(Hiding inside a rack full of men’s coats, I, the administrative assistant of a highly prestigious department store, had just witnessed my boss stuff cash from a register down her shirt.)
I remained inside the men’s coat rack until I saw my boss go back up the escalator. Why, what a fiend! She just walked away like nothing had happened! I could hardly believe it. My boss? Do something wrong? It was inconceivable. But I could ponder all of this once I got to the food court and sat down. I crawled out, hiked up my pantyhose, and strolled away, looking around as though I were inspecting the merchandise layout.
I heard someone coming and pretended I was trying to move the coat rack.
“Excuse me!” One of the salespeople.
“Why, yes, hello? Could you please help me with this?”
“Why the hell was I terminated?”
“Oh–you were terminated? I’m sorry to hear that.”
“No, don’t give me that shit! All of a sudden I get a pink slip in the mail, telling me I was terminated two weeks ago! What the fuck is that about?”
Uh oh, something was ringing a bell…. “Why—I am surprised you were terminated.”
“‘Surprised?’ You’re ‘surprised’ I was terminated? Is that all the hell you have to say?”
“Well, I’m surprised you were terminated… that’s all.”
“‘That’s all’? Are you effing kidding me? I’ve lost my insurance, my 401k has been closed, I lost all my sick time and vacation, my kids don’t have any food, my lights and water are gonna be shut off, AND my rent assistance depends on me working and now they’ve been told that I was fired from my job! And you’re just fucking ‘surprised’’’?
Someone caught my eye behind her. It was the new trainee wearing her huge backpack, smiling and bouncing along to music I knew only she could hear, since our muzak service had been disconnected a few months ago. Why was she still here, anyway? She was supposed to have been fired two weeks ago. The new trainee…who had the same first name as the woman standing in front of me. Oh poop! I mailed the termination notice to the wrong person!
I put on a big blue puffer coat. “Zip me up?”
“No, I’m not zipping you up! I asked you why the hell I was termed?”
“Why, I—well, I’m sure it must have been a clerical error. I will speak to someone in human resources about this.”
“An ‘error’? Are you serious? How long am I supposed to wait for an answer? I’ve been coming to work every day and basically working for free!”
“This is absolutely wrong. I am personally going to look into this matter and fix it,” I said, trying to zipper up the coat myself. “In the meantime—”
“No! I’m going to the fucking store manager about this!”
Poop! Not my boss!
“Oh—why I–I think she cut her toenail too short and had to leave” I said, and hung the coat back up. “It was bleeding profusely. But I will be happy to convey your message to her. And I am very, very sorry about this mistake. I suggest you go home and take it easy, and rest assured, I am handling this myself.”
“Really? I can leave?”
“Yes, we can’t have you here working for free. It wouldn’t be right.”
I started to move away. “Yes, yes. I’m going upstairs to take care of it right now! I’ll call you!”
I lost myself in a crowd of obnoxious teenagers. Finally, I could go to the bathroom.
My feet stuck to the floor as I checked every stall until I located a toilet that didn’t appear to be used more than three times without flushing. I had begun to pile up toilet paper on the seat when I heard the door open and some laughter. Two stall doors slammed.
“Girl, you nasty! I can’t believe you would do that!”
“Why not? It’s funny as hell!”
A backpack dropped onto the floor in the stall next to me. A backpack… who would put their backpack on this floor?
“So you do that every day?”
“Yup. I just come in, pick out something nice and sexy, head to the fitting room, and swap it right out.”
“And you seriously just put it back in the same place?”
“Nah, I like to change it up and surprise her.”
“Which one is she again?”
“You know, that nitwit girl in lingerie.”
“Oh, the bitch with the hair?”
“Yeah! It’s hilarious. She’ll be going around completely oblivious and then randomly find it.”
“You should see her face when she finds it. Especially after I—”
Flush! I didn’t want to know the rest. That backpack… Why, they ought to have terminated her sooner!
We hadn’t had soap or paper towels in four months—I kept meaning to order some, but, in my defense, we didn’t have money in the budget for it anyway–so I used my skirt to dry my hands. I left and passed by the handbag department where the fellow with the plums was still arguing with customers.
The central aisle of the main level, my yellow brick road, led through the cosmetics department, terminating at the gateway freedom: the mall entrance. After last night’s routine break-in, many cases were cracked and shattered. Tiny shards of glass twinkled under the flickering fluorescent lights. I was Dorothy on her way to the Emerald City. Food court, here I come.