Ending at Sunrise – Week 28 of the 52 week short story challenge

SUNRISE-microsoft

As the sun sinks down below the horizon, she picks up her bag and checks that all the contents are there.

She already knows that nothing is missing. She has a list and checks it several times as she packs her bag each day – just in case.

Order is paramount.

Her flat is small and immaculately tidy. A place for everything and everything in its place. The cutlery and crockery from her evening meal have already been washed and put back in the cupboard.

She does this every day.

As part of her routine, she looks in the mirror, making sure that her hair is brushed and that she has no lipstick on her teeth.

Not that anyone would notice if she did have lipstick on her teeth.

Her lipstick is pale. She tried a brighter colour once but her mother told her that she looked like a tart so she wiped it off quickly.

Her mother is gone now and there is no one to comment on her lipstick or how she dresses, but the spectre of her mother’s past stops her from making any changes – ever.

No one looks at her as she walks in through the staff entrance; she has become invisible to her customers and fellow workers.

She knows them all though.

She listens to their conversations but ensures that no one catches her eavesdropping. That would be against the rules. Her rules.

The rules are for her own protection. That was what her mother told her years ago when they first came to live in this tiny flat. A flat that was paradise compared to where they had been before.

They are a motley crew, her customers. Some are old and lonely, using the warmth of the place to stave off the return to a cold home. Others are young; student types with their eyes glued to their mobile phones, giggling at something they have seen and sharing it with their friends. Often they have been drinking; loud and jolly, filling the place with noise and energy.

Her colleagues are less varied. They are all younger than her, and carry out their work with a levity born of the knowledge that this job is just a stopgap; a step on the way to something so much better. Except for the manager. He is tense and angry, feeling that he deserves better than this.

Her coat and bag are put neatly inside her locker after she has extracted her uniform and laid it carefully on the wooden bench. She has two overalls and when she gets back from work each day she washes her uniform and hangs it up to dry in the tiny bathroom of her tiny flat.

Taking one last look in the mirror by the door, she smoothes down her overall and pats the pocket where she has put her keys to the staff cupboard.

The shape of the keys reassures her. A token of normality in a frightening world.

Out in the corridor, she keeps her head low as she passes the manager.

‘The disabled toilet needs cleaning and some uni kid has thrown up all over one of the tables. Get it sorted – the staff have been waiting for you to come in.’

She nods obediently as she unlocks the cupboard and takes out her work tools; the mop and bucket, disinfectant and catering size cleaning roll.

Waiting for her to come in?

No one ever waits for her to come in.

Like a spectre herself, she moves quietly round the tables, mopping up messes, clearing away the detritus of a fast food diet, not even wondering anymore how people can waste so much food when there are people starving all over the world.

The tables are clean now; the toilets too.

She surveys her work with pride although she knows that she will have to start over again in a few minutes.

As she takes her mop bucket out to empty it, a young man bumps into her as he leaves the toilet.

‘Watch where you are going old woman!’ he says as he brushes invisible dirt from his ripped jeans.

‘Sorry, so sorry.’ she whispers and then regrets opening her mouth as he looks at her with something far worse than disdain.

‘Get back to your own country you dirty Paki. We don’t want your sort here stealing our jobs.’

Hearing the sound of raised voices, the manager appears and pushes her into the kitchen whilst apologising to the youth. He offers him a free drink by way of appeasement.

On automatic pilot, she throws away the soiled cleaning roll and empties her mop bucket, wiping them out carefully before returning them to the cupboard.

As she pulls another bin liner from the roll, the manager reappears. He does not look happy.

‘How many times do I have to tell you not to wind the customers up? This is your final warning.’

He turns on his heel and goes back to the kitchen. He does not realise that the other staff laugh at him behind his back, or that he is about to be moved to another branch in a less salubrious part of town and will never get the opportunity to deliver that warning.

She knows the signs. She has seen it all before. Another day draws to an end.

As the sun rises, she takes her bag and coat out of the locker and heads home to the safety of her tiny flat again.

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No one gets hurt if they don’t act funny – aggressive dogs,chatty women,cold callers, joggers – and cats!

Ey Up (that’s Northern speak for Hola)

Week two in my new home and I’m slowly getting my humans sorted out.

I confess – we have all rather fallen for each other – my Mum because she gets up first and plays silly games with me in the garden and is actually beginning to understand what I want.  My Dad because he runs fast with me and makes me grin and I am SO pleased to see him when he comes back from this thing they call work.  My Boy because he laughs when I do funny things, he gets up in the middle of the night and hugs me when everyone else is asleep, and because he is MY BOY.

We’ve done rather a lot of stuff this past week.  After the adventures at Spike Island, my Mum and Dad took me to a local park where they knew there would be lots of dogs, geese, ducks, swans and those funny little black things – coots and moorhens – I think.  There were also some disreputable characters smoking whacky baccy under the railway bridge but we’ll draw a line under them.

We did running – me and my Dad.  My Mum was in charge of the Scooby Snacks; I get them when I sit, stay, lie down and don’t pull anyone’s arm off.  I growled a bit; only at dogs that looked a bit dodgy (and the chavs under the bridge of course). Some of the other dog walkers we encountered put their dogs back on leads when they saw me pulling a bit – very considerate.

We were all enjoying the walk when this woman  with a very wet black labrador came up to us.  The labrador was a bit lippy so I barked a bit  – back atcha Soggy Snout!  My Dad took me over to the pond and gave me a hug so that I stopped barking.  The lippy labby shook smelly canal water all over my Mum, and the woman said she recognised us from the RSPCA.

The woman said “Isn’t he socialised?  I didn’t think they were supposed to be homed until they were socialised?”

Pardon me?  All I did was growl a bit.  Your dog has been chasing the wildlife, jumping in and out of the canal, making people wet and smelly by shaking himself all over them, and actually – he growled at me first!

My Mum was trying to get away from this mad woman who had now gone on to complain about the park and how she hated bringing her dog there because he always jumped in the canal, frightened the ducks and made people wet when he shook himself.

Oh for heaven’s sake woman – put him on a lead then!  Or don’t bring him to the park! And most of all don’t accuse me of not being socialised when your own dog wouldn’t win any prizes for grace or charm. I’m the one that’s been incarcerated for the past eighteen months after all.  Woof!

She went in the end and we walked on through the park, ran a bit more and then I got to stick my nose out of the car window and drool all the way home.  I love fresh air!

By comparison the next day was a bit quiet; my Dad was off shooting things with paintballs and my Boy was off shooting things with little white pellets.  There are a lot of these pellets in the garden but you can’t eat them.  I had a quiet day with my Mum, although she did take me for a walk round the block after I woofed at the United Utilities man outside.  My Mum and I were both very pleased when my Dad and my Boy came home though.  There was much excited tail wagging and grinning – on my part – my Mum doesn’t have a tail but she smiles a lot.

There have been other incidents this week; nothing terrible really but my family now know that in addition to cats, aggressive dogs and mad women, I don’t like joggers either.   Someone knocked at the front door the other evening when my Mum and I were dozing on the sofa/watching Pointless.  Oh boy did I bark!  Whoever it was had vanished by the time my Mum had calmed me down – Hah! Another cold caller bites the dust.

Oh, I have a new bed!  I still have one in the dogservatory but this one is furry and fluffy and takes up quite a lot of floor area in the living room.  I still like getting up on the sofa to have hugs but this new bed is good to crash out on and keep an eye on everyone at the same time.

I’m gradually getting introduced to my family’s favourite places too.  Yesterday we went down to another place on the river by the big bridge, no dogs but a dangerous looking jogger who got the benefit of my most menacing growl.  He passed us again but my Mum was sneaky and spotted him first; she sent me and my Dad up some steps into a lovely smelly wood and by the time we got back the jogger was just a dot in the distance.

I was a bit muddy when we got home and my Boy decided that I should have a bath.  My Mum and Dad were dubious.  Bear in mind that for the past two weeks I have been firmly told that the bathroom is out-of-bounds; it also has a clattery floor that makes my nails slip and it smells of flowers.  My Mum put a towel on the floor and with the generous dispensation of Scooby Snacks managed to get me to acquaint myself with the bath.  I got one paw in it and my snout but that was all.  I think she understood that this bath thing was a non starter so she filled a container full of warm water and we all went back into the living room where I had a fairly decent wash and brush up of the undercarriage area.  Hah! Managed to avoid the bath AND got lots of hugs into the bargain – not  to mention the Scooby Snacks.

Tonight we went up to the Monument to watch the sun set.  It was a bit chilly for the humans but I loved it.  The whole place smells of rabbits and other dogs and even more rabbits but no cats.  I had a really good sniff around, we watched some buzzards circling and a couple of planes and helicopters but the humans wimped out eventually and we went back to the car.

So I am a happy perro.  Life is full of food and snacks and sleeping and running and walking and games of hide and seek in the garden with my Mum, but best of all are the hugs.