Economy Articles...

Make Them Fiction, Please

by Kathy Coogan

Author's Note: From a Nine Word Prompt, this story was conceived, the seed planted by current economy articles that fill the newspapers with the real stories of job-loss and unemployment fears of real people across the country. My good fortune, always a comfortable assurance, seems less so now. Perhaps my psyche is more fearful than my optimistic facade. Perhaps this story is an outlet for my concerns or maybe just an empathetic take on what's going on around me.

Nine Words:
hurry, vote, girl, offering, group, young, slump, disorder, delicious

Rosemary's Bad Day
by Kathy Coogan

Rosemary parked her car, threw her keys and cell phone into her purse and tumbled out of the car, catching her heel on the hem of her trench coat. “Damn it,” she said as she caught herself before she fell. She wasn’t sure if the “damn it” was for the near-tumble or because it was the same unrepaired hem on which she had caught her heel last March and here it was September and the damn thing was still not magically fixed. “The story of my life,” she thought.

She hurried into Buskens Bakery hoping that they still had one of her favorite chocolate-iced cake donuts left. They always went early and she was later than usual this morning. She had told herself that she would be a good girl and that this would be a coffee-only morning but she needed a delicious sugar-fix after all the rushing. First her hair dryer had died, which of course happened when her head was still wet. She had run across the hall to Jerry’s to borrow his but damn him, either he wasn’t home or wasn’t answering.

She had had to convince herself that damp hair pulled back into a pony-tail was a great look on a fifty year old saleswoman who was two weeks late on her dye-job. She had added a little more eye-shadow and some big, clunky earrings hoping that would distract from the edge of grey that outlined her hairline. Maybe a Hillary headband would have been better but it was too late now.

Rosemary had to wait in line behind a group of young girls most of whom looked like they suffered from eating disorders, so skinny were the legs that showed above their boots and below their too-short skirts. “Shouldn’t they be in school by now?” She thought impatiently while pouring her coffee and adding three splendas and two creamers. She tried to see past them to the donut shelf (the chocolate were always on the top) but they were in constant chatty motion so she couldn’t tell.

When it was finally her turn she saw that there were blessedly two chocolates left, so not hesitating at all, Rosemary said, “I’ll take them both.” She deserved them. She paid Martha, the morning lady, who suggested that she have a good day.

Of course Rosemary’s keys had buried themselves in the bottom of her purse which was a trendy huge one but a bitch to carry. She placed the donut bag under arm and the coffee cup on the roof and rummaged around in her purse until she found the blasted keyring, ripping a nail down to the quick doing it. “Damn it,” she said again as she sucked on the damaged finger which was starting to bleed and really, really hurt.

She opened the car door, threw her gigantic bag onto the passenger seat and remembered to retrieve the coffee cup from the roof. She climbed in and slumped behind the wheel. She wrapped the bakery napkin around her bleeding fingernail. She opened the bakery bag with fingers that were actually trembling and pulled out the first donut. It had been squashed a little and most of the icing had stuck to the bag but she ate it in three fast bites, with her eyes closed like a heroin junky taking a hit.

She sipped the coffee and waited for the hot liquid to release the caffeine and chocolate into her sluggish bloodstream. She took a deep breath and sat looking out the windshield. In a minute she would have to drive over to the mall, clock in and organize her cash drawer. Rosemary sighed and offered up a silent prayer, “Okay God, you’re on-duty now. Don’t let me tell a customer that I don’t give a damn that we don’t carry the red pencil skirt in a size eighteen. Keep me quiet when another customer screams at me when her credit card is rejected. Let me say one more time, ‘Thanks for shopping at Rookwood.’ Let me not lose this shitty job. Thank you God. Amen.”

Rosemary put her car into reverse and slowly backed out of the space. She reached up and touched her hair which was almost dry. Maybe she could fluff it up under the hand dryer in the employees’ rest room. Maybe that new older gentleman in the Men’s department would stop by her department and chat again. She didn’t think he was gay. Maybe there’d be a voice message from her daughter Beverly when she got home. Maybe if she cared enough and wasn’t too exhausted she’d go vote after work. Maybe she’d make it through another day.

Another sad tale

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