Rose blinked and watched the red numbers change –57 became 58 then 59 and 00. It was 4:00. She felt restless, annoyed and uncomfortable. There was no getting back to sleep.
She needed to be up in another half an hour anyway. What was the point of even trying?
Resigned, Rose fumbled for the cheap, metal lamp. She went through these things pretty regularly; knocked them on the floor, tossed them into a wall as the occasion merited it.
Rose’s swollen fingers spidered over the neck of the lamp, searching for the switch. Her thumb snagged the button. She pressed and flinched from the impact of the harsh, yellow light.
Rose resented the hell out of having to get up on another Saturday. She really did. Matt had promised.
“I know what I said,” he told her over the phone, half an hour before midnight. “But we’re short-handed. You know that.”
They were short-handed because Rose fired Craig and Kelly on Tuesday. The dipsticks stole beers out of the cooler and were seen drinking those beers while working.
“But we only took a couple. We were going to pay for them.” Kelly had put on his best puppy dog eyes and pleaded, “Come on.”
Craig hadn’t said anything, didn’t need to. He’d just looked at his hands and waited. They were busted, but he probably didn’t need the job as badly as Kelly.
Kelly didn’t have that many chances left, at least not in Kanawha County.
If it had been up to Rose, she’d have never hired him. She’d gone over his employment application, which read like a dollar store mystery novel –crimes had been committed but figuring out whodunnit wasn’t all that hard.
Kelly’s work history was as long as a snake. He’d bounced from one job to the next with a predictable rhythm, seldom lasting at any one place longer than a couple of months. A few places he’d listed had only suffered him for several weeks.
In his interview with Rose, he had admitted to some trouble on his part.
“Personality clashes,” Kelly had told her, but he also acknowledged some immaturity on his part. He liked to party, stayed out too much and yes, that had become a problem once or twice.
“But I’m over all that,” he’d promised. “I moved back in with my mom to help her out, and I don’t want to rock the boat. I’m looking at getting into a welding program next Spring at the vocational college and I just need a job to help cover my day-to-day while I do that, you know?”
His wild, unreliable days were all in his past, Kelly had said. He’d just needed to get that little bit of lingering high school restlessness out of his blood.
Kelly had a boyish quality to him. He was tall and lean with bright blue eyes and a nice smile. He was also 35 and didn’t or couldn’t drive.
Rose hadn’t been impressed by him, but Matt said hire anyone who showed up sober, capable of speaking in semi-complete sentences and who didn’t openly admit to having a criminal record.
“Also, no neck tattoos,” he’d said. “That’s just as bad.”
In theory, the application for Shopaminit stated the company might perform a background check and require a drug test, but those things cost money and Matt thought giving somebody a dime an hour raise after six months was extortion.
He didn’t pay overtime, either.
The best Matt would do was to let employees help themselves to a snack or two from the candy or chip aisle every once in a while, as long as it didn’t become a problem. They could have all the coffee or fountain drinks they wanted, provided they brought their own cup, and he didn’t mind if they took a pepperoni roll once a week.
Matt’s wife brought down a new batch to the store every Monday morning for them to sell at the counter. It was a popular item. Margie did a good job.
Of course, Matt preferred employees to wait until the end of the week to take advantage of the company perk.
Honestly, Rose didn’t blame Kelly and Craig for stealing beer, but the pair had been seen polishing off a six-pack of Natural Light by the wife of a sheriff’s deputy. Tina Perkins had called Rose at the house about it and now her hands were tied.
Tina was 100 percent going to tell her husband, if she hadn’t already, which would not end well if Craig and Kelly stayed on the payroll.
Kelly had begged and pleaded for a second chance.
Rose told him there was nothing that could be done.
“Just turn in your work uniform and your nametag,” she told them.
“This isn’t fair,” Kelly complained.
“Oh, just shut up,” Craig said, finally. “I was stupid for going along with you, a complete idiot for taking one of those beers and a total moron for losing my job over a stinking light beer.”
He tossed his nametag and shirt on the desk in front of Rose and then glared at Kelly.
“You can find your own ride home,” Craig said.
Ten minutes after Kelly walked out the door, Rose began looking through applications and calling phone numbers. It would take a couple of days to replace the two men, which wouldn’t have been much of a hardship, if Becky hadn’t broken her collarbone after she fell off the back of her boyfriend’s motorcycle.
That left the store with 50 percent staff and then Derek called Matt. He was just done, told Matt he got an offer to go work in the kitchen at Olive Garden, with the promise that he’d be trained to work the front of the house as a waiter.
Derek started Monday and was taking the weekend to get himself mentally prepared to wash dishes and boil pasta.
Somebody had to open Saturday morning.
“Matt, I worked a double yesterday,” Rose had said, almost in tears. “I’ve already put in 60 hours, this week. I need my time off.”
Matt had promised her if she took the management job, she’d get a pay raise and two weekends off a month, plus one three-day weekend every other month. So far, she’d seen one weekend off a month, no three-day weekend, but lots and lots of extra hours on her feet.
Maybe she could ask Derek to put in a good word for her at the Olive Garden, not right away, of course, but later. They’d always got along.
“Rose, we need you to go in Saturday,” Matt told her.
“Matt, I’m not going to do it,” she said, at the time surprised at how angry she felt. “I’ll quit. I swear to God, I will. You can’t use me like this. It’s just not good for me. It’s not…why can’t you and Margie pull a shift? When was the last time either one of you worked a Saturday?”
Rose hadn’t been able to remember. A couple of times every week, Matt would come down to the store, hang out in the back office and looked at his phone for a couple of hours, but that wasn’t actually work.
Margie just dropped off the pepperoni rolls but would sometimes stop in to fill up her tank for free.
Matt listened to her rant, but then sighed heavily and said, “Rose, we can’t. Margie and I are in Gatlinburg. We’re supposed to tour a timeshare place tomorrow morning. We got a free two-night’s stay just for coming down.”
“Wait,” Rose said. “You’re not asking me to work Saturday. You’re telling me to work Saturday and Sunday.”
“We’ll be back Sunday afternoon,” he promised.
“You can’t do this to me,” she said.
“Think of it as extra money,” Matt said. “It’s going to come in handy, you know it will.”
Rose hung up on him. Matt didn’t call back, but he didn’t have to.
With a huff, she tossed back the blankets and swung her feet over the edge of the bed and to the floor. She sat up, reached for her cigarettes and lit the first of the day. She took a drag and felt her belly flutter.
Rose put a hand on her swollen stomach.
“Hush, baby girl,” she said. “Let me get through this weekend and I’m back on the wagon, I swear.”
It was probably a lie, but kids will believe anything.