Cupcakes and Fingernails – Part Eight

short story about work

Short Story

“Bathroom,” Jennifer quipped, jabbing a finger in its direction. “Gonna go. Real quick. Okay?”

Alex looked around awkwardly.

“You… You don’t need to ask permission. You can just go.”

“Yeah. Right. I know,” Jennifer mumbled before scooting past Alex.

She shut the door behind her too loudly, making her wince. She entered the nearest stall to the right, latched the door, and sat on the toilet with her pants still up. With a thought, she pulled her legs out of sight as well.

Jennifer wrestled her phone out of her pocket and pulled up Google. After typing out “Akex”, “Aphex”, “Slex”, “Alec”, and “Andy,” she finally managed to maneuver her fingers into typing out “Alex Crowley.” Scrolling past the immediate Wikipedia article, she skimmed the links carefully past her fingers. Toward the bottom was one that had not been there last night, a facebook link with a location in town. Tapping it, the page loaded.

Sure enough, the picture was of Alex, taken inside Gateau while he was working. In fact, as Jennifer wracked her brain to remember more clearly, she could have sworn the photo was from Gateau’s website. Backing out of the browser, she opted instead to repeat the search through her facebook app for more information. She pulled up Alex’s page again and found exactly what he had said: not much of anything. The only information on his page, aside from his profile picture, was his employment, his name, and the vague location of their city with no address. His profile looked like it was created ten minutes ago rather than last night.

She backed out to the homepage and put the phone back in her pocket. Adjusting herself on the toilet seat, Jennifer pulled her legs up to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. Her mouth formed into a slight frown as she tapped her finger thoughtfully on her shin. She had been hoping to catch Alex in a lie, for her own validation, but that hadn’t been the case. For all she knew, he could have just created his account the other day. While it seemed strange to create a page only after she had started looking, Jennifer had to just be content with feeling bad about feeling bad.

A tinkle of the front door jerked her back to her senses. Jennifer ducked to pull up her pants before she remembered they were already on. She put on her customer-greeting-smile and headed outside, only to find Dwayne standing in the doorway, looking more frazzled than ever. He stumbled inside, drawing on a cigarette. As if in response, Wendy stepped out of the kitchen and took a glance at his hand.

“That’s not a cigarette,” she said, pointing.

“What do you know?” Dwayne sneered. Nevertheless, he stepped back outside and buried the smoldering whatever-it-was in the dirt. Coming back with a demeanor that could only be described as ‘sauntering,’ he stood quietly in the middle of the room, swaying gently. Jennifer caught a concerned glance from Alex. Wendy simply looked a little more exasperated than normal.

“You’re all fired,” Dwayne said, slurring his words together into a soup of language.

“No,” Wendy said.

“Then you’re fired,” he snapped back, pointing at her.

“Especially no.”

“Then I’m fired,” Dwayne yelled, throwing his hands up in the air as he collapsed into the nearest chair. His forehead hit the table with a thunk and he buried his fingers in his shaggy hair. Alex anxiously stepped from around the counter and approached him. He stole another glance at Jennifer, who only frowned and shrugged.

“Dwayne?” Alex asked. He sat down in a chair on the opposite side of the small table. He set his hands in front of him, one of them poised to prod his boss awake. “Dwayne? Are you alright?”

Dwayne mumbled incoherently from underneath his arms and shuffled in his seat as a response. His upper back jumped with what was either a sob or a hiccup.

“Did something happen?” Alex continued to prod, now risking to actually make contact. Dwayne pulled away and stamped one of his feet against the ground like a horse.

“Uh… What does that mean?” Alex asked helplessly, looking up for help. Wendy groaned and left the kitchen. She waved Alex out of his chair and took his place. Placing a hand on Dwayne shoulder, she firmly shook him.

“Dwayne.”

He grumbled in response.

“Dwayne.”

This time, he dimly looked up at her with bloodshot eyes.

“Dwayne,” Wendy said, “you forgot half my paycheck.”

Alex and Jennifer yet again exchanged worried glances. Dwayne himself only blinked.

“You need to do the math again and call the payroll office to send me my full amount,” she continued, completely flat. “You also need to go to the bank and get us some more change for the register. After that, we need more sprinkles, chocolate chips, and some kosher cupcake mix.”

Dwayne grunted like a neanderthal, nodded, and stood up, leaving without another word. The three stood in the middle of the room until they heard his car crank up, backfire, and then rumble away.

“Dwayne’s problem,” Wendy posited, “is that he has no idea what he’s doing until someone tells him.”

“That’s not a good sign for a manager,” Jennifer acknowledged.

“Did you finally notice?” Wendy strode back to the kitchen door and pushed it open with her foot.

“If you need me, call me,” she spoke before vanishing behind it. After a moment, she poked her head out again and pointed at Alex. “You call me.” Her finger migrated to Jennifer, where it waggled at her. “Not you.”

Before Jennifer could respond, Wendy slipped away. Feeling impotent and only vaguely insulted, she could only manage a gravely, “Damn it.” She plodded back to her post at the register and went over the counter instead of around it because who gives a shit?

 

next chapter: CUPCAKES AND FINGERNAILS – PART NINE

previous chapter: CUPCAKES AND FINGERNAILS – PART SEVEN

all chapters: Cupcakes and Fingernails

more by WILL HEMLEPP

photograph by Ryan McGuire

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