Bulletproof Glass Smeared with Grease
He checked his watch. The face of it scratched from the repetition, the in and out, of his hand between the bullet proof glass of the KFC cash out window and the silver dish where the money was exchanged. Three years of unstable employment had landed him in the fast food giant’s bowels. Taking “an alternative career track”, he would explain to those who knew him as a 45 year old, recently divorced, up and comer.
Sometimes, between customers, he would forget where he was. He’d be a long way back with a girl he thought he’d had a chance with (but didn’t). A job he was offered but gave up (never happened). Maybe a he should be a lawyer. Why not? He was smart enough. But he knew the discipline he lacked was what pushed his raft further and further from where he thought he was and more towards exactly where he stood. Behind bullet proof glass smeared with grease, and a taste in his mouth that had become almost unbearable.
The place was empty, still early. Yet he barely noticed the woman when she walked in. People’s features and orders ran so seamlessly together, that they became a premonition. The sound of the voices became white noise, an atmospheric suggestion of a need. She set a bee line right to his window.
“Yes m’am, welcome to KFC how can I help you?” She raised her eyes to his. They were deeply sad with a glassiness that seemed permanent. There was a crust, he could just see it, just at the corner of her eye, driving him mad.
“Help me.” Her lips trembled as she spoke in halted English. He couldn’t tell if she had an accent, her voice barely above a whisper. She reached into the right pocket of her overcoat. Her hand seemed to reach down endlessly until she finally hit the pocket’s bottom, elbow deep. She pulled out a white and pale pink slip of paper. He recognized it as a lottery ticket. He waited for her to reach back in to get what she really went in for. Instead, she hesitantly slid the ticket into the hollow belly of the silver dish, her fingers slightly going under the glass. “Read”.
“I’m sorry, did you need a menu?”
“No!” She shook her head violently side to side, sending her loose grey curls springing out from all sides. Medusa, Hydra, he couldn’t pinpoint the ancient creature that she most resembled in her frustration. She pushed the ticket in deeper. “READ!”
The ticket in hand, he looks down at the numbers and reads each slowly. He whispers for no reason. She imitates the movements of his mouth with hers . She isn’t asking him to read these very rudimentary numbers because she doesn’t know the language or what the ticket says, it’s that she wants confirmation. “Thirty six” she is moving her fingers over and over each other; “Fifty, six, fourt-nine”. He continued on at a steady and careful pace, until the last two numbers, which he said quickly, as to barely register the impact.
“I win…..” she hissed and leaned forward pressing her forehead to the scratched and flighty glass. She rocked her head back and forth, relieved. She suddenly reached her hand back into the silver dish for her ticket’s return.
He hesitated for a moment. He held the ticket in both hands now. He shifted his eyes between the woman and the ticket. Caught in the fantasy of camera angles and culpability, he felt the suck of air that comes when the double glass doors open at once. Two men, wearing Ronald Reagan masks, slide just inside the door. Dressed in cliche black with coordinated shoes, they don’t make a sound. The woman whips around like she was electrocuted, then stands stock still, curles making a halo around her head, still moving. The two men initiate motion towards her with synchronized steps, and grab the woman under the arm. She looks at one and then the other, as if one would suddenly realize that they had it all wrong. Someone would realize the mistake. They drag her silently away from the counter. Quietly forgotten behind high metal shelves where the heat lamps popped and hummed, the cooks' heads had popped up like prairie dogs, one by one standing on their toes to catch what the hell was going on. They lowered their heals and slowly walked away from visibility. Maybe to call the police, maybe to save themselves.
As the woman was finally dragged to the double doors, she craned her neck, lifting her chest and heaving her tiny body backwards . She was saying something to him but he couldn’t tell what language she was speaking. Then she gave up on direct communication, and in her helplessness, let out a yelp.
Those men looked like they came in for a reason and found it. What had been secreted into his possession, those men wanted. From all appearances, they think they have found it. They’d probably shake her down for it out of public view. She would insist she didn’t have it. They wouldn’t believe her. She would plead and tell them she gave it to him. They would never believe someone would give their winning lottery ticket to a stranger. They would interrogate her for hours. A smile crept up behind the face he showed
Maybe they would kill her.
Of course, he understood that she could use his help, but she had asked a lot of him already and so he felt no obligation. They locked eyes, the urge to wipe away the crust in her eye appeared once again.. With his smile no longer hidden, he turned away from her terror and walked to the back office. He took his coat from the hook, punched out, and headed out the back door with his future in his pocket.
Kellie Scott-Reed is the AEIC of Roi Faineant Press. She writes songs for the band Fivehead that can be found on ITunes or Spotify. You can find her work all round, scattered about. She is a very happy person, and therefore loves dark things.