The instructions read: Push in on perforated area and pull up.
Cassie stared at the perforated area, a small, triangle of space surrounded by tiny cuts in the cardboard. Placing her finger over the spot she pushed lightly, testing the strength of the cuts. In theory it should just break inward with a satisfying popping sound. In theory…
Pressing harder, she noted the bowing of the top corner as the cardboard ignored the perforations, and its own printed instructions, and simply bent inward under the pressure. Her lips compressed into an irritated line. Why did she bother? The instructions never worked yet she always gave it the old college try.
She hadn’t even gone to college.
Was that why she couldn’t open the box? Was the trick to getting the perforations to work really just a matter of having a degree in something?
The entire, narrow side of the box collapsed under her finger as she pressed hard enough to explode a peach pit. Still nothing.
Huffing angrily, she stopped pushing and grabbed the lid, forcing her finger under the glued edge and shredding the box top. Dumping the contents into the pan of boiling water she grabbed a wooden spoon and maliciously churned the silver cheese package around with the macaroni.
Laying flat on her stomach with her arms tucked mantis style beneath her, and her thick, dark, ponytail draped back over one shoulder, Haley hovered her face above the surface of the pond, her breath making the barest of ripples on the water. Her time inside it had ended long ago, but to be able to watch, and breathe, and see the effect her very existence had upon those that came after; that was the true blessing of having lived at all. The ripples she caused were small and avoidable, barely noticeable to those inside. It was just enough to keep them trying. Enough to keep things from being easy.
Every now and then, she would roll onto her back and stare into the sky above that was always black and shimmering with stars, and wonder who was breathing ripples down onto her?
Time slowed to a crawl as the bus dug into the deep snow on the curb. Unconsciously, Shelly placed a hand over her heart and held her breath, feeling the back wheels of the great machine slide sideways and grind against the raised edge of the sidewalk. After a few seconds, the tires caught. Ignoring the smaller vehicles, the city bus clawed its way into the street.
Pressing her hand tighter to her chest, trying to calm her rapid heartbeat through her gray, winter coat, Shelly glanced nervously around her, trying to see if she was the only worried passenger. Across the aisle, sitting stiffly in her seat and gripping tightly to her shopping bag, sat a small elderly lady with an old, green knit hat and wide eyes. As if feeling Shelly’s eyes on her, the woman turned her head and met her inquiring stare. Nervous smiles tightened their mouths for just a moment.
The suction cups left tiny, slightly raised marks on the window. They would be easy enough to clean off. A little window cleaner and some paper towel would make short work of it. A blind toss over one shoulder sent the old, sun-bleached, striped cat with its slightly maniacal smile zinging onto the car’s hot dashboard. Landing face down, it’s faded eyes scorched against the sun baked vinyl while the squeaking sounds of window washing pattered through the car. It only took a few minutes. The car door slammed shut and the new, brightly colored cat clung to the glass where the old one had been, it’s large, heavily lidded eyes unblinking as the old one passed in front of it on its way to the dumpster.
“Sandy, you are a magician with that copy machine so I’m going to have you work on the flyers for the event.”
Flushing slightly at the double edged sword, Sandy stayed motionless for a moment, staring at Kylie. Making flyers was a terrible job, one that Kyle would pick apart and ultimately do herself through the guise of suggested edits. The job would keep her right under Kylie’s thumb for the next week.
Brown curls swung coyly around Kylie’s cheeks as she pushed papers around on her desk, straightening and sorting, not looking up.
“What are you waiting for?” Picking up a pen, Kylie studied a single sheet as if she were going to write on it.
Catching herself before the scowl could get all the way out, Sandy allowed herself a slightly heavy exhale and turned to go, her brain burning with dislike. The benefits that came with her job were hard to walk away from over a single person, especially one that was so covert with her manipulations. Voicing her opinion of Kylie to a few of her co-workers had only made her appear as a curiosity. Everyone seemed to adore the woman. How was she the only one that saw what Kylie was?
“The eighties were righteous, man!” Bobbing his head in time with the music blaring from the overhead speakers, the man plucked two five dollar chips from the rack in front of him and leaned into the craps table to press them firmly into the field, centering them on the twelve.
Fighting the urge to roll his eyes at the guy, Shane lifted his hands into the air above his head and smiled.
“Hands up, boss. Dice are coming.”
Two red cubes rocketed down the table, the sharp points digging at the green, felt covering. Tumbling and bouncing, the dice grazed across the back of the man’s hand on their way to the back wall.
Way too slow, guy.
“Five, fever! No field!”
“C’mon, man! Get your hands outta the way!”
The shooter pressed both hands to either side of his backwards baseball cap, the scriptic M above the bill facing away from the game.
“Sorry, man. They didn’t touch me, I swear.”
Shane locked up the ten dollars from the field and focused his eyes on the passline behind it. Historically, the shooter was short tempered. He had a history of bullying other players and arguing with the staff over one dollar bets. The guy in front of him liked to play chicken with the dice. Last second betting, sometimes just tossing his chips down, letting them scatter toward the field in a way that made them seem like dice magnets. He always caused a seven out. Tightening his lips to keep the smile from getting out, Shane gripped the wooden rail and waited. It was just a matter of time.
“You need to see the parade. It’s amazing!” Her face lit up with excitement, her round cheeks positively bulging with a happy smile.
“Yeah, it looks like it’s a lot of fun.” I smiled too, adding my enthusiasm to the conversation. George and Sera smiled back from across the table, their elbows resting on the formica.
“You wouldn’t know, you’ve never seen it.” Her face went blank, her dark eyes dropping to her plate where she began to push at her half eaten hashbrowns soaking in ketchup.
“Huh?” My smile scratched to a halt and I stared at her, surprised.
“Oh, you’ll say you’ll say you have, but you haven’t.” She waved a meaty hand through the air at me, dismissing anything that might come out of my mouth next.
From the edges of my shocked vision I watched George and Sera glance at each other, their faces going slack as the happy conversation was knocked out of them. George lifted an enquiring eyebrow. Sera made a slight shrugging motion and picked up her own fork to poke carefully at her pancakes. In two small sentences, the impromptu breakfast had become a train wreck.