13 March 2013

#Scintilla13: Drinking the Job Away

When I signed up for Scintilla this year, I did so with something a little different in mind. I decided I would try to respond to the prompts with a piece of fiction each day. Unless a prompt really speaks to me and makes me want to share a personal experience, Scintilla will truly be a fortnight of storytelling for me. So here were today's prompt choices:

A: Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.
B: Tell a story set at your first job.

And so I present you with this story that combines the two.

Drinking the Job Away

Some confluence of luck and fate and all those other cliches of good fortune has bestowed upon me my first job. Okay, not exactly my first, but I can hardly count the summers at Dairy Queen and numerous semesters in the university bookstore as the same kind of jobs as this. My first real, grown-up, pinch-me-am-I-dreaming job. And if I were a coffee drinker, I might not have gotten the opportunity.

Best coffee in the city and you order hot cocoa, he said with half a smile and a half-cocked eyebrow that spoke more of amusement than derision. We talked while the barista made my drink and less than five minutes later I was out the door with my cocoa in one hand, a business card in the other, and a dizzying feeling of euphoria in my head. I sent my resume as soon as I got home, then endured two weeks of emails, interviewing, group conference calls, and painful waiting before I got the news: I was in.

I'm in. And now I'm here, celebrating with him, and with five others who will round out the team of this new start-up venture. I like the idea of being part of something that we'll build from the ground up. The real work starts Monday, but tonight, we toast.

Maybe it's my new blunt-cut bob and chunky red-framed glasses. Or maybe it's the fact that everyone else looks older. I don't know what it is, but I don't get carded. Not with the first beer, or the second. Not when the champagne is poured. Not when I order a martini with more specificity than someone under the age of twenty-one ought to.

In all the conversations, phone calls, emails, there was never any reason to mention that I skipped the seventh grade and completed my freshman year at a local community college while I was still a senior in high school. He had no reason to think I was still eight months shy of legal drinking age. I didn't want to miss out on this inaugural celebration, so I didn't bring it up when the waitress brought my martini. Or when she brought another round of beers. Or when someone suggested shots.

Soon enough, my head feels light on my neck, and not because I'm still so excited for this job. I remember I haven't eaten since lunch, except for the nachos and fries we all split with the first round of drinks. Stupid. Stuipd. Luckily he is much more steady on his feet than I. How many drinks did he have? I can't remember him having anything but water after the first beer and a glass of champagne, over two hours ago.

No worries, no worries, he says when I apologize for what I'm certain he must think is my unprofessional behavior. I didn't intend to get drunk tonight. I can drive you home and take a cab from there. You definitely shouldn't be driving.

I surrender my keys willingly and we bid the others good night. The air outside is cool and calming. I'm glad he has my keys already because the chill in the air wakes me up and gives me a false sense of sobriety. Until I stumble on the curb. He catches my elbow and slips an arm around my waist before I lose my balance and make a complete ass of myself.

Somehow I manage to keep up half a conversation while giving directions to my apartment. With each pause in the conversation I wonder if now would be a good time to mention my age.

A light rain has begun to fall as he walks me to my door, so I invite him in to wait for his cab.

I'd offer you coffee, but since I don't drink it, I don't have any, I say with a smile.

He smiles back. No problem.  He steps closer. Maybe now would be a good time to mention my age?

His stubble scratches my chin as he kisses me, and the kiss wouldn't be so bad except I'm not feeling so well and the force of it has me off balance and - oh yeah, he's supposed to be my boss. I stumble backward, giving him an excuse to grasp my hips with both my hands. Instead of steadying me, it makes me feel trapped.

I turn my face away and his mouth lands on my neck instead, which probably seems like an invitation, but it isn't. His biceps are firm beneath my hands as I try to push him back. Am I really this weak? Or is it the alcohol?

No, don't. We can't. He ignores me, so I try again. Stop. Please stop.

C'mon, it's okay. You don't want to be all work and no play, right? And his voice has that lilt again, and that half-smile is there, and the half-cocked eyebrow, just like the first day and I wonder if he's still amused or if it's something else that I should've seen from the beginning.

I protest, and he holds my hips tighter, and he pushes me back against the kitchen wall. He kisses, I evade, and he holds my hips tighter. Still, I protest. Still, he persists, and he holds my hips tighter and presses his entire body against mine, against the kitchen wall.

My stomach heaves. I don't know if it's the urge to puke or to cry, but I suppress it. Maybe now is a good time to mention my age? In all the conversations, emails, interview sessions, I never saw this coming. If somewhere along the line I said how old I am, would we still be here right now?

I open my mouth to plead with him again to stop, but no words come out. What comes out is my perfect martini, a few beers and glasses of champagne, and two shots. All over his shirt and my shoes.

He jumps back and shouts something, I'm not sure what, but it isn't a happy exclamation. He grabs a hand towel from the kitchen counter and attempts to clean the vomit off his clothes. After a moment he mutters a few barely audible expletives and storms out, taking my towel with him.

Some confluence of karma and bad luck and all those cliches of misfortune has stripped me of the opportunity to have my dream job.

I sink my vomit-covered, unemployed ass to the floor and weep tears of joy.


  1. Joy and sweet relief! Good luck with the fiction practice. Do you know about http://storyaday.org/? They used to just do a story-a-day-in-May challenge but it looks like they run all year now, which is neat. I took the May challenge on a couple of years ago and it gave me a few useful starts.

    1. I did not know about that. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  2. WHOA. I come to the end of this and find myself both thrilled and vindicated on your behalf. You dodged something there.

    1. Thank goodness it's only fiction. :-)


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