Clocked In
Jacqui Barrineau

She jumped a little when the time clock sounded "chump-chunk" – verifying her punctuality. A flutter; a giggle. The tiny scare always recalled her childhood jack-in-the-box. But something wasn't right today. Her name was wrong on the canary yellow timecard – Jamey, not Jamie. Would that keep her from getting paid? Had it always been wrong? She wasn't good at noticing much; teachers had told her that.

The childish scrawl was Tim's. Saying anything might get him mad. When he wasn't sweating, Tim was letting folks know he was in charge. And although Mama taught her it was important to know one's place, Jamie wanted to get paid.

As she waffled on what to do, Tim came out of the bathroom, zipping the gray-green gabardine slacks that weren’t fashionable 10 years ago when he bought them. Doesn't he know it's 1989? His upper lip was moist, so was his yellow polyester shirt. "I need you back here, taking shipment," he puffed, razoring box tops. Bending over was a chore. But he was old – at least 30.

Hours of cardboard dust and perspiration loomed. Jamie chewed her tongue, tasting for courage. "Maybe I should be up front … the buy-one-get-one-free sale and all."

"You'll stay back here. With me."

Her dreams at 19 were few and small. No bright lights, big city. But never did she think she’d live life in a discount shoe store’s stockroom. Armed with fresh foresight, she slipped the timecard from its slot and waited for the flutter.

First published: May, 2010
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