Or an Hour Long Walk
Thunder rolled in the distance like the sky was cracking her knuckles before rolling in the dawn.
Heather got hit by one fat old raindrop and braced for more. There weren’t any. All that noise just to build up one raindrop whose sole purpose was to kamikaze itself on Heather’s arm.
This didn’t make Heather feel at all important. This didn’t make her feel special. It didn’t put her at one with the universe. All Heather felt was the weariness of her brow, the weight in her heart, and the ache of her feet.
Sun was just rounding the horizon and she’d already been walking for an hour. The bus doesn’t run to Heather’s part of town, and she couldn’t afford to live anyplace nicer. She got up before the song birds every morning so she could pack her clothes for the day, eat a piece of dry toast, brush her teeth and stumble out the door. It’d be nice to wake up early so she didn’t have to scurry, but the half an hour of sleep was nicer.
She was bundled today. It was the tail end of winter, things were still cracked and brown and chilled. She had on three sweaters over a tshirt and a tank top, all of that was bundled into a powder blue northface that looked like it had gotten into a few fights and lost them all.
She had on a pair of jeans over a pair of sweatpants. Her legs were spattered in mud droplets. It was nice when there was a sidewalk, but most of the times she had to walk on the side of the road. Cars always spray.
It was a crap day but at least there wasn’t slush. It was a crap day but Heather was fine with a day like this. She’d been praying for crap days as nice as this all winter long, and she certainly wasn’t going to spit on those prayers now that they’d come true. She tried to keep warm by thinking to herself “It could be worse” and remembering the days it was.
The traffic got busier the closer she got to work. Not more than one car a day passed down Heather’s tattered street, but in the last few blocks it was bumper to bumper. Cars were cutting eachother off, horns were honked, bumpers scraped so the throng could get to the jobs they loathed and start watching the clocks in the lower right hand corner of their solitaire machines.
Heather smiles a lot when people are around. She always laughs at a joke, even if it isn’t funny. Her wink is well practiced and often used. Her hips are wide and her top narrow, to the extent that she wobbles a bit when she walks. Though she never has time to make herself up in the morning she is still a fairly attractive woman.
She’s at least pretty enough to attract Burt’s attention.
Burt is the janitor. He’s six foot four and his head is a bit too large for his straight chestnut hair. He has a little moustache and a large round nose. It always takes him a little too long to mop in front of Heather’s table.
Heather was separating the cellophane from the plastic bits, getting them all lined up so she could do her second round of assembly when Burt came mopping by. She tried to keep her eyes on her work but she accidentally made eye contact and saw his looney grin break.
“Hey there, Heather” his voice was slow and sweet, less like honey and more like jello.
“Hey Burt” she said. She couldn’t help but smile, it’s who she is, even though she knew it would only keep her here longer. It’s not that she disliked him. He was always very pleasant. She simply didn’t enjoy talking to him.
“How was your walk?” He kept on mopping as he spoke, slow elegant swirls of water and detritus on the cement floor.
“It was fine, Burt. What’s the point of complaining?” She threw him her practiced wink.
“Did you hear I got a new car?” His smile was even bigger now. Friendliness fizzed from it.
“Oh really? That is nice. What kind?”
“Well it isn’t new but it is new to me. Dodge Charger. ’98.”
“Charger eh?” Heather took a break from her smile to sigh. She wanted nothing more than to go back to bed, failing that she just wanted to zone out on her work so that the day would melt away. It was so hard to tell him to just fuck the fuck off because he was so damned friendly. She almost wished this goonish janitor was more of a jerk.
“Yeah. I’m pretty proud of it. Maybe on lunch you want to see it?”
“Maybe… Probably not though. I have to use the cafeteria.”
“Didn’t bag it?”
“Didn’t have time.”
“I could take you out to lunch. My treat.. as long as I am treating you to Taco Bell.” He guffawed at this treasure of a jest then said “But hey I live out near you so if you want a ride or anything.”
He mopped in place while she considered it. She couldn’t decide if eight minutes in a car with his guy was better than an hour in the cold. Her brow furrowed then she said “That’d be really nice.”
She thought about what she could do with that hour. She could pack herself a lunch, maybe put on some makeup and feel like a woman every once in a while. She could check out the news. Or she could just sleep in.
Thinking about it brought a genuine smile to her face.
She looked at Burt and said “Yeah. That would be really nice.”
Burt, his voice that was reminiscent of Don Knotts, said “No problem. You can pay me in blowjobs.”
Her jaw dropped and a pebble fell down her throat.
His face was that of a vaudevillian comic, expectant and waiting for laughter.
It didn’t come.
Tears came to her eyes.
She grit her jaw to prevent them from getting any farther than that.
Realization hit Burt, his eyes turned into twitching sauces. He said “I was only kidding. Just kidding. Jeez. You want a ride tonight?”
Heather sat there letting go of dreams of an extended morning. They wrenched out of her head, yanked by the image of herself in the passenger side of a 98 Dodge Charger while Burt grabbed her and held her down. They were menaced away by the image of his awkward penis lurching towards her.
It was like that for a while. Heather staring at her work, rapidly sorting, Burt mopping in place.
He said “Jeez. I’ll stop back later.”
Heather clipped “Please don’t” and kept her eyes on her work.
That night she walked home.
It had rained throughout the day, so the roads were deep with slush.
It got into her boots and soaked her socks.
Even her hat was spattered in mud.
The walk took an hour and a half, and when she got home it was after dark.
Still the whole way she thought to herself “It could be worse” and smiled.