Stumbling: a short story

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Stumbling: a short story

Staff Writer

“It was her first day at her new job, and boredom was overcoming her.” (Lane Smith/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
Jess slumped in her chair, her fingers sliding aimlessly over the keyboard. It was her first day at her new job, and boredom was overcoming her. Her phone rang, slapping her out of her daze. Her fingers fumbled with the phone as she lurched upright in her chair.

“Hello,” she chirped into the phone, squinting at the business card in her hand, “you have reached Jess at Western American Financial Landscaping. How can I help you?”

“Well I must admit I thought you were lying about your new job. The company’s name is so absurd. What do you do exactly?” her mother’s voice sprang at her through the earpiece.

“Why would I invent a job?” Jess responded, “I’m not trying to escape or anything.” She noticed the receptionist staring at her and whispered to him, “Sorry it’s my parole officer.” He continued to stare, causing her to laugh uncomfortably and add, “No, just my mom, but same thing, right?”

“My brother is in prison,” mumbled the receptionist.

“Mom, I have to go, work,” Jess stuttered, giving the receptionist an apologetic look before turning around quickly.

A few minutes later, her boss, Shelly, called Jess into her office.

“Please take a seat,” Shelly instructed gesturing toward a chair placed in the far corner of the meticulously furnished room. Jess sat and began to move the chair forward before a strange look from Shelly told her to sit still.

“I like to talk to employees on their first day and see how they are doing in the new environment,” Shelly informed her, “So, how are you finding the office?”

“Well the coffee is decent,” Jess joked, “but honestly I haven’t had enough time to give a thorough response to that question.”

“Are you displeased with the atmosphere the office provides?” Shelly demanded, leaning forward aggressively.

“No,” Jess corrected quickly, “I mean the receptionist seems very friendly and – um – the concern you have for your employees is – um – comforting.”

The rest of the interrogation stumbled by, and Jess left an hour later feeling incompetent and confused. A man cornered her almost as soon as she had squirmed through of the door.

“How did the infamous first conference go?” he asked, “She’s a little intense isn’t she?”

“Just a little,” Jess admitted, rubbing her face in exhaustion. “A little intense, a little cold, a little crazy.”

“Hopefully it doesn’t run in the family,” the man responded, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in discomfort.

“Oh—I am sure it doesn’t.” Jess scrambled, “Well, I should be off. My coffee needs a refill.”

She almost ran to the break room, content to remain silent for the rest of the day, but then someone tapped her on the shoulder.

“Hello, my name in Franklin. I don’t believe we’ve been introduced.”

“Jess” she sighed as she turned to face a small group of people.

“Well, Jess,” he continued, “what is your opinion on Antarctica?”

“I am sorry I didn’t realize one should have an opinion on Antarctica. Is it a topic of much debate?”

“Yes,” Franklin ranted, “would you believe some people believe it actually exists?!”

“Well, the world is full of crazy people,” Jess replied in exasperation, sick of the entire ordeal.

“Anyway,” a girl chimed in, “I was just saying how wrestling is the best way to keep in shape these days. All the Sally’s Scandal models swear by it.”

“Well, I have always wanted to be a Sally’s Scandal model,” Jess blurted out, her sarcastic tone naturally coating the words.

“Me too!” the girl shrieked, “We should go to the auditions together!”

“Yes,” Jess smiled, “well, I better get back to work.”

She strode quickly out of the break room and smashed into a man who was by far the most attractive in the office.

“Sorry,” he muttered, moving hastily aside, “wasn’t really paying attention. My name is Carl by the way. I’m sure you have been badgered all day, but if you don’t mind me asking, how is your first day going?”

“It’s an unusual place,” she said quickly, “but I’m sure it’s charming.”

“I know there are some crazy people here,” he chattered, “the other day, you won’t believe this, the other day Frank was telling me that–”

Just then, Franklin came skipping out of the break room and, slinging his arm around Jess, chortled, “This girl, man, we were just talking.”

“About wrestling. We were just talking about wrestling.” Jess interrupted, casually pushing Franklin away, “I hear it’s the best way to stay fit these days.” Franklin seemed to get the message as he nodded and ambled away to his desk.

“As you were saying – crazy people.” Jess laughed.

“Frank is my brother,” the man spat, “I was just going to say how some people in here seem to believe that Antarctica exists.” Jess felt all her restraints crumble as her mouth slid open.

“BECAUSE IT DOES!” she cried, “Antarctica exists! I am sorry to everyone I have offended in the past couple hours. I quit. I have two questions before I go, though. Is there anyone in here who is not related?” One man in the corner of the room raised his hand nervously; a small poster of Antarctica was hanging above his isolated desk.

“Ok,” Jess hissed in frustration, “Why did you hire me then? Did the orphanage run out of stock? Did you run out of spaces to declare dependents on your social security?”

“Our brother Alfred was arrested,” whimpered Franklin, “and we needed a replacement.” Jess laughed incredulously before gathering her few belongings and crashing through the door.

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