Fool at the Gates by Bryan Edenfield
She broke this morning.
The world was the same; She was not.
She showered, dressed, ate. Before leaving, She scooped a handful of dirt from a potted plant and dropped it into her purse.
It was the middle of the day.
The bus was mostly empty. No one sat next to her. The purse didn’t leak. It was old, but well made. Before She exited, She scooped some dirt and placed it on the seat between herself and the window. A toothy gentleman eyed her pile of dirt. He said nothing. She said nothing.
She arrived at a large glass building, went to the fourth floor, and announced her arrival.
“I’ve an interview at one pm.” She laughed. “I might not be able to pay rent if I don’t get the job.” She laughed again and fingered her cold dirt.
A young man smiled. She knew, he didn’t want to smile. “I’ll tell them you’re here.”
After a few minutes, a man, all business, called her name, omitted here for sake of privacy, and led her to a conference room. Two others sat and waited: a professional woman, a professional man.
“It’s a lovely day,” said the business man, not all business now.
“It’s cold but not wet,” She said.
The professional woman laughed like an open nothing. “Thank god. I’m tired of drizzle.”
“Without water, we die,” She said.
They smiled uneasily.
“Well then, let’s jump right in, shall we,” said the professional man. He rattled off the job description, which needs no repeating, then asked, “Questions for us?”
“Alrighty,” said the man of mostly business. “Let’s dive into a few questions for you.” He looked to the professional woman. “Care to start?”
The professional woman consulted her manila folder and its paper tongues. They all had such folders. “Yes. Why would you like to work here? What brings you to us?”
She chuckled. “Funny facts. You need money to eat, have a safe place to live, receive medical attention. I’m pretty healthy, aside from chronic depression. I don’t go to therapy, because that’s a scam, right? No, it’s not. But it’s hard to find a good shrink. Besides, I’m between health insurance right now. Between health. In between health. In between.”
They smiled uneasily.
She continued. “I saw your job-posting. It looked like something I could do. Any one could. You ask for five years experience, a college education, but any one could do it with minimal training. One could argue, if bored, that with prior experience and a college education, the training would take less time. That would save money. A university education—that’s what you call for, a four year education—is not supposed to be a job training program, is it? But it is. It’s all job training programs, public school too. Companies outsource the work that they should be doing in-house. It’s your job to train employees. The employees should be paid for their time. Instead, we suckers pay the university to train us so that you don’t have to. I’m charged to get trained to do your job. That’s dumb.”
The professional woman opened her mouth but words did not come.
She continued. “You think previous experience at another employer will minimize training? Everyone has their unique operations, and technology changes, office cultures vary, so you’re going to have to train me the same amount whether I’ve had a similar job before or not, I reckon. Now, someone already working here, lower wage staff, customer facing or whatever, administrative staff, entry level types, they don’t get promoted because they don’t have the right kind of experience or education. Of course. They’re stuck doing bullshit that no one likes. They can’t survive off of minimum wage, we know that. Not even a few dollars more than minimum wage would suffice here, not even double minimum wage would suffice. A few generations ago, they’d be paid two or three times the amount now, and the work would be easier. Inflation, man. But see: they know the office culture. They know internal operations. Alas, they aren’t properly educated or experienced.”
They laughed uneasily.
“Well, that sure was a very honest and original answer,” the professional woman said.
The business man cleared his throat like suicide. “I’ll tell you, we’re well ahead of the curve when it comes to upward in-house training and employee advancement. There’s ample mobility, and our minimum wage is higher than the national, very competitive—”
“Let me ask you this,” said the professional man, but then didn’t ask her anything. He fumbled with his folder.
She decided to put him out of his misery. “I know you’re not giving me the job. It’s fine. The outside is cold but not wet.” She eyed the window. “Well, now it’s wet.”
She then lifted and overturned her purse, heart thumping, eager to witness black dirt pour forth and pummel particle board.
But dirt did not pour. An avalanche of teeth rained onto the umber stained conference room table, bloomed into an inverted mushroom cloud billowing towards the edges, and shivered out a static noise like the demon maracas of a devil baby.
She was worried security would accost her on her way out of the building. They didn’t.
She didn’t go home. She took the bus to the airport, an eighty minute journey. Standing at the transit hub, she watched airplanes lift into the rainy haze and felt a breezy nothing open within. The sun set and the temperature dropped.
She thought many thoughts. We need not catalog them.
Worth note, though, are thoughts she did not think.
I need to get out of here, She did not think.
I need to pay rent, She did not think.
This evening, she arrived home and made herself a meal. She did not put herself back together. She listened to music and sang loudly, then read four chapters of a novel, masturbated while thinking about an ex-lover, then slept.
Everything that happens after this is unknown.
Bryan Edenfield (he/him) is an alive human mammal animal, probably. He is the author of Cake, published by Really Serious Literature. He has a website: wordlessdictionary.com and Twitter: @funnycakebot and Instagram: @wordlessdictionary