We All Have Our Jobs To Do

By Katherine Sanger

The listing appeared on the job board on Monday. There hadnít been a new one for weeks. This one was different than the usual ones that showed up. It was vague. There was no job title, just a list of requirements. Strong. Willing to work hard. Work well with others. Motivated. Ambitious. Experience on a farm or in a slaughterhouse.

Adam had all the qualities, but none of the experience. His resume said otherwise. Without it, he never would have been called in for an interview. And Adam needed an interview. He was reminded of it every day. Communal housing and public transportation were the bane of his existence. Sharing a two bedroom flat with his three roommates and their bad habits --their belching, their fighting, their gambling, their whoring -- haunted his nights. Waiting at the bus stop stole his days. The government cheese at every meal, the long lines at the free grocers where he traded his chits for bland boring food, the mandatory television viewing, all of it ate at him, gnawing at his sensibilities. Adam needed a job.

It had been months since Adam had a job. No, even longer. It had been years. He knew that many of the people around him didnít understand the problem. His committee-chosen roommates loved their lives. Two of them had been to college, and they compared it to that. But they had flunked out when the work got too hard, and now they were part of what destroyed Adamís soul on a daily basis.

None of his roommates understood his excitement when the phone call came. In the space of a week, the council had reviewed the resumes. They told him they had selected the top five hundred resumes for interviews. They wanted to see him. His appointment was Wednesday at eleven A.M.

That week was hell. The enforced TV viewing was more loathsome than ever. The sitcoms were anything but funny, and the news was horrendously upbeat. He had nothing to do but worry and watch the clock.

Wednesday arrived. Adam was in line at the bus station a six A.M. sharp. He had five hours until his appointment, but he didnít want to take any chances. Not having a job put him at the back of the bus, and he knew heíd have to get off if it got too full. That hadnít happened to him very often, but he was determined that if today was one of those days, he wouldnít miss his chance because of it.

He arrived at the office three hours early. He was afraid to do anything before the interview -- walking around might get him sweaty, the movie theaters were notoriously dirty and sticky, and he didnít want to be spotted reading at the library; no point in looking subversive. In the end, he went in and sat in the waiting room, careful not to twiddle his thumbs or fall asleep.

They called him in at exactly eleven. They told him how impressed they were by his hunger and the fact that heíd waited so patiently for them for so long. It only got better. They gushed, telling him he was a great fit, a wonderful match. They were so happy to have found him.

Adam rode the bus home, sitting in the front row for the first time in years. His new Work ID was tucked away carefully in his suit pocket. He couldnít wait to get home and get started on his new job.

When he got home, the flat was empty. For once in their pointless lives, his roommates werenít sitting around watching TV. Adam thought maybe it was for the best. He wasnít sure he was ready for his new responsibility. He had been given his first weekís salary in advance, just in case he had anything he needed to buy in order to do his job properly. With his roommates gone, Adam decided to put off starting anything new. He decided to go out and celebrate his new job.

He started the evening at the bar. There was one. He had to show his Work ID at the door; it was the only way to get in. Most people didnít even know it existed. Adam hadnít stepped foot in it for years.

It hadnít changed.

The same bar smell, the same bar feel. Adam relaxed on a stool and ordered a beer. A real beer, not the kind that came with the food allowance. Adam gulped it down in two swallows.

He ordered another, knowing that if he kept gulping the money wouldnít last very long. Adam sipped the second one slowly, letting it roll around a bit, enjoying it like it was his last meal. A woman slid onto the stool next to him. Peroxide blonde and tall, she was showing off a lot of leg with her miniskirt. She lit a cigarette and smiled. "I havenít seen you in here before. Iíd remember that white hair."

Adam smiled back. "I havenít been here for a while."

She nodded; she understood. It was an unwritten rule of the bar that work wasnít mentioned. It was tacky; unnecessary. Everyone there was employed, and they knew it. That was enough.

She said her name was Ruth, and Adam introduced himself. They talked about the weather, the unending rain and humidity, the city and its sights. It was an enjoyable evening out for the working man and his companion. Almost. He felt on edge. He had a job to do.

The bar emptied as it got later. People left, hurrying home. No one wanted to be late for work the next morning. The bartender announced last call. Ruth invited Adam to accompany her home.

He accepted.

She lived in a little apartment, almost on the other side of town, she said. Having no car yet, Adam couldnít offer her a ride, and the bus had stopped running an hour ago, so they walked in the light misting drizzle that never seemed to go away. She talked the whole way, but Adam didnít hear a word of it. He was lost in his own world, trying to figure out how he was going to get started on his new responsibilities.

They made it to the apartment and she let them in. The apartment was little, but it was clean and it was all hers. Adamís courage rallied at the sight of it. He knew he would be successful on his new venture. He had to be. A chance at his own apartment was waiting for him.

They drank coffee and listened to the radio. She invited him into the bedroom.

Adam hadnít been with a woman for a long time. He didnít share his roommatesí love for the whores that trolled the area -- government sanctioned sex left a bad taste in his mouth, but he didnít have a problem remembering what to do.

Afterwards, they lay in bed. She was smoking again, and kept checking the clock. It was close to two, and the only light in the room came from the tip of her cigarette and the streetlightís glow that filtered in through the curtains. His ragged breathing, slowly calming, and the sound of the paper burning down on her cigarette broke the silence of the room.

When it had burned halfway down, she stubbed out the cigarette and leaned back into the pillows. Adam thought she was falling asleep, and was grateful; he wanted a rest before he finished the night. Instead, she spoke.

"I feel really bad about this, I do. Youíre a nice guy, and I like you, but I have a job, you know."

Adam was puzzled, almost fearful. He knew he had a job to do, too. He kept silent, waiting for her to go on.

"Iím a prostitute. I need to charge you for the evening."

Adam laughed. He laughed out loud. He couldnít believe his luck.

"Iím not kidding." Her voice got louder. "You have to pay me. Itís my job."

He kept laughing. He could feel anger radiating from her. It was time to explain.

"I donít have to pay you." Adam held back the laughter as much as he could. "I have a job, too. Iím a serial killer, and tonightís my first night on the job."

She protested, then fought for her life. He wished she hadnít. It just made it take longer. He had wanted to get some sleep before dawn, but as it worked out, he didnít make it home until after 8. Ruthís washing machine wasnít one of the newer models, and it took over an hour for the washing and drying. He couldnít go home looking like a mess, so he waited through it.

He took the bus home, hoping that soon enough he would have his own car. It would make the job so much easier. Even as it was, he felt pretty confident about it. The job had turned out to be much less taxing than he thought it would have been. He just considered himself a surgeon, excising what needed to be removed. He didnít think heíd have a problem with running out of possible assistants. In fact, he had another three in mind. And they were waiting for him when he got home.

They were gathered in front of the television when he walked in. Richard jumped up when Adam walked in. "Didja hear? Some whore got seriously whacked last night. Some freak practically took her head off!"

Adam smiled. "I heard. She screamed like a banshee." He reached into his pocket. Good thing sheíd had a butcher knife. And good thing that heíd thought to bring it with him.

He finished off his roommates with less of a struggle than Ruth had put up. They were out of shape, and hadnít seen it coming until it was too late. Richard was the easiest. Adam really felt like he was getting the hang of it. The element of surprise worked in his favor, he had discovered.

Adam was feeding Richardís femur into the garbage disposal when he heard the phone ringing. He ignored it. He rarely got phone calls, and his roommates werenít in the position to receive callers. It was only as Richardís foot got stuck that he realized it might have been his boss calling. Maybe to congratulate him on his first success. He left the foot dangling over the dirty coffee cups and walked to the answering machine. The light on it was flashing.

He hit the play button. It was his boss. But it wasnít the kind of call heíd been expecting. Theyíd finally gotten the calls back on his resume. They knew heíd lied. He should come in and turn in his Work ID as soon as possible. He was to suspend all future activity. His advance was to be returned. He was unemployed.

Adam stood by the phone and answering machine, stunned. To have come so far, done so much, only to be shunted aside. Heíd done their job for them. Heíd provided the police with something to do. They couldnít fire him now. It was too late; heíd already proven himself. But he didnít think theyíd listen to that. Those bastards. Those utter, utter bastards. He would show them. He wasnít fired.

He left the foot where it lay, and ignored the other two bodies stacked by the bathtub. He found the knife where heíd left it, only slightly worse for the wear. He tucked it in his pocket, his Work ID behind it. He opened the front door, took in the rare sight of sunlight streaming down, and headed for the bus stop.

The End

Copyright © 2004 by Katherine Sanger

Bio:Kate was a Jersey Girl until she got smart and moved to Texas. Now she teaches college English and writes strange stories that she can't show to most of her students. You can visit her zine at http://www.fromtheasulum.com.

E-mail: ksanger@fromtheasylum.com

URL: http://www.fromtheasylum.com

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