by Eric Suhem
As Madge reached the 4 floor with her shopping cart, the elevators opened upon an office scene of men and women in blood-red shirts bouncing around on trampolines and giant-sized overstuffed bean bags. A steely glint was in their eyes, and one of them turned to Madge, saying, “Join us in our financial playpen, room for one more!” Madge quickly pushed the button and the doors closed; she was just looking for the “Canned Foods” section.
Their games had started late in the night. They were financial executives, looking for candidate souls, dressed in blood-red polo shirts to show their team unity. “Here’s a fine one,” chirped a perky redhead who had leveraged a number of buy-outs and had made a name for herself in the industry.
“A juicy soul, I concur,” replied the white-haired man at the other end of the table, staring down at a digital printout of Madge. She wouldn’t join us in the playpen, but she’ll return, as the frozen vegetables aisle is in our conference room.
Suddenly Madge burst into the room with her shopping cart, and a list of food items, “Am I on the right floor?” she asked, squinting at the perky redhead. In order to cut costs and please the shareholders, the financial corporation was sharing building space with a retail food outlet. Before the perky redhead could respond, Madge had disappeared back into the elevator, searching for the produce section.
The financial executives did find another candidate soul, and the white-haired man began, “Yes, here at Filth (FInancial Long-Term Happiness) Inc. we recruit only the finest financial minds. Minds that are clean, unsullied, fresh ponies that we can ride to a better tomorrow — do you want to be a financial pony?”
“Yes, I want to be one of tomorrow’s children!” said the young business recruit, clutching his recently-earned MBA degree in a well-manicured hand.
“Excellent,” said the white-haired man. “Now, candidate soul, as part of your recruitment, we have a microphone into which you can speak your darkest, filthiest thoughts, and they will be removed from your mind, so they won’t sully up your financial identity, which would not help you close that big deal.” As the perky redhead began attaching wires to his temples and inserting the microphone near his salivating mouth, Madge burst into the room, holding money-saving coupons.
“I was told that I could redeem these coupons at this shopping level,” she began, spreading them out in front of the white-haired man.
He slapped them away, saying, “We have rented this floor for the third quarter, it is not available for grocery use until October, except for the frozen vegetables section at the back of the conference room!” Madge looked at her grocery list, and maneuvered the squeaky-wheeled shopping cart towards the freezer aisle.
“Now then, candidate soul,” resumed the white-haired man, “Speak your most sinister thoughts into the microphone, and they will be quickly removed from your brain, enabling you to be a more positive and pliable corporate resource.” As the business recruit was clearing his throat, the wires crossed, and the voice on the speaker was that of Madge, speaking into another microphone in the frozen vegetables aisle, during what she thought was a customer survey. For the next 9 hours, a steady stream of evil, disturbing cancerous words darted into the microphone from the throat of Madge. None of the executives left over the 9 hours, and they all took notes, though some of them taking a minute to change clothes, replacing one blood red polo shirt with another.
After her speech, Madge was not finished. “Where the hell are the frozen peas?” she demanded. A red-shirted executive was dispatched to the frozen vegetables aisle, ready to assuage.
“This aisle is a smorgasbord beyond quantitative calculation, and I’m sure you’re qualitative response will be a resounding ‘Yum-Yumm!” said the executive encouragingly.
Madge threw down her shopping list in disgust, “Not without my frozen peas!”
The white-haired man decided to move on with protocol. “Next soul,” he intoned, looking for his agenda, finding Madge’s grocery coupons instead. Madge left the building with her shopping cart, discovering the white-haired man’s agenda in one of her grocery bags. She would go on to interpret and implement his ideas in her own way.
“Dropping A Dime”
by Amy Vansant
I caught him red-handed.
“Sorry Joe, but I’m going to have to drop a dime on ya,” I told him.
The man looked at me with fear on his mug. He tried to play it off like confusion, but it was fear, or my name isn’t Sam Slade.
“Come with me, kid,” I said. “Your number is up.”
“I was just taking an extra towel for my son at the pool…” said the guy, his face covered in more guilt than a religious statue. Sure, for that comment to make sense I mean “gilt” not “guilt,” but aurally speaking, it made sense in my internal monologue. Either way, I wasn’t about to take any lip from this palooka.
“Sorry, pal, but I’m the house dick.”
“The house what?” he asked, playing the boob. He tilted his head and gave me the eye. “Aren’t you hot in that jacket? It’s like 90 degrees out here.”
I scoffed and pulled the belt around my trench a little tighter.
“Clam up, or I’ll be fitting YOU for a Chicago overcoat, if you get what I mean.”
The man shook his head. “No, honestly, I have no idea what you mean.”
“Look you,” I said, trying to keep my temper. “I said I’m the hotel’s new house dick.”
This egg stared at me like I’d lost my mind. What a maroon. I tried a different tack.
“I’m an Op, a Peeper, you know, a Shamus! And I’m going to have to drop a dime on you for glomming the extra towel. The sign clearly states ‘one per guest.’ ”
I grabbed the schmuck’s arm and led him away from the pool, straight into the lobby of the hotel. I started to give him the third, but he yanked his arm out of my paw.
“Don’t make me pull out my bean shooter,” I warned him.
Again, the nance’s face clouded over with fear disguised as confusion.
“Your what?” he asked. “Look, freak, I needed a towel for my son, so I took one.”
“Exactly. And now that you’ve gone and done it, I’m going to have to drop a dime on you.”
I looked around the lobby for a set of phone booths, but found nothing. I kicked myself for not checking in with the boss on the location of the horns in the event I needed to drop a dime on someone. Finally, I found one near the bathrooms, but it only took quarters. Since when did it take eight cups of joe to call the bulls?
“You got some quarters on you?” I asked the guy. He’d begun to shiver from the cold.
“Are you kidding me?” he asked. “I’m in swim trunks.”
I froze, unsure of my next move. ‘Dropping a quarter’ on the guy just didn’t have the same ring.
“Get a cell phone, asshole,” said the guy. “Until then, I’m going back out to the pool with my son.”
I was behind the eight ball on this pinch. The guy turned and stormed off towards the pool. I let him go. In the old days, I would have played that daisy a little chin music, but I just wasn’t the man I used to be.
I pulled out a gasper and lit it, deep in thought.
“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t smoke in here,” said the kid at the desk.
I took one last drag and put the pill out on my shoe. My eyes drifted towards the hotel bar. On the square, I’ve been known to be a bit of a boozehound. It’s how I lost my last job.
I thought better of it, and I made my way outside. This wasn’t the place for me. I needed to tip a few in a joint where I felt a bit more jake.