, not currently beau du jour, nor beau anything for that matter, ha-ha.’

It takes a second or two for you to translate the way she talks. Why she showing her education off? And what’s there to be upbeat about? Bitch ain’t gonna fit in here.

‘…silly licence plate, I know, but those things are dreadfully expensive to replace and, well, things are tight for us all.’ You hear tight and think of pussy, and give her a second lookover just in case you missed some attractiveness the first time around. ‘So, Nicholas said I report to you?’

You nod. ‘Big night ahead of us.’ It actually isn’t, it’s n ‘Getcha self a hi-vis vest. Drive forks?’

‘Sorry?’

‘HAVE YOU DRIVEN A FORKLIFT BEFORE?’

She looks at Piglet, as if the Oompa Loompa-loookin motherfucker’s any help. ‘Lady, do you want me to Google Image a forklift?’

‘Oh. I wasn’t expecting… I could learn? If you could show me?’

You waggle your eyebrows at Piglet. ‘Just go with this guy, he’ll show you how to build bins with the pallets. There’s two thousand Oral B toothbrushes to go out. And your work had better be perfect – god damn mystery shoppers come through every day. We’ll get our asses chewed out if the store don’t look perfect by morning.’

‘Upper management have told you this?’

‘Lady, just go with the Pig, alright?’

You veer off, march down through Plumbing Supplies, ignore the girls with their arms full of pipes who try ask you stuff. You march past Drapery, take a right at Cleaning and through the door up to your office, where you are the mayor of the night, elevated, all-seeing, all-knowing. You say things to your people over the P.A. once an hour. Your voice is the voice of God. It’s good to have some power for once in your life.

Through the window, in the bottom left of the maze, you watch Piglet point the Rich Bitch at a pallet jack with ten boxes of toothbrushes on it. The five-metre high shelving racks above your humans look like city blocks. Suburbs of shoes, suburbs of umbrellas, a central business district of checkouts and chocolate and chewing gum.

She gets the toothbrushes replenished and, without being asked, drags a pallet of odd socks from Clothing over to Footwear and spends 90 minutes putting each one back where it belongs, then she goes and asks Piglet for more work. You can tell by the way the other girls keep their backs turned to her that they’re being mean to her.

Dziah is lobbing these heavy boxes of photo frames at the new girl, hoping Rich Bitch will drop one and get her ass fired. Dziah’s screwed-up pitbull face is saying, ‘…he’s not boyfriend material, so stay the fuck away.’

Good to know she’s talkin about you.

*

There’s a downside to getting too many beaver pelts. Sometimes you give yourself a heart attack with the exertion of it all, using your stomach muscles, panting real hard, blood pressure up, sweating, grunting, holding these agonising positions for minutes just cause it feels better than any other drug. Fucking in the handicap toilets cause they’re clean and spacious, fucking in the freight elevator cause it’s always empty. Putting down an airbed in a black spot and stroking the spiderweb off a girl’s brow after she’s been dusting shelves all night. These girls go down on you, but the oral stuff’s a one way street, no way in hell you’ll ever get on your knees and work to please some chickypie.

Justice, Keisha, LaRaine, Dziah, Tamzin, Maxeen, Marley, Krystal, Nevaeh, Misty, Nazia, Cazandra, Roxxane, K’rina, Aimey, M’riah, Trina, China, Jess, Onna, Janelle and Jule do what you tell them through the week, cause the girls are on ten bucks an hour after tax is taken off, and you’re on twelve. You all smudge your income, dilute it, stretch it out by covering what expenses you can at work. You polish your shoes and put the tins of nugget back on the shelves, you getcha fill of vitamins, you step into three pairs of boxer shorts and take ‘em home. You freshen up with perfume and deodorant. You use lip balm, put it back on the shelf. Standing up for yourself a few cents at a time.

Most of the girls take the bus to work and get off the bus and trudge through the carpark to arrive at 11.57 at night, just as Rich Bitch is rockin up in her Benz. You hear some of them call her Bichelle when they’re talkin about her when they’re smoking up on the cat walk over Sporting Goods where the smoke alarm can’t smell their cigarettes. They give Richelle bubblegum-scraping jobs, price-stickering bottom-shelf jobs, jobs that involve the most crouching and bending, ‘cause you really know you’re doin shit work when your face is close to the floor. She’s stuffed her karma up and get herself a sentence in the country’s hugest department store. Richelle’s there midnight to breakfast for five straight days, proving that she’s not a quitter, and that’s fine and dandy, but Ms Mature will never be able to catch up on how new she is, all the in-jokes she’s missed out on. Plus she’s been hired directly by Nicholas, making her a nark, most likely.

She wipes the dust off jellybeans that some customer’s three year old’s split open in a box of costumer jewellery. She puts the jellybeans back in their packet and uses her sticker gun to mark the packet down to 20 cents. She checks bottles of spring water and disposes of the ones that people have taken sips out of. Above the towering shelves, energy-saving lights switch off when she’s been on her knees for too long, still as a statue, moving only her wrists, replacing toddler underwear that people have taken out of five-packs. Some of it stinks of piss. Serves her right for being rich, goes the unspoken judgement, the rich deserve to suffer like working peeps suffer. Welcome to our hell.

On payday night each week, when everyone’s raggin about their payslips, you gather in the centre of your city and clear the dehumidifiers out of the way to create an arena for gladiator battles on forklifts, or you race trolleys through the aisles, or see if you can stack a hundred baked bean cans in a tower from the floor to the ceiling. The tower you all envision is 15 metres tall and rises above shelves untouched and remote as Everest. The highest anyone’s ever stacked the cans without ‘em falling was the night you stood on the forklift forks, got Piglet to raise ‘em 3.5m, then Piglet briefly stood on your shoulders and stacked the 57th can, making 7m of elevation. It was 2.50 in the morning. The cans fell on a pile of airbeds you’d blown up. Piglet went down after, and you on top of him, and as the girls separated you from him and you laughed so hard your abs scraped your ribs, you thought, I’m not going anywhere, and wept with laughter.

Tonight’s not Beaning Tower of Pisa Night. It’s Medieval Night. When everyone’s re-hung the wetsuits and got their displays of that driveway cleaning chemical stacked perfectly, and smoked in the handicapped toilet with the extractor fan that sucks the weed smoke away, you tip out all these saucepans from these wonderfully stiff cardboard boxes and you slice and Sellotape and fold the cardboard into rectangles the height of a human, then put slits in the side and the crotch until there are four limbs and a head. These cardboard Spongebobs, they have to stand up on their own. Piglet staples little packets of ketchup on the throats and chests and inside the thighs of the effigies. You print out colour photos of the managers you hate most and staple the photos onto the heads of the effigies. As everyone cheers, and the clock limps into that emptiness between four and five a.m., you and your people take turns strutting up to the effigies like gangstas or knights or Jedi and slicing their faces and guts and necks with your box cutters. They bleed ketchup and M’riah thumps her chest and fistbumps Janelle then collapses into your arms. You forget where you are. You forget who you are. You do remember that you have to have those Miracle Mops stacked by 7.30, when the first daywalkers file in. In an ideal world, nobody would buy anything and at night, you could finally catch up on stacking displays of pesticide or novels or Mountain Dew so impressive that museums will put a cordon around them. Stacking is serious shit, requiring an understanding of both interior design and physics. And there’s pride in knowing the location of every single item in store. You wish someone would give a fuck.

When the party is at its most fierce, its most ferocious, joyous, primal, feral, you squeeze the hand of Nazia, this sorta fattish girl with these straight-o Pakistani parents who never let her do anything. You tug her towards the toilets; Misty high-fives her on the way. You go, girl. On her knees with a razor blade, scraping a stuck barcode off the leg of a Cape Cod deck chair, the Rich Bitch looks up as you pass.

 

*

You wake up on your couch ‘round dinner time most evenings while the weather report’s on the news and you eat cornflakes while all the people you went to school with are ordering their twins to eat their broccoli to earn their ice cream then tucking the twins under the Toy Story duvet covers you unboxed three thousand of that time they were on special for $5.94 each from the manufacturer in Taiwan. Your life moves along its ruler in increments of nights, because you have no days. Doesn’t matter what the weather high was. Doesn’t matter what the Russians are up to in Syria, or who won the cricket. That’s daywalker shit.

Nicholas picks salt out of his eyes and yawns and hands you your list of things to stock and count and shift and box and unbox and rebox and says, ‘Have a nice – aw yeah –how is my Precious Princess getting on, by the way? Just gimme the signal if Richelle’s not keeping up.’

‘What, Richy Rich?’

‘Not as rich as she used to be,’ he winks. ‘God, she used to seem decent before she… bah. Never mind. Have a nice night.’

‘Got something you wanna tell me, Nicholas?’

‘Call me Nico, bro,’ he goes, and does a fumbly gangsta handshake that embarrasses you both, ‘Aw and um, there’s like a note, like from the GM? Says for your guys to sweep up your crumbs after you make those frozen pizzas in the microwave, so if you could do that… but you don’t have to. Just sayin. Anyway– ’

You hit the Exit button and he’s sucked out into space. General Manager? You’ve met that motherfucker, just once, when he hired you, before you were put underground with the pit ponies. Fuck him and his sunlight.

You go back to your mayoralty, the City With A Single Ceiling. You roam the Dining Table District, linger in a suburb of scented candles, turn down Shampoo Street, ride a trolley, sit on top of two tonnes of stacked cans and sip room temperature Coke. In a land of Levis, you avoid Nazia ‘cause she’s been catching feelings, and you just say a couple words to China and Laraine, ‘cause they’re stocktaking every single Twix bar and it’s a helluva job. You find a canyon to dip into and hover a moment, watching the girls position those hard-to-balance bottles of hot sauce. They can operate a forklift good as you and Piglet can, and you know you don’t have to ask them a second time to replace that linestra bulb that went out over in Whiteware.

You’ve hardly said shit to Rich Bitch, not wanting the other girls to take it out on you when they get jealous of any attention you give her.

At 5.51am, the 32 new displays Nicholas asked for have been done and restocking and reshelving’s coming to an end so you follow Richelle as she runs the concrete polisher over 1600 square metres of floor. It takes about a minute per square metre if you want to do an excellent polish. The old machine takes diesel, so she has to stop every half hour and add more fuel, carefully mixing oil into the fuel because it’s only a two-stroke. The shittiness of the polisher is a joke from management, you reckon; well-played, you’d say. It’s revenge because you and your people leave lights on, leave taps running, put blow-up foam dinosaur toys in the executive toilets. You placed an order for 120 butt plugs under the GM’s name.

Richelle is humming as she polishes the concrete and you’re watching her bend and push, wondering if her pussy is hairless and polished, not that you’d ever eat it. She turns, pauses, but doesn’t switch the machine off.

‘Hi,’ she says, and does that laugh she probably practices in the mirror to get herself through another shift. Always chirpy, this one. Being upbeat round here’s a mental illness. ‘You seem to be following me.’

‘Fft. Don’t flatter yourself. Just came to check on your work.’

‘Those water coolers? I carried them over to Office Supplies, like you wanted me to, sir.’

‘Do I look like a fuckin’ sir? What’s your deal, anyway? Fuck you workin here for? You a spy?’

Rich Bitch looks side to side, spotting Jule, who’s parked her trolley and is chewing gum with her arms folded, enjoying the confrontation. You notice Rich Bitch is still wearing her hi vis ordinarily, like not in a cool way, like how mosta your girls tear their hi vis into a sash or a bandana. She’s got two arms through two sleeve-holes, like a picture straight out of the how-to manual. ‘Preeee-zumably I’m working here same reason as you? It’s all about the Benjamins, as you kids would say.’

‘Shut up with that. No one actually says that. Who drives a Merc and works Nightfill anyway?’

Nevaeh and Krystal join Jule for the show. They’ve holstered their pricing guns.

‘Um, I don’t mean to contradict you, sir,’ she goes, leaning on the handle of the polisher, ‘But you drive a souped-up Skyline, I thought…?’

‘Not the same,’ you go, shaking your head. ‘I need it, to… Listen, where you going after this?’

‘Could you rephrase the question, ha-ha.. I don’t understand? Where am I going work-wise, or… ?’

‘Like after work, you hittin the clubs or what?’

‘Like, nightclubs? Finishing time’s 8 o’clock in the morning for most staff so…?’

‘We mostly drink round 9 in the morning at the Daysleeper, that’s this club that’s for my people. Fuckin cops, ambos, hospo, peeps who work at gas stations, all the night niggers. That’s the main reason anyone drinks, right? People make you swallow shit all day, so when you’re at the club, YOU get to be in charge of what you’re swallowing.’

She unplugs the polisher, starts pulling in the extension cord. ‘Gosh, that’s profound. But, hey, listen, I don’t understand, sweetie. You’re – you can’t be asking me out?’

‘Yes or no, just fuckin say something.’

You notice Roxxane spit into a dumpster full of clothers hangers.

‘I… I don’t know what to say, ha-ha. Shouldn’t you, er… .’ She puts the back of her hand against the side of her mouth, conspiracy-styles. ‘Shouldn’t you be asking out somebody more your age, honey?’ She strokes your shoulder. She’s rubbing years into you, smearing a twenty year divide all over your chest. ‘I have classes. Management units, you see? I have to be in class 8.30 to 2.30 most days. I hardly sleep, ha-ha.’

You take a step away. ‘You’re not better than all of us. Don’t go thinkin you are.’

‘The gods of management are making me re-do a few management units, for my many crimes.’ She stares down at her polished floor. ‘Busy busy busy.’

You scrunch your fingers into fists and punch your thighs, half turned-away. ‘People don’t turn me down too often,’ you go, ‘Lemme, fuckin, rephrase or whatever: date; tomorrow night. You’re on shift. Rock up at the usual time, we’ll have a fuckin date. Yes or no?’

*

You make it clear to all the girls that you will have no hesitation in smacking a bitch if anyone questions you about why you’re having a date at work. It’s not that this old lady’s getting preferential treatment. It’s an induction, that’s all. Back to work, Britney.

When you’re finally sure you’re not being stared at, you give Richelle a plastic flower in the shadowy potting mix aisle where no one goes and she gushes about it and tries to kiss your cheek and all that romance-y stuff is super awkward, you tell her to cool it, guide her through the black spots onto a leather couch you’ve moved with your forks from Home Décor over to Electronics. Surrounded by $2500 of tweeters and subwoofers, you put on the DVD of Avatar. It’s an average movie but the graphics are eye-popping on the 3D tv with your 3D glasses on. You slide red and green plastic glasses onto Richelle’s face and think about kissing her. She’s put on lipstick and the pink she’s chosen is just too bright for this generation. You look toward the far end of the couch, where she’s munching the bag of caramel corn marked down to 50 cents because it got cut by someone’s craft knife. Richelle looks happy and innocent and little, munching away, old fashioned hoop earrings swaying. You wonder if she has children. Probably. People who are happy have kids, don’t they?

You’ve pulled a shade sail all the way over here from Outdoors and it covers your bodies from the CCTV cameras so management will never know you’re taking a third of the night for a date. You have to keep your hi vis and safety boots and blue t-shirt on, cause you might need to leap up at any moment if Cazandra or Trina need help building cardboard versions of Nicholas and Harumi and Kirk and all the other management bastards and slashing the effigies and pretending to buttfuck them. You hear snatches of your girls’ conversation sailing over the shelves like stray birds and you get antsy. This respectful shit’s not normal. Your date needs to be over, ASAP. The movie suddenly becomes annoyingly lengthy, it passes the two hour mark and you’ve used up all your little tricks to make her lean into you and let her hand come near your cock. You’re not really having this date. You’re not really sacrificing your time to please someone inferior to you. It’s just a ritual you’ve gotta go through to get the Rich Bitch to look up to you a little more.

Richelle clutches a cushion over her crotch, as if she’s blocking you from eating her pussy with your face underneath her, looking up, as if you’d ever do a thing like that. It’s hard to stop thinking about eating her now that the thought’s crept under your eyelids. She winces when Avatar gets tense and the visuals flying at her eyes are too exciting to take, she gasps through her fingers.

Finally the movie ends and you tighten the laces on your boots, grab a jack and wheel a pallet of dye packs 200m across the store, just in chase Onna asks you what you’ve been doing. Richelle scurries behind you. You touch her shoulder, spin her into Kitchenware, park her ass at a bar stool. You fetch a pizza from Frozen Goods, rip the wrapper off. You heat it in a display microwave that stinks of plastic because it’s not been used before, serve the pizza on its circle of cardboard, pick off a chip of ham, push it into her skinny lips. You dine at the breakfast bar, keeping your head down because of the No Deposit 0% Interest sign that’s stuck above your head that you’ll get in trouble if you remove, like the time you took down that creamed corn mascot. Richelle listens and nods while you go on about the songs you’ve been writing on guitar at home. Bitches always fall for that shit, and when they ask to hear some of your lyrics, usually you’ll quote some lines from a Bryan Adams song the girls are too young to know. 5am becomes 5.30. You put minigolf balls into a mug, playing on an office golf set that comes with three metres of Astroturf. The date ends just as Nicholas is buzzing the main door for you to let him in, wearing a cap of orange sunglight, and your arteries freeze, and your watch tells you 7 o’clock has caught you by surprise and you think: Did we move the dye? Did we clean up the cardboard? Did we shelve those towels? Will we pass inspection if a mystery shopper comes through? Yes, yes, yes. Thank fuck for that.

Nicholas asks if it was an ordinary shift and you’re like, Of course, and snort.

‘Yo, I thought I saw your ass last night already, Nicholas,’ you go, ‘How come you’re in, anyway?’

‘Bro, please, it’s Nico,’ he goes, awkwardly stepping forward to playfully punch your shoulder with his knobbly knuckles. ‘Listen, I kinda wanted to catch up with you: there’s a spot on my social soccer team and we could use a big aggressive guy to really, y’know, kick the shit outta the opposition on Thursday nights.’

‘I work nights,’ you grumble, your eyebrows crushing your nose. ‘Fuck you doin at work this early anyway? Don’t your shifts usually go three til midnight?’

He laughs. ‘Bro, when you’re management, you get treated like a grown-up!’

‘Well isn’t there a job goin for Assistant Buying Manager?’

‘Mm hmm, yes indeedy. Got a few CVs to read over today, actually.’

‘Well my CV’s in there, I could be a awesome manager.’

Nicholas bursts out laughing, and punches your other shoulder. ‘God you’re a crack-up,’ he goes, and tucks in the bottom of his shirt. ‘Hey – lipstick, by the way, on your cheek,’ Nicholas goes, touching his face.

Rich approaches. You notice her lower her head. ‘Ah: Little Miss Management,’ he chuckles.

‘I’m out of here, guys,’ Richelle goes, squeezing your arm. ‘Thanks for last night.’

‘It was this night,’ you go.

‘Silly me, old age,’ she chuckles, tapping her skull. She squeezes past Nicholas, who doesn’t even stand aside to let her through the door. ‘Well, see you both.’

‘Fuck’s that all about?’

Nicholas shrugs. ‘Richelle’s used to a little mismanagement, so that’s what we call her.’ He claps and tries to strut away towards the stairs leading up into the office suite.

‘Slow your roll,’ you go, grabbing his collar bone. ‘Nico, er, bro: tell me everything.’

Nicholas raises an eyebrow. ‘Thought you knew? I mean, hellOOO?! You don’t just cancel quality assurance procedures without asking the generals. She was only Seef.’

‘Seef?’

‘CFO, man. Cost the company money – money that wasn’t hers. She’s lucky to have a job. She wouldn’t exactly have received a glowing reference were she out in the job market now, would she. “What did you achieve in your last position, Richelle?” What’s she going to say, honestly?! “Well, gee, I gave away benefits to the night-niggers.” I mean, come ON! You screwed up, sister!’ He’s panting, worked-up about how much he hates her. ‘Bro, you’re a good guy and I’d hate to see her pollute your mind. We had an amazing Mystery Shopper scheme and she terminated it without authority, as if our floor staff didn’t need daily audits. Socialist heroine? Puh-lease.’

‘Is that right?’

‘Just say the word and the top-levels can get her pulled, no problem. She’s on a final warning, y’know.’ He looks at his $2000 watch. ‘Time for you to head home, eh. Off ya go.'

You lurch out into the parking lot, desperate for sunglasses, eyes compressed to slits, walking at first, then sprinting. You chase her down. She’s trying to sit in the driver seat.

In a corner of the parking lot with 1000 white boxes and 800 puddles and 200 unanchored trolleys adrift on a black asphalt ocean, you wrestle her for the car keys. She gets out of the car, tries to shove you away. You hold her wrists. She bites your chin, begins sucking your neck. You push her back inside the car, crawl in after her, opening her thighs.  

It’s soft and cosy and tight inside that car. It reeks of the deodorant she’s been using because she’s never near a shower anymore. The car is full of clothes, a hairbush here, a toothbrush there. You lean on her, bite her neck, lick her eyes, suck her little nipples. You were worried that she would have had veiny, fried egg areolae, but nope, she hasn’t had kids. She has the nipples of a woman who put work over family. Her hips rise above the passenger seat, her pussy pulled toward your mouth. You bury your nose inside.

 

*

Your girls snap the dull ends off your box cutters. The girls prepare fresh, sharp blades for when they see the Rich Bitch.

You send Richelle to search through bins of 20,000 CDs looking for 2Pac’s 2012 album of duos with Biggie, barely able to keep from erupting with laughter. Good luck finding 2Pac and Biggie duets, hon. She hardly says anything, just saunters away, carrying a face that’s suddenly got no makeup on it, barely even any Chapstick on her lips. You don’t recognise the moles that’ve appeared above her left eye and on her neck. If she’s been keeping these from you, there should be consequences. Or maybe you’re just looking at her differently.

You get on the P.A., announce that everyone needs to assemble in the centre by Coffee Therapy. A team meeting’s on.

‘You need to hear this from me, people: word is she used to be some kind of management,’ you say from atop a pallet atop a forklift. It’s like a balcony. Everyone is small, underneath you. ‘Could be bullshit, though.’

‘It’s truth,’ Marley calls out, ‘Look how good she stacked those noodles. Tryina make us look like slack-asses.’

‘Hell yeah.’

‘Oh no she DIDN’T.’

‘She’s slipping, for real.’

Piglet’s operating the forks. He’s happy to hold you up, big grin on his face ‘cause you told him that sucking her ears would be the secret to getting Aimey to put out the other night. ‘Are we gonna have Upstairs fucking up our shit?’ Piglet yells.

‘FUCK NO!’ the girls roar in unison. They add their own variations, Jess yelling ‘Fuck that bitch’ and Keisha saying something about rolling her or robbing her. You look down on the mob of twenty girls you’ve spent five years texting and groping in the passenger seat of your Skyline, girls whose faces you’ve pushed into pillows, girls who’ve left sticky resin beneath your belly button where their stomachs grinded against you, girls who’ve cursed you and hated you minutes after you’ve come in them.

Everyone’s heads turn. Richelle is approaching your gathering. ‘I couldn’t find that CD, I’m really sorry, and sorry I’m late for the meeting, um, no one told me and I was just getting something from my car, sorry… .’

‘You living in that thing or what?’ Piglet goes, and everyone laughs. ‘Does a fuckin maid come and clean every morning, huh?’

Richelle looks around. Two dozen people, girls who’ll never go to management classes, stand there with their arms folded. Her skin is worse than theirs. Her muscles are weaker. ‘I don’t have a maid any more,’ Richelle says in a plain, simple voice. ‘I don’t have a house for a maid to clean. I was on 140 thousand dollars a year. I had a husband. I had children – your age, actually. They have a new mother, now, soooo… yeah.’

Piglet lowers the forks til you’re only a metre off the floor and you hop off.

‘We got something for you,’ the girls coo, and chuckle, and extend their blades.

Richelle sprints toward the exit doors.

You sprint after her.

‘OI! I DIDN’T SAY YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE!’

You drag her back inside the City With A Single Roof, and she fights and you get a sensation of a woman that weighs hardly anything and will evaporate if anything else is ripped out of her.

She squirms and wriggles as you force her into the circle of knives. She drops, tries to pull her arms out of the sleeves of her hi vis vest. You haul her to her feet.

Piglet approaches. In one hand, he holds his blade. In the other, a cardboard cutout, woman-shaped. It could have been done based on a silhouette of Richelle, it’s that precise.

The girls have printed a photo of Richelle from her CFO management days, when she would come into work with makeup that was so confident and joyous, the makeup of someone who looked up at better things, decent things, not the same makeup as these young girls who take bites out of the foundations of the company like rats then go off to have families, leaving you feeling like you’re the one who’s been used. These girls, their wombs are their ticket out of here.

Richelle stands in front of the image of herself. You uncurl her fingers, press a cutter into her hand, close her fingers.

Richelle cuts the face of the woman from management into gnarled scraps and the ketchup dribbles down from one eye as if she’s weeping blood.

She comes over and collapses into your arms. She fits you perfectly. It must be six a.m., now.

‘Where you going after this?’

‘I’m not going anywhere,’ you tell her.

 


© Copyright 2017 Botur. All rights reserved.

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