Snippet: Orange zone

She poked her head round the door. “You wanted to see me?”

“Close the door behind you.” McBride barely looked away from his monitor. “Sit down, give me a minute.”

The office was small and stuffy, lined by shelves bursting with thick binders. Micah wondered if her boss even knew what was in those binders. There was no way he filled all of them himself. But he was the stuff of legends around this place, part of the furniture now. The varnish on his desk was wearing away at the edges. The permanent coffee ring beside his stuffed rolodex was just too perfect.

Micah’s shifted uncomfortably in her chair. It creaked. Her hand brushed against where the paint had come away on the frame, leaving bare patches of metal that slowly rusted. She had adopted one particular patch as her own. Whenever a lecture kicked off, she’d trace its outline to keep her fingers busy so her mind wouldn’t wander.

McBride didn’t look happy when he finally got to her. He looked as weary as his desk and her chair. He looked like he could have filled those binders after all.

“Here we are again.” He spoke slowly, deliberately. “Look, Micah, I’ll level with you. With stats like these, there won’t be much I can do once they start letting people go.”

The outline was different today. A little bigger with a change in shape. Someone else had picked at it since she last sat here. A new thread was loose in the upholstery fabric. It tickled her wrist as she searched for a new rust patch to occupy herself.

“Hey, cheer up, you’re not getting fired today.” McBride leaned forward. “Listen, your survey scores are pretty good. If you can stay orange for a few weeks, I might be able to work something out, all right?”

It was all well and good for the boss to offer, but she had been busting her ass for weeks to get her call stats up. It followed her home. More recently, she started waking up with a sore jaw from grinding her teeth in her sleep. She couldn’t help it if the customers were hard of hearing, or called up on a bad line, or needed every little thing explained. No way could she get to orange, let alone stay there.

But there wasn’t anywhere else she could do. Not with Shelby’s buying up all the support agencies in town. She needed this. She hated it but needed it. Even if she ran out of teeth.

Excerpt from my Nanowrimo 2017 WIP, Sleeper. Img via ronaldo (CC0).