Tick Tock Tick Tock…
The hands on the dirty fake timber clock staring back into her worn out eyes.
The smell of burnt flour stifled the already bleak miserable surroundings of the ancient warehouse. Air so thick you would swear it too had been baked!
Erin saw no future here, not even as it was always right there in the palm of her gloves!
It was close to lunch break, so the next half hour was usually spent outdoors, inhaling as much oxygen as possible. Filling dust absorbed lungs with enough so-called fresh air to make it through until ‘knock off’!
Erin’s mates were all married, paying off a mortgage and raising a young family.
The girls all had average looking husbands, who drove next to average family cars, drank beer on an average of twice a week night, and had fair to average level of communication skills. Erin craved more, and was scoffed at for thinking she could do any better than the average co-worker of the Bing So- Lo Fortune Cookie factory.
“Come on Erin…where on earth do you think you will find any guy in this town with an above average pay packet?” asked Laura, in her usual condescending tone. The other girls nodded, some rolling their eyes at such ideas.
Most of the men in their small town worked down at the mill, the other small percentage filled jobs as console operators, tool store assistants and garbage men.
Relationships either blossomed through school, or hatched out of pubs!
The very image of this being her future existence was enough to make Erin cringe. “Not me!” she said in defiance. Her days of stuffing bits of tissue paper and lies into cookies would soon be over! I’ll show them who’s the fortunate one around here!! Wait and see!
Harry Bing was a nasty man to work for, and even though these girls worked solid around his rosters, always on time and never time off, he still pushed them harder! “Hey, you!” he shouted as he watched each girl march back in from their break. He was never speaking directly to one person, he had simply become so accustomed to his own vocabulary, that it was now a habit to call out!
He had nothing to say, nothing to talk about. Just a lot of orders and finger pointing as he sucked another day out of their lives. Erin was depressed. The routine had almost broken that feisty young spirit, almost!
As she tied her hair back up, stretching the string to the hair-net back over her bun, Erin glared into his dark old beady eyes. “I’ve had enough of this crap old man” she whispered under her breath. The next load of cookies making their way around the conveyor belt, split in halves ready for the next stage in the process.
A pile of rice paper stacked on the ground beside them, their job to grab, squash, flatten and slip into as many shells as possible, but only one at a time! Erin remembered the day old Mr. Bing caught a ‘bad pile’ out of the delivery tray. It was as a day they all learned the golden rules of fortune cookie packing.
Someone had accidentally placed one too many rice papers into a stack of cookies, already in the delivery tray, about to be boxed for distribution.
Harry had been hanging about the belt, like a soldier on command, overseeing his troops and ensuring they were all in complete order. It had been the hands of the new girl which had caused so much fuss, and Harry made sure her mistake was a lesson for everyone! He knew the cookies were already carrying one ‘bad batch’, but he allowed them to continue on…then, out of nowhere, “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!” came the shrill of his voice of command.
Erin caught a glimpse of the new girl from the corner of her eye and saw she was visibly shaking. With one hand out-reached, Erin grabbed the tips of the girl’s fingers and held them, a new friendship was forged that moment on.
The slamming of the rubber mullet onto the wire tray sent a shiver down their spine, and as pieces of cookie shell went hurdling through the dusty air, a silence fell across the room. Harry leaned down and pulled out one cookie from the wreckage and used it as an example of incompetence. “LOOK AT THIS !” he hollered, his accent ringing in their ears. He edged his way closer to his new staff, Erin could feel the girl squeezing tightly in fear. “YOU!” and he again pointed with his old wrinkled finger..”You do this mistake and now cost everyone money!” The process line was wobbling, there was a shift in the moods and Erin felt it coming. Out of nowhere, one of the senior process workers collapsed onto the floor beneath her. The terror Harry had managed to inflict upon her too much to handle, and she fainted. Others rushed to help her while Harry Bing stood examining the new girl’s face. She immediately apologised, admitting she had placed an extra paper into one shell, and promised it would never happen again. And so that was that. The girls all returned to their positions, the older woman given permission to go home early, and as her dear old husband arrived in his average old car to collect her, Erin was seething in anger. “You!” another shout, another order, this time to Erin, she was the one he chose to clean up the mess, his mess!
It was Erin’s wake up call, and she vowed a new life from that point on to present day.
So as the belt rolled out another batch, Erin’s tongue rolled out a serve of her own! “Hey, YOU!” she screamed, and again, that same silence…the only sound the belt which continued to move, and the line continued to work with it.
Harry took a step backwards from the steps to his office, she had caught his attention. This day had been brewing for awhile, for Erin that was, and even though she knew it meant risking her job, she couldn’t stop the process of thoughts which were about to explode from her mouth. A tug on her pants from the new girl couldn’t sway her, she’d had enough.
With a mighty yank Erin ripped the net from her head, tossing it onto the grey dust filled floors. “Harry!” she called in a deep hard throat, and he turned to face her. In her right hand, she held a cookie, fresh off the belt. She handed it to her boss, inviting him to take it. “Why you do this Miss Erin? Why? You want lose job? You no care I fire you today? You look FOOL in front of all friends!”
Erin never budged an inch, her hand outright, her eyes fixed on his.
As the machines kept working so too the operators, but all fell silent.
“What is she doing?” came the murmurs of the other girls, they were all startled by her outburst but felt a sense of excitement as they secretly coaxed their mate on. Go on, go on Erin, let him have it girl..
The cookie now in his hand, Erin demanded he read his fortune.
His eyes never leaving hers, he crumbled the over baked msg-filled cookie, plucking the rice paper from within. He had become so engaged in this private war he had not even noticed the others staring back at him.
Harry read the words out for all to hear….‘You are of average class in society with an average life span of a male’ ‘Today, not your average day for someone has news you were not expecting to hear’
A needle could have dropped and have been heard two blocks away!
Out of Erin’s left hand came another bit of information, a document as such which stated that as of today, the premises of Mr. Harry Bing’s So Lo, and all its belongings, had been foreclosed upon, pending new management.
A girl can do wonders when she has friends in the right places, she thought…..so while Harry scraped his jaw from off his filthy-floor, So Lo’s new manager took one step closer… none other than one Ms. Erin Daley- with her recently appointed assistant in staff-management, the new girl stepped up to take her new position.
Erin smiled, [some might say], an above average smile of success!
This story written by Debbie Stevens using a “prompt” courtesy of Fear of Writing.