Home > Creative Writing Exercises, Social Networking, Writing > Three Words Musing 1: Bacon, Shortage, Blockade – Part V

Three Words Musing 1: Bacon, Shortage, Blockade – Part V

This is the fifth installment in a series inspired by suggestions on Twitter. It’s a work in progress. All rights reserved.

June 2012

Just after lunch, with the kids safely off at school and Angeline taking a comp day from her job at the clinic, Lloyd sat in the lobby of Clement Marketing. He tugged awkwardly at the conservative blue necktie dangling from his collar and thought, Better get used to this.

He preferred the more casual wardrobe he’d enjoyed in the previous career: Khakis, button-ups, and Nunn Bush were about as formal as he got. But here he was, less than 24 hours since he walked out on Patrick Betts, just an interview away from landing a new job.

Lloyd hadn’t wanted to become a commercial hack. Didn’t want to sell out. But Amy Dennison made a good point when she passed on the tip in her email: “When you’re drowning at sea, it doesn’t make much sense to flick off a whaler who’s willing to toss you a life preserver.”

He was especially grateful that the human resources agent, a woman named Diana Petrofsky, was willing to meet with him on such short notice.

“She’ll see you now,” the well-trimmed male receptionist said.

“Thanks,” Lloyd replied, standing and tugging once more at the tie, hoping it was straight. His cell trilled in the pocket of his shirt. He tapped the button on the plastic bud tucked into his right ear. “Lloyd Porter here.”

He heard Angeline on the other end: “The school just called. The boys are sick.”

“Sick? What’s wrong? What happened?”

“I’m not sure. It sounds like quite a few kids are falling ill. Early flu bug, maybe. Sick building syndrome? I don’t know, but I’m going to pick them up. I’ll take them to Dr. Stowers.”

“All right,” Lloyd said. “I’ve got that interview now. See you at home.” He tapped the earbud once more, cutting off the call. He had no reason to suspect that those were the last words they’d ever share.

***

The boys sat in the back of Angeline’s minivan, sluggish and pale, as she pulled into the parking lot of the pediatric clinic where she worked part-time as a records clerk.

Angeline boggled at the sign hanging crookedly in the door: CLOSED. With a handwritten addendum on a pink Post-It: OFFICE ILLNESS. She speed-dialed the number for her boss, Dr. Luther Stowers, but it went to voice mail.

She looked at the boys in the back seat and understood there’d be no alternative. She’d have to take them to the hospital emergency room.

Angeline slid back into the driver’s seat and closed the door.

Evan asked weakly, “Can I have my Robo?”

She frowned. “You’re sick, Evan. Robo’s at home. I need to take you and little Lloyd to the doctors at the hospital.”

“I want Robo,” he insisted.

Well, she thought, home’s on the way.

***

“Deadline experience goes a long way, Mr. Porter,” Diana Petrofsky said, “but your clips from the Press are excellent too. That’s either a testament to your skills or those of your copy editors.”

Lloyd chuckled, shaking his head. “I’m fast and clean. I know what I’m doing.”

She plucked an empty container of Monmont Farms coffee creamer off her desk and dropped it into a small black trash can, then took another sip of her coffee. Then, a smile before she asked, “Are you sure you won’t have a cup?”

“No, no, but thanks,” he said. “Never been big on coffee. Gives me the shakes.”

Diana shrugged. “I try to quit, but it never sticks. I made a break with smoking. That’s good enough, right?”

Lloyd smiled. “Good for you.”

She nodded agreement, then stood from her desk and carried a manila folder – Lloyd’s resume and other pertinent information, he expected – to the door. Yanking the door open, she proffered the folder to her assistant outside. “Leopold, take Mr. Porter’s file to Danny in the writing department. Tell him that he’s recommended for final approval.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Leopold said.

Thank God for life’s little blessings and the occasional quick turnaround of luck, Lloyd thought. He stood, extending a hand to Diana. “Thank you for the opportunity. I really appreciate it.”

“Danny’s going to be lucky to have you on his team,” she said, clasping his hand. Her grip was cold, clammy. The smile she wore was taut, like a rictus. He noticed sweat beading on her forehead.

“You okay?” he asked.

Diana Petrofsky raised her other hand, ready to give a dismissive wave. Then it flopped to her side, just before she collapsed on the tasteful mauve carpet.

***

It took Angeline about five minutes to hunt through the chaos of the room Evan and Lloyd Jr. shared before she finally plucked the silver and red transforming Robo from under the bunk bed.

She walked back downstairs, reclaimed her purse from the table next to the door, and then carried the toy to the minivan. She slid open the side door of the van, saying, “You boys really need to get your room straight…” Her voice trailed off. The back seat was empty.

***

“What happened?” Leopold asked. He crouched next to Lloyd, who was cradling Diana’s head in his lap. Her eyes were closed, but she was breathing raggedly.

“We shook hands and then she fainted,” Lloyd replied. “Has this ever happened before?”

Leopold put two fingers against the side of her throat. “No. She’s healthy.”

Her eyes flashed open. They glowed a queer yellow-green that Lloyd immediately associated with glowsticks at a rave. Her breathing had gone rapidly from a ragged rasp to a rumbling growl. Diana Petrofsky grabbed Leopold’s wrist with her hands and pulled it toward her gaping mouth.

“Fuck a duck!” Lloyd screamed as she sank her teeth into her assistant’s pale flesh. Blood spurted from the wound, spilling between the gaps in her teeth. Leopold howled in horror and agony.

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