Lucy slammed through the door, pounding the Christmas decorated, Styrofoam cup of peppermint latte on the counter top. Her face held an expression of exhaustion masked by a caffeine high. In one efficient movement she backed into the door, performing a ‘no-hands’ shut, and whacked her coat on the counter next to the alluring coffee. Her eyes snapped with the desire to vent.
“Welcome to ‘the place of eternal torment’,” she sneered. (But she used the one-word name for that place.)
The second-shift crew laughed at her grand entrance.
“We heard it was a terrible weekend,” Janie said.
Lucy’s eyes took them all in and rested on Marie, her co-worker for the night shift. “You came back for more?” she laughed.
Janie and Tara were glad to be leaving for the night. Their shift had not been any easier than the weekend had been for Lucy and Marie. Flu season and sickness in general, had kept them hopping. Now all they had left to do was to pass messages on to Lucy and Marie.
“Oh my ____!” Tara exclaimed. “It was so busy!” She spoke God’s name in vain, as people so commonly do these days, casually with no respect and no holiness.
“Well, He didn’t help us tonight,” Janie stated.
“Who?” asked Marie.
“God. God didn’t help us. We were on our own, compleete--lee,” Janie’s voice rose as she drew the word out. “On our own.”
Marie’s eyes got wide and she opened her mouth to warn Janie about talking that way but as she did, the lights went out.
The women gasped; one of them screamed.
Tara’s voice shook as she questioned “Janie?”
“What? For heaven’s sake,” Janie groped for words. “I was just fooling around, that’s all. It’s not my fault. Who’s playing games with the lights?”
For a second that lasted an eternity there was no sound. Then, from the darkness they heard someone.
“Sorry, is just me,” a dark haired woman crept hesitantly into the room as the lights came back on.
It was Imogene, the night housecleaning lady. “I carry boxes - don’t see switch on wall. I feel sorry. Didn’t mean it.” She shrugged and spread her hands out in front of them, a fearful expression on her face.
Janie rolled her eyes at Lucy.
“Don’t worry about it,” Lucy said, but she frowned as she noticed Imogene’s fingers. Two of them were stubs ending at the first knuckle.
“Imogene, I never noticed your fingers before. What happened?” she asked.
“Oh, I have accident at job when I was child. A long time ago. They are fine now.” Imogene smiled.
“A child? How long have you been working?” Janie wanted to know.
“I always work. Is good.” Imogene’s head nodded up and down. “Now I work here. Is very good.”
“Yeah.” Janie said nonplused.
Imogene looked at Lucy’s latte. “You have coffee drink from store on corner. I buy one tonight too. I like very much. Last year I cannot afford, but this year I can sometimes. God is with me. He is so good to give me this job. I am thankful.”
Janie was rolling her eyes again. Lucy smiled her best condescending smile at Imogene and nodded her head.
“I work now. Nice to talk to you. Have very good night.” Imogene continued to smile and nod her head as she backed out the door.
“You have a good night too,” the women called after her.
“Whoa, that woman has terrible timing! Scared the living daylights out of me!” Janie exclaimed.
“Me, too! Awful about her fingers.” Lucy examined her own manicured hands. “I’m so glad it was her though, and not God!” she said, looking up.
“As if!” Janie laughed and sauntered toward the time clock.
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