Vacuum

1 Dec

I was tiiiired last night, but couldn’t resist the day’s prompt at Storypraxis. It was: What? I said ‘vacuum’. How to write a story about this? Here’s my attempt. I think it needs more buildup but I only had ten minutes… It kept me amused, anyway.

He’d been needling me all day, my boss, old Denham. I’d been watching him from behind the counter as he paced the aisles, picking up DVD cases, flipping them over and glancing at the blurb before throwing them back onto the shelves. He made a point of shoving past the solitary browsing customer; I rolled my eyes and polished the counter with mounting irritation.

Denham stalked back over towards me. “Jones, why are there only fourteen copies of the new Harry Potter out?”

Jones… he must have been the only man left in the country who called his employees by their surnames. I put down the polish, very carefully, and looked at him.

“Do you mean out on hire, or out on the shelves?” I asked, calmly.

His eyes bulged, giving the impression that his head, if it were medically possible, might explode. “On the shelves of course, Jones! What on earth else would I mean?!”

Seeing as I had just voiced an alternative, I didn’t bother answering the question. I glanced up at the customer – he was standing frozen in the aisle, trying to pretend he wasn’t watching our exchange.

“That’s all that’s left, Mr Denham,” I said, beginning the scrub the lacquer right off the counter. “We didn’t order any more copies, if you remember.”

“But that won’t be enough!” he shouted, flailing his arms wildly. I watched as his right hand clipped the jar of popcorn next to the till. As if in slow motion, the jar toppled and popcorn rained like sticky, sugary snow over Denham’s shoes and onto the carpet. I held my breath.

He stared at the mess on the floor, and then at me. “Well,” he hissed. “Look at that, Jones. I suppose now I’ll just have to sack you.”

This was more than I could take. I threw down the cloth, hurled the can of polish at his chest, and leapt out from behind the till. “FINE BY ME!” I cried, jumping up and down. “You can STUFF your stupid job! But GOOD LUCK finding some other moron to stand here and take this crap from you all day long! I’m OUT of here!”

Shaking with exhilaration, I had pushed past the unfortunate customer and stalked half way to the door when Denham called, “Oh, so you’re quitting, are you?”

Incredulous, I spun around. “What?! You just fired me!”

“I did no such thing, Jones!”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I spat back sarcastically, “what was I meant to understand by ‘I’ll just have to sack you’?”

Denham frowned for a moment. “I said ‘I’ll just have to vacuum’.”

There was a ringing silence, in which the customer scampered past me in a sort of half-crouch and escaped through the door.

“Oh,” I said.

Denham prodded the spilt popcorn with his toe. “I suppose you want to quit anyway, by the sounds of it?” he muttered.

“Well… yeah, I probably… I probably will,” I said, backing towards the exit. “I guess I’ll bring in a letter of resignation tomorrow, or whatever. If that’s ok.”

“Yes, that’s fine, if you want to,” he murmured, turning towards the counter. “You’d better be off, shift’s nearly over now anyway. I’ll just get some of this cleared up.”

“Right. Sorry about that.”

“No problem.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Right you are.”

“Bye then.”

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