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Could she be any more arrogant? My first reaction was to rip into her with savage fury. After a walk to the vending machines I finally corralled my emotions before they ran amok.

Returning to the stockroom I looked for her. She was new, first day on the job. I hadn’t said more than ten words to her before she went off like a hand grenade. The concussion of her reaction was enough to send me diving for cover. In Vietnam we were taught to find cover and then lay down an enfilade. Instead of the fiery response I chose to retreat. Hell, Vietnam was over thirty-five years ago. I didn’t have the same piss and vinegar in my veins as I had then. Besides, this is just a job, something to fill my day and put some extra coin in my pocket.

Back at the job I picked up the boxes and carried them to the packing area. On the table beside me was a stack of women’s undergarments. Just like every other day it was my job to pack them according to the paperwork and then ship them. I never understood that part of the buying process. But hey, it gave me something to do.

Greta walked up behind me. “What are you doing?” Her voice displaying civility that moments ago couldn’t have been farther from it.

“Boxing up all this stuff for shipment.” Pretending to be engrossed in my work I didn’t look at her.

“Kinda stupid to be packing all that little girlie stuff in those big boxes.” A grunt preceded a rumble in her throat. I thought she was going to bring up something anatomical. I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say. “You just gonna keep packing that stuff?” She continued to pester me. I wanted to ask her where her work was. It wasn’t possible that she finished a whole day’s work in less than an hour. She finally got the hint and retreated.

Lunchtime, I liked to wander down the street to find something interesting at the local diner. As I was making my way out the door I heard it. “Lawrence, I was hoping you’d buy me lunch. After all it is my first day and all.” The bottom dropped out of my stomach. Greta wasn’t exactly a looker and from her size I surmised she might eat enough for an army. I didn’t make that much to feed her and hope there was something left to nourish me. She stood between me and the exit. What the hell was I supposed to do?

“Sure Greta come on, I’ll show you where I eat.” Her look said something like, where you eat must be at the local bird feeder. She smiled. We walked down the avenue. I tried to make small talk but all she could do was spew about how life had been so unfair to her. Stopping at The Cafeteria I held the door for her. She looked at me before speaking.

“You’re not thinking of going in there are you?”

“No, I just thought it looked a little hot right here so I decided to open the door to let some air conditioning into the public space.”

“You don’t have to be such a smartass.” She exhibited a hurt look.

“No I don’t and you don’t have to be so difficult.” I felt the blood rising. I tried to quell the temper flare before I tacked on anything caustic. Closing the door I moved down the street. She followed two steps behind. As we approached “The Diner” I was having second thoughts about stepping inside without Greta’s approval. She continued to follow two steps behind. Pushing through the glass door I held it for her. She eyed the place like it was repulsive. After lingering outside Greta finally stepped through the door.

“You eat here often?” She asked incredulously.

“Only at lunch.” I walked over to a booth and slid in. She followed. As her body dropped onto the bench seat the cushion burped loudly. I stifled a smile as Greta’s eyes fell heavily on me.

The waitress deposited menus and water, took our beverage order and retreated. Greta eyed her with contempt. “I know why you come here.” Greta’s eyes followed the swishing backside of the waitress as it moved atop long legs complimented by a short skirt.

“Yeah, the food’s great and the prices are reasonable.” I spoke into the menu, not wanting to make eye contact. Greta mumbled something about all that exposed flesh being disgusting. I thought that she could take some lessons from the waitresses.

After lunch we wandered back to the office. The afternoon was usually slow. I dreaded being stuck with her all afternoon without distraction. Trying desperately to find something that made me look busy the fake job lasted all of thirty minutes.

“I’m bored, nothing to do.” Her voice whined.

What am I the social director of this dysfunctional cruise through mid-life? I thought but decided it was probably in my best interest not to say anything. My hands moved unconsciously over the work, trying not to look.

“Lawrence are you listening to me?” She grabbed my shoulder with a beefy hand. I turned on her causing her to flinch. The horror unfolding on her face told me I cracked the façade she wore to protect herself. Realizing I had the upper hand I decided to capitalize.

“Greta, don’t call me Lawrence. My first wife called me Lawrence. Happily she’s now the current former wife.” My eyes bored into her. She sensed something – like the smell of fear just before a kill. “Come with me.” I grabbed one of her thick wrists and pulled her along. She wasn’t the confident overbearing bitch anymore. Another loser cured, I thought.

Stopping in front of large stack of boxes that lined one of the long walls of the storeroom I looked them over before continuing. “See these boxes, they need to be broken down and stacked neatly in flat piles. No more than twenty-five boxes in each. Once you have them stacked take string from that spool and tie them up like that.” I pointed to a stack that was already done. She blinked as if the instructions were slowly registering.

“You got it?” She shook her head. “Good, don’t bother me until you’re done.” As I walked away I figured there was at least three days work there. Back at my station I whistled a happy tune. Every once in a while I would turn an ear in Greta’s direction. I could hear the familiar sounds of cardboard collapsing and being tossed about.

Checking my watch it was thirty minutes until quitting time. I had plans, the usual ones – stationed in front of the television watching the ballgame. Some fun, I thought. Images of a cold brew and hot pizza mesmerized me until I was shocked back to the present. Someone was screaming. It was Greta. As I walked over to the wall of boxes I saw her screaming and running in place as if someone was pulling the rug as her legs moved preventing her from making forward progress. A giant rat stared out from under one of the boxes fangs bared, hackles of fur raised threateningly.

Calmly I retrieved a shovel from the opposite side of the room. One swing and the room was silent. Memories of Vietnam flooded back. We wiped out a platoon of gooks running towards us screaming like banshees and then there was silence. Greta’s head contacted the floor – the hollow sound of a coconut – bounced once and settled. Pulling the box upon which her lifeless body rested I lugged it to the loading dock. After checking that the area was empty I hoisted the body and dropped it into the dumpster. Meticulously I went about transferring enough trash from the other dumpsters to cover her body.

Tomorrow was trash pickup, I thought.

*** Copyright (c) 2009 Salvatore Grasso - All Rights Reserved ***

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