Excerpt from Million Dollar MommaA 20th Century Time Travel Romanceby Sherry Morris
I blinked my eyes open, shielding my face with one hand. An annoying bell rang out. And rang and rang. I opened my eyes all the way and focused on the canopy of my queen-sized bed. Big Ben blared on the nightstand. Six o’clock. Thursday morning. Exactly a week since my accident. I have to go to work. I reached for the wind-up alarm and smashed the little pin in the back to shut it off.
But I didn’t want to go to work today. I didn’t want to ever go to work again. I knew Cynthia didn’t delegate my filing to anyone else in my absence. There were probably a hundred and seventy baskets of Place-In-Files to pigeonhole. I hated PIF-ing. The sallow blue computer pages were so uninspiring. I moaned. I pictured her telling me she wanted me caught up by the end of today.
I’m not going in. Not today. Admittedly, it was a good union job and it paid my mortgage. I’d been there so long that I was at the top pay step, on the peon scale anyhow.
Bet Cynthia would make me bring a doctor’s note, explaining my absence. Even though they had the inpatient bill by now. Not that it would even be opened for eleven weeks. The mailroom was that backed up. All the time. In my nineteen years there, I’d actually caught up on my PIF’s around six times. Maybe eight? And Cynthia always found me more work in another letter to do. Usually the pink C’s. They always had trouble keeping regular employees in the C’s. It was the punishment letter, being right in front of Cynthia’s glass-walled office. Talk about working under a microscope. I shuddered, remembering feeling incompetent under her piercing scrutiny.
I currently had forty thousand files that I was responsible for. Everybody whose last name began with the letters T, U or V had goldenrod-colored files. Crammed into industrial bookshelves. Metal and two feet taller than I was. I had to kick around a three-wheeled stool and step up and down on it. Except that one wheel had always been missing. So it didn’t kick well. Cynthia had had me on the T-U-V’s for two years now. The bitch knew that I was the shortest girl in the file room.
It was pretty mindless work. We filed by order of the insured’s last name, first initial, middle initial and then the last four digits of the Social Security number. Occasionally we had to take it deeper, to the first three numbers. We rarely got down to the middle two. A monkey could do it. And very possibly did. My colleagues were all right. Although we were not quite sure what species, sex or IQ level Angel on the green M’s had. Short butch hair. Heavy but not morbidly obese. Couldn’t really see defined breasts or a waist or hips or a male bulge. Androgynous gray or brown clothes. But Angel did plod along and got the job done.
There was a major cut-through hallway in the aisle of my last two rows. So I got interrupted and distracted a lot. Even though I had to admit that the biggest distraction was Scott, the really cute mailroom guy. When I saw him, I automatically lost track of my alphabet. Well, the job did have some perks.
I decided I would not be returning to work today. I swung my legs over the bed and shuffled to the bathroom. I turned the shower on and peed while waiting for the hot water to come through. Hey, I know, I’ll call in now and leave a message. I don’t have to talk to Miz Cynthia. I shut the water off and found the phone. It was still off the hook, where it landed on the floor beneath the window. I hung it up, set it on the nightstand and plugged the cord back into the wall. I picked up the handset. I had a dial tone.
I dialed, listened to Jean-the-receptionist’s recorded message and then pressed six–six–nine, Cynthia’s extension. I listened to her screechy voicemail message. At the beep, I cleared my throat and said, “Cynthia, this is Donna Payne. My father died. I will be taking my three days’ bereavement leave as listed in my union contract. His name is Dr. Nathan Payne and he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.” I hung up.
I was required to reveal those details because they always checked. Nice, compassionate company that I worked for. I should have included the date of burial but I couldn’t remember what Tammy told me. Did she tell me? I didn’t think so. Oh I didn’t wanna call her. Or Perry. I didn’t even wanna see them. I shouldn’t have to see them again. I was gonna bust Momma out of the loony bin and get her set up in a nice retirement campus. The kind with ballroom dancing, ceramics, internet classes, a beauty parlor, bank, doctor and field trips to Atlantic City. And an intercom in her cottage, to call for help, just in case. And staff to check in on her every day, just in case. And then an assisted care unit to step up to and then a full-scale nursing home for her final days.
She couldn’t come and live with me. She pushed my buttons, masterfully, like only a mother could. I couldn’t stand being witness to her doling out the dough to my siblings while I paid all of her living expenses. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hold my tongue and I didn’t want to break my momma’s heart. No, I wouldn’t tell her off. Tammy? Oh yeah, babe. Been there, done that. Told her off good. Felt marvelous. At the time. But then I missed her.
I loved the beast. She couldn’t help that she was a narcissistic bitch. She was still my sister. I wished she could be nice to me. Take an interest in my life. Be proud of my little accomplishments and be concerned if things weren’t going well for me. I just wanted a sister like other people had. Normal families.
I couldn’t let my mother move in with me. Momma would drive me crazy and then I’d be just like the rest of them. That was my big fear. Plus I had stairs and Momma was in her eighties now. And she was kind of lazy about stairs. Always her excuse for letting the laundry back up, she didn’t like jogging up and down the basement stairs.
Okay, what was I doing today? Hmm… I had no idea. Just thinking of cohabitating with Momma blew my mind. Think, think, Donna, think. Oh yeah, I needed to take a shower and get dressed, in case the funeral was today.
So I turned the water back on and held my hand under the spray. It warmed up quickly. I stepped in and closed the clear shower curtain. It let lots of light in and the way it draped, the view was opaque. I always got totally drenched first. I closed my eyes and let the warm water run down my hair and face. I adjusted it as hot as it would go. I leaned down and grasped the bottle of shampoo from the shower floor. I knew it was the shampoo bottle without opening my eyes because the lid popped open on the top. The conditioner, in contrast, opened at the bottom. I squirted hydrating curls shampoo into my hand, closed the top and set the bottle down.
I rubbed my hands together and then massaged my scalp. I had shampooed last night but since I didn’t dry it, I might as well start over if I was to look at all presentable. I worked the slithery soft foam through my shoulder-length hair. Suds trickled down my face. I noticed a sensation on my right foot. Something was not right. It felt like…a tongue.I screamed.