September 7, 2007

Write Stuff Short Story Contest Entry

See the other entries and vote for your favorite (which would be, of course, ME) at the Write Stuff page!

What Goes Around
By Peter Dudley

"Didn't you used to work there?" Dawn's two-packs-a-day voice rasps across a wide, stainless steel counter as my knife slices, swish-click, through sausage after sausage. I enjoy her Tuesday summaries of the business section while I prep for the lunch rush in the shelter's kitchen. Dawn is surprisingly well read considering she dropped out of middle school and had to sell herself just to survive. That was ten years ago, though she looks much older than twenty-three. "Those college-ass pansies blew a hundred million bucks in two years? God damn. They could have given it to me and had lots more fun.” She sits cross-legged on the end of the counter.

I hold my tongue, which is not unusual. I'm sick of talking about my old boss David and his lying and backstabbing. Thank God he fired me before his shit really hit the fan. My friends still try to convince me it's not too late to sue for a "hostile work environment." They tell me I could get a lot of money in court. Dawn absently twists her long, wheat-colored hair, exposing a jagged scar stretched across the back of her neck. I wonder if my friends have any idea what a "hostile work environment" really is.

Dawn slides off the counter and wipes her sleeve under her nose. "That asshole boss you told me about. What’s-his-name. They gonna send him to jail, like Martha?” I’ve learned that shrugging gets Dawn moving on. As Dawn helps me haul the sausage tub across the kitchen, the first hungry people shuffle in. I admit to myself that I'd love to see David hauled off to prison.

The people file past, one by one, so lonely they aren't even acknowledged by each other. Some smell like the foul public toilet up the block. I take my place behind the counter. Today I'm slopping out mashed potatoes while Dawn delivers hunks of fresh bread.

As each blank face passes by, it’s hard to keep smiling. Most look down at their trays. One guy wearing a gray sweatshirt glances up, and when our eyes meet my blood runs cold. I want to grab the newspaper, hold up the headline for him to see. I want to point and say, "Didn't you used to work there?" But I hold my tongue. David turns away with his tray, and I turn to the old woman in line behind him. She gets double mashed potatoes because she has no teeth.

7 comments:

Ther said...

"She gets double mashed potatoes because she has no teeth.". You had me imagining....

=)

Patois said...

Sounds like he's starting to get what he deserves. And definitely no double mashed potatoes for him.

Very realistic telling of the surroundings. Great descriptions.

paisley said...

that happened to me one day on a bus in ft lauderdale,... he wasn't a business acquaintance,, a friend from the past more or less... it is indeed a weird situation......we are all just one step away... you just never know exactly which step it will be....

paisley said...

i just had to let you know... this touched me so deeply,, i had to post an accounting of the memory this brought very painfully, i might add,, to the fore for me tonight....

you can find it here:

http://why-paisley.com/2007/09/07/ashamed/

Ingrid said...

The harder they fall. So many of us are two paychecks away from being in that soup kitchen. Good story.

Jo said...

I'm sorry I thought I had left a comment here. I enjoyed your story and some of the images it conjured were great (yep, those mashed potatoes).

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