"Oh shit, here it comes. Let’s kick off 'Bitch and Moan Fest 2010,'" whispers Carrie.
"Carrie, where's my pen? Have you seen my pen?" snaps Trent, like a Chihuahua that has had its favorite chew toy taken away.
Carrie quickly pulls the pen off of the counter and hands it to Trent before he can blow his top. Still, even this won't delay his inevitable lecture and her mind goes into an old-fashioned TV off-the-air pattern replete with a Technicolor Indian chief, as she tunes him out.
Carrie doesn't miss the "same shit, different day" of her old job, and she doesn't miss her cubicle, either. But she misses the pay...God, how she misses the pay. She misses her BMW Z3, too. It was the first thing she had to give up during the six months she was unemployed, after her layoff notice. She cried when she had to forfeit the lease on that rolling decompression chamber.
Now she drives a used Tercel, and the only decompressing that goes on with that is its leaky right front tire. Now she brings her lunch to work, and now even dinner at McDonald’s is a luxury. Same mortgage, micro pay scale. The nastiest part of this economic readjustment is not making 39% of what she used to earn. No, the worst aspect of this downturn is spending each and every underpaid day working with Trent. You can't spell "anal-retentive" without "T-r-e-n-t."
The owner of the card shop, Nikki, only agreed to hire Carrie on as assistant manager if she also did a clerk job as well…for just two dollars an hour more.
"Are you even listening to me?" he whines.
"It's just a pen."
"I've had the same pen for ten years now. I've changed the ink, but it's the exact same one. The grip is just right and the ink doesn't smear. You are right handed, and you can use any pen you want. We work in a greeting card store, for God sake; just take one from the shelves!"
"Yeah, so you can report me for theft to Nikki? Look...Trent, why don't you go home? I'll punch your card out."
"I don't want to-"
Carrie snaps back, "I cannot work with you for the remaining twenty minutes left in this day. Either you punch out, or I'll punch you out!"
With that, Trent harrumphs off...dropping his pen. Rather then saying anything, she pockets it.
Fifteen minutes later, Carrie locks the front door. She goes into the back and turns the lights off. Suddenly Carrie is grabbed and an arm closes around her neck. She can’t breathe as everything goes entirely too bright for her, and then it turns pitch dark.
She wakes up behind the counter and on her back. There is a strange man on top of her. He reeks of drugs and body odor, and he's pawing at her. She flinches as she feels something pricking her neck.
His bushy brows furl angrily over his distant and cold eyes. He shows her a long hunting knife and mutters, "the three of us are gonna have fun…me, you and my blade." He pokes the knife at her again and his free hand tugs at the button of her slacks.
"Carrie, why are all the lights out, and where is my fucking pen?"
Trent startles Carrie, but he startles the intruder even more. As her assailant wheels around, Trent grabs a crystal vase off the back counter and clubs the Intruder twice. The glass vase shatters with the second blow. Trent grabs another vase and hits him again, for good measure.
Trent helps her to her feet.
"Carrie, are you okay?"
Her lips tremble and her eyes water up. Trent offers her an arm as he dials 911 on the store's phone. As it rings, Carrie leans into Trent and he gives her a reassuring embrace.
"Uh, Carrie, I'm so, so sorry. If it's not too much to ask...uh, could I have my pen back?"
Jay Stringer said-
On the other hand, it could be said that the subject matter of crime fiction is recession proof; many of the stories are already dealing with people in deprived situations. It’s already about grabbing social mobility with a fist and the pointy end of a gun. In that regard, crime fiction has long been waiting for the world to catch up.
And this element is timeless. It was as true a century ago as it is today.
This is a meaty subject to get into, and one that I’m sure all of you could write about far better than me. So here’s the thing, short and sweet this week. I believe if there’s a subject worth discussing, it’s a subject worth writing fiction about.
So this here is a DSD flash fiction challenge. And I’m giving you plenty of run up time on this; lets call the deadline Tuesday, April 6th. Just after we’ve all enjoyed the Easter weekend, that seems somehow fitting.
Let’s have your recession stories. The usual flash rules apply, length no more than 800-900 words (I’m looking at you, Weddle). Write about anything and everything, as long as it’s tied into the theme.
You can send your stories to us to put up here on the day, or you can just run them on your own blog and link to us.