This was a writing exercise I did for a workshop. We were basically told to write a story with a specific setting and characters, but we each got to put our own spin on it. It was called an Iceberg exercise, because most of the story was hidden beneath the surface. Anyway, it’s more of a random scene than a full story, but I was pretty proud of how it turned out. Maybe I’ll do more with it someday.
The sun sets on another blazing summer day. It’s closing time at the local branch of Shoes n’ Stuff. A man in his sixties closes and locks the front doors. His face is dripping with sweat as he heaves a sigh of relief. The store behind him is a mess of open shoe boxes, packing paper, and loner socks that the other employees slowly gather to be laundered for the next day.
One of the other employees, a young man in his teens, approaches his older coworker and taps him on the shoulder. “Hey Artie, Veronica needs to see you in her office.”
“Fan-fucking-tastic,” Arthur mutters.
Veronica is sitting in her office chair when Arthur enters the room. A small desk fan is whirring in the background, pushing the warm air around the office in slow half-circles.
“Hello, Arthur,” she says.
“You wanted to see me?” he asks.
Veronica doesn’t answer immediately. She thumbs through a file on her desk. “Your sales have dropped again, Arthur.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed,” Arthur says.
“I bet you haven’t,” she replies. “We’ve talked about this before, Arthur. This is not a conversation we should keep having.”
Arthur’s fist tightens at his side.
Veronica takes a tissue from a box on her desk and wipes away the sweat covering her copper-colored skin. “Do you know how I got this job, Arthur?”
“You may have mentioned it once or twice,” Arthur mutters.
“I got this job because I had the drive, the drive to succeed. I started out here cleaning bathrooms and laundering socks, and now at the age of thirty-four I own this store.”
“A store with no A/C. Congratulations.”
Veronica slams her palm on the table. “That’s strike two, Arthur. Do you want to push it to three?”
The room is silent. Only the sound of the fan and the hum of the vacuum cleaner outside can he heard.
“Veteran or not, if your sales aren’t up by next month, I suggest you start looking for another job. Are we clear?”
“I said, are we clear?” She says it slowly, enunciating each syllable.
Veronica leans back in her chair, stern-faced yet satisfied. “Good. Now get out. You’re on garbage duty tonight.”
Arthur scowls, but leaves the office without another word.