Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Employment (01/26/12)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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She would get a job.
Legally, she couldn’t work for two more years. But Chloe had a poised, mature countenance, and so was successful when she lied about her age during her interview at the food processing plant. Since her parents were both gone all day, they wouldn’t know she’d taken a job with the intent of buying the bicycle of her dreams.
Chloe initially felt very important as an employee working in “quality control.” On her first day, she proudly stood watch on the conveyor belt to pick unwanted debris out of flats of juicy red raspberries as they rolled past. Being the last one on the line, she supposedly had the easiest job, and was only expected to remove whatever the other workers had missed.
However, while those before her were quick to remove sticks, leaves, and dirt, they were squeamish when it came to plentiful mold, insects, and slugs.
During the first hour, Chloe’s adrenaline-spiked nerves shivered in aversion to the variety of earwigs, spiders, and slugs that rolled her way. By noon, her stomach had done hundreds of flip-flops, and her hair felt like it was standing on end. She couldn’t will herself to do her job, so she faked it.
As her supervisor watched from a distance, Chloe carefully bent over the belt and pluck-plucked with her gloved fingers. She seemed absorbed in persistent attention. However, the living creatures rolling along on the belt went untouched, and jiggled right along with the shuddering round raspberries. They tumbled to their deaths over the cliff, hidden in the cascade of berries, to land in a big vat where they would be mashed, cooked, and sweetened into jam.
The next day Chloe’s older sister called the food processing plant with Chloe’s correct age. Before the workday had hardly begun, Chloe was fired.
She didn’t get the red bicycle that year, or the next. By the time her sixteenth birthday rolled around, Chloe’s interests had shifted from cycling to the tall, handsome football player who lived down the street and happened to have a good summer job at the food processing plant. This hunk of manly bravado, also enamored with Chloe and eager to win her approval, was thoroughly baffled the day he brought home a surprise – a sample of freshly cooked raspberry jam - and she absolutely, positively refused to eat it.
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