Yoharie: What It Takes to Fly (part five)
Black letters: HIRING APPLY WITHIN.
Well, why not, if fate beckoned?
And somehow she wasn’t first in line. Jeff, offering a hand, had patted her arm instead, drawn her into his office, walked out again…speaking, so she had to tail him…before she could eyeball his desk for a last name. Rick-Rack Rags was musty, cigarettey; smell salient among its features…
And close-packed, loaded, a foot or two of space between each of those rickety racks.
His phone played Spandau Ballet, and he talked to someone who’d gotten a text from him. “You got my text? Yer, and Pab, do you know where to find him?”
Well, he goes to the Zion Baptist. That’s the only place you’d track him down…
“I hardly need more than a couple people.”
He spoke to her, she thought, inviting her to chime in. “Was it Savannah?”
Saying uh-huh, loud for Pab…or someone looking for Pab…she tugged the sleeve of a pilled sweatshirt, colored…watermelon?
Yer, indeed. The breast zone showed itself appliqued with a pink and green slice, satin, glued-on plastic seeds.
“Hoo!” Jeff craned his neck.
“Well, I don’t like it.” She shrugged, a bad idea in a job interview.
The catch, though he’d set her to work that afternoon, was 160 hours. She was short-term. They were all short-term, herself, Tavo, and Sana. Sana’s four-year-old.
“Don’t let her work.” Jeff said this once or twice a day, weaving to his office. Otherwise he left them to fend.
Short-term meant they were also learners. Their hours were short. Savannah was getting $8.50 instead of minimum wage. A beggar in this scenario, she couldn’t complain, but her workmates took matters cynically. (Especially Sana, let go and rehired.) The first day, dying for a Dr. Pepper, but afraid to ask favors, she’d spent four hours pulling everything with a yellow dot on the tag, throwing the hanger in one appliance box, the garment in another. The next day they all did this, including (in mimicry, and too undersized to reach the racks) the child, until the box was heaped to the ceiling, a volcano vomiting weird, ugly clothes all over the floor.
“That’s no good. You need another box,” Jeff said, stopping by. “Tavo, go see in the back lot.”
After three days they were given the weekend off, and paper checks.
Sixteen hours, a certain amount of withholding. But earnings enough to drive home to Savannah her miscalculations…
The motel she’d given thought to; not, with any sense, basic food. Her length of stay as factored she would not be able to afford. And only on bathroom breaks could she wedge in a quick (and futile) call, “You advertised for a roommate?” The hours would end, probably before the coming week…they were all such busy workers. Rick-Rack had another location in Wilmington, still in business. The whole job was to clear out this inventory, get rid of most of it.
She set her alarm for 7:00 am Saturday, the banks soon to open, her plan to cash the check and buy groceries…
Down, Monday, to the nubs, of things-you-can-get-with-loose-change, she gave her story to Sana and Tavo. “I mean, you can’t cash a check if you don’t have an account? And they won’t let you have an account unless you have a permanent address? What are you supposed to do? I’m so starving!”
“You go to one of the places,” Sana told her, maybe with an eye roll. “You never had a check?”
Well, not exactly. Grandma wrote them. Kate deposited them in her wallet and pulled out cash for her daughters.
Tavo said, “Put your head out the door and look over that way.”
She put her head out the door, and looked across the shopping center. “Tavo!”
He came up behind. “ZipCash. Yellow sign? You got it.”
“Oh. But…” But, bad news, weren’t they, check-cashing stores? “Don’t they have fees?”
“Won’t be much of nothing.”
“Better get going,” Sana said.
“What about Jeff?”
“Yeah, don’t let him see you. They close at four, what can you do…? But he won’t fire you. We’re almost done.”
The yellow dots signaled expiration, the item too long unsold. Today they were digging through the storeroom—fresh stuff popping from the woodwork—for cottons and denims, Jeff with more cardboard boxes increasing chaos and fire hazard.
“So it used to be we’d get estate…some old lady would die, her grandkids’d want the house just cleaned out. And they had the dinner-dances and the supper clubs, Brown Derby, that kind of thing, all these ladies who were in bookkeeping or reading scripts for the censors, assistant producer’s wife, whatever like that, and they had the great 40s, 50s suits, swingy dresses, little pairs of shoes… I mean little tiny sizes…they were all five feet tall. Have em with balled-up newspaper in the toes, lined up in a row. And fur stoles. And the really avant-garde costume jewelry. I had wardrobe stylists slip me fifty to hold the collectibles aside… All that generation died about ten years ago.”
“And…no more swag?”
Savannah thought, wanting him gone so she could jam the shirt and jeans into her knapsack, that he seemed talking to her particularly.
“No. The internet, that’s the whole trouble.”
What It Takes to Fly
(2020, Stephanie Foster)