Wednesday July 27th, 2016

The exercise:

It has been, as usual, far too long since I last made use of the First Line Prompt. So today we all get the same opening, and then each of us gets to take it from there, wherever inspiration directs. And that opening shall be:

Callie frowned as she looked over the checklist in her hands - there was still one more box that needed to be ticked before she could head home for the day.

Productive day for me today. Worked a busy shift at the bakery this morning (they were closing up when I left at 12:30 as all the loaves and treats were sold out), finished off the garlic this afternoon, managed to shave this afternoon, and did a few errands in town just before dinner.

And now I'm very tired and needing to sleep. So...


Callie frowned as she looked over the checklist in her hands - there was still one more box that needed to be ticked before she could head home for the day. And Darren was nowhere to be found.

She had looked in the staff cafeteria. She'd sent emissaries into each of the men's washrooms. She had even checked the weight room, despite its general level of disgustingness and the extreme unlikelihood that he would be there.

No luck on all counts.

The one place she hadn't bothered with was his desk. The man was never there, it seemed, so what was the point? But time was running out and she had exhausted all other options... so she might as well. Perhaps he'd need to grab his car keys before heading home?

"Callie!" Darren's expression told her all she needed to know. Well, that and the crumbs scattered across his desk which appeared to have come from at least four different fruit pies. "What are yo... I mean... how can I help you?"

"Darren." Callie smiled but it was not a pleasant one. "So glad I could catch you before you clocked out for the day."

"Yes, well, I d-"

"Or did you even clock in to begin your day?" Callie consulted her checklist and clicked open her pen with enthusiasm. "Actually, now that I think of it, when was the last time you did some real, honest to goodness work around here?"

"I, uh... well th-"

"You have three reports due by the end of the month," Callie reminded him, her pen tip hovering over that final, unmarked box. "I will expect two of them done by the end of the week. Understood?"

"The end of the week! But I can-"

"Excellent." Callie glanced down before returning her gaze to Darren's face. "I will check in with you tomorrow afternoon to make sure things are progressing as expected. See you then."

She whirled away without another word, and as she strode away she ticked off the final item on her day's checklist: Scare Darren so badly that he wets himself.


Greg said...

There must be something satisfying about knowing that your shift is so successful that everyone can pack up early and go home at the end of it :) Well done on managing to shave as well!
I'm impressed at how much you wrote while tired, but it was definitely worth it from the reader's perspective. I enjoyed learning about Callie and her approach to doing her job. I also liked the description of Darren... and find myself wondering if you've worked with anyone like that in the past? I particularly like that I have a good idea of what Darren looks like just from your description of his habits and his reactions to Callie. Great characterisation! And the punchline is exceptionally nice and deliciously understated, too :-D

Callie frowned as she looked over the checklist in her hands -- there was still one more box that needed to be ticked before she could head home for the day. Her breath misted in the air in front of her and she set the clipboard down and rubbed some life back into her aching fingers, watching the faint blue colour recede. It was always so damn cold in the overflow morgue. She picked the clipboard up again, fingers avoiding touching the chill metal clip at its upper edge, and walked, her heels tapping on the tiled floor like an exhausted woodpecker still trying to get a meal from a tree. The heavy door that led to the slabs hissed open at a touch of her fingers on the controls, and lights flickered to white-blue fluorescent life.
The corpse on the nearest slab sat up.
The clipboard slipped from her fingers, suddenly nerveless from something other than the cold, and clattered on the floor. The checklist slipped free and managed to get a corner in a puddle of formaldehyde -- the last item on her list was to mop the floor and clean up any spills like that. She suddenly wished she wasn't wearing heels as she swayed slightly and knew she'd fall if she tried to run. The corpse turned its head towards her; wrinkled skin the colour of old tallow under a shock of hair that had gone grey at the temples and in erratic, mange-like patches elsewhere. Sunken eyes glittered in the fluorescent lights and the jaw sagged, letting the mouth open an a groan escape.
AFter a second the groan became the rattle of gravel in a cement-mixer, and then, as her heart finally restarted in her chest, she realised that the noise was words.
"What time is it?" asked the corpse. "I asked for a wake-up call at 8."
"W-W-Wake up call?"
"McArthur." The corpse stook its hand out as though expecting her to shake it. After a moment it pulled it back; it didn't look offended. "You must be new."
She forced a smile to her lips, wondering what to say, and as she did the memory flashed into her mind.
There's a guy who comes in here to sleep, said Dr. Nostrum, sitting down at his desk. He keeps the crime rate down. He's called McArthur. Let him do what he wants unless it costs money, and don't get Stockholm Syndrome. People die around him.
"You're alive?" The words fell out of her mouth before she could stop them.
"Mostly," said McArthur. "Though doctors have been known to disagree. What time is it? I have a date at 8."
"A date?" She shouldn't have sounded so shocked, but there was nothing on the planet that could have stopped those words coming out. "With who?"
"Natasha Monkeybutt."
"The City Commissioner?!"

Marc said...

Greg - thanks for the kind words on mine :)

Hah, some great scene setting at the start and wonderful dialogue and characterizations at the end. Great fun to hear from McArthur, as usual.

(hey, look at me, replying to comments again!)