By the time we reached Medicine Hat, I realized that Suzie, my new fake girlfriend, was not going to let it go.
“So you’ve written it all down, Larry?” she asked again. “All five years?”
Her uncle’s security job in Regina was supposed to come guaranteed, no strings attached. But then just before we hit the road, Suzie decided Uncle Bob might ask for my work history. I scribbled a few words, the sum of my life now crumpled into my back pocket.
“My uncle is a straight shooter.” Suzie was incapable of silence. “A meat and potatoes kind of guy. Beef not chicken. Baked not mashed.”
She laughed at her own jokes and jabbered all the way to Moose Jaw, pointing out cows and clouds and cars and lack thereof.
“And office cleaner, don’t forget. That night job. You mentioned it when we were at the Co-op and you made that big production of not putting the Windex in the cart. A cleaner is nothing to be ashamed of, Larry.”
That job gave me hives. Literally. Turns out I’m allergic to cleaning chemicals. After a while, I gave up trying so hard, not bothering with their potions and sprays. Mostly, I flopped on the couch in the reception room and tried to come up with workarounds for the shit going on at home.
At Swift Current, Suzie asked if she could drive for a spell. I thought it might shut her up some having to concentrate on the white line. It didn’t.
Miles later, after an endless monologue about her string of bad waitressing jobs, Suzie said, “What about painting? You included that, right? A good house painter is nothing to sneeze at.”
That job was a fiasco, gruelling hours, lasting less than three months. Owners expect you to stay through the second coat, but how could I leave her alone that long, day after day.
At Moose Jaw, Suzie said, “And you wrote down your mom, I hope. I mean I know it wasn’t a real job, you weren’t paid or anything, but at least it helps to explain what you’ve been up to.”
I made Suzie stop the car. After we traded places she steamrolled along.
“Caregiving and security, they’re totally the same almost, except you’ll get to wear a uniform this time. Think about it. Solving problems on your own. Making split second decisions.”
I cranked up the radio.
Suzie pulled her uncle’s pamphlet from her purse and cranked up her volume to match. “Listen to this. Always there. Peace of mind. We’ve got it covered. That’s you, Larry, in a nutshell. Keeping everyone safe. You’re perfect.”
Uncle Bob’s pamphlet preached a crock. There is no peace of mind. You only think you’ve got it covered. You can’t keep anyone safe.
Suzie leaned in as far as her seatbelt would stretch. “What’s that? What’s that you said, Larry?”
“I said she’s dead,” I repeated, bellowing this time.
Things stayed pleasantly quiet after that.
Fran Kimmel writes and teaches in central Alberta. Born and raised in Calgary, Fran has worked all kinds of jobs including youth worker, career counselor, proposal writer, communications coordinator, and VP for a career consulting firm. Fran firmly believes in raising the literacy bar and has worked with several non-profit groups towards this end. One of her favourite assignments involved translating documents into plain language for Persons with Developmental Disabilities. Fran’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies, including twice in The Journey Prize Stories, and her first novel, The Shore Girl, was winner of the 2013 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award and a Canada Reads Top Forty selection.
Find her at www.FranKimmel.com