Whatever (Flash Fiction/Character study/something)

“Jessica!”

“What? I mean, sorry, yes, Mr. Jacobs?” I ask. I try to hide my phone underneath a mess of clothes on the counter. If he sees me texting again, I’m going to get fired, I just know it.

“There’s a woman right over there who’s looking at the very pricey dress-rack,” he says, smiling like he always does when he’s super-angry. He’s so creepy! “Don’t you think you should be over there? Helping her?

I sigh with relief. That’s all he wants. “I asked if she needed help, Mr. Jacobs!” I say earnestly, putting on what Jill, my co-worker, calls my suck-up face. “She told me she didn’t need any, thanks very much. Who am I to push her, right?” I think it’s an okay answer, but apparently Mr. Jacobs doesn’t.

“Well, if you haven’t noticed, young lady,” I hate this guy, I really do, “she also has a very big purse. Watch that she doesn’t steal anything!” He gives me that smile of his, with his eyebrows all sort of scrunched up and ugly – he plucks, you can so tell that he’s got a unibrow – and then he just stomps back to the back office where he spend most of his day arguing with his wife on the phone. Idiot.

I look over at the woman. She’s still looking at the dresses, putting her rich-lady hands all over them. I swore when I started working here that I’d never try on clothes again. I mean, have you seen how many people cough or rub their noses and then start feeling up the clothes? Gross!

Oh! Text. It’s Beverly again. We were texting before the idiot boss got on my case. She just sent a “?” because I haven’t answered yet. I text back: “Sry boss was here. So wut did u do last nite?”

She’s been trying to get me to ask that question all morning. She can be such a tease and a show-off. I don’t even know why I’m friends with her, but whatever, she works in the designer clothing store that’s also in the mall, on the floor above, and she’s bored too, so we text. I look over at the woman. She’s moved over the scarf section now. Wow, Mr. Jacobs was right, for a change! This one’s a stealer, I’d bet my nails on it.

I walk over and pretend to straighten the handbags that are near the scarves. The woman gives me this look – I hate rich people! She looks at me like I’m trash, just because I actually have to work, you know? Yuck. So what if my dad cut me off and my mom remarried to a loser who lost all his money gambling? That doesn’t make me any worse than this old biddy. Anyway, she’s rich but she’s going to steal something anyway. I know her type – they get a thrill out of it. I say she should just buy a baggie off my friend Tod and live it up at home with a bottle of mega-bucks wine and leave the stores alone.

I’m tailing her now, walking around and arranging everything she’s touched – I’ve got a bottle of hand-sanitizer behind the counter – and I think she’s getting annoyed, because she keeps sighing real deep and stuff. Ha- there! I just saw her let one of the weird necklaces we sell here fall into her bag!

“Mr. Jacobs!” I yell. “Come out here please!”

The woman’s really surprised by my yell, and she turns around to look at me, pretending to be calm. Mr. Jacobs runs out of his office, and asks me what’s up. “This lady,” I say. “She just put a necklace in her handbag. I saw her do it.”

“Alright, let me take it from here,” Mr. Jacobs says. He waves me away. What, now he’s not happy that I caught a thief in the act? Whatever, I’m quitting after my next paycheck anyway. I’m sick of working in this place.

Oh! Text. It’s Beverly. She says: “haha its a secret.” She’s such a – a – I don’t even know what to call her. I text back “whatever.” I don’t need her. I don’t need anyone. Everyone thinks I’m some kind of idiot, I swear.

Whatever. Seriously, to, like, everyone in the world – whatever.

A Leroy Excerpt

Leroy remembered only two things from his early childhood. Tony Boss-man has asked him about it once, to see how good his memory was. So he’d told him those two memories, like pearls in the rough and dirty shell he’d become, and he’d felt he was giving part of himself away. But then, the Boss-man always made everyone feel as if they were giving themselves away. That was part of the Boss-man’s power.

The first thing he remembered was eating cereal when he was about two years old. It had been a shabby house then, shabbier even than the next ones would be, but he had a corner that his mother had painted yellow, and his little mattress was there with his few toys. Inevitably, night after night, he’d sit in that corner and watch as his mom fought with his dad. It happened every day, as far as he could tell, and only years later did he figure out what his mom was doing and why his dad objected. The particular memory that he could see so clearly in his brain was different. It didn’t have drunken-dad and floozie-mama in it. It had been an afternoon alone, and he’d climbed up onto the counter in the kitchen with the aid of a stool, a chair and then a big heave with his puny arms. If nothing else, being inside had strengthened those skinny arms of his. No one can stay weak inside. If you do, you’ll get in trouble. But on that afternoon, he’d felt it was the biggest accomplishment of mankind that he’d gotten all the way on the counter. He’d opened the cupboards because his belly was rumbling – and there was something else, he was always hungry then, but of course he would be, why should his parents give a hoot over a two year old’s nutrition? He’d found a box of cornflakes in the cupboard, and he sat triumphantly on the counter with his small legs dangling daringly. He dug his tiny fist into the box and heaved out a handful of the dry little flakes. He put them in his lap and ate them slowly, one by one. One by one. That’s what the Boss-man always told him, too. Take ’em one by one, Leroy, taken ’em on one at a time and it won’t feel so big. As if the Boss-man, sitting in his office with his piggy little eyes knew anything about the streets.

The second memory Leroy had was from around the same age, he thought, and was just as vivid, although it had a more surreal quality to it. It was a night when Momma and Pop were settled, not fighting. They’d gone to their room for a while, and both came out smiling. Leroy remembered smiling, too, and reaching out with his arms to latch onto Pop’s leg. Momma lit a cigarette and gave it to Pop. The smell wasn’t the same as the one that already permeated the house. It was different. He’d gone over to his corner and taken a pen and stuck it into his mouth, pretending to pull something in and then blow something out. Momma and Pop laughed, so he did it again, and stood very straight with his arm bent sideways, the way Momma held her cigarettes. They laughed again, and this time Pop stooped down to him and gave him the burning roll-up in his hand. Leroy’d been afraid, but he wanted Pop to keep smiling so he took it but didn’t know what to do. Pop took it back and whispered to him that this wasn’t just that green stuff or brown stuff that your Momma has all the time. No, this was some fine quality heroine right here. So smoke up, boy, never too early to have some fun. Leroy, panicking, tried to bend his face away from the smoke that was so close, making his eyes tear up. Pop put it in his mouth and pinched his nose closed, so he’d had to inhale a bit of whatever it was Pop had. He went limp, and the last thought he remembered having before he passed out was that maybe Pop was making him a hero, he gave him hero smoke, maybe he’d be like Superman.

Leroy’d thought a lot about those memories when he was inside. When he worked out, he thought again and again about getting rid of his tiny arms, of those little things that had hauled him onto the counter. When he sat and muttered and made people think he was crazy, he wondered if that toke of heroine smoke – hero smoke, as if – had really made his wiring go wrong. Those memories had proved to Boss-man that he could do what was needed. That’s all that mattered in the end, really – Tony Boss-man approving you or not. He’d been approved and he was damn proud of it at the time. But the man – the gaping hole – the smell of gunpowder – and Tony, letting him take the fall. No, that didn’t sit well with Leroy, not one bit.

Lucy’s Diary, May 25th

To be able to understand much of what is in here, you might want to, or need to, read the installment that precedes it in Alex’s blog. Here is the link: http://crystalgeek.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/journal-part-v/

May 25th, sometime after midnight, Pratt and Smith, under the covers in my room

Dearest Diary,

If my handwriting seems shaky, it’s because you’re currently nestled on my knees, which are also trying to hold the flashlight steady under the covers as I write. The girls yelled at me for having the light on when I came in here, hours after curfew of course [but the school understands and accepts this because of my needing to stay at the hospital every day]. As the library is closed, I have no choice but to huddle under my blankets and write in this most uncomfortable of situations. Forgive me for the discomfort I’m causing you, dear friend.

I’m oddly calm. I shouldn’t be calm, but I am. I suppose you’d like to know why I shouldn’t be calm, and I will indeed confide in you, but I don’t know how much I should, or can, or am allowed to write about this subjects that have recently been exposed to me.

Firstly, Micheal’s name isn’t Micheal. I’m not sure what his real name is, but he has told me to refer to him as R. and so I shall call him from now on. So R. is on the mend – he’s feeling much better, his bruises are slowly fading, and he should be released from the hospital in a day or two, a circumstance which will be difficult for me, because I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to see of him after he’s released. Miss Flynn believes that he really is a relative of mine, so I suppose she’ll let him visit me after study hours, and perhaps on our mornings off on Sundays I’ll be able to visit him wherever he’s staying right now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m sure you want to know why I’m so certain that I have to keep seeing him. Well, let me share a bit of the secret then. I suppose, though, that I should start much farther back than what R. has told me tonight. I haven’t told him what I’m about to confide in you, Diary, and I’m not sure I should confide this in him, but I’ll think about it and see.

My parents died four years ago. Gruesomely, you may say. It was a car crash, and the media made out that Dad had been drunk and went off road, but it’s not true. The police told me right at first – before changing their story – that there had been a big truck coming towards them very fast [they could tell by the skid marks apparently] and that it seemed as if Dad had swerved so as to avoid the truck. There was a huge pool of oil right there, and the car slid and Mom and Dad went flying over the railing with the car into the field below where the car crashed upside down. You may wonder at my writing all this down this way. I haven’t repeated or talked of how they died for four years – at first, I tried convincing everyone that this was the true story, and I had to repeat it over and over and over again to get people to believe that Dad wasn’t drunk, but it was no use. The papers said it was a drunk-driving accident, and I gave up trying to tell people it wasn’t true. Since then, I’ve never talked about it.

Mom’s cousin, Clarisse, took me in. She’s the witch, the monster, the utter abomination of the human soul who is my legal guardian and it is she who sent me here, to Pratt and Smith. It is she to whom I now owe many thanks, though she’ll never hear me utter them.

If Clarisse hadn’t sent me here, I never would have met R. If I’d never have met R, I never would have found out that someone else besides my parents knew about the Parazelli, or suspected the existence of this group anyway. And now that I have met R, now that I know someone who has suffered a loss like mine at the hands of this foul group – because I know that Dad never drank when he drove, and I know that he and Mom had been dragging me around from college town to college town all of my childhood because they were trying to research and prove the existence of this most evil of cults, the Parazelli, who believe in bloodshed and evil as others believe in angels and beauty – now that I’ve met R and know he believes in them too, I finally have a way to avenge my parents. I finally have a way to continue their research, continue their work, and make them proud of me, their only, rather unruly, daughter.

Forgive me for getting your pages wet, my dearest confidante, my Diary, but I can’t help it. I don’t know whether it’s fear or relief I’m feeling right now, but I do know that I cannot part with R now – I mustn’t let him get too far away, and I have to get him to let me help, in whatever way I can.

Diary, my eyes are itching with the combination of my tears and tiredness. I shall leave you to your thoughts now, and hope you will not disapprove of my risking everything for this silly thing we humans call revenge.

I must speak with R. tomorrow. I simply must.

Good night, Diary, I hope your pages rest easily even with the heavy burden of knowledge I have put down in them tonight.

Yours, as ever,

Lucy