Taking Care of Business

Posted by in From My Head (Fiction)

My Professor asked us to write a 350 word piece featuring a working class protagonist. So often writers only write about writers, or superheroes, or spies. I enjoyed this assignment, this is my attempt:

Rob stared at the melons. Their shape was pleasing. The symmetry of the stack comforted him. The produce department was cool, the temperature helped him think. His phone vibrated in his pocket like a swarm of bees. It could be any number of people calling: his boss, the store manager; or his boss’s boss, the district manager; or one of the department managers who all reported to him; or worse – his wife Veronica. He didn’t look. The misters sprayed the lettuce. The droplets of water reminded him of riding the Maid of the Mist on their Niagara Falls honeymoon. He frowned. His fingers itched. He rearranged a stack of apples.

It had been a day. The fire inspector broke the fryer exhaust fan during an inspection. The man who arrived to repair it was currently sitting on the floor reading a manual. He anticipated a line of people at lunchtime waiting to tell him off because they wouldn’t have their famous fried chicken, not today. Two checkers hadn’t shown up at all and the milk delivery was late. And his pocket wouldn’t stop vibrating.

No one called him with good news.

The precise timing of the first call, exactly one and a half minutes after her alarm would have woken her for work, told him everything he needed to know. She had a headache. She wondered if he thought she should go to work. She wondered if he could drive home on his lunch to get her an aspirin because she “just couldn’t.”

He stopped rearranging fruit and pushed his shoulders back. He plastered a smile on his face and walked through his store putting his hands on the shoulders of cashiers, nodding at the deli manager, helping a stock boy with a big box. He spotted a spill in aisle six and seeing no employees around he went to the back for a roll of paper towels. He was kneeling on the hard floor, thinking that he apparently did have to do everything himself, when his pocket began to vibrate again. Exhausted, he pulled his phone out. Her picture filled the screen. He pressed answer. He regretted it immediately.