The Temp

It is mid-morning when I arrive at the office. I park around the corner where you can’t see the car from the front windows of the building. I pull down the sun visor and check my hair and lipstick. Grabbing my briefcase and file of important papers, I head toward the employee entrance. My heels click along the sidewalk and dewdrops from the banana plants along the pathway leave dark spots on my grey pencil skirt.

Inside, the air conditioning has already kicked on and I’m glad I remembered to bring a cardigan. I breeze past the receptionist; his attention is focused on a cluster of VIP clients in the lobby, their heads bent over a promotional brochure for their product line. I push the elevator up button and when the doors open I am relieved to see the car is empty. I ride to the fifth floor, watching the green numbers tick off across the top of the car door. I check the latch on my briefcase, tuck a stray hair back into my low ponytail.

The elevator doors slide open and I step into a bustling hive of cubicles. The air buzzes with energy and fluorescent lighting; I hear the perpetual clatter of fingers typing on computer keyboards. A UPS delivery woman rushes past me and into the open elevator pushing a handcart stacked with outgoing packages. I smell coffee.

Setting my briefcase and papers down, I check the phone for messages. These types of phones don’t blink when a message is waiting. Instead, you have to pick up the receiver and listen for a broken dial tone. I have no messages. I pick up a file of papers to copy and walk around the perimeter of the office, where a corridor is formed between the fuzzy cubicle partition and the wall of the room.

At the copier, I load blue paper into Tray 2. I place the originals face-up in the feed tray. I enter the code for our department that I find taped to the top of the display panel. I change the settings to make the single-sided sheets double-sided, and select options to collate and staple them as well. I program it to make 500 copies and leave the machine to work while I go in search of coffee.

Continuing down the hall of cubicles, I get to another door, and exit into the actual hallway of the building. Turning right, I head toward a room marked “STAFF ONLY.” There are only two other people in the break room. A man in his mid-thirties wearing khakis and a maroon polo shirt sips coffee and looks at his phone. A woman in a blue dress watches her toaster pastries rotate in the microwave. The man looks up at me and gives me a head nod of acknowledgment. The woman does not turn around. There is warm coffee still in the pot, and I silently cheer my good fortune. From the communal cupboard, I choose a mug featuring a cartoon drawing of a sleepy bluebird, his eyes half-lowered and a thought bubble above his head reading, “I’m not a morning person.”

I am thrilled to turn and find a box of donuts on the brown laminate table behind me, and I help myself to a chocolate one with rainbow sprinkles. I sit with my back toward the room and look at the USA Today, and only read the lifestyle section. I finish my doughnut and top off my coffee, taking it with me into the main hall, where there is a large square window at the end facing the west side of the business park. It is nearly noon and there are few shadows on the landscape rinsed white with bright sunlight. I squint, looking out over a sea of parked cars dotted with islands of cypress and agapanthus. On the ridge, a flock of crows is chasing a red tail hawk from one eucalyptus tree to another. I cannot hear them, but I imagine the raucous caws, the screech of the hawk as it swoops from treetop to treetop.

I finish my coffee and set the empty cup on the window ledge. To my left is a door marked “STAIRS.” I step briskly down the five concrete flights to the ground floor and exit through a beige steel door. I am outside, shading my eyes against the bright sunlight. I take off my cardigan, throwing it into a hedge. I keep my heels on until I get to the edge of the parking lot, where a football-sized field of dry brown grass stretches toward the ridgeline.

I’m writing 750+ words a day of fiction and publishing them here for the next 100 days. These are written quickly with minimal editing and based off a daily prompt.

Day 15 // Prompt: no prompt, I just made this one up!

Originally published at stasiland.blogspot.com.

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Sara Grace Stasi

Poems, short fiction, photography, musings on life. Santa Cruz, California. BA American Lit | BA Anthropology | MA Education. Patreon: sgstasi