One cold morning in October, Gloria Coolidge was halfway through a dream about talking squirrels when she was shaken awake. The dark skinny hand that woke her belonged to her son Jeremy, a lanky kid with tiny whiskers sprouting from his chin and nappy hair tucked behind his ears. His face wore a tight lipped, worried expression and he knelt beside her, placing a coffee mug on the desktop in front of them. He sighed in disappointment. His mother had been staying up all night for five days, typing papers for class. Her job didn’t help her situation either. Some days she came home too tired to even pull back the covers on her bed. He wished he could do more than wash dishes and clean. She always preached about how important those things were, and staying in school would benefits his future, blah, blah, blah. He was old enough to understand that she had crossed the border into crazy-town and he hated seeing her like this.
Gloria looked around groggily and realized that she had fallen asleep in her basement. Blue fish swam around in a small aquarium on the computer screen next to her, its light reaching into a corner of the room across from them, revealing a dusty couch, two rusted shelves full of books and a row of stairs leading to the rest of house. Drool rolled down her chin as she rose out of a plastic chair and stretched her arms to the ceiling, feeling her joints pop. She felt like crap, and the fact that her paper for her American Psychology class still wasn’t finished didn’t make her feel any better. She groaned. Not only was it was due in only a few hours, but she also had to go work. Her position as a receptionist at The Golden Girls Law firm wasn’t exactly her dream job. She hated her boss Lauren Payton, who treated workers under her like dirt for the fun of it. Not to mention her three co-workers, she couldn’t stand them either. A bunch of phony women who smiled in each other’s faces and complemented what they were wearing, only to turn around and tell the next person how much they hated one another. They could kiss the left side of her ass.
Rollers fell to the floor as she scratched her curly hair and took a sip of the coffee, feeling it warm her belly, then bring life to the other limbs of her body. “Why you still up?” she asked her son.
“Ma, it’s seven-thirty-six.”
Those words made her choke and spill coffee onto her feet. She cursed in agony and instructed her son to get her a towel. Jamming in a button on the keyboard, the computer and returned to the main screen and she saw the small clock at the top read the time. “Damn it!” she shouted.
Though she hated work, it still paid bills and until a better job came along, getting fired was the last thing on her mind. Gloria imagined her boss leaning against the desk in her office with her arms and legs crossed, her pale face lifted, wearing a smug grin. Behind her sat giant glass walls and a view of downtown Chicago below.
“This is business doesn’t have room for people who don’t appreciate being here.” Lauren spat, enjoying every word. “Pack your crap. You’re fired.”
In her room, Clothes, purses and shoes were scattered all over her bed, hanging from doorknobs, sitting on her television stand near the window. She tripped over herself rummaging through various piles for an outfit. This day couldn’t get any worse. She thought, frowning. Five days of typing one paper and I’m still not finished! She quickly found a shirt, some jeans and was tearing through a drawer next to the door for socks when Jeremy arrived with a towel.
“Who the hell told you get that?” she growled.
Her son raised an eyebrow and extended the towel. “Uh Ma, you did. For the coffee?”
She paused for a minute, remembering the spill. “Well I don’t need it. Take that and go clean the mess downstairs. You seen my other shoe?”
He pointed to the red loafer sitting in the window ceil behind her. Grabbing it and her purse, she stormed past him.
“Forgot your glasses,”
“Damn,” she grumbled, spinning around on one foot, snatching them from his hand.
Purse, shoes, glasses, keys, jewelry… she racked her brain trying to figure out what else was missing.
“Ma—” Jeremy began.
“What now?” she asked irritated.
“Forgot to brush your teeth.”
“Don’t worry about that. Maybe my breath will make them phony heifers keep their distance today. Remember to clean up that mess and don’t be late for school like your momma. Ever.”
The concrete felt like ice outside as she hobbled out of the front yard to her car, still not wearing her shoes. Brisk winds bent tree branches and crept up the sleeves of her jacket, sending chills down her back. The sun was still rising behind her house but the sky was lit with an orange glow. She groaned at the sight of her car covered in bird turds. She kicked a tire in frustration. This had to be more than just a bad day. Maybe she was cursed for not passing on those stupid chain-emails. Or maybe it was because she missed church last Sunday. That can’t be it. She thought to herself. Gloria slid on her shoes and started her engine. She was determined not to let anything else ruin her day. She hoped there wasn’t much traffic out today, because anyone caught her path was going to get ran the hell over.