THIS IS FICTION, KTHX

My Writers’ Group Homework. Prompt Word: Bell
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“The bell’s Broken, Come on in!”

The blue post-it note fluttered precariously off the phone box, and I sighed as several things irritated me at once. The comma splice, the random capitalization, the fact that some moron lived in these lavish apartments and barely spoke their native language, and I, an English major, forced by a series of happenstances outside of my control, worked as a delivery boy and lived in a shack where I was grateful if my Mexican neighbors refrained from throwing their plates at my house for one day.

And there’s nothing wrong with run-on sentences, so I don’t even want to hear it. Comma splices are a hard and true error of humanity. I see it as a little lit-up arrow that appears over the heads of stupid people, blinking, that reads “I also probably confuse ‘your’ and ‘you’re’!” as they neglect to tip me. Imbeciles.

My major frustration, however, as I kicked the pinecone keeping the door open out of the way, was that I had called this very woman minutes before. My delivery company serves especially in small businesses within the confines of LA county, and in an effort to shine above the corporate sycophants at FedEx and the nature-boy Neanderthals of UPS, we call our clients when we are moments away. For me, though, it’s at my previous stop, because I optimize my route to make the most stops in the least amount of time.

But I could make one delivery a day and probably make the same wage on my hourly salary. So, yes. I was a little angry that I had called one street away, and the woman took it upon herself to write up a grammatically incorrect note, tromp down here, stick it on the phone box, and hold the door with a damn pinecone, when she could have simply met me at the door within my foretold one minute of travel time, and I could have handed the package off to her.

Whatever, she was the last stop of my day, and since these are the caliber of things that often get my goat, I have been trying of late to let my inner goat roam free, relax, graze on the lush grass of apathy and blissful goat ignorance. Maybe get him a nice new brass bell.

These were the thoughts I was thinking in an effort to calm myself as I waited for the slow, decrepit elevator installed, I can only imagine, the week after elevators were actually invented. When it finally arrived, and I entered, I must have been lulled into some sort of goat-like stupor imagining the dull clank of a shiny brass bell, because – Butterfingers McGee here! – I dropped the package just as the doors were closing. I hadn’t even pushed the floor selection yet!

Where exactly were the sensors on this ancient torture contraption? What if that had been, I don’t know, a baby or something?! Anyway, the point is, the parcel, which was apparently packaged in light cardstock, for all the structural integrity IT maintained during the ordeal, had all but accordianed down to ¾ its original size once I wrenched it from the door. Trepidation turned to fear, which turned to MacGuyver, as I desperately searched my pockets for…I don’t know. Tape? An ironing board? Another cardboard box? There was nothing available in my truck, and I took a modicum of solace in the fact that the packaging hadn’t actually been breached. I could still maybe actually pass this thing off.

I got to the door, unconsciously smoothing the package nervously, as a young boy on the front step of his first date unconsciously smoothes…well, his package, and my heart thumped just as loudly. A large, matronly woman answered, wearing modest business attire I wouldn’t be surprised to see on Laura Bush if she gained a few hundred pounds, and I smiled weakly.

“Mercury Messenger Service, here to deliver your package, ma’am.” Yes, I was deviating from the script, but I didn’t have the energy to do our quirky singsong motto AND keep my face straight in front of what I was conveniently just now remembering was a “high-priority client.”

“Yes,” she sneered, eyeing the package, “when you called earlier, I couldn’t imagine what it was I had ordered from you folks, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this.” The string of pearls around her neck looked as if it were about to explode like a supernova in all directions from her rapidly expanding jugular.

“I’m really sorry about this, ma’am. It must have happened somewhere along the delivery line. It was like this when I got it.” If she couldn’t grasp the simple concept of a small business delivery company, I was counting on the fact that she didn’t realize no one along the line would have allowed this to pass without repackaging.

“Well, I’ve had issues with broken deliveries before, and in the state of California, you can only return delivered items if you refuse delivery,” she stated, actually turning up her nose a bit, which up to this point in my life, I had thought was just a figure of speech.

I stared at her blankly, trying to formulate my next lie. If she refused delivery, I could give her my cell as customer service and simply repackage it myself and deliver it tomorrow, easy peasy. Maybe even later tonight. I was already buzzing on an impending high that I could get away with this without an angry call to my manager. A smooth smile crept across my face, as she deliberated her course of action. Ah, sometimes rich cows are too easy to manipulate. It’s the sneaky poor people you have to watch out for, like me.

“Well, what are you waiting for?”

My jaw dropped almost imperceptibly. I certainly didn’t want to coax her into refusing delivery, but was there some other option I was supposed to be taking?

“Open it!” she demanded, looking as though she might pop out of her dress and scar me for life.

I’m sure somewhere in the back of my head was echoing some regulation about not touching the contents of our clients’ property, but my mind’s regulation rolodex was spinning off its hinges trying to keep this lady calm. I considered for a millisecond working the same charm that came so easily after hours in dark bars, but no. Business ethically and stomach churningly, no. While I could certainly use a Sugar Mama, that well had no doubt dried up years earli– ew, ew, ew, stop even thinking of it.

I shook myself out of my disgusting thoughts in the half-second of non-deliberation, promising silently to drink heavily later to wash that mental picture away, and I nervously pawed at the sides of package.

And perhaps she was right to almost refuse delivery, at least initially, because the package was now so easy to open, its contents slipped out of the thin hole I had torn and dropped to her hard wood floors. Vibrating.

On the ground, between us both, was an enormous, hot-pink, rabbit-shaped vibrator. Vibrating. I guess the drop had, uh, you know, triggered it. Or whatever. The woman’s suddenly large eyes belied any backpedalling she could spit out about a daughter or sister ordering this instead. The fear and shame on that enormous face told me that she was the – oh, God, no. No, why am I imagining this? What? She’s wearing nothing but the pearls? Oh, god, why was I blessed with such an overactive and crystal-clear imagination? Every contour, every crevice, dear God, make it stop.

And since neither of us could think of anything to say, stupid, stupid me — I tried to break the silence with what may have somehow made the situation worse.

“Looks like it works as intended. Well, not as, um, intended. Yeah. So. Please do business with us, uh, again real soon! I mean, not that…Yes. Thank you. Goodbye.”

And I ran the hell down her hall, hoping the elevator would have pity on me and take my life as I attempted to enter.

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