Just Another Day

Emily was looking forward to sleeping in. She had a rough night and didn’t get to sleep until 4am. More arguing with the husband – it was getting old. She finally obeyed her bladder and slipped out of bed. Slipped out of the warm, soft covers and the pillows that were now perfectly molded to her head. She sighed and headed down the stairs to the bathroom, the cat circling her all the way.


“Ugh,” Emily thought, “I need to feed Midnight.” She left the bathroom and headed for the kitchen. The light from the kitchen window poured into the room, blinding her. She raised her hand up to her eyes and protested. “Why does the sun have to be up? Why can’t I just go back to bed?” She sighed, poured some catfood into the food bowl. Some of it spilled out onto the floor. Emily didn’t care. She yawned, silently cursed the sun and headed back towards the stairs.

Just as she reached the bottom step, the phone rang. On the first ring, Emily was convinced she was going to let the answering machine get it. She took another step up the staircase. On the second ring, Emily stopped and hung her head. “What if it’s important?” she thought. On the third ring, she was running for the phone. She picked it up just before the fourth ring.

The voice on the other end sounded weighed down, gravelly, and tired. “Hello my love,” it gasped out. Emily knew who it was, immediately. She internally cringed. It was her coworker, Julie. She sounded horrible and Emily knew why she was calling. She was obviously not feeling well.

“What’s up, sweetie? Are you feeling okay?” asked Emily. Julie explained she was sick – throwing up and diarrhea. She needed to go home.

“I know you work the night shift, tonight, but I can’t get ahold of Karen. I need to get to the ER, I can’t stay out of the bathroom for longer than 10 minutes.” Emily told her she would be in by noon and hoped Julie got to feeling better soon. She hung up the phone and sighed.

“Well Midnight, it looks like I don’t get to go back to bed, afterall.” Midnight meowed, licking her lips from breakfast. “Keep it warm for me when I get back.” Midnight ignored her as she licked her paws and ran them over her ears.

Emily sighed and called her husband at work. There was only one car and he’d have to spend his break coming to pick her up and take her to work. Normally, by the time Jack got home, Emily was getting ready to head out to work. It was one of the reasons their relationship was so stressed, lately. They hardly ever saw one another. Emily worked most weekends and Jack had a Monday through Friday, nine to five job. Emily was jealous. Jack got paid very well, far more than anyone else would have in that job. It was because he had so much experience. He’d been in call center work since he was about 17 and had stuck through it. He’d hopped jobs a few years ago, but finally found a cushy job. He made $15 an hour for a job that others were paid $9 simply because he’d been doing it for 20 years.

Emily gritted her teeth. The last time she got paid anywhere near that was in a factory. She had to bust her ass 12 hours a day and feel exhausted and worn out by the end of every day. She’d hardly had any days off and just lived to work. She resented her husband’s success. She knew it was her own fault and she was in the wrong, but she was going to have to go back to school while working. It was going to be hell for the next five years. She would spend every waking moment away from work doing even more work – house work, school work, yard work. Meanwhile, her husband would “work” at his job, come home and piddle around a little bit, play video games, and do actual recreational things that were fun: hiking, photography, etc.

Emily sighed and reached for the phone. She dialed the phone number to her husband’s work, each number being punched in a little harder. He answered, “Thank you for calling Mary Sally, how may I help you today?” He sounded happy, polite, upbeat. It was completely different from the monotone way he communicated with Emily. “It’s me, Jack.” His tone of voice changed. He wasn’t happy and polite anymore. “Emily,” he whispered in a harsh tone, “I’ve told you not to call me at work.” She rolled her eyes. He wasn’t going to be happy at all about what she had to say, but he could stick it.

“Look Jack, I need you to come and pick me up and take me to work. One of the girls is sick.” There was a pause. “It’s more hours, more money, Jack,” she added. She knew more money would get him. It worked.

He sighed heavily and she imagined he was pumping his jaw and rolling his eyes like he always does when she asks him to do anything. Take out the trash, mow the lawn, show some personal intimacy. He said he’d be there in half an hour but she’d have to be out waiting for him. He’d just stop long enough to let her into the car. He hung up without saying goodbye.

“Thanks sweetie,” Emily said to the phone tone, “I love you too.” She slammed the phone down and ran to the shower. She rushed and threw some clothes on and her hair up in a ponytail. She wouldn’t have time to blowdry it.  She threw some treats into Midnight’s bowl on the way out the door.

She waited out in the cold for about ten minutes, cursing Jack’s name with every gust of wind. It was 12 degrees below, without the windchill, and he was late. “That fucking bastard,” she whispered through clenched teeth. She heard the roar of a motor and saw a red car bobbing up and down the hilly street. Jack.

She hopped in the car as it barely stopped long enough to let both her feet get in. “Jesus, Jack. At least let me get in the car before you take off,” she said as she whipped her seat belt on and glowered at the brim of his nose. She hadn’t been able to make eye contact with him, anymore. All she saw was what she didn’t want to accept: they weren’t in love anymore. They hadn’t been for a long time. “I’m going to be late, Em,” he yelled over the blaring radio. It was some new pop song that you would think only a teenage girl would listen to. Jack popped his gum and nodded his head to the beat. She wondered if he was fucking some young thing at work. He’d changed a lot since getting that job.

She sighed and began telling him how Julie was sick and she was the only she could get ahold of. Jack rolled his eyes and Emily mentioned the extra money she’d be earning. He sighed and agreed. It was always about the money, anymore.

Jack let her off outside her building’s parking lot, not even bothering to drop her off at the door. He stopped just long enough to let her get one foot on the pavement before squealing the tires, music blaring. She turned and cursed, flipping him the bird. “Mothefucking bastard,” she yelled as she walked towards the building.

She didn’t have a bad job. She worked as a cashier at one of the local gas stations. It didn’t pay particularly well, didn’t have set hours, and didn’t have benefits – but she liked it. She was grateful for it. Jobs were hard to come by these days, unless you had a penis and were good at sticking your nose up people’s asses. She thought of Jack and cursed some more.

Inside, she ran to her locker and then stopped by the front office. She picked up an hour slip to get the overtime and told Wendy, the manager, why she was early. Wendy sat at her desk that was piled high with papers and knick knacks. They were shaped like various farmyard animals, usually sent over from customers and vendors around the holidays.  Music played softly in the background, 80’s hair rock. Wendy nodded her head to the beat and Emily thought of Jack and cursed under her breath. “What was that, Em?” Wendy asked, her eyes and fingers never leaving the computer. “Nothing, Wendy,” Emily smiled, “Just didn’t expect to be into work yet.” Wendy nodded and Emily walked briskly to the front.

When she rounded the corner to the cash register, she saw Julie sitting on the floor behind the register counter. She was rocking back and forth, holding her stomach. She looked up at Emily and attempted a smile. The effect had the opposite impact. Julie’s cheeks were blotched with purple and red, her eyes had bags of dark blue, and her lips were almost white. She was very ill.

“Oh Julie,” Emily said as she put on her vest and lanyard. She bent down and helped Julie stand. “I’m alright, Em,” Julie said, trying to smile again. “Ugh.. I think I need to run to the” Emily didn’t catch the rest as Julie rounded the corner and ran towards the bathroom.  She grabbed a pen and started filling out her overtime sheet. A quick look around told just how ill Julie was. The are behind the cashier’s counter was cluttered with half finished tasks. The bread wasn’t completely put away, the magazines were strewn around, and the outdated candy bars were thrown in a basket – some of them on the floor around it. It reminded Emily that she forgot to tell Jack to feed Midnight when he got home. The fucker wouldn’t do it if she didn’t nag him.

“Bastard,” Emily muttered under her breath. A cough behind her made her whip around and plaster on a smile. There was a customer, Mr.Jones. He was a regular. He always bought a small coffee, a donut, and a newspaper. “Hey Mr.Jones,” Emily said as she signed into the register. She rang him up, making small talk, but he still looked at her like she had just walked out of the Principal’s Office. Emily sighed as she watched him pull out of the parking lot in his beat up truck. “Where the hell do these rednecks get off in judging me for saying one bad word?”

Julie came back from the bathroom, looking paler. She apologized to Emily and grabbed her Gatorade and purse. “Get to the ER, Julie.” “No, I’ll be alright,” Julie said as she tried to smile yet again and headed for the door. Emily sighed and got to work on the mess behind her.

It was a pretty uneventful afternoon. The milk and soda vendors came by. Emily checked them in, making the same old small talk as they always do. The milk vendor talked about fishing. He was waiting for the first of March so he could go out before the other fishers showed up. He wanted it to warm up a bit. He said he didn’t like fishing in the cold. Emily smiled, laughed, and said she didn’t blame him.

The soda vender came in, winked at Emily, and called her sweetie. Just like he did with all of the cashiers. He talked about the latest video game he was playing and how many people were now in his guild. Emily remembered playing games like that before she had to earn more of a living. They talked about general geek stuff and he left, winking.

Emily sighed and leaned against the counter. These were the times she hated. The times when there wasn’t much of anything to be done. It left her with nothing to do but think – think about how she’d rather be at home in bed, think about how her marriage was a sham, think about ways to get the hell out of town.

Emily was fantasizing about selling off everything she and Jack owned and skipping town when Wendy tapped on the counter top. “Earth to Emily,” she said with a kind tilt to her voice. Emily snapped up straight and smiled. “What’s up, Em?” Wendy asked as she dropped a pile of paperwork on the counter top. “Oh, just thinking about ways life could get better.”  Wendy smiled and made an “mmm” sound. “Life would be a whole lot sweeter on a tropical island with sunshine and scantily clad men.” Emily shook her head and laughed. “I’d go for the tropical island if you throw in a good book and a cocktail or two.”

Wendy laughed. “A book? You’d rather have a book than a man whose only concern is fulfilling your every need?” Emily smiled and shrugged. “At least the worst thing a book could do is give me a papercut.” Wendy agreed. “You always ruin my fantasies, Em.” She checked some numbers on the register and picked her paperwork back up. “Keep up the good work, Em,” Wendy said as she walked towards the door. She pressed her butt against it to push it open because her hands were full of papers. “I’ll be back in half an hour. I’ve got a meeting with Tom.” She smiled and headed towards her car, whistling.

“Sure,” Emily thought, “a meeting.” She shook her head and thought of Jack again. She wondered if he ever had any meetings. She grabbed the paper towels and cleaner and got to work doing anything she could to stay busy and keep any thoughts from running through her head. The 70’s classic rock playing overhead was the same old, same old. Everyday they cycled through the same songs. Emily didn’t even notice it, anymore.  She was wiping down the glass of the juice coolers when some guy walked in. He was wearing dirty clothes with holes in them and his face was red. He staggered through the door and then stopped, pretending to look at the nothing in front of him. Emily sighed. “Great,” she said to herself, “a drunk.”

The man walked over to the alcohol aisles. He would have made a bee line if he was able but his pace was constantly being interrupted by some ghost pushing him around. He was obviously inebriated and he kept coughing and inhaling sharply. “Don’t puke,” Emily begged to herself as she walked over to the cash register. “For the love of all that’s still good in this Universe, just don’t puke.” She ran the scenario through her head and groaned audibly. The drunk walked up to the cash register, a 1.75 liter bottle of whiskey in his hand. “Walked” was a vague term. He sort of jerked and stumbled his way over. Emily thought of her choices. Technically, she wasn’t allowed to sell alcohol to people who were obviously intoxicated, but her managers always said just to ask if they were driving or not. She looked out in the parking lot and saw a lonely, beat up pick up truck. It was probably his.

“Hello sir,” Emily smiled as she rang up the whiskey. “It’s an awful cold evening to be walking. Do you have a scarf or gloves with you? I’d hate for you to get frostbite.” The guy just eyed her. Emily could see the wheels working. He’d probably been thrown in the drunk tank before, maybe even arrested for DUI. Maybe he didn’t even have a valid drivers license, anymore. Emily didn’t know, but she could guess.

“Yea.. I .. Uh.. left them at.. home,” he stammered out. He paid for the whiskey but Emily came around the counter and stood in front of him. “You’re not driving, today, are you sir?” He shook his head. “You’re not lying to me are you?” She looked at the truck and then back at him. He eyed her, the truck, and then looked down at his shoes. Even just standing there he was wobbly. He may be completely toasted off his ass, but the wheels were still turning a bit. He put the brown paper bag with the whiskey in it on the counter. He bent down, nearly falling over, and grabbed a candy bar off one of the candy shelves in front of the register counter. “I.. uh.. just need.. this.” He put it on the counter and got his wallet back out.

Emily headed back around the register and waited, one hand on the bottle of whiskey. She rang up the candy bar. “One dollar and twenty cents.” The man looked at her, back at the truck, and then back at the whiskey bottle. “Uh.. no.. I don’t want.. none of it.” He stumbled towards the door and got into his truck. Emily shook her head. She watched the man pull away and then picked up the phone. “Hey Joe,” she said to the local jail secretary. He preferred the term “Jail Keeper”. “Hey, Em,” Joe said, obviously chewing on his supper. Emily heard chewing and lips smacking. “Sorry to bother you on your break, but I just had a drunk leave in a beat up pick up truck.” Joe groaned on the other side and stopped eating his supper. Emily knew he was upset she was making him work. “Description of the truck,” he said, almost terse now from his irritation with the sudden task put unto him. Emily gave the description and a partial license plate number. “I couldn’t see all of it for the newsstand, but he is definitely toasty.” Joe chuckled on the other side. “Tall guy with a scruffy beard and glasses?” “Yea, that sounds like him,” Emily said as she put the candy bar back and headed for the alcohol aisle, whiskey bottle in hand. Joe laughed. “He just got out last night.” Emily shook her head. “Looks like he’s going back,” she said as she placed the bottle on the shelf. Joe agreed and thanked her before he hung up. “Great,” Emily thought to herself, “poor drunk. He needs help, not to keep getting thrown into the damn drunk tank.” She put the phone back on its base and got back to work cleaning the store.

Wendy showed back up an hour later than she said she would. She still had an armful of papers but she looked a little different. Her hair had obviously been well brushed and her make up freshened. She smelled like she had doused herself in perfume, too. Emily waved her down and told her about the drunk. Wendy shrugged. “Not much else you could have done, Em. You did the right thing. He could have hurt someone.” “I know,” Emily said, “It just doesn’t feel like the right thing.” “Never does, sweetie,” Wendy said as she headed for the back office. Emily headed back for the register counter to try and find some inventory or outdates to do. Something, anything.

They weren’t busy at all. In fact, there was just a slow trickle of customers. It wasn’t odd for a Wednesday. Friday and Saturday were their busy days. Emily was dusting the Easter display when Dave showed up. He was the night shift manager. He waved at Emily. “Slow night, Em?” He asked as he took his coat off. He was a nice enough guy, always making conversation with people. He wore dress pants, black sneakers, and a dress polo. He always wore the same thing except for the color of the polo shirt. Today he had on a bright green one. “Wow, Dave,” Emily said as she raised her hands to cover her eyes,”I think people can see you from space.” He chuckled. “It’s laundry day.” Emily nodded and Dave headed for the back office.

Emily’s stomach growled. “Shit,” she thought. She hadn’t packed a lunch before work because of Julie’s emergency. She rolled her eyes and weighed her options. Fast food, pizza, microwaved dinner from the cooler. Nothing really sounded good. She grabbed a couple donuts and a bottle of milk. She knocked on the back office. “Hey, can one of you guys ring me up?” Dave turned, looking overwhelmed. Wendy was handing him papers, explaining why each one had not yet been completed. He exchanged an unspoken conversation with Emily in one look. “More meetings with Tom?” Yeah.

Wendy handed Dave the last of the paperwork and headed out to the cash register. Emily plopped down her donuts and milk and reached for her wallet. “Dammit!” Wendy looked at her, eyebrows arched. “I forgot my wallet.” Wendy shook her head. Emily grabbed the donuts and milk and headed for the coolers to put them back. Dave popped out form the office. “You hungry?” Emily stammered out a “yea”, still embarassed about forgetting her wallet. Dave smiled. “I was going to get a pizza, you can pay for lunch next week.” Emily smiled and thank him. He knew she would never pay for lunch.  Wendy yelled a goodbye as she stepped out from the cash register. She waved, her bracelets clinking. “Got a hot date?” Dave asked. A giggle escaped from Emily’s mouth and she quickly covered it with her hand, her eyes bugging out. Wendy stood there, a hand on one hip and a wry smile on her face. “What are you getting at, Dave?” “You’re just in an awful hurry,” Dave said, winking at Emily. “I wasn’t sure if you were late for a date or maybe..” he paused, “a meeting?” Emily laughed. Wendy brushed her hair back, rolling her eyes. “Whatever,” she said, smiling. She turned and left. “Tell Tom I had said hi,” Dave said as she walked out the door. Wendy ignored him and headed for her turquoise Smart Car. She peeled out of the parking lot and Dave and Emily laughed. “If she’d save her meetings for after work, she might get some done,” he said as he went back into the office to finish Wendy’s paperwork.

Emily had a few customers. The usuals. Barb came in and bought her can of cat food, a crossword puzzle book, and a package of oreos. She told Emily about how Mr.Whiskers was doing better since he had his anal glands squeezed. Emily just smiled and cooed, “Oooh, poory kitty.” Inside though, she was cringing. “Really woman?” she though, “you think it’s a good idea to go around telling people about your cat’s gross problems?” Inside, she was making pukey motions with her mouth. Outside, she was smiling and nodding. Customer service was all about making the customer feel good, no matter what you were really thinking.

After Barb, Phil came in. He had his two brats with him. Emily never got their names because they never said hi, never stood still long enough to say hi to, and their dad was always calling both of them “dammit”. “Dammit, get back over here, you kids!” Phil yelled as he plopped a case of beer on the counter. “Dammit, you kids stop rough housing!” “Dammit, hold the fucking door open!” She could hear him out in the parking lot, getting into their rust bucket of a car. “Dammit, it’s cold out, shut the door!” Emily shook her head once she was sure they had gone. Thank God she and Jack had never had kids.

They’d talked about it, but never gotten around to it. That would require, I don’t know, two people spending the night together in the same bed. That wasn’t something she and Jack did, anymore. Usually when Emily got home, she would fall asleep on the couch watching tv. After Jack left for work in the morning, she would wake up and crawl into bed with Midnight. Work, tv, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

She grabbed the mop and starting mopping up the salt-ladden footprints from in front of the door. Emily thought of all the things she had hoped to be along the way, before life happened. A social worker, an artist, a mom. Making ends meet had taken priority in her life and it wasn’t making days meet very well. She drudged through each day and night, constantly tabulating numbers – paying bills. Life sucked and there was no way getting around it.

Headlights flashed across Emily’s face and she looked up to see the pizza guy. Dave popped out of the back office, wallet in hand. He winked at Emily as he tip toed across the wet floor. She was going to poke fun at him about messing up her hard work, but she just didn’t feel like it.

The pizza was delicious. She leaned against the register counter, plate piled high with pizza slices in front of her. Dave was still in the back office, probably still doing Wendy’s paperwork. I guess what little of it Wendy had done before she left wasn’t done well. Every now and again, Emily would hear a sharp curse word. She shook her head. Poor Dave.

Just as she was finishing up the last slice, Dave came out of the office. His hair was disheveled and he had grease stains on his pants. He looked haggard and Emily smiled at him. “You need another job, Dave.” she said as he walked behind the counter. “Don’t I know it,” he muttered. He had his clip board out, taking inventory. Now that he had finished Wendy’s work, he had his own to do. Emily tried to help out where she could. “I already did the inventory and outdates for the front.” She handed him a piece of paper. Dave smiled, “What would I do with you, Em? Enjoying the pizza?” Emily burped. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said as he went to the backroom to check inventory there. Emily was just wishing for a slice of chocolate cake and some ice cream when a customer walked in. He smiled, waved and said “hi”. Emily nodded and smiled. She assumed her position behind the counter and kept an eye on him.

She had learned over the years to be polite to customers, of course. But also, to be cautious. Not suspicious, necessarily, just cautious. Keep an eye on them. Trust but verify.

She watched him walk up and down the aisles, grabbing a pack of gum here and a pack of shavers there. He was talking loudly to himself. Emily watched him a few more minutes and decided he wasn’t going to be trouble. She went to fill the coffee station. Just as she was putting the creamers up, Dave walked up behind her. She turned around. He was standing almost nose to nose with her, looking deep in her eyes. “Did that guy go near the drugs?” Emily knew what he was talking about: the cough syrups and allergy pills. Anything with psuedoephedrine in it. She gulped. “Uh, no. He’s just browsing. I haven’t seen him over there.” She looked past Dave and at the cough and cold aisle. She puckered her lips and furrowed her brows. “What is it?” Dave asked. He didn’t turn. He didn’t want the customer to know they were talking about him. “There’s a gap on the shelf. I just did inventory earlier and I haven’t sold any cough and cold, today. Something’s missing.” Dave turned and looked at the guy. He was now in the potato chip aisle, crouching on the floor. Emily watched him and headed to the cash register. She grabbed the phone and hit the “page” button.

“Security alert. All employees walk the floor.” The customer immediately shot up and smiled. He looked nervously at Dave and then at Emily. “Someone trying to hold you up?” he laughed. Dave just stared but Emily smiled and shrugged. “Can’t be too careful,” she said. The guy started whistling and talking to himself again, loudly. Dave headed back to the office, stopping at the door to look at Emily. He made the universal sign to keep an eye on the guy and Emily nodded. She knew he was going to check the cameras.

The guy continued to alternate between whistling and talking loudly to himself. Emily started walking the aisles, always keeping him in her line of sight. He walked up to her and asked if he’d need a driver’s license to buy some lithium batters. “Unfortunately, sir, we require that information. Some people steal them to make illegal drugs.” She smiled and the guy tittered out something akin to a laugh. “Gotta smell good, I think I need some smell good stuff. Where do you keep your cologne?” Emily walked him over to cologne case. “We keep all of our perfume and cologne behind this case because people tend to steal them.” The guy nodded, his hand rubbing his scraggly beard. “Uh, well, that’s pretty..” he whistled,”.. pretty expensive.” Emily nodded and suggested he check out the deodorant aisle for body spray. He almost jumped at the idea and kept saying out loud, “Gotta smell good, get me some smell good stuff.” It reminded Emily of that deli meat commercial where the quarterback is doing a touchdown dance and singing, “Gotta get me some cold cuts, today!”

She shook her head. “Just as long as you pay for it,” she thought to herself. She positioned herself back behind the cash register to keep an eye on the guy. Rita, a regular that used to work with Emily at the factory, came in and smiled. “Heya, Em,” she twanged out. “Haven’t seen ya in a while, gurl.” Emily nodded and smiled. “Good to see you again, Rita. How’s life?” Rita walked over and starting filling Emily in on all the factory gossip. Jenny dumped Earl after she found out he was sleeping with that girl in the front office. Of course, everyone else already knew that but poor Jenny had to find out last. Ted got a raise as one of the shift managers and he was really bunging things up. The numbers were down and the office people weren’t too happy. “Well tell all them to come on out and get off their asses. See how they like working 12 hour days,” Rita was saying as Emily was trying to pay attention and keep an eye on the guy that was now over by the newspapers.

“Well, gurl, just came to get me some go-go juice.” Rita said as she headed towards the coolers. Emily rang her up, they talked a little more about things, and then Rita left. “Gotta get back to the ole’ grindstone,” she said as she smiled and walked out the door. Emily smiled and waved. When she turned, Dave was out of the office, walking the aisles. He was pretending to straighten things up. He walked over to the cash register where Emily was still at. “I can’t see what he does at the cold and cough aisle because of the damn camera angle.” he said, “I’ve told corporate we need more cameras but they won’t send any. We’re a small store.” He folded his arms and rolled his eyes. “I bet he walks out with that stuff and there’s nothing we can do about it.” Emily sighed. “I’m sick of this.” She walked out from behind the cash register and made a beeline for the guy. He straightened up and smiled. “You want me to put that cough medicine back for you, sir? Since you don’t have your license and all?” She held out her hand, the other one on her hip. She wasn’t smiling.

The guy laughed a little. He looked at Dave and then back at Emily. He reminded Emily of the drunk from this afternoon. His wheels were turning. He finally let out a heavy sigh, dug into his coat, and handed over the pills. “I guess I can’t buy ’em without my ID, right?” Emily grabbed the pills, smiled, and went back to the cash register. She handed Dave the package of cold medicine on her way. He wasn’t smiling either.

The guy attempted another laugh and walked up to the register. He put his items down and kept whistling. Emily rung up his items and wished him a good day as he whistled his way out the door. Dave turned to Emily, “Good job.” He set the pills down on the counter and then went into the backroom to complete inventory. Emily sighed and then put the cold medicine back. “No problem, boss,” she said, “gotta save this city one druggie and drunkard at a time.” She walked back to her cash register and started counting the money out for the end of the shift.

She hated counting out her drawer. Her mind always started to wander. She was thinking about Jack and how they were not only just two people sharing bills, but that they also despised eachother, now.

She finished with the tens, marked down the result, and started on the fives.

She could just take all the savings, Midnight, and that ugly red car. Go to the other side of the damn country and start over.

She started on the ones.

She didn’t know anyone. She didn’t have any real friends. She was good at making other people feel like she was being friendly. She was good at making them think she cared. That’s why she was good at her job. That’s why Jack was good at his job. That’s why it didn’t work.They didn’t really care about anyone other than themselves. That was the real issue.

She started on the quarters.

The only person she really knew was her Mom, and she was dead. “How sad is that?” Emily whispered as she started counting the pennies. She sighed and took her paperwork back to Dave who was in the office. He looked up from his computer screen and stopped short. “You okay, Em?” he asked as he took the paperwork.

Emily shrugged.

“You’ve had a long day. It was nice of you to cover for Julie.” he turned back to his computer. Emily just stood there, leaning against the door way. “Yeah,” she muttered. “I hope she gets to feeling better.”

She didn’t really. She didn’t really care if Julie got better or not. She just knew it was the right thing to say. Emily always knew the right thing to say. The right thing to do. She just never knew the right way to feel.

She slowly walked back to the counter and signed out of the cash register. She dragged her feet towards her locker and grabbed her stuff. Dave shut off the lights and they both went out into the cold. Emily put her coat on as Dave locked the doors. They headed for the car. Dave always gave Emily a ride home, he was just a nice guy like that. Emily wondered if he actually felt nice about it or just did it because it was nice to do. Like Emily did. Like Jack did.

Did anyone actually feel nice?

Emily sighed.

“You seem awful distant, tonight. Everything okay?” Dave asked as he kept his eyes on the road. The wind had picked up and it was blowing the snow around pretty good.

Emily lied, like she always did. “Yeah, just tired.” Dave nodded, or Emilly assumed he did. She was too busy staring out the window to see.

Dave’s car pulled up behind Jack’s in the drive. “Thanks again, Dave.” Emily said as she opened the door. “See you Friday,” he said as she closed the door.  He pulled away and she headed for the front door. She just stood there, key in the lock, forehead against the cold door. She didn’t want to go inside. She didn’t want to stay out in the cold. There just weren’t any other options. She was stuck.

She turned the lock as a tear fell down her face. Midnight was sitting there. She meowed, rubbing against Emily’s cold ankles. Emily smiled. “You just want food,” she said as she bent over to scratch her head. “Even you fake it.”

She took her coat off and headed to the kitchen to feed the cat. Midnight got excited when the can of food opened. She reached up to Emily’s knees and pawed at the air. MEOW!

Emily laughed and put the food down. She went upstairs to change into her pajamas. Jack was in bed, snoring. She just stood there and watched him, waiting for something to happen. Anything. Nothing did. She didn’t feel anything. She sighed and pulled some pajamas out of her dresser. She got dressed, grabbed her blanket and pillows, and headed downstairs.

She heard Jack say something in his sleep as she headed down the stairs, but she ignored him. She didn’t care anymore if he was saying some other woman’s name in his sleep. She just didn’t want to be anywhere near him.

She opened the freezer and tried to decide. Chocolate or butter pecan ice cream, tonight? She asked Midnight but the cat was too busy gobbling down her supper to bother to pretend to be interesetd in Emily, anymore. Emily sighed and reached for the chocolate. “I need to heavy stuff, tonight.” She sat on the couch with a heaping bowl of ice cream and clicked on the tv. “Another day, another dollar,” she thought as she scrolled through the channels. She wanted to cry as she at her ice cream. She wanted to be able to go upstairs, wake Jack, and scream at him. Scream at him for not loving her anymore, scream at him for being an asshole, just scream.

But she couldn’t. She just didn’t feel it, anymore. She didn’t feel anything. Still, when she was supposed to laugh along with the sitcom, she laughed. She still knew what was expected.

This is a work in progress. Like all my stories, it is copyright Chelsea Roush 2015. It is not apart of a creative commons copyright. If you wish to share this, please link directly back to here and give credit, or contact me through WordPress messaging to ask to use on other media.
This is purely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to circumstances or individuals is a coincidence.


Trans Trains

So, I’ve been absent from here as of late due to health issues (big shocker) and because I discovered Tumblr. Yes, I am now addicted to all the Tumbling goodness.  As a result, I come across some very ineteresting posts. One  suggested that a person stop using the word “transparent” because it had the word “trans” in it and was offensive to Trans people (as in Transgendered or Transsexual).

Lesson of the Day? I accept such challenges and raise your absurd request to absurd levels of offensiveness.

In response, I wrote the following. You may need a dictionary, I surely did.

Kiya was a young woman living in Transylvania. She had never come across any vampires or werewolves. She found the talk of such creatures to be boring and she transcended all of the recent books and movies on the subject. She was of the opinion that works of fiction based on transmogrification were annoying. Except for Harry Potter. There was always room for Harry Potter. Instead of reading, she found joy in the outlying countryside. She often took holidays through European countries and, today, she was riding on the Trans Siberian Railroad. It was a transcontinental railroad, and she looked forward to immersing herself in the various cultures it transversed. She liked to travel with as few modern amenities as possible. It gave her the feeling of sloughing off her current woes and slipping into a time when such things did not exist. All transgressions and worries of life were forgotten. On this note, she travelled with a simple radio; a transceiver that could both receive and transmit radio waves. It was basic and did not have any bells or whisltes. She took delight in listening in on the local radio stations as the train transected the countryside. She did not often use the radio to transmit anything, but it was good to know she had it in case of an emergency.

Along with the countryside, travelling by train had other enjoyments. There was the delicious food full of trans fats, the time echoed décor, and the interesting company. Kiya had met people from the four corners of the world, in all walks of life, and made some wonderful friends. Not everyone aboard was willing to take part in this aspect of travelling by train, however. There was a younger university student sitting to the right of Kiya who had spent the entire trip rolled up on her seat, completely transfixed with her schoolwork. Kiya glanced out of the corner of her eye and saw that the young woman was currently transcribing something about the “Trans Effect”. It looked as if it had something to do with chemistry, but Kiya could not be certain. She was just about to take another glance but her eye began to twitch. She held her hand up to her right eye and silently cursed her health. She must have louder than she thought because the student looked up briefly from her transcription with a sly smile. Kiya thought to explain, but the student went back to her work.

Since her transient ischemic attack, her eyes liked to go into involuntary twitches. It caused some confusion if it happened as she was being introduced to new people. It looked as though she were having a tic attack of some sort. One man even took it as an invitation for a sexual encounter. When Kiya refused, his behavior transitioned into hostility at a transsonic speed. She remembers the venom of his words, clearly. She was amazed that people still walked around holding such primitive beliefs and wondered if she could create some kind of transponder to warn her of these people.

Kiya sighed and then smiled. She usually met much more jovial people and she wouldn’t be on this lovely train if she hadn’t had the ministroke to begin with. Her doctor told her it was a warning that a full-fledged stroke was going to occur. He chided her for living a stressful life and convinced her that she needed to learn to take time off and destress. She took his advice and began taking these wonderful holiday trips.

Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted by two men arguing behind her. “No, no,” began a man in a Russian accent, “If we use transdermal medication than we will forgo the risk of infection at the site.” “Oh good goods,” responded someone in an English accent, “the risk of getting an infection at the site of a transcutaneous implant is minimal and the benefits far outweigh it!” “I will not allow my patient to receive their medication this way, their immune system is already weakened and any risk could be deadly.” The next man scoffed and continued the verbal transfer of disagreement. It was painfully transparent that the Englishman thought his knowledge superior to the Russian man’s. Kiya figured that they must be doctors headed to some transcultural medical assembly by the sounds of their accents. She was thankful they both found a common language. Can you imagine a translator in the middle of that argument? She laughed and looked around at all of the passengers and began trying to determine where each person was going to or had come from.

A few rows down from her sat a man who could pass for being transient, or homeless. His beard was long, full, and unkempt. He had on several layers of clothing, most of them looking beat up and holey. His big toe stuck out from one of his shoes and the hat he wore to cover his mess of hair did not match his clothing in any way. It was neon and had a strange logo plastered across the front. He was reading a newspaper and mumbling to himself about trans regional sports. Kiya assumed he must be a drifter. By the looks of it, a transpolar one. She quickly wondered if anyone would transvalue his appearance or simply treat him as something to ignore.

The woman sitting one row closer looked as though she had just stepped off the Trans Saharan Trade Highway, her dress transposed from another time. She wore fabrics of black and shimmery golds. She had large, golden hoop earrings and was dressed in the traditional African sense. The only thing that brought her to this century was the iPhone in her hands. She transuded severe annoyance and it seemed to be aimed at whomever was sending the messages. As she burrowed her eyebrows deeper into a frown, her large jaw bones and high cheeks, matched with a liberal application of shimmery make up, almost made her look like a transvestite.

Kiya’s thoughts drifted back to her own phone. She wondered if it was wise to leave it behind. She might need it. Did Mark from accounting need her help? Would her mother be able to go two days without calling to see if she was alright? She sighed and looked out the window through the translucent, lace curtains. The transformation was amazing. Her worries melted away as she watched the scenery pass by. The argument behind her erupted again. They were now “discussing” transthoracic transplants and policy or procedures. She laid her head back on her seat rest and closed her eyes, smiling. “Oh yes,” she thought to herself, “it was goin to be a fun holiday.”

Writing Spreadsheets

I’ve been writing short stories, lately, to gauge how many words I can write in a given amount of time. I plan on making up some story spreadsheets so I can get my writing a little more organized. Right now, I’m what people refer to as a “pantser”.

PANTSER (noun): A novelist who writes by the Seat of the Pants, not taking time to plan the novel before beginning to write.

I wouldn’t consider myself a “novelist”, but the definition fits other than that. I have a tendency to sit down with some small idea (or none at all) and just bled the story out onto the blank screen. I often draw from my past experiences or try to imagine what new experiences would be like.   I’ve been wanting to turn one of my stories into an actual book for some time, but didn’t know how to go about it.

“You just write it out.”

Well, the thing is, that pantsing has it’s good points and bad points. It’s good because you can just write without a thought given to fitting into a timeline or plot. It’s bad because when you step back and take another look, the plot is very two dimensional. It doesn’t have twists, or doesn’t have them properly executed. This is where planning comes into play.

There’s a wonderful website by Jami Gold that has many templates for story spreadsheets.  What’s a story spreadsheet? It looks like this:


There are a variety of types with varying levels of complexity to suit your tastes in writing or in a given story. You can find them all HERE at Jami Gold’s site.

I prefer the simple ones because I am just starting this and I don’t want to get in over my head. Having said that, it helps to know a few things while planning to write something: your schedule, how long it takes to write how much, and any research for the environment, situations, and people in the story.  I’m working on figuring out how many words I can write, on average. This means timing myself as I write various short stories to see what the average is.  So far, it’s not too bad and I’m getting a good idea of how long it would take to write a story. Of course, you also have to edit said story – not only for grammar but also for adherence to the plot and the characters. Would that really happen? Would that person really do that? etc.

I currently don’t know what my schedule will be, since I’m starting a new job, but it’s a part time job so I should have at least some free time to write. The difficult part is actually sitting down and writing. I can come up with a billion and one reasons not to do it, simply because I’m good at procrastinating. Given all of this, I plan on being very lenient with my spreadsheet so that I can get those awesome morale boosts of finishing earlier than expected.  I am really excited, procrastination aside.


You truly are the root of all evil. We bend over backwards for you, sacrificing our very souls to get ahead in this monetized society that we’ve constructed for ourselves. I can feel you, tickling my brain, making me think the only way I will have any value as a person is to have lots of you. You burn in my veins – I can feel the fire run through me as I drag myself from job to job, bank to bills, store to home. Earn, buy, pay; repeat.

I’m exhausted. I’m a living exposed nerve. I’m a mind drenched in chemicals, drifting from distraction to distraction.  I use anything and everything I can get my hands on to forget about having to go back to hell to earn more money: drugs, alcohol, video games, sex.  Don’t make me go back but give my my big check. Give me more money.

I’ve forgotten that we are human and our value is not based on pieces of paper or clinking coins. A house does not equal a valid person. A fancy car, the latest clothes, a cool haircut. These things are pure nonesense. They don’t matter at all.  I’ve forgotten, though, so I scream at people to get things done now. Make more money, now!  I don’t care if you missed your own birthday party to work overtime. I don’t care if a loved one just died. I don’t care if you are dying. Make. Money. Now. More.

Always more.

One house? I need two, now. I need to upgrade my car. I need to upgrade my look. I need to upgrade my ego.

My self-esteem shrivels. My soul is hanging on, trying to break through all the madness.

Crack. A little break. A little too much stress, a little too much forgetfulness. I’m beginning to remember.

I look around in a haze. I begin to question things.. why do I need a fancy car? Why do I need a big house? Why do I need that promotion?


Wait, this isn’t right. Crack.

Something is wrong.

Work, earn, buy, pay.  Work, buy, pay. Work, pay. Work. Work. Work.

Crack. Crack. Crack.

I can’t get out of my king sized bed. I can’t bring myself to put on my designer jeans. I can’t look in the mirror. What is going on?

I go outside and just stand there, slowly blinking. Slowly moving my head side to side, taking it all in.

The sun, grass, earth – it’s all still here. It was always here and it always will. Even when I’m gone. Even when money means nothing.

Money means nothing.


The sun starts to shine back into my soul. The tears stream down my face. What have I become?

I move out of my big house. I sell my fancy car. I quit my job.

What now? What do I do with myself now? What really matters?  I get back in touch with family and old friends. I visit them, stop and take time to talk with them, I help them out. I’m starting to become human, again.  I can feel it. My body doesn’t ache with the fire of stress and money, anymore. I’m more relaxed and I haven’t smiled and laughed this much in ages.

I sold everything I could live without and moved into a smaller house. It’s practical. I bought a small car that works well and gets me from point a to point b. It’s practical. I stop buying designer anything. I start buying groceries to eat, not to feed emotional eating. It’s practical.

My soul starts to blossom. I start to write and paint, again. I haven’t painted in decades.

I help out at the local shelters and start selling my art at the local farmer’s market. I get a job that I like, but it doesn’t pay that great. And that’s okay. It pays my bills, it’s lower stress, it’s better hours. It’s practical.

My soul is back. I am human, again. I am apart of the real world, again.  I am me.. again. Finally.

Writing and creativity.

These two things are very fickle, lately.  I have been writing a story, that turned into something completely different than it was intended to be. It’s also much longer than I imagined.. and now I am having a hard time getting back into the frame of mind to write that particular story.  I think I just need some quiet time and a good space.  Until then, it  is frustrating to know that I want to keep writing it, but there just isn’t anything to write at the moment.

This doesn’t feel like writers block. I don’t stare at a blank screen and get nothing. Instead, I think of all the things I should be doing and all the stress in life, at the moment. I think, “If only this were different, if only that were different.. then I could do it.” There’s the problem. You can’t wait for things to change, you have to do it now!

So off I go to make a mess of a lovely story. Wish me luck!

Death by Pussy

Writing Challenge No.2


Shadow was tired of it.  When she was a kitten, she was allowed to do as she pleased.  Even as a young cat, she was given liberties of the house such as being on the kitchen counters and the table.  Then, her mistress found a male human.  He wouldn’t stand for an animal behaving in such a way.  She was shooed off of counters, tables, and even the bed.  A pitifully sized “cat bed” was put on the cold floor and Shadow was expected to use it instead of the warm, larger human bed.  It was intolerable.  Beyond that, her human even began becoming more strict about how everyone else behaved around the house.  She draped the home in whites and beige colors and then got upset whenever someone made a mark on anything.  Antiques replaced particle board furniture and the house slowly turned into a museum: you could look, but not touch.  Shadow had black fur.. it was always known when she was anywhere not deemed appropriate by her female human.  It was becoming too much for Shadow to bear.  On top of all this controlling nonsense, the humans had begun to bicker.  The male would come home at early hours in the morning, reeking of smoke and alcohol.  He always took his bowling bag with him and left it around the house when he came home.  It was a thing the female was always complaining about and yelling at him for.

It took Shadow a few weeks to figure out a way to freedom from this newly created Hell hole.  It would take a while, however, for the male human to put the bowling bag in just the right spot.  The ball inside must have been rather heavy because it always made a loud THUD! when he threw it down in his drunken stupors.  The heavier the better.

Finally, one night, the male came home and slammed his bowling bag ontop of Shadow’s cat tower by the front door.  Normally, this would upset Shadow, but she had other things in mind.  She even seemed to not care about the shouting that ensued when the female awoke for work in the morning.  Shadow took her usual spot, under the shoe rack by the door.  She was invisible there and out of the way of flying objects that were meant for one of the other humans.  The male sped off in his truck and the female cursed at him as she hopped into her Jeep.  They were both gone off to work.. the female would return first.  Excellent. Now, to wait.

Shadow glared out the window as the Jeep pulled into the drive.  Her wide, green eyes seemed to grow larger as her pupils dilated.  She licked her whiskers and jumped down from the window just as the driver of the vehicle stepped onto the gravel of the driveway.  Shadow took sentry duty next to the front door, swiveling her ears to hear the crunching foot steps of the lady of the house.  She crouched down and lashed her tail back and forth.  It wouldn’t be long now.  Keys jangled as the human searched for the right one to open the front door.  Shadow’s eyes narrowed and she crouched even further down onto the floor, becoming nearly invisible as her black fur blended in with shadows of the house.  The door slowly opened and human grasped at the wall to find the light switch.  Shadow licked her whiskers again as she darted between the humans tired footsteps.  The tall, lumbering female came hurtling towards the floor.  She cried out and put her hands out to try and catch herself.  The cat jumped upon her carpeted tower to watch the demise.  Select, choice words spewed from the crying human on the floor as she assessed her fall.  She was just making motions to get up when there was a loud THUD! as the bowling bag and its contents fell onto the floor.  The cat sat, licking it’s paws as it watched the white carpet turn a deep shade of red.  She waited for several minutes to be sure the head trauma was enough to get the job done. There was nothing but silence. The cat took the cue and jumped on the newly tinged carpet, being sure to get her paws entirely drenched in red.  She made her way across the white carpet and into the kitchen where she jumped onto the counter and across the white oven.  She continued her path, always looking back to make sure her paws were still laying tracks.  Over the beige couch, on all of the Antique White window sills, and a special stop on top of the white duvet cover of the bed.  Shadow’s paws stopped leaving red tracks and she jumped up onto the antique desk in the living room.  Purring, she licked her paws clean and waited for the screams to begin.  It would be several hours before the male came home to grab his bowling bag before heading out for the bowling alley and bars.  His fingerprints were the only ones on the thing, the neighbors had already heard the fighting, and now the female was dead.  The cat purred in contentment and laid down to take a nap. The male would head to prison and Shadow would end up with the female’s single sister.  She drifted off to sleep thinking of how she would be doted upon like an only child.  All was well in the world again.