humor

All’s Fair in Love & War

A few things before I begin. Regarding my unintentional cat rescue situation, it happened. We’re back at 12. Friday, as I paced, writing, robe securely caped, I looked outside to see an orange cat eating on our porch. I racked my brain for the name of this cat, baffled I couldn’t remember. When I was finally able to face reality, I tried to approach, but no luck. This morning, it was hungry enough to accept food, but I didn’t get a glimpse of gender. Looks like a new game is afoot. Death to all who abandon their pets.

Regarding my name, I have realized ‘Dubbed’ is a poor alias, which led me to the thought, hey, pen name! Long story short, I wanted it to be fun, and what’s more fun for a writer than Page Turner? I know what you’re thinking, why not Paige? Right? It’s because Paige is a common first name, and Turner is a common last name. There’s probably a ton of them, and it makes me wonder how often people don’t believe it the first time they meet. I bet it’s annoying, plus Page is shorter and I’m lazy.

Lastly, as of late, I’ve drifted away from acknowledging my own toxic traits. Instead, other people have been the focal points of my stories, and tonight is no different. To make things squaresies, I’m going to admit something I’m deeply ashamed of but can’t stop. Deep breath. The way I embody the hillbilly cliche is… I eat my steaks rare… with ketchup. When you finish cringing, we can begin.

We’re talking about Giddy Up western store again. More precisely, my final few months employed there. We didn’t have time to discuss the credit system in our last chat, but any employee or ‘playmate’ could take anything without paying. Instead, we wrote a ticket, signed it, and put it in a basket with dozens more. It got out of hand fast, but there was nothing Don could do.

I’m sure you remember Don; older guy, ran his wife’s dead sister’s store into the ground? You see, Donnie boy thought he was being clever. Not only was it cheaper to pay his playmates in merchandise, he thought “they’re paying monthly” sounded believable. Unfortunately, he didn’t consider how it would look when his “charge accounts” became a stack totaling thousands but never actually received payments.

Even worse, he didn’t realize actual employees would want to utilize the same benefits. It’s Psychology 101, of course people want what others have. Our merchandise was marked up 1.65, it added together quickly. Remember, Jane and Sara are our managers, Liz and Phoebe (from Rain Showers) are other workers like myself. That should be all you need beforehand, now let’s get into how this mess played out.

We set the scene on a warm Monday morning when Don introduces his newest pet, Cindy. This one was truly a piece of work. She wore skirts with no underwear, and we saw her noonie often. Why one would feel a need to brag about deep throating skills, I’ll never understand, but I hear ecstasy is a heck of a drug to do regularly. Personally I’ve only tried it a handful of times, but much as I appreciate a good high, it just isn’t my thing. If you can use it responsibly, props.

Normally, his new girls waited a few weeks before taking free clothes, but Cindy was clearly special. “Hey Gurlz! What’s up!” Cindy arrived her second day, late and stoned on a pharmaceutical cocktail.

“Tell me this bitch ain’t come in here wearing pajamas.” Sara muttered.

Exasperated, I glanced up. “Yea, that’s exactly what it is.” I turned away, refusing to acknowledge it further.

“I can’t take another day of this.” Sara began texting Don. I didn’t get my hopes up, knowing even her voice would be ignored in favor of a playmate.

We sat quietly until Don’s reply. “You kidding me?” She cursed under her breath, glaring at the message.

“What?” I was afraid to know.

She turned to Cindy, “Mista Don said go pick an outfit. Shouldn’t be wearing pajamas to work. Act like you got some sense.” Sara shook her head. Adding, “Ugh, white people! Oh… no offense.”

“Nah, that’s fair.” I shrugged.

Cindy clapped gleefully, “Really? Yay! Thank you, I didn’t have any clean clothes this morning.” When she finished playing Fashion Montage, she was decked out in $389.99 (before tax) worth of merchandise.

“It was ballsy to include the ostrich boots.” Liz grumbled, angry Cindy was wearing the boots she wanted but couldn’t afford. “I mean, it’s bull! She’s been here two days! Does Don know she got boots?!”

“I text him when she was trying them on. He said start her a ticket.” Sara answered exasperatedly without looking up from the calculator.

“I don’t see why you all don’t just start a ticket. You guys hide all this stuff in the back until you can afford it, why? Take it home today, pay later. Not like he can tell you no. What’s he gonna do? Admit they are paying him, just not with cash?” I was being sarcastic. I didn’t even look up from whatever phone game held my attention back then.

“…Why don’t we do that, Sara?” Liz asked.

“… Because I hadn’t considered it. I mean… I am going to pay. I ain’t gonna be like all them. But it would be nice to get those new jeans before Friday… I’ll do it if y’all do.” Sara said

“Oh I already know what I’m getting.” Liz agreed. “What are you getting? You gotta find something too.”

“Ew, I don’t want none of this redneck junk.” I replied, enduring the slaps I knew were coming. My distaste for country-life still baffled them, but they enjoyed teasing me about it.

“Hey! If y’all are doing that, I got stuff I need for my sister’s birthday.” Jane shared my preference for Hot Topic, but came from the same hillbilly breed as the rest of us.

“See, even Jane is, you have to find something.” Liz pressed.

“Fine, fine. Actually, if we’re serious, Hubby could really use some new Red Wings…” Go big or go home, as they say.

“This store won’t make it another year the way he going. That new girl just showed up in pajamas on her second day. What happened? She’s going home in over $400 worth of clothes and a day’s pay! I’m serious.” Sara was already filling in her ticket.

Mob mentality is a strange thing. Before I knew it we each had our own tickets, though mine substantially lower. Try as I might, nothing appealed to me. When Don arrived, Sara and Jane casually asked if they too could “charge a few items.”

Don agreed after a slight hesitation, but weeks passed before he understood how far it went. At that point it was too late to complain. He couldn’t figure out how to tell some to pay up when so many with longer, higher debts never made payments. It was then he realized the store, and subsequently his entire lifestyle, could very well be coming to a tragic end.

“We have got to figure out a way to make more money.” He complained on a day when he and I were co-existing peacefully.

“Everything in your store only appeals to one demographic, why don’t you try buying some Pacsun and Hot Topic? Set it up in the clearance room, there’s plenty of space back there. Me and Jane could run it.” Again, it was sarcasm. I pitched the idea every few months since beginning work there, but never was it taken seriously.

“I don’t know, hell. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.” Don pondered.

“Really? Because I can bring some magazines for you to look at tomorrow…” Jane pounced like a cheetah. I silently cheered her on, stunned.

Hell, don’t we have a bunch of that stuff laying around? We got stacks of dealership magazines somewhere. More of it’s coming in the mail every day, we ought to.” Don grumbled, nodding his head in the general direction he wished us to search.

For once no one complained. We went about the task enthusiastically and were rewarded for our efforts. Whose familiar with BUDK? They sell all kinds of weapons. Swords, knives, blow darts, you name it. Full disclosure right away, I didn’t buy arsenals of battle ready weapons as you will immediately realize when I share the costs. The knives are real, but the swords would take great effort to cut.

“Ooo! Now this is what we need! I’ve never heard of the place, but look at all these weapons! Tasers, mace, samurai swords, they’re… they’re beautiful!” I threw the magazines on the table, saving them for later, and continued my search.

I hadn’t realized Don picked them up until he asked, “Y’all think we should get some mace and tasers? Lots of women might wanna carry one in there purse, look, there are pink ones!” Don held the magazine to Jane.

“Yea, I know I would.” Jane took the magazine, flipping through as Don and others watched over her shoulder. All seemed interested.

I stood back, afraid to break whatever magic spell was creating this miracle. They can’t be serious, I’m not that lucky. Even when Jane took the necessary information to contact the company, I expected nothing. The next day, when they asked my help choosing items for our first order, I threw myself into the task with vigor.

“This is just torture, look at all this stuff I can’t afford! I’ll go broke trying to buy everything we order.” I complained to the girls. Only Sara, Jane, and Phoebe were present. Don and his playmate were on their daily breakfast run.

“You looking at the wrong price. That’s what they want us to charge regular people, we pay the dealer price, look.” Sara pointed to a smaller number. Each item listed a recommended sale price in large, bold print, but underneath, much smaller, were our dealer prices.

“That can’t be. It says $16 for this $80 Ichigo’s Zangetsu… what’s the catch?” My brain couldn’t comprehend such a thing.

“How you think we suppose to make money? They dealer prices.” Sara rolled her eyes and I decided not to push my luck.

An hour later, our order was ready. We started small with mace, tasers, pocket knives, and Zangetsu. The wait seemed forever, but the ship time was only a few days. I was disappointed with its smaller size, but reminding myself of its low cost, a new addiction was born. Upon receiving my $60 at closing, I returned $20 to Don and took my new prize home.

The tasers sold well, and Don asked us to make a new order. Before I knew it, I added an Alien Vs. Predator battle axe with detachable knife for less than $20. I was highly impressed, but when it came time to pay, I couldn’t stop thinking about my measly $175 ticket piled amongst others who owed 10x my current total.

“We have rent due, can I charge this one?” I asked Don after being paid.

He waved me off, knowing he couldn’t say no. Our fancy hunting knives sold like hotcakes, but the more money we made, the more dates Don arranged. None of us complained, we long ago accepted Giddy Up’s fate. The other girls charged boots and Cruel Girl jeans while I expanded my weapons collection.

For our next order, we found truck nuts in all colors and sizes. The ones that lit up were returned by angry customers who were pulled over for their flashing lights, otherwise they sold better than anything in the store. I found a lovely Kit Rae dagger; I’ve never seen the show, but again, pretty and cheap.

Also available in chrome.
Knowing I would purchase more expensive items in the near future, I paid the $12.

Around this time, Don angered Cindy by not having cash when she wanted it. For revenge, she shared their texts with us the next morning. Phoebe, Jane, Sara and I gathered to see the words in print as she read aloud. For your convenience, I will add punctuation and correct spelling, but know the real text was enough to give a Grammar Nazi an aneurysm. These are people who couldn’t distinguish between or/are, won’t/want basics.

Don: Can we meet tonight? I’m having a hard time with the store and family right now. It feels like everything is falling apart, I really need someone to talk to.

Cindy: Poor baby, usual place?

Don: Yea, thanks darlin’. I’m already here, I didn’t know where else to go.

Cindy: Okay, I’m with Baby Daddy, be there in an hour.

Don: Oh. Okay. Well, please hurry, I need somebody so bad right now.

Cindy: Do you have an extra $100 with you? We’re low on diapers and formula, I can tell Rick I’m going to the store or something.

Don: I didn’t bring money, I can’t get more cash without Kay seeing the bank statements. You know I’ll take care of you tomorrow, someone always pays cash. Maybe we can sneak those Montana Silversmith earrings ;).

Cindy: You don’t have ANY money?!

Don: I will tomorrow, you know I’ll make it up to you. We don’t have to do nothing, I just need someone to talk to. All this stuff going on makes me wish I was dead…

Cindy: I’m sorry, the baby has a fever. Rick wants me to stay while he goes shopping. Wanna hang out tomorrow? I can say you need me to work late.

Don: Wow, I see how it is. I actually thought you cared about me, but I guess you only care about my money. Maybe I should just kill myself.

Cindy: Don’t be like that, I got a sick baby. See you tomorrow.

Don: You’re nothing but a liar and con-artist! Just like all the others! Don’t even bother coming in tomorrow.

Cindy: Are you firing me for not coming to see you after hours when I have a sick baby?

We think that’s when Don understood the great power texts hold. He never responded to that message. The next morning, Cindy arrived early for the first time. “Anyway, I just thought you ladies would be interested. I’m afraid I may be coming down with a cold, does anyone mind if I take a sick day?” It was rhetorical, she was already gathering her possessions, knowing she would never return. She blackmailed Don with those texts for a long time, at least as long as the store was open. I doubt he could afford it after.

Don didn’t come to work that week, citing flu as the reason, but we knew better. None of us were brave enough to say anything directly, but the tension when he came around was at a new high. We all grew bolder with our charge tickets in the following weeks. Mine, still drastically lower, never topped $1,000, but some of the other girls came close to $5,000. I bought nunchucks, and tried to learn how to use them via YouTube. Several bruises later they were for display only. I bought a chain whip for no reason other than wanting to say I owned one. Same goes for the crossbow which was cheap and broke a few years ago.

Can’t use either, but we have guns now so it doesn’t matter.

Liz bought a blowgun first, but I got one on the next order, unable to tolerate someone owning a weapon I didn’t. Along with several styles of throwing knives, I found a nifty thing I can only think to call a pocket throwing star. Last but not least, I’m sad report I can’t find my weird chakram. I searched all over Google before I found a picture, but I believe it was labeled as a Soul Calibur rip-off. All of which is moot to me, I just thought it looked neat and it’s genuinely sharp. I have the scar to prove it. Remember the cousin I talked about in Breakfast of Champions? He stabbed me with it on accident. Well… technically it was on purpose, but not with malice… more like a test.

Sorry, I know it’s blurry. It’s literally the only one I could find.

After officially beginning work for Hubby’s aunt (Slushy), I happily resigned. The store was open a few more months before it closed down, but the drama was far from over. Next time we discuss this time period, I’ll tell you about convincing Sara to hire a different cousin who just moved back into town. I was completely unaware she developed a drug addiction, I honestly do feel poorly about what it put the girls through.

Honorable mentions include Urahara’s Benihime, Naruto kunai, Kill Bill samurai swords, and a taser made to look like a Nokia brick-phone. My nephew, who I haven’t had a chance to tell you about, has inherited most of these. He’s 19 now and currently living in another state, but I’ve asked him to send pictures. I figure we have a 20/80 chance he’ll remember, but if he does, I’ll add them later. He is Hubby’s oldest sister’s son, and was 7 when we met. He is my mini-me, my prodigy, and I love the little stinker to hell and back, but holy cow did he have a shit childhood. That’s going to be a longer story I don’t want to write sober, but absolutely worth telling.

I know my last few posts were on the longer side so I wanted to keep this simple. Plus I ran out of internet again and waiting on Hubby’s hotspot makes publishing difficult. I haven’t decided the next topic yet, but I hope to have at least one more Halloween theme before the holiday is over. I appreciate all of you who take the time to indulge my Blogger fantasies, and remember, stay safe out there. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

UPDATE:

Before I posted this, I confirmed the ketchup thing with Hubby and Bestie before publishing. Yet behold. First comment.
humor

Giddy Up

If American Horror Story connects the seasons, is it still an anthology? Lately, I’ve had a hard time deciding what to talk about. I feel like writing Halloween stuff, but didn’t want to overload you with ghost stories. For my style, that pretty much leaves something embarrassing or scandalous so I thought hey, let’s do both.

You want to think this doesn’t really happen, but it does. People rode horses down a highway just to get to a western store on horseback. I still don’t understand why.

I’ve told you about the western store I worked at and mentioned a pervy boss, he played a role in The Incest Cliche. The 2+ years I worked there are a rich tapestry of Dixie Drama at its finest, but today we will focus on the owner.

The only background you need is, Crook was fed up with my being jobless. I had to adult long enough to venture into the world for work. Applying online was a luxury for few, I had no clue where to begin. During a morning smoke with my neighbor, I explained the dilemma, hoping she could recommend how to proceed.

“Actually, I heard that little western store, the one across from the mall, was hiring. Do you know it? I think it’s called Giddy Up.” She said.

“If it’s not a restaurant or open past dark, I’m in.” With the world experience of a 19 year old, I clearly knew what I wanted from life.

You like the new map? No more hand drawn atrocities for you guys! Please note the blank space in the middle was a 4 way opening, but it’s important for later to understand the wall didn’t end there.

I drove to town, found the store, and cursed my nervous pit stains as I walked in, arms tightly clinched. Approaching the counter, I saw a portly, older gentleman who suspiciously resembled Trump without the bleached wig and spray tan. Let’s call him Don, he was the owner. Don sat at a table with two women, both appearing close to my own age. Full disclosure, I can’t judge age. At all. If I ever guess, please understand I’m probably wrong. In this case, Sara and Jane were 10+ years my senior.

Sara was the manager, and Jane read magazines until closing when she did money stuff. Before we dive too deep, please understand, I have nothing but respect for my coworkers. They were mostly good people making the best of bad situations. Finding a good job in a small town is hard, we do what we must to feed our family. That being said, Don was a disgusting pig and deserved everything he got.

“Can we help ya?” Don asked with a head nod to Sara.

“Hi, my neighbor said you all were hiring, I wanted to fill out an application.” No stutter, it was a miracle. I directed my question to Sara as she approached the counter. She looked to Don for guidance.

“Nawp, I dunno where they heard that, but I can barely afford these two.” Don answered, waving his hand between the women with his best good-ole-boy accent. “You can leave your name and number if you like. We’ll give you a call if anything comes up.”

Sara passed a pen and sticky pad across the counter. Knowing this interaction was the southern way of saying ‘we don’t know you so we’re giving you the brush off’ I wrote my information with a smile and left quickly. Technically, I applied for a job. After sending Crook a highly exaggerated text about my fantastic interview, I drove home to recover. Tv told me it can take weeks, possibly months, before one is actually hired. Imagine my surprise when the very next day, not an hour after Crook returned home, my phone rang. In ye olden days, it was common practice to answer a number you weren’t familiar with. I knew I was doomed the moment I answered.

“Hi, this is Jane from Giddy Up.” After routine pleasantries, she got to business. “We hoped you could start tomorrow, we open 9-6 Monday through Saturday. Could you be here by 8:30?”

Crook was grinning like the Joker. I clearly had no choice. But tomorrow?! “Oh, absolutely… thank you so much. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I answered with my best fake, happy voice.

One of my OCD traits forces me to arrive a minimum 30 minutes early. Sara was the first to show at promptly 8:30, and wasted no time approaching me. “We don’t open til 9, sorry.” She pointed to the store hours, clearly posted on the door, and walked away.

“Right, I’m the new girl, they told me to be here at 8:30.” I called after her, awkwardly trailing behind.

She paused in the middle of unlocking the door, looking me over closely. “They did? You sure?” She sounded confused, but I often misunderstood sarcasm.

She must be joking… “Haha… yes. I am sure.” I smiled, hoping it appeared genuine.

Spoiler Alert: she wasn’t joking, I was hired by accident. They genuinely didn’t like the look of me, but Don loved the pretty, single mom who brought her baby to apply shortly after myself. They considered her hired, but Jane mixed up our information. Several months later, after learning I wasn’t purposely offensive, they admitted the truth.

Don arrived shortly before 9, searching for his new eye candy. When he found me in her place, he was puzzled to say the least. “Uh. Morning. Ladies…” Before he could say anything untoward, Sara came to the rescue.

“Mista Don, this the new girl… member? You told Jane to start her today. She was earlier than me, we off to a good start. Ima finish showing her around.” With that, Sara led me on the grand tour. Without realizing it, her words translated into ‘I know she’s not the one you wanted, but I’m sick of opening alone.’

I would soon learn Don only hired women. Two kinds were employed; the Workers ran the store, helping customers, loading feed, etc. The others were… I’m sorry, there isn’t a delicate way to say they were his whores. Sara pegged me for a worker. I knew I had to work harder than others to compensate for my personality quirks, but had I been aware of the Worker or… Non-Worker… situation, I would have arrived at 8 to reorganize the outdoor plants.

You guys know how it is when a new person starts work, you can’t trust them. Everyone is on their best behavior, you won’t truly meet them until they drop their guard. Same sentiment from the new person’s POV, you’re surrounded by strangers, you have no idea who they really are. It’s like navigating a field of landmines, one wrong step and you’re dead.

I made several wrong steps, but Sara was desperate for a third Worker. Jane didn’t wait on customers, and only worked the register if the rest of us weren’t available. The third, Stephanie, also worked at a grocery store; she could only work a few hours before closing. It was she who first trusted me to explain how Don came to own the store. Or she just couldn’t resist good gossip any longer.

“Believe it or not, this store use to stay busy. There was no sitting around the table gossiping all day, no ma’am. Carey would roll over in her grave if she could see it now. She started this place from scratch, almost lost it a few times too, but she treated everyone like family. People were loyal because they knew she would take care of them if they fell on hard times.” Stephanie stacked boot boxes by size as we unpacked the new shipment. Her smile faded as she continued, “We couldn’t believe it when she passed. She was always a little sickly, but we had no idea how bad it really was. Even her sister, (Kay) Don’s wife, didn’t know. She passed two days after they admitted her to the hospital, she was 57.”

I have deep respect for the dead and grieving, but I’ve never mastered properly expressing those sentiments. I memorized several condolences, but always mess up the delivery. “I’m sorry to hear that.” I was careful not to look away from my task.

Stephanie continued, more concerned with telling the story than my response. “Now Don is running the store straight into the ground. He thinks we’re too stupid to notice his little cash bucket under the register. Thinks we don’t know what those girls really get paid for.” She nodded to the companion giving Don his after-lunch neck massage.

I decided to take advantage of her chatty mood. “I’ve been wondering why Kay stays with him. Why doesn’t she just take the store away?”

“That poor woman is clueless, but she’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. No one has the heart to tell her the truth. She’s never been with another man, I doubt she would know how to leave even if she wanted to.” Stephanie shook her head sadly, and sighed before continuing, “Besides, he’s only had the money and freedom to do it for a few years, I doubt anyone would touch that nasty man before then.”

“You have a point there.” I admitted. Kay genuinely is a kind soul, I hope Don dies many years before her. She deserves a fair chance at genuine happiness. Even if she’s still ignorant of his affairs, I’ve seen how he speaks to her; it’s not okay. “How many side chicks does he have anyway?”

The way her head cocked to an almost 90 degree angle coupled with how wide her eyes grew seemed to say, “a lot.” Regardless, it was a very informative chat.

When you spend three years working in a restaurant/drug mart, you think you’ve been fully desensitized to the various evils of the world, but not so. Somehow, this kindly, old man cheating on his sweet, little wife seemed far-fetched. No matter how obvious their office tryst, I couldn’t see it as more than a silly coincidence. Even when you think you know, being told and seeing are two very different kinds of knowing.

I could tell you a book’s worth of anecdotes involving Don hiring a new playmate and the various resulting ventures, but many will come out in other stories. Besides, I still don’t understand what length you guys prefer in a post. Today, I want to focus on the one I found personally traumatic. Oh boy, this is harder than I thought. Ok first, let’s get the time he propositioned me over with. Due to my inability to judge sarcasm or social interactions, I repeated what I’m about to share with several others after it happened. All were unanimously agreed, I did not misunderstand this one. Unfortunately.

Within 6-8 months I was fully accepted and nested at Giddy Up. Don possessed a prescription for Xanax, and being a shady guy himself, was aware I knew how to take/sell them in bulk. He must have been particularly lonely one day when we were alone. One minute we were pleasantly discussing NCIS, the next he was setting his bottle of Xanax on the table.

“That’s nice… what? You need to sell some? I asked, confused.

“Yea, I guess so.” He didn’t sound very excited about it.

I assumed he stole too much money from the store. Normally he saved Xanax for special whore candy, it wasn’t surprising he would be upset to part with them. “Alright, well how much do you need? If it’s the full 90, it takes 4 of your Peaches to equal one Xanax bar. I could get $90, but that’s about it.” Best he would get at least.

“Oh, I don’t need money.” He said

“What else would people possibly… eww… dude, gross, be serious. You want the $90 or not.” I wasn’t capable of taking such a notion seriously. If I had, I’m sure I would have been speechless. As it was, I wanted that Xanax and hoped insulting him would end his joke.

“No, you’re not listening. I don’t want… Money.” He said it slower that time, each word almost it’s own sentence.

Joke or not, no drug was worth indulging that line of conversation. “Dude, that’s gross, there aren’t enough drugs in the world.” I walked away before Don could say more. To avoid tainting my experiment, I relayed our conversation verbatim without saying who said what until the end. No one was surprised, but upon hearing Don’s role, Jane changed her answer to “you just misunderstood, I’m sure he was joking.” but her heart wasn’t in it. Jealousy can blind the best of us.

This next part is the whopper, but if I can survive it without removing my own eyeballs, I can relive it long enough to share with all of you. It was New Years Eve, we had no customers all day, so we found various shenanigans to pass the time. Don was running errands, (whores) and therefore unlikely to make an appearance. If you’ve read Weird Science, you know I have an… inquisitive mind, if you haven’t, you need to know I enjoy taking things apart.

Ok it’s super frustrating how hard it was to find a clear picture of ceiling panels. You know the cheap foam kind kids throw pencils into? That’s what the store had.

For some reason, I was fascinated with the roof at that time. For several weeks I fantasized what it would be like to climb into the ceiling. I had a theory it would exit into the warehouse, possibly providing access to the wide, metal beams and roof. Why the idea of walking across a 20-30ft drop appealed to me, I can’t say, but the compulsion was overwhelming.

With a 4ft ladder placed on the dressing room bench, a flashlight, and broom, I was finally ready to test my theory. Moving a panel to the side, I pushed the broom through the opening. If a spiderweb touched me, it would be game over.

“No way she’s going in there… is she?” Liz asked Sara. Liz was my age, and a real cowgirl. She was a Worker and good friend, but unimportant. Nowadays she’s a nurse, and happily married with two sons, so don’t worry about her.

“She dumb enough to get in. How long until she falls is the question.” I heard Sara’s answer, but was too busy to engage in their foolishness.

“What if she breaks something?!” Liz exclaimed, cringing as I prepared to stick my head through for a real look.

“If she break herself we call 911, if she break the store we tell Mista Don she did it behind our backs.” Sara answered simply.

“Hey! If you break something are you gonna say we let you?” Liz was talking to me now.

I couldn’t tell if it was a serious question, but either way, it was distracting. “Nah, you’re good. I’ll say whatever you want as long as you let me focus.”

“But why are you…” Liz started to ask, clearly not listening.

“I said long as I focus!” I snapped, testing my weight on the wall. I knew the flimsy ceiling panels couldn’t support my weight, they were held in place by skinny metal racks and wire. If I didn’t locate support beams or follow the wall, I wouldn’t be crawling anywhere. Aside from a few giggles and gasps, the girls remained silent.

After a few moments testing the dressing room walls, I decided it was time to go. I situated myself like a bird on a perch, shining the light through decades of cobwebs and dust. “Guys, I think it really does go all the way to the warehouse! I can see really far, and I think I can see sunlight at the end!” I was excited, but the dust was already effecting my allergies. I had the nose itch of a first time codeine user and couldn’t stop rubbing it.

“I wanna see!” Liz was standing atop the ladder, eyes scrunched, looking through the dust we disturbed. “I think you’re right! That is light down there!” She was excited too, caught in my moment.

“I want to see if I can make it across, see how this wall connects over there? I think it’s the chemical room, it looks like I can follow the wall to where that metal starts on the other side.” I pointed, wanting Liz to confirm she saw the same thing. The more we moved, the thicker the air filled with dust. Even with a flashlight it was difficult to see. “Pass the broom up, please.”

Liz passed the broom, and we struggled to maneuver it through the wires. It cleared what it reached, but I had much less space than anticipated. If I weren’t a tiny woman, I wouldn’t fit past the opening, but I was providing too much entertainment to quit. The wires made excellent broom holders, but were otherwise the most difficult obstacles to overcome. It felt like several minutes passed as I struggled to crawl a few feet, but I focused on keeping my weight on the wall.

“I wonder how far I’ve come.” I leaned over to lift a panel. Anxiety paired with a lack of fingernails exacerbated the simple task. The frustration was coming on strong, but I doubled my efforts and finally pulled it askew. “Hey guys! I’m already over the office! Have you ever seen it? It’s just a desk, computer, and futon. Who doesn’t have a desk chair?” I called out, pleased my adventure would have two purposes. The office was always locked, even Sara and Jane were denied access.

“What did you expect? He doesn’t need a chair, I bet he only watches porn in there.” Liz laughed, but stopped abruptly. Sara was telling her something but I couldn’t hear the words. I dropped the panel, not thinking. It landed askew, leaving a wide gap into the office exposed. Before I could try to fix it, Liz screamed for my attention, “Shit dude, don’t move! Don and his current pet just pulled up, we gotta hide this mess! Don’t talk no matter what!” Her head was gone before she finished speaking.

I hoped they were joking, but doubted it. She was terrified, and the clumsy sound of removing the ladder was unmistakable. I heard the door buzzer followed by several minutes of silence. I was too afraid to attempt fixing the crooked panel. The office was rarely used on a normal day, if I risked movement now, I would likely fall through the ceiling. Waiting for Don to leave was the wiser choice no matter how you did the math. I laid flat, unmoving, and stared into the office, letting a daydream carry me away before a claustrophobic panic set in. Without the distraction of impressing Liz, the walls were closing in, pushing out my precious oxygen. I like that shade of green on a futon. I want a futon.

As the fire in my lungs extinguished, I noticed sounds of laughter and keys. More specifically, keys being used to unlock a door. No way, if he sees me I’m dead. Did they tell on me? Did he think it was funny and now he’s going to screw with me? He’s going to see the ceiling the second he opens the door, I’ll kill them both for this.

The door swung open, I held my breath, waiting. Softer giggling reached my ears and confirmed the betrayal. I gritted my teeth, formed the angriest face possible, and prepared to be caught. But I wasn’t. Instead, I saw the Pet lead Don into view. By his penis. She had a firm grasp oh his erect member, through his slacks, and used it to guide him to the futon. Sara and Liz definitely hadn’t betrayed me.

You know how you can’t look away when you see something horrible? This had the same effect. Plus I was too chicken to move. One sound, any reason for one of them to look up, spelled my doom. There was no chance they wouldn’t notice the large, open gap in the ceiling. I’m not trying to give my audience nightmares. I would very much like to use the word ‘fans’ one day, and I feel like a blow by blow (no pun intended, but it is accurate) would be a step in the wrong direction. Instead, I will FF past the use of a dildo hidden in the desk, and skip to their departure.

When they finally left, I remained completely still. Eventually, Liz returned, calling out to me. “Hey! Oh my God, what happened?! Are you okay?” By the tone in her voice, I felt they already suspected what I saw.

“I need to get out of here right now, I’m not joking, I don’t wanna play anymore, I’m done, I gotta get out.” I repeated a mixture of those phrases in one long, run-on sentence as I shakily replaced the crooked ceiling panel. After checking several times to be sure it sat correctly, I began the difficult process of turning around. Not falling off my perch required focus, I continued ignoring Liz as she berated me with questions.

As I came down the ladder, I saw Sara and Liz’s facial expressions, and knew mine was worse. I stuttered out every painful, disgusting detail, gagging several times in the process. I only told it once, after which, I began protocols to erase the memory entirely. Some things, not even bleach can clean. Needless to say, I never crawled into the roof again.

The Pet ‘worked’ at Giddy Up a few more weeks, but she felt so ostracized by the other girls, she quit. Don called a staff meeting and gave a long lecture explaining his disappointment. “I expect better! You aren’t children anymore. Pet was a sweet, caring person, just trying to support her little girl! But you all made her feel so unwelcome, she quit! Do you understand how horrible that is? I can’t even look at you right now.” He turned to leave, paused, expecting us to trip over ourselves with apologies, but no one stopped him. Little did we know, the store would be closing forever by that time the following year. Turns out, prostitutes are expensive.

He always pouted when he lost a pet, but we were far past indulging his delusions. Don was the worst kind of predator, truly believing we were clueless to his hobby. His complete faith in our stupidity was insulting, it took all my willpower to remain silent. I knew I was incapable of a convincing sympathy act, and stopped trying after this ordeal took place.

If I’m wrong and should have written the gorey details, let me know, but I feel like the majority of you would be happier without. Hubby had a few days off recently which makes writing impossible, but for my next story, I was hoping to try something new. So far, I shared a few spooky stories from my hometown, but I have been wanting to try my hand at a real scary story. Something that makes you nervous to look outside and gives you chills. If it sucks, it can go into the future psychologist pile, if not, maybe I can finally break 300 followers! Either way, I’ll take it.