Sixty Days in the Hole
by L.D. Zane
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
“We need the police and an ambulance now to the Just-a-Buck store on Perrytown Road in Riverton.”
“What’s the nature of your emergency, sir?”
Rachael Bensinger walked up to the cashier—a Hispanic woman in her early forties—at the Just-a-Buck store on Perrytown Road, and stated, “I’m here for an interview with Mr. Patterson.”
your name, sweetheart?”
to meet you, Ms. Bensinger.” She extended her hand to shake Rachael’s. Rachael
returned the courtesy. The cashier pointed to her name badge and said, “My name
is Serena. I’m the store manager here.” Then she reached under the counter and
handed Rachael a clipboard with an application and pen attached.
can sit over there at the table and complete this. When you’re done, come find
me and I’ll get Mr. Patterson.”
actually completed one online and printed it out, along with my resume.” Rachael
held them up. “See?”
gave a broad smile and said, “Then I’ll call Mr. Patterson now. He’ll like that
you came prepared. He always likes it when someone is prepared.”
Yeah. Like I had a choice, Rachael
fit man wearing a navy polo shirt, sporting the store name, tan khakis, and Nike
sneakers walked up. Holding out his hand, he said, “Hi. I’m Dylan Patterson, the
General Manager. I’ll be conducting the interview. And you are Rachael
sir,” she answered, shaking his hand.
or Mr. Patterson is good. I haven’t been addressed as ‘Sir’ since I left the
noticed her slight-of-build stature and long auburn pony tail.
sir… I mean, Mr. Patterson. Please call me Rachael.” She paused, then added,
“Actually I prefer Rach.” What the hell
am I doing being so chatty? Christ, Rachael, shut up.
Rach it is. Please follow me back to my office.”
walked to the back of the store, through two swinging doors, into the
warehouse. Dylan made a left turn, stood to the right of his office door frame and,
with his left hand, motioned for Rachael to enter. “Please, take a seat.”
Not much of an office, Rachael observed.
Looks like a converted storage space.
Plastic chairs, and a cheap-ass desk, with the same type of plastic chair behind
it. And they’re orange! This guy doesn’t stand on ceremony, that’s for sure.
Apparently, he’s not trying to impress anyone. Then again, maybe he doesn’t
picked the chair to the left. Dylan noticed she waited until he sat before she
looked at her application and resume for a few moments, put them aside, and
said, “I’ll be straight with you, Rach. I’m seeing you as a favor to your PO.”
sat up straighter in her chair, and said, “I wasn’t aware of that Mr. Patterson,
but I thank you.” She then mustered up the courage to ask, “How do you know my Parole
Officer, Rebecca Olson?”
couple of years ago she was making visits to small retailers like us, asking if
we would be willing to hire non-violent parolees or those on probation. I told
her I would, if I saw the right candidate. We kind of hit it off, and still see
each other on occasion. Our lifestyles aren’t conducive to a long-term
relationship. Did I answer your question…Rach?”
And I’m sorry for that. It really was none of my business,” she said, squirming
a bit in her seat.
noticed. “Relax,” he said. “No harm. No foul. I opened the door, and you walked
in. I like that attitude, for what it’s worth.” Without hesitation, he said, “I
have a few questions of my own. I see you’re from Columbus, Ohio. Graduated
high school and have an Associates Degree in accounting.”
And I also took a few more courses in business.”
So what brought you here to Riverton?”
my last year at community college, I met a guy who was taking a course in
welding. We started dating, and eventually moved in together. We both finished
our courses at the same time. The college had a placement service and found me
the position doing accounts payables at All States Trucking.”
company. I know it well,” said Dylan. “They handle a fair amount of our freight.
So how come you’re no longer there?”
believe you already know the answer to that, Mr. Patterson.”
know…you’re right. I do know the answer. Please forget that I asked that
question. You’re not required to tell me about your personal past.”
I want to tell you, Mr. Patterson. I have nothing to hide.”
As you wish. Please continue.”
also found Billy—that’s his name, Billy McKenzie—a job as a welder in this
area. So we came east, found an apartment, and moved in together.
were good for about a year and a half, but then Billy started hanging out with
some real stoners from work. We both did a little weed from time to time; it never
got crazy. But I could see Billy change. He was stoned almost every night. He
had trouble getting up for work. After a few months, the company cut him for
bad attendance. Billy promised he would get off the weed, but he didn’t.
bounced from job to job, and eventually he stopped looking. During that time, I
was promoted to assistant supervisor of the accounts payable department. With
Billy not working, the money was getting tight, but I was doing well enough to keep
up with my car and the apartment. Billy’s car got repo’d. We argued daily about
the money. But it never got violent. Never.
one day the shit hit the fan. He came home totally blown out of his mind—drunk and stoned. He offered me a joint, and I
took it, thinking that if I got a little high with him, we wouldn’t argue. I
also had a couple of beers. Looking back on it, I don’t really know what the
hell I was thinking.” She glanced down, and then said quietly, “Guess I wasn’t
told Billy that he either needed to get and keep a job—any job—pronto, or we
were through. That sent him into a rage. He trashed the apartment. When I tried
to stop him, he slugged me in my left eye.” Rachael reflexively brushed her
bangs to cover her left eye.
long ago did this happen?”
three weeks ago.”
must have really laid one on you, because I can still see the remnants of it. I
didn’t want to ask before, but now it makes sense.”
x-rayed my eye at the ER after I was arrested. There were some slight
fractures, but the orbit was still intact. I have blurry vision in that eye,
but it’s getting better every day. I can drive okay.”
what happened with the police? The report said you were charged with assaulting
a police officer.”
we knew it, the police were at the door and demanded we open it. Billy opened
it and asked the one cop, ‘What the fuck do you want?’ The officer pushed Billy
aside and told him to sit down. He refused and took a swing at the cop. That
was it. They threw him face down on the floor and cuffed him. He was screaming
that the cuffs were too tight and cursing up a storm when they lifted him to
one officer saw my eye bleeding, came over to me, and wanted to look at it. I
told him to take his hands off of me, and to loosen Billy’s cuffs. One thing
led to another, and apparently I grabbed a beer bottle and hit the officer in
the head. I say apparently, because I don’t remember much about that night, and
that’s the truth.”
were arrested, charged, booked, and spent the night in jail. They arraigned us
the next day and we were given Public Defenders. Billy and I appeared before a
judge a few days later, and that’s when he sentenced us to six months’
probation because it was our first offense. He said we couldn’t leave the
county, had to take random piss tests, pay a ton of money, and find gainful
employment within two weeks. The judge said if we tested positive, didn’t find
a job, or got so much as a parking ticket, we would be spending six months in the
county prison. He also said Billy had to move out, being the apartment was in
my name. We even got different PO’s.
States wasn’t too happy when they learned of this. They put me on ‘Extended
Suspension.’ HR said if I was clean after six months, they would consider
hiring me back.”
Rach, I hope you’re not holding your breath about being rehired. That was a
nice way of them covering their collective asses. They’re not going to rehire
know that, Mr. Patterson. I’m not that naïve. Rebecca—I mean Ms. Olson—said she
believed I could straighten out my life and deserved a second chance. A few
days later she told me about this job and that she’d set up an interview. Ms.
Olson even helped me put together my resume.”
happened to Billy?”
he didn’t have a job or a place to stay, they transferred his case to a PO in
Columbus so he could stay with his folks, under the same conditions. I don’t
know what he’s doing, and I don’t care. I haven’t heard from him since the
night we were arrested. Good riddance.”
could see a twinge of sadness in Rachael’s eyes when she spoke of Billy. “I appreciate you sharing your story, Rach.
Seems to be in line with what I’ve been told by Ms. Olson. What other questions
do you have for me?”
the first question I have is, how did you become the General Manager?”
question. Believe it or not, no one’s ever asked me that before. After college,
I went through Army basic training, Officer Candidate School, and completed
Ranger training. I did two tours in Afghanistan during my seven years in the
Army, and came out as a Captain. I got married while in my fifth year in the
Army. That lasted two years. I was discharged from the marriage just before I
was discharged from the Army.” Dylan shrugged his shoulders and said pensively,
“That life wasn’t conducive to a long-term relationship either.
tried a few jobs, but nothing caught. A friend of mine said that he had heard
about a guy who was looking for someone who knew logistics and had leadership skills,
for a General Manager position. My friend didn’t know the guy’s name, but knew
he owned a few Just-a-Buck stores. So I went to a Just-a-Buck store—this one in
fact—and filled out an application and handed them my resume. A day later I got
a call from Ross Wells, the owner. We met, and the rest is history.”
long have you been here?” asked Rachael.
looked up, and then said, “Hard to believe, but going on five years. We started
with two stores, and now have six between here and Polltown.”
I was spot on. Knew he was in his
mid-thirties. “You said ‘we.’ If I may ask, are you an owner as well?”
yet. Nonetheless, I treat the stores as if they were mine. I like to believe I
had a hand in the growth of the company. I think Mr. Wells believes that as
well. He’s told me, more than once, that ownership is in the offing…and soon.”
you believe him?” Rachael asked with a smirk.
stiffened. His expression turned hard and cold. He responded, “Yes. Yes, I do.
I have no trust issues, Rachael. Do you?”
looked down and fidgeted with her hands. Why
the fuck would I ask that? That was really stupid. I might as well apologize
and leave. I’m not getting this job. I guess it’s prison for me.
Dylan stood up suddenly. He
looked down at his desk and shuffled some papers.
both Dylan and Rachael started to apologize at the same time, their voices
stepping over each other. Dylan broke the tie and said, “My comment was out of
line, Rach, and a cheap shot. I’m sorry.” He sat down.
accept your apology if you accept mine,” said Rachael.
Dylan asked with a hesitant smile.
my position, how much does it pay, and when do I start?”
folded his hands on the table and leaned in. “What makes you think I would
offer you a job?”
didn’t hesitate. “Well, for starters, I think you liked what you heard from Ms.
Olson or I wouldn’t be here. You had every reason to blow off someone with a
record—especially assaulting a police officer.
I’m still here. You didn’t ask me to leave, even though I asked a few totally stupid
I think you and I have a few things in common.”
as?” asked Dylan.
both have faced some tough situations—although I won’t compare mine to your
military service—and we kept going. We’re not quitters. I’m not a quitter, Mr.
Patterson. Stupid? Yeah. A quitter? No way.”
not stupid, Rach. That’s obvious by your employment record and how you’ve conducted
yourself with me.”
when do I start?”
squarely at Rachael, Dylan answered, “Today is Friday. Be here Monday at 8
assuming the usual retail work, like stocking and the register?”
Actually, I have something more challenging in mind, and have since I first
heard about your accounting skills.”
asked with some reservation, “What would that be?”
I only have two full-time employees in each store—a manager and an assistant
manager. Depending on the size of the store and its traffic, we also have two
to three part-timers averaging twenty-five hours per week. My assistant manager
here just quit after two months.” He shrugged again. “Such is the retail
industry. So Serena and I need an assistant manager. Serena’s one of the main reasons
this store has been so profitable. But she can’t do it alone.
like to believe I’m pretty squared away with most aspects of this business,
except one—which Mr. Wells brings to my attention, unfortunately, often.”
that would be?”
all the numbers together in a way that makes sense to both Mr. Wells and me. Yes,
we have a great accountant, but we need someone who is in the trenches—so to
speak—every day. We need real-time information if we are to really grow this business.
But up to now, we haven’t found the right person.” He stopped, studied
Rachael’s face for any sign of hesitation. Seeing none, he asked, “Think you
could be that person—both an assistant manager and help me with my numbers for all of the stores?”
I would kind of be your assistant, in addition to being the assistant manager
here. Is that right?”
smiled, and said, “I never thought of it that way…but yes. What do you think?
Are you up to the challenge?”
I’m in no position to be choosy, but I just
don’t want to be taken advantage of and treated like some tool because of my
situation. I was making excellent money before this shit happened, and I need
to get back to that level as soon as possible. I need to go for it. Rachael
responded coolly, “Depends.”
eyes widened and he raised his eyebrows. Still smiling, he leaned forward and
asked, “On what?”
the amount of hours and the pay. I want to work as many hours as I can get. I’m
not afraid of long hours, Mr. Patterson, as long as I’m being paid the right
amount for the work I’m doing.”
talking forty hours. And I won’t abuse the privilege, I promise. As far as pay
goes… ” Dylan leaned back, put his hands behind his head, and looked at the
ceiling. He then placed his hands back on the table and said, “Thirteen-fifty
an hour. I know it isn’t what you were used to making, but it’s about a dollar
more than I would start an assistant manager.”
his voice raising an octave.
an hour. I have no idea what you’re really going to need as far as reports for
you and Mr. Wells, and experience has taught me that you don’t know either.
I’ve been in this spot before. The more I do, the more you’ll want. I’m just
building in some cushion for what I know will happen.” She paused, and then
asked, “Are we still on for Monday at 8 a.m.?”
stood and said, “We are. Welcome aboard.” He stuck out his hand.
like we have a deal, Mr. Patterson,” she said, shaking his hand. “Do you inform
Ms. Olson, or do I?”
take care of it. She said she wanted a call from me immediately after the
interview. I’ll take you out front and formally introduce you to Serena and
make her aware of your duties. She’ll be thrilled to know that she’s getting
some reliable help.”
stopped for a moment, dropped his smile, and then said with the commanding tone
of an infantry officer, “I, too, believe in second chances, Rach. Lord knows
I’ve had a few do-overs. We’re all counting on reliability. If you start having
attendance issues, or you come in here high or fail your piss test just once,
you’re history. Are we clear?”
clear, Mr. Patterson.”
Then I’m positive we’ll have a great working relationship. And I really would appreciate if you would
just call me Dylan. Okay?”
What do I wear to work?”
outfit as mine. We start you off with two sets. If you are still here after
thirty days, there’s no charge. If you leave before then, we dock the one check
we hold back. We pay weekly, so you won’t get a check until the second week.
Will you be able to manage until then?”
I still have some savings. But what if I need more than two sets of uniforms?
How much is each set?”
somewhere around thirty bucks.” Dylan looked away for a moment, then turned
toward Rachael. “Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll spot you the additional three
sets. After thirty days, I’ll recover the cost of the three sets over three pay
periods. Does that work?”
yes it does. Thank you so much, Dylan. What do I wear until I get the first two
always carries enough sizes on hand. But if she doesn’t have your size, she’ll
call me. I’ll get them from another store and bring them in this Saturday.”
Let’s talk to Serena, and then I have to jump. I have a lot on my plate today.”
The next thirty days went faster
than anyone had anticipated—especially for Rachael and Dylan. They were now
into their first full month of the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown. It was customary
for Dylan to hold a team meeting with each store, once a week, and prior to
opening for the day. The Perrytown Road store’s day was Friday.
going through some mundane issues, Dylan got to the pandemic. “This last month
has been different, to say the least. I know we’re in short supply of hand sanitizer,
toilet paper, everything made of paper, and stuff I never thought most people would
think of as essential. I mean, we’re just about sold out of dish racks. Go
paused for a moment to make sure he had the right tone of voice. He continued. “I
do have another matter which I need to address. We’ve been gradually scaling
back our hours. We’re now going to be open from nine to five, for two reasons.
First, limiting our hours does mean fewer customers, but it also means there
will be less demand for our products—especially the items we don’t have anyway.
Hopefully, we just might be able to keep some of those high-demand items in
our employees have less time to be exposed to the crazies out there. Thanks to
Rach running some numbers, we found that the highest amount of negative
incidents at our stores happened after five. For those of you who are part-time—don’t
worry, your hours won’t be cut. I will, however, need to see Serena and Rach
after the meeting to discuss this further.”
That’s a polite way of saying your hours are
getting cut, thought Rachael. But
hey, at least I’ll still have a job.
know I didn’t bring much in the way of good news today, but we have to play the
hand we’re dealt the best we can. This store was the first store Mr. Wells
started, and all of you continue to make this the number one store in all the
areas where it counts. I’m proud to work with each and every one of you. Are
there any questions?”
a part-timer in her early twenties, raised her hand. “I’d like a few minutes of
your time, in private, Dylan.”
problem, let’s go to my office. Everyone else—keep up the great work. See you
next week. Have a good weekend, and stay safe.”
less than fifteen minutes, Dylan came to the front of the store, backpack slung
over his right shoulder, and asked Serena and Rachael to step outside.
’em if you got ’em, ladies. I know I am.”
up, Mr. Dylan?” asked Serena.
for starters, your hours won’t be cut. Our original intention, as much as Mr.
Wells and I didn’t want to do so, was to cut managers and assistant managers’
hours to thirty-five hours per week. But that won’t be necessary now…at least
that?” asked Rachael.
Teresa just quit.”
eyes widened and she lifted her eyebrows. “Why? I thought she was happy here.”
just said she had some family issues. I didn’t press her. But instead of
allowing her to quit, I told her I would lay her off so she could collect. Between
the state and the feds, she’ll do okay. I also told her if she wanted to come
back, and we had an opening, I would rehire her.”
a good man, Mr. Dylan.”
was the least I could do, Serena. The question I have for the two of you is—can
you handle the load with one less person?”
sure we can,” said Serena, “especially with the reduced store hours.”
do you think, Rach?”
and I will talk with Terry and Gina to work it out. You won’t notice any change
in our performance, Dylan.”
smiled, and said, “I don’t doubt it. I can’t thank the two of you enough for
holding down the fort, especially with all the shit that’s been happening. Before
I get going, could I have a word with you, Rach? Alone?”
took the cue. “I should be getting back in. Have a good weekend, Mr. Dylan.”
Here it comes. “You’ve done a great job,
Rach, but we have to cut you loose being a convict and all. So sad. Too bad. Shit!
got right to the point. “Drop the worried look. It’s all good.”
a natural reflex. Sorry.”
I get it. But it really is all good. You’ve done an outstanding job helping out
Mr. Wells and me. And you were right… We had no freakin’ clue as to what we
wanted or needed. That negative incident report was brilliant. And we never
even asked you to do that. Impressive work with us, and here at the store. Just
know that Serena loves you. This brings me to the first order of business.”
pay. Because of the outstanding work you’ve done, and your initiative, I wanted
to bring you up to fifteen an hour, but Mr. Wells overrode that idea. He said…”
Dylan purposely hesitated, to keep Rachael in suspense, “‘Don’t be so fucking
cheap, Dylan. Good employees are hard to find, and harder to keep. Give her
sixteen-fifty.’ That pay raise starts Monday. Think you can manage on that?”
had a blank stare. Her mouth fell open.
This is a first. Rachael Bensinger not commenting. I could get used to this. I’m
going to continue, while you collect your thoughts. Okay?”
put his backpack on the sidewalk, pulled out an iPhone from a side pocket, and
handed it to Rachael.
this?” asked Rachael.
called an iPhone.”
know what it is, Dylan. I already have an iPhone.”
Wells and I felt badly about clogging up your personal phone with voicemails,
texts and emails. Now—”
cut him off, and said with a smile, “You get to clog up this phone. Right?”
took a drag on his cigarette, pointed it at Rachael, and said, “Exactly. You
always were a fast learner, Rach. We’ve already loaded it with all the apps
you’ll need. If you need a new app—that’s business related, of course—just ask
me and I’ll make it happen. I also loaded all the contacts you’ll need. You’ll
find your phone number under your name. I’d appreciate if you keep it on you,
and always on. I promise I won’t abuse that privilege either. And, of course,
we pay the bill. You’ll never see it. You good with this?”
turned melancholy, and Dylan saw tears form in the corners of her eyes. “Why so
glum, Rach? I thought you would be happy with the raise and the phone. What the
hell am I missing here?”
just don’t get it.”
sure what you mean. Enlighten me.”
not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m overwhelmed…overwhelmed by
the whole situation. I’m thrilled and happy.”
right. I don’t get it.”
I mean, Dylan, is that a little over seven weeks ago, my life was in the crapper.
Now, I’m just about at the same pay level I was before this whole shitty mess
started. I have a good position, I have bosses who actually care about the
people they employ, and—most importantly—” Rachael started to cry openly, “My
work is appreciated. I’m appreciated.”
collected herself. “I’m sorry, Dylan,” she said between sniffles. She wiped
away the tears with the palm of her hands. “I guess it all came to a head. I’ve
been holding all of this shit in. It won’t happen again. I promise. And I thank
you for all that you’ve done for me.”
I didn’t do anything for you. I showed you a door. You opened it and walked
through it. You made it happen.
You’ve earned everything that you have. No charity here, believe me.
if it’s okay with you, I need to motor or I’ll be late.” Dylan picked up his
backpack, looked at his watch, and muttered, “Shit. I already am. Oh well.
Savor the moment, Rach. Have a great weekend, but remember…”
interrupted again, and said, “I know… Keep it tight and together. No worries,
allowed himself an ear-to-ear smile. Before he headed to the car, he said, “By
the way, and I hope this doesn’t make you cry again, but remember those three
sets of uniforms you were supposed to pay for starting this month?”
I can more than afford to pay it back.”
need. You’ve more than paid for them for what you’ve done for this company.
Debt is cancelled.”
that your decision, or Mr. Wells’?”
mine. Mr. Wells allows, and expects, me to make executive-level decisions, Ms. Bensinger. Besides, he didn’t know I
did it in the first place.”
Rachael could respond, Dylan turned and sprinted to his car.
The next month was a blur.
Businesses started to reopen; people were getting back to work, products which
were once scarce appeared on the shelves—and stayed there— because the hoarding
had diminished. Customers were actually behaving like customers, instead of
hungry, cornered animals.
the end of his last Friday team meeting of the month, Dylan thanked everyone
for their efforts in an extraordinarily difficult time. He also mentioned that
he and Mr. Wells were planning on opening at least three new stores in the next
the conclusion of the meeting, Dylan said to Rachael, “I need some time with
you. And don’t worry, it’s all good. Let’s grab a smoke.”
outside, Rachael asked, “So what’s up?”
I have some good news about me.”
Wells has agreed to let me buy in on twenty percent of the existing stores, and
I’ll get thirty percent of the new stores, up front. Pretty slick, huh?” he
said patting his back over his left shoulder with his right hand.
percent. You know you’re going to be working your ass off on opening three new
stores, and you should get forty percent.”
I don’t disagree, but what if he doesn’t agree?”
you negotiate. Get real, Dylan. He’s not going to cut you loose. You’re too
valuable. He’ll probably wind up giving you thirty-five percent. I mean, what
do you have to lose? The worst that happens is that he stays at thirty, and
maybe gives you an option for more down the road. I know you’re not a wimp, so
don’t start acting like one now. The guy loves you. He’s already said as much
He has. He said you’re almost like a son to him—which I don’t understand, being
that he has a son.”
son is a fucking idiot, which is why Mr. Wells doesn’t allow him near the
business. If you ever have the unfortunate opportunity to meet him, you’ll
understand. Believe me.”
remained silent for a minute. Rachael saw him nodding his head as if he was
talking to someone. Then Dylan said, emphatically, “You’re right, as usual.
I’ll ask him for forty. I meet with him today to iron out some of the details.
I promise you, I won’t wimp out.”
the Dylan I know. Charge that hill!” Rachael paused before she asked, “Is that
it, or is there more good news?”
you’ve done a great job, Rach, which is why I might need to replace you as
Why?” Rachael said raising her voice in both disbelief and anger.
Mr. Wells and I were hoping you would accept a promotion to the position of
Assistant General Manager.”
wasn’t aware we even had an Assistant General Manager.”
don’t…yet. That’s why we were counting on you accepting it. And if you do, I
need to replace you here.”
know, Dylan, maybe you should have led with that. Sometimes you have the tact
of a hand grenade.” Rachael crossed her arms tightly across the front of her
suppose I could have broached the subject differently.”
“Ya think?” Rachael said while rolling
her eyes. She started tapping her right foot. “So who will be the assistant
have someone in mind from another store. It would be ideal for her.”
did you offer her the position?”
I wanted to see if you accepted the promotion first. It wouldn’t have been fair
to offer her a position that wasn’t available.”
she even know that the position here might be open?”
no, for the same reason as I just mentioned.”
would train her?”
would. She said she wants to train the assistant her way, like she did with
you, and I agree. And please stop that incessant foot tapping and chill the
hell out! Christ, Rach, you’re always so fuckin’ defensive.”
stopped the foot tapping, but kept her arms crossed. “Maybe I have good reasons
you do, but I shouldn’t be one of them. Quit making me pay for how other people
have treated you. Okay?”
dropped her arms, lit another cigarette, and shuffled her feet. She said,
sheepishly, “I agree with Serena. Who wants the old assistant hanging around while
you’re training a new one? So, tell me about this new position.”
carried on as if nothing had happened. As far as he was concerned, nothing did
happen. “Doing exactly what you’ve been doing with the numbers, except doing it
full time. You’d be meeting with Mr. Wells and me more often, as well as
visiting the stores more frequently. It’s come to my attention that the
managers and assistant managers prefer hearing the numbers from you,
because—and I quote—‘She’s one of us.’ You will be busy, Rach. But having you
in this position is more important now than it ever was.”
“Would I work from one of the stores, or from
your call. What do you prefer?”
prefer to work out of this store, actually. I believe I’d be more productive. May
I use your office when you’re not here?”
have a better idea. If you accept the position, I can have a contractor build
out another office next to mine—here. This is the only place I have an office,
by the way.”
I be able to have a plywood desk and orange plastic chairs like you?” Rachael
Ms. Bensinger, I am deeply hurt. I always thought my furniture had charm. It gives
off a certain ambiance.”
does. It says this guy is either incredibly cheap, or has very bad taste in
laughed out loud.
relaxed his stance and lit another cigarette. “In reality, Rach, you’re not
going to be spending that much time in the office. Nonetheless, Mr. Wells gave
us a budget for new furniture. We can look together and pick out nicer stuff. I’ll
defer to your judgment.”
He’s finally learning, Rachael thought.
speaking about shopping for stuff, part of your package of perks is a leased
car. We can go shopping for one this week, since I would have to sign for it.”
do I do with my car?”
it. The leased car is for business purposes so you don’t rack up the miles on
I get a fancy SUV like yours?”
no. But I promise you yours will be safe, comfortable, new, and appropriate for
your position. You won’t be embarrassed driving it.”
all sounds great, Dylan. I’m flattered that Mr. Wells and you think that much
of me. When would I start?”
Monday would be great.” Dylan paused, and then said to Rachael, “I’m surprised
you didn’t ask about the money.”
just figured all the other perks would be my increase in compensation.”
even close, Rach. We’re putting you on a salary of forty thousand a year, plus
profit sharing at the end of the year. That’s a six-thousand-dollar increase.
So…do I make the call to the new assistant manager offering the job, or what?”
if she refuses?”
won’t. Quit stalling. What’s your decision, and don’t play hard to get.”
Dylan. Absolutely! Thank you, thank you. Please thank Mr. Wells for me, please.
And I’m sorry I was such a bitch to you earlier. You didn’t deserve it.”
can tell Mr. Wells in person when the three of us meet this week to design a
strategy for opening these new stores. And I did deserve it. I thought I was
being clever. Guess not!
have a few calls to make before I head out. Have another smoke. You’ve made a
number of people very happy by accepting this position, especially me. And, by
the way, today marks the end of your sixty-day probation period with us.
Congrats. You’ve come a long way in these last two months. Very impressive. For
what it’s worth—Ms. Olson, Mr. Wells, and I are extremely proud of you. Well
Yes! I know I haven’t said this lately, but thank you, Jesus. No, really, thank
you. I can’t believe this is happening. Rachael threw a fist bump in the
air. She flicked her cigarette onto the parking lot, and turned to go back into
breathing became fast and heavy. “What the fuck are you doing here, Billy? I
thought you were in Ohio.”
that any way to talk to your boyfriend?”
not my boyfriend.”
kind of figured that, since I haven’t heard from you in almost three months. I called
your cell, but the number went to a different person. What happened with us?”
happened? Are you fuckin’ kidding me? You hauling off and clocking me in my
face. You damn near cost me my eyesight in one eye. We got arrested and all the
other shit that came with it. That’s what happened! And there is no ‘us.’ Now
get the hell out of my way. I need to get back to work.”
blocked her path. “Rachael, I know I fucked up, and I’m sorry. Can we at least
try to work it out?”
Now move out of my way.” As Rachael strode toward the door, Billy grabbed her
right arm with his left. His hand completely engulfed her slender wrist. “Let
go, Billy. You’re hurting me.”
figured you were going to reject me, so how about spotting me a hundred bucks.
I’m staying with this guy and I need it for expenses.”
You’re stoned, and you’re going to use the money to buy weed, or whatever. I’m
not giving you a fucking dime. Now, LET GO.”
heard a firm, calm voice from behind her. “Let her go, Billy.”
turned and saw Dylan in the doorway with his backpack slung over his right
shoulder. I’ve never seen Dylan’s face
and demeanor look like that. That’s the face of a Ranger in combat. If I were
the enemy, I’d be scared shitless.
“Who the fuck are you?” asked
doesn’t matter who I am, and you don’t want to find out. You just need to let
go of Rach.”
not leaving without her, or some money.”
locked his eyes on Billy, allowed his backpack to slide off his shoulder,
slowly reached into his left pocket, and pulled out a neatly folded wad of
cash. “There’s over two hundred dollars here, Billy. Let go of Rach, take the
cash, leave, and I’ll pretend this never happened. Okay?”
you,” Billy shot back. He turned to Rachael and asked, “Are you doing this
douche bag, Rachael?”
answered before Rachael had a chance. “No one’s doing anyone, Billy. Let go of her,
take the cash, and split—now!”
what if I don’t?”
would be your first, and probably, last mistake.”
shouted, “I’ve had enough of your shit, Billy. You’re never going to hurt me
again.” She spun to her right, breaking his hold and, with both of her hands, pushed
he stumbled backward, he shouted, “You bitch,” and reached under his hoodie.
felt as if she was hit twice in the gut by a sledgehammer. She slammed up
against the store’s pane glass window, and slid down onto the concrete walkway.
This pavement is cold, she thought.
Dylan seethed under his breath,
“No, no, no. I thought all of this shit was behind me.” Then his instincts took
over. He put his backpack under her head, took off his jacket, stripped off his
shirt and pressed it tightly against Rachael’s abdomen. “Christ. I can’t stop
came to the doorway, gasped, and put her hands to her mouth. Choking back
tears, she asked, “What happened to Rachael, Mr. Dylan?”
remained calm, and said, “Get me a shitload of towels, Serena.”
fucking kind. Move it, Serena.”
grabbed his cell phone with his free hand, and made yet another call.
“9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
inquired the male operator in a controlled voice.
need the police and an ambulance now
to the Just-a-Buck store on Perrytown Road in Riverton. Please hurry,” responded
“What’s the nature of your
have a female employee who’s been shot twice in the abdomen.”
the assailant still there?”
He dropped his gun and fled on foot. Now get me some help, please.”
“Stay on the line, sir, while I make
the call. Your name?”
“Your name. What’s your name, sir?”
“Dylan. Dylan Patterson.”
returned with an armful of towels. “Just put ’em next to Rach, Serena.”
she going to be okay, Mr. Dylan?”
me three of those towels.”
turning red as soon as you put them on,” cried Serena.
Dylan now talked to Rachael.
“Rach, listen to my voice. Just focus on my voice. You’re going to be okay.
Help is on the way. I need you to help me pick out furniture, Rach. Listen to
faintest of smiles crossed Rachael’s face. I
hear you, Dylan, but I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open. My eyelids
are so heavy. I feel so tired. Why do I feel so tired?
operator returned. “The police and EMT’s should be there in a few minutes. Keep
pressure on the wound.”
know what to do. I was in combat.”
sir. I’ll stay on the line until the police arrive.”
a few minutes two city police and a county sheriff’s car rolled up at the same
time as the EMT’s. “I’m going off the line, sir. God speed,” said the 9-1-1
medics knelt beside Rachael. The police pulled Dylan aside. “Let the EMT’s do
their job, sir. Perhaps you could help us with some details.”
her first name?” asked the EMT at her feet, while the other EMT put an oxygen
mask on Rachael.
Rachael Bensinger,” responded Dylan. She’s about twenty-three.”
Then the EMT spoke to Rachael. “Rachael, my name is Ryan. My partner’s name is
Nilda. We’re with the fire department. You’re going to be okay, Rachael, but I
need you to focus as hard as you can on my voice. Blink if you understand.”
managed one blink, and then her eyelids slammed shut.
we need to roll you on your side. This may hurt, but it’s necessary.”
Ryan rolled her onto her left side, Rachael let out an anguished cry. “Nilda,
look for exit wounds.” Nilda looked and shook her head.
said Ryan. “That means the slugs are still in there. I can’t stop the bleeding,
bp is falling off a cliff, and she barely has a pulse, Ryan. We have to move
moment later, Nilda yelled, “No pulse, Ryan. It’s gone. I’m starting CPR.”
Rachael felt the chest compressions, she thought she heard Bruce Springsteen’s
song ‘Human Touch’ being played over the store’s music system. What a strange song to play now. And why am
I thinking about volcanoes?
At that very moment, a geyser of
blood violently erupted from Rachael’s mouth, filling her mask. Nilda ripped it
off. Dylan broke from the police, cradled Rachael’s head from behind, and
turned it to the side so she wouldn’t choke. Nilda continued with the CPR.
you quit on me, Rach!” yelled Dylan. “Start fighting, damn it. Be fierce. Fight!”
A torrent of tears from Dylan pelted Rachael’s forehead like a hard rain against
looked at Nilda and said, “Nilda, there’s still no pulse. It’s over.”
ain’t over until I say it’s over. Give me another minute, Ryan.”
gave it thirty seconds, then grabbed Nilda’s arm. “It’s over, partner. Time to
let it go.”
slammed her fist into her medical bag three times, shouting, “Shit! Shit! Shit!”
some deep recess of Rachael’s mind, which she couldn’t quite pinpoint, she
heard a calm voice. Congratulations for
getting through your sixty days in the hole. Good job. In her mind, she
A moment later, from a different corner of her mind, she heard a desperate, panic-stricken voice cry out, Awww shit, Rachael.
L.D. Zane served in the Navy from 1968 to 1975. Five of those years were aboard nuclear-powered, Fast Attack submarines. He lives with his wife in a small city in southeastern Pennsylvania, and is a member of The Bold Writers group.
L.D.’s short stories have been
published in over two dozen literary journals. His first anthology, It’s Always My Fault & Other Short
Stories, has recently been published by Pretzel City Press.
L.D.’s website is: ldzaneauthor.com