The Holy Land
The first order of business upon returning from my suspension was taking care of the "Progressive Correction Chit" that had been issued me by Angelina for balling the two Tyn maids. That meant another interview with The Director, Holly.
"In trouble again, Mr. Payne?" her secretary wanted to know.
"So it seems," I replied.
The secretary her name was Kim, according to the name plate on her desk was a petite, round-faced, chestnut-haired girl so perfectly cute that it almost hurt to look at her. She treated me to a dazzlingly wicked smile and pointed to Holly's door as if I didn't know the way.
Holly played it cool, professional, in an ice maiden mode again; as if our wrestling match in that Fremont Street hotel two nights ago had never happened. She finalized the correction chit, slipped it, electronically, into my personal file, knotted her hands in a double fist atop her desk and fixed me with those grey eyes of hers and said, "Do I have to tell you, Mr. Payne, that this is a last chance you're getting in your dealings with our Extra Terrestrial Co-Workers?"
"No," I said, simply, looking for a spark behind the professional facade.
"Good," Holly said, "because you're going to be working a bit more closely with one of our friends, from here on."
"Closely?" I asked.
I think I saw a sparkle in her eye, but her expression remained unreadable, like an android's. Behind her, through the window, the Tyn mother glowed with a hot reflection of the rays of the morning sun.
"Very closely, Mr. Payne; you and Deborah will be sharing an office."
"Deborah?" I said dumbly. I didn't like the smirk that twitched at the corner of Holly's mouth. I said, "Please tell me that this Deborah I'll be sharing my office with is a long-legged ex-showgirl who's decided to shelve the push-up bra and stiletto heels to make a career of restaurant management."
Holly twinkled. She unknotted her fisted hands and made a prayer pose, smiling over the steeple of her fingertips.
"And tell me that she smells good," I pleaded. "It's a small office."
Holly moved her hand toward the button that would turn off the recording system, thought better of it, then went back to the prayer clasp.
"Deborah, Mr. Payne, is not an ex-show girl; she is a Tyn, and a very ambitious ..." Holly searched for a word, then used "... person. A very ambitious person. She has, in fact, been running the show at The Loaves and Fishes in you absence."
Stunned, I sat there like a rat in the headlights, trying to figure this unexpected development After twenty dead seconds, I managed to say, "But, Evangeline?"
"Ah, Ms. Johnson," said Holly, bringing her extended fingers back into the double fist configuration again.
Evangeline Johnson we all called her Vangie was my assistant manager, had been for the better part of the last year. She, like this Deborah, was an ambitious person. She was after my manager job as any ambitious assistant manager would would be.
"It seems Ms. Johnson had a problem co-managing with a Tyn," Holly said. "She had, in fact, a very discriminatory attitude toward Deborah, so we transferred her to a more appropriate position."
"Oh Christ," I muttered, knowing how those transfers worked. "So, she's a bathroom attendant now?"
Holly's eyebrows shot up, and she gave her eyes a quick roll, to indicate the recording of our meeting. "No, certainly not, Mr. Payne. Ms. Johnson is putting her superior customer service skills to work in her promotion to cocktail waitress."
"Promotion?" I said
"Deborah," I sighed, after another silent half-minute.
"A very ambitious person," Holly assured me.
"Person?" I said, taken aback by the new tag for our extra terrestrial co-workers.
"Person." Holly repeated, with a peremptory tone of voice and look in her eye.
I entered the Loaves and Fishes through the front entrance, getting a sly-eyed greeting from the new hostess, none other than Julianne, the former waitress who'd lost her little toe to Mary, the hungry Tyn. "Hi, Neil. Met Deborah yet?" she smirked.
An enormously fat couple waddled around me, both of them in Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian-print shirts. Julianne handed them two menus, welcomed them in a desultory monotone and told them to seat themselves. I pulled up at her podium and said, "Deborah? No, I haven't had the pleasure. How's your toe?"
"I'm growing a new one," Julianne said, brightening. She hooked a forefinger into the stretchy elastic of her scoop neck top and pulled the fabric down. There, on the inside of her left breast, just inside the cut of her black lace bra, a small pink pinkie toe budded, shivering with the rise and fall of her breathing. A small half moon of toenail gleamed on it tip of it, painted purple.
"Good Lord," I said. The sight of the out-of place toe struck me as obscene, and strangely exciting. "Why don't they just grow a new one on the stub?"
"Doesn't work that way, Neil," Julianne informed me as she unhooked her finger and let her blouse snap back to its normal position, spanning the hill and dale of her breasts and cleavage. "To much damaged tissue there; it has to heal. But this one'll be ready for transplant in a couple of weeks." She grinned. "Those doctors can do just about anything these days, Neil: grow a new toe, a nose, a finger." She cast her eyes about, looking for eavesdroppers. "Even a, you know," she shot her eyes down to my crotch. Whoa, I thought, as my eyes widened. Hell, had that fat man getting bitten by the Tyn girl on the X-Web entered the public consciousness? With so much stuff on the Internet, it was hard to tell what would catch on; or maybe the scene had been repeated, with different players, often enough to become commonplace, and the talk of the town. Something like that would appeal to a certain set of the ladies.
"Careful, Julianne," I warned, casting my eyes around, to indicate the surveillance.
"Always, Neil, " she smiled, and off I walked, with the bothersome image prickling my mind, that of the hairy fat man growing a brand new cloned penis on the side of his big round beer belly.
"She's in her office," Eric said, folding an omelet. Eric was working the grill. I'd slipped through the dining room to survey the serving line, with the eggs-to-order/omelet grill on its east end. "And she's a real piece of work," the grill cook added, slipping the omelet up off the hot metal to slide it onto a plate.
"Is she now?"
Eric handed the plate over the sneeze guard to a young blond woman who had the look of an all night gambler bleary-eyes, blurred make-up, bedraggled hair-do. She grunted a thanks and drifted off toward the fruit bar, and I trudged back to my office, and found the door closed, with Deborah's name etched into a new name plate, on an even level with mine. Beneath our names, the word "co-managers".
I turned the knob and pushed the door into the room, and was greeted by the chirpy, sibilant voice of a Tyn, whining with sing-song displeasure with the words: "Don't you know how to knock?"
She sat at my desk, wearing a powder blue shirt and black neck tie. The look she gave me out those big, soulless blue eyes dried my mouth out. I suppressed the urge to swallow or lick my lips; don't let her see you sweat, I thought.
"I didn't think I had to knock at my own office door," I said, bringing some steel into my tone. Deborah's nostril slits flared. I stepped inside and closed the door behind me. Gina Torres, one of my line cooks, sat in the folding chair on the other side of the desk from Deborah. She wore her cook's whites, but her long black hair had been undone from its customary behind the head bun. The look on her face as she craned her neck to look over her shoulder at me was one of a black clamp-jawed contempt so intense that her entire body quivered.
"Our office, Mr. Payne." The word "our" was emphasized. "You are Mr. Payne, are you not?" said Deborah in that squeaky, sibilant voice.
"I am," I replied, making an attempt at a swagger as I stepped around the desk to her side, to check my in-box, that sat empty.
"And I am Deborah," she informed me and, without getting up from her my chair, she offered me her long-fingered hand. Her mouth painted an unholy red had puckered itself into a tight round rosebud.
I extended my right hand to shake hers. It hesitated on its journey, slowing perceptibly. I'd never, it occurred to me, actually touched a Tyn before. Our palms met; her long fingers circled my offering the way an octopus wraps its prey, with enough force to grind my knuckles together, painfully.
"Nice to meet you, Deborah," I said, forcing what I hoped was an assertive expression onto my face.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Payne; and would you please put a "Ms." in front of my name call me Ms. Deborah." Her red mouth blossomed out of its rosebud configuration into a full bloom, lips pealing away from her silver teeth.
I tried to pull free; she wouldn't let me. "So, what do we have here with Ms. Torres?" I asked, as I applied steady backward pressure to regain possession of my hand. Ms. Deborah gave some ground, letting me tug toward myself a good six inches, before she pulled back, getting those six inches and another six of her own, until our clasped hands hovered a hair's breadth from conical point of her tiny right breast.
"It seems Ms. Torres feels she can defy my authority, Mr. Payne; she has extended her authorized ten minute breaks to fifteen minutes, three times this week."
I shot a quick look at Gina. Her mouth had dropped open at the sight of this territory-establishing tug-of-war; her eyes had narrowed into a look of disbelieve mixed with indignation. "Let him go, you little bitch!" she growled at Deborah.
Deborah increased the force of her grip on my hand. I grunted at the pain and jerked my hand, to no avail. Gina jumped up.
"Gina, don't!" I cried out, as a bead of sweat the size of marble rolled from the side of my forehead, off my jaw and down to the floor.
Deborah eased her grip off and let me pull my hand back away to a halfway point between us, but she didn't let go. She turned her icy gaze on Gina and twittered, "That was very disrespectful, Ms. Torres, and I cannot tolerate disrespect."
Gina told her what she could do with her disrespect, as she dove across the desk with the apparent goal of grasping Ms. Deborah's neck. I thought, for one brief blink of time, that Deborah would squeal, let go of my hand, and ball up into a protective orb. But perhaps she was made of tougher stuff than the run-of the-mill room maid Tyn. She hissed instead of balling, and met Gina's lunge with her free hand, a stiff, a knotty fist full of hard knuckles that hit the enraged line cook's nose, standing the girl straight up with a stunned look on her face. Then there was blood, pouring from Gina's nostrils and over her mouth and chin. She cupped her hands beneath the flow, pulled them back and looked at the crimson fluid, then collapsed.
"I can not tolerate," Ms. Deborah said again, "Disrespect." With each word she increased the power of her grip on my hand. A small bone snapped with the sound of a popcorn kernel in a microwave. I said, "OH!" as three more popped in quick succession, then I folded up, down on my knees in front of my co-manager, who turned her big un-Godly blue eyes on me as I passed out cold.
Published October 2007