Tashi finally finds a job. Is it one she has a Talent for?
|Tashi Finds a Talent
by Carrie Moritz
I stepped into the building in front of me, a stoic but bland brick building with no sign above the door. Mr. Ishi had told me to come here at this specific time; why I was here I did not know.
A small, bright receptionists’ area greeted me. Had I not known better, I would have believed I was in a doctor’s office. Two plants sat in corners, and a clock ticked noisily on the wall. A small man sat at the desk, writing furiously on a sheet of paper. No one was seated in the chairs lining the wall.
“Well don’t stand there all day, missy,” said the man, still writing. “If you miss your appointment I’m the one who’ll be blamed. Who are you?” He stopped writing and looked at me pointedly.
“T-Tashi,” I said, my old stutter coming back. It always did when I was nervous. Papi had tried his best to get rid of it, and had nearly succeeded. I collected myself. “Tashi Stomechel.”
The little man pointed to a seat. “He’ll be with you in a moment,” he said, then resumed his writing. I studied him for a moment. He was very small, such as a six-year-old would be. He was not out of proportion at all, except for the rotund belly protruding from his middle. His hair was dark and curly, and his ears- were they pointed somewhat? I dismissed the thought and looked away before he caught me staring. I looked at the end-table nearby, hoping for something interesting to read. There were two magazines on the table, one dated 10 years ago and the other five. I decided to study the carpet instead. What was I doing here? Sure, I needed a job. Anyone who wanted a decent roof over their heads in the city needed one. But one recommended by Mr. Ishi? Everyone in the neighborhood believed he was a complete nut- he talked to himself, wandered aimlessly on the street while cars swerved to miss him- yet I had taken him at his word yesterday when he announced to me that I had a job interview at 15493 E. 546th Street at 2:30 p.m. At that, he seemed completely sober. I had believed him, and obviously I was meant to be here.
My thoughts wandered around in circles for the next 15 minutes, and at one point I nearly got up to leave. My nerve was leaving me rather quickly. The small man had not looked up from his writing once, and I doubted he remembered I was there. When I had completely convinced myself that I had wasted my time, he suddenly looked up.
“He’ll see you now,” he said, and without moving from his chair, the door next to the desk opened. I looked though the door onto a long hallway. No one was there. I took a step through. The taupe-colored walls were the only thing in here; no doors, no paintings were visible. Without knowing why, I started walking. A door suddenly appeared on my left and opened. I was looking into a large, paneled oak office decorated with ivy.
“Stonemechel, Natasha. Or ‘Tashi’ for short. Aged 22 and 4 months, born on a Tuesday. Originally from Iowa. Moved to Massachusets to attend school, graduated last May. Majored in forensics. Why, Tashi, are you here?”
I was completely taken aback. The voice had come from a large chair behind a desk. Instinct took over in my answer.
“I am here at the request of Mr. Ling Ishi, my neighbor. I was told I would be able to find work here.”
“Of course. Mr. Ishi told us to expect you. I doubt he told you what kind of work this would be?” I shook my head. “Well, then. You may start on Monday. Go to the building next door at 8 a.m., and they will instruct you on what to do. Good day!”
The open door disappeared. I was left standing in a blank hallway, my mouth hanging open. That was the job interview? I had never even seen who belonged to the voice. Feeling like Alice in Wonderland, I made my way back to the receptionist’s desk. The little man, still writing furiously, did not acknowledge me as I left the building.
“How did it go?” the quiet voice of Mr. Ishi asked from behind. I had nearly reached the door to my building.
“Apparently, I start on Monday. However, I do not know what I’ll be doing, why I was hired, or even who interviewed me. What was that place?”
“Good, good,” replied Mr. Ishi, ignoring my question. “I knew you were a good pick. Could feel it in my bones. Congratulations on your appointment, and I wish you luck.”
As he walked away, an intense longing to throttle him took over. What sort of weird circumstance had I just gotten myself into? I took a deep breath and walked up the stairs. The lock on our security door had broken two weeks ago, and the door refused to close completely. It hung somewhat listlessly on its hinges, and reminded me why I needed a job in the first place. My parents had been helping with the rent and food for the last eight months while I searched for a nonexistent job, and they were starting to think about ultimatums. The last thing I wanted to do was move back home. I liked the fast pace and strange culture of the East Coast, a complete change from the down-home canter of the Midwest. Besides, my chances of getting into my field were a bit higher in a city of 1 million than a small town of 800. Iowa. The interviewer had known where I was from. I did not recall sending a resume to that particular address, or even telling Mr. Ishi where I was originally from. Or my birthdate.
I sighed and unlocked the three bolts leading into my apartment. Bitsy came to greet me, purring. I petted her after dropping my purse, found her ball, and sent her scampering after it. My apartment was not much more than one large room, with a stove, sink, and refrigerator designating the kitchen and the bed designating the bedroom. My mother had bought a few room dividers when I moved in, but they did not do much. The two small windows on one wall did little to lighten the place up; neither did the exposed plaster, wood, and plumbing. Bitsy was the bright point to this place- she had lived here already when I moved in. The landlord figured the last owner had left her here. My neighbor, friendly Mrs. Underwood, had helped take care of the cat until I moved in. She still visited nearly every day, and Bitsy loved those visits. However, the cat had refused to move in with the lady. When Mrs. Underwood had attempted to move her, the cat had torn up her apartment. It seemed Bitsy was determined to live only in this apartment.
I walked to the kitchen area to make a meal. I realized I should call my parents to relay the good news, but I still felt like it had been a surreal dream. I would have convinced myself that it hadn’t happened, but Mr. Ishi had ruined that by asking me about it. Perhaps I would call them later tonight. For right now, I needed to process.
The process took until Monday morning. I had not told my parents in our weekly conversation, convinced by then that I had been taken in some scam that would come completely to fruition on Monday. They had gone through their normal routine of telling me the local news (Mr. Brown had driven his car into the ditch again, and the bridge club was actually on strike until the Legion hall had been repaired- it seemed a rain storm had wrecked one of their evenings), asking me if I had found a job yet, and threatened to come and get me if I didn’t find one soon. I told them I had some prospects and would find one soon. Some diner had to hire me, I reasoned to them. Lucky for them I didn’t say I had never even applied at any food place- the local café had held me hostage for three years of my life in high school, and I was not about to try that again.
I took notice of the building next door with more interest than I had five days ago. There was no other building next door- it seemed that the two buildings took up the entire block. This building was made of similar brick, but seemed older and more used. The sign plastered above the door said “Little Betsy Distributing Co.” My mouth began to water instantly. Little Betsy’s were some of the best over-processed junk food available. As I stepped inside, the smell of Choco-Cakes and Twinkles washed over me. This was what my interview had been for? To work inside a factory? What about all of the strange occurances- the little man, the doorless hallway? I gave up trying to think about it and found myself looking into the same receptionists area that I had occupied in the next building. The little man was sitting at the desk; however, this time his hands were folded neatly and he was looking at me expectantly.
“May I help you?” he asked cordially. I was utterly speechless.
“Are you the new worker?” he supplied helpfully, smiling. I nodded slightly. “Good, good. Mr. Ishi did pick a good person. Very reliable. All right. Your supervisor is Todd Bechhan, and you’ll be working in B Section, Table 15. Regular day hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with one hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks. Pay starts at $10.50 an hour and increases as you improve. Saturday’s and Sunday’s at time and a half are available; you may take up to 3 days per month on top of your regular hours. This booklet” he pointed to a thick paper copy on his desk- “supplies the rules and regulations, dress code, and pay scale. This booklet”- he placed another book on his desk- “supplies the history and background of Little Betsy. You will have a testing on everything in these books two Saturday’s from now. If you do not know sufficient information, you will no longer be allowed to work here. Now. Here are some workclothes that you may use for today; please have your own available for tomorrow. Here are some forms for you to fill out. Please sign and date them. After you are finished with that, I will give you a tour of the plant, where you can meet your supervisor and co-workers.” He handed me everything. I carried it to a chair lining the wall, and spent the next half-hour filling out the forms while the little man sat with his hands folded, waiting. I still hadn’t recovered from the shocks I had received- it took me three minutes just to remember what my full name was.
Eventually, the forms were filled out with emergency contact information, insurance information, address and phone number. A few of the questions were odd- did I wear prosthetics? Did I practice good hygiene? Had I ever had a lobotomy? I stared at that one for awhile. After signing and dating, I handed the little man the forms and he gave me a tour, as promised. My supervisor was a tall man with bleach-blonde hair and white eyebrows. He had a very genial attitude, and expressed his appreciation for having another person on deck. My co-workers were similarly happy to see a new worker. They took me on as soon as I had changed into the less formal working clothes provided by the little man. The lady working next to me was a plump, petite woman named Lillian, who loved to talk. In the course of my first day, she proceeded to tell me all of the office gossip and how things worked around there. It seemed that no one else had had the experience in hiring that I had; in fact, she was positive the building next door was not even inhabited. She eyed me a bit strangely after I had confided my experience to her. I kept my mouth shut about the repeat receptionist. I did not need her thinking I was completely out of it. Instead, I changed the subject to my hometown. That subject kept us going until the end of the shift, which came relatively quickly. The work was monotonous and repetitive, but it was work. My job was to sort the good Choco-Cakes from those that were defective. The defective cakes would be sold at a discount store a few blocks away. Lillian showed me how to identify those cakes in between bits of gossip.
Work continued in this way for the next few months. I found out some nice details about single young men in the workplace, and even had an interest beginning with one. I graduated in the pay scale (apparently I had a very good eye for defective cakes), and never saw the receptionist again, as I entered through the back entrance to the factory with Lillian each morning, and left the same way each evening.
One night, nearly three months after I started, Mr. Ishi began to follow me home. He seemed as nutty as ever, mumbling to himself and wandering back and forth behind me. He did not approach me nor speak to me- he only followed. I worried about it at first, but after the first week, I began to forget about him. It spooked me when, one night, a hand touched my sleeve. It was Mr. Ishi.
“They agree you are ready for the next step. You have proved your reliability and trustworthiness, as well as a good heart. Meet me here at 7:30 tomorrow night. Do not be late, or it may be regretted. Have a good evening!” He walked away, mumbling to himself.
The next step? They? What was going on? I nearly missed my apartment as I mused. I had to guess that “they” meant the strange interviewer and little man; but the next step eluded me. There was no next step in a factory job, except from worker to supervisor. A strange line came back to me from the forms I signed that first day. “The undersigned here declares to be under contract with IWS, and will not be released until deemed necessary- whether it be by IWS or the undersigned. If you are proven to be of intellect, worth, and talent, you may never be released.” I had signed that form without second thought, thinking it was just necessary to protect themselves from a lawsuit if I was fired. However, the second part meshed too well with what Mr. Ishi said- “You have proven your trustworthiness and reliability.” Was the next step one I was willing to take? It did not seem as though I was being given enough information to make any kind of decision other than the one to follow commands. I was tempted to be late the next night, just to see what would happen. However, I doubted my nature would allow me such a thing.
Bitsy greeted me as I came through the door, and we repeated our nightly routine. I threw the ball and proceeded to the kitchen area. As I did, I passed a mirror. Was it me, or was my dark-brown hair getting lighter? I looked at it a bit longer and decided it was my imagination.
As luck would have it, I was late for my meeting with Mr. Ishi the next evening. Just as I was leaving the building, a car hit a bicyclist, who flew in my path. My next fifteen minutes were spent taking care of him, until the paramedics arrived. I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I glimpsed Mr. Ishi at one point. He was watching me. I stayed with the bicyclist until he was on the ambulance, then answered some questions from the policeman present. Did I see the vehicle that hit the man? Did I see whose fault it was? Would I be able to come to the station and give an official statement by tomorrow? I sneaked away from the scene as quickly as possible, knowing I was already very late. I ran to the meeting place- a narrow street not five minutes’ walk from my building. Mr. Ishi was waiting, a patient look on his face. Was he not angry at me for being late? When I was closer, I detected a note of anxiousness in his eyes. However, it disappeared quickly.
“You are late.”
“Unexpected developments, Mr. Ishi. As you already know.”
He did not look surprised; he only nodded slightly. “You are as perceptive as I believed you would be. Has that perception allowed you to realize why you are here tonight?”
“No, it has not. I do, however, believe it has something to do with my original interview, and nothing to do with my current work.”
“In that you are correct. Your job was only one to let them observe you; see how you reacted and interacted. The next step is one completely unrelated to Little Betsy’s. However, due to your lateness, I am unable to begin where I should be in order to explain. I may only tell you this: the next events will force you to feel as though you are being swept up by the tide; however, you must find a way to act intentionally. I will take you to meet Boss Hennel. Come. We must leave now.”
I turned to follow Mr. Ishi. As I did, I saw a car turn onto the street, driving erratically. It sped toward us, and screeched to a halt just before our knees made contact with the front bumper.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Madman Ishi himself,” a mocking voice called from the passenger side. A young man with pink spiked hair pulled himself out of the window. “Got a new recruit, Ishi? Has she been primed?”
“Haha, I doubt she’s even been told the basics,” called another young man from the driver’s side. He had blue-spiked hair and a ring in his eyebrow. “Hey girlie, did Ishi tell you anything?”
“Not yet, gentlemen,” said Mr. Ishi softly. “She isn’t ready yet.”
“Well, that seems to be the way of you, isn’t it Ishi? Get people in before they’re able to make a decision? Just because they have Talent?” the man with the pink hair mocked. I stared. What were they talking about?
“Yeah. Hey, girlie, Ishi here tell you anything about the next step? He tell you all about IWS? Get in with us, we’ll tell you all about it. All about the Teleportation, and Talents.”
“Haha,” retorted Pink Hair. “I doubt she’s ever Teleported before. I hear tell they were supposed to add someone to our unit- someone with a level head and a heavy hand, to keep us under control!”
I stood straighter. I was not about to take their mocking, even if I did not know what was happening. I thought quickly. Teleport? I had teleported once upon a time; at least, I had in a dream. In the dream, I traveled to India and visited with the Mother Theresa for an hour.
“Mr. Ishi has told me what I need to know right now about Teleporting. My Talent will not go unrecognized by Boss Hennel, especially my trip to India to visit with the Mother Theresa.” I saw the significant flinch on the boys’ faces, and knew I had hit a correct mark. Now, if only I could figure out what all these details meant, I would be sitting on top. Blue Hair, however, could not let it rest.
“Well, then, girlie- if you’re so Talented, let’s see you Teleport right now. Let’s see if Hennel will be impressed by a recruit of Madman Ishi’s.” He took out a glowing sphere from his pocket and released it. It floated toward me, and while it approached, it increased in size. When it was in front of the car, it was about four feet in diameter. I looked wonderingly at it. It was a glowing orange-silver, and had an appeal. Without knowing why, and unable to stop myself, I reached out to touch it. Softly, Mr. Ishi’s voice permeated my brain. “Miss Stonemechel, you may do this later. Come. We must meet Boss Hennel.” No, I thought. Now. I will go to the moon. As I thought this, my fingers touched the metallic warmth of the sphere, and my eyes closed. I envisioned the moon. As I thought it, I knew I was there. I was unable to breathe, and there was no warmth in the space around me. I chanced opening my eyes, and saw the rough, pockmarked surface of our moon. Quickly, I closed my eyes and brought myself back to Earth. I opened my eyes to the shocked faces of not only Pink Hair and Blue Hair, but Mr. Ishi as well. He regained his composure almost immediately, sent the sphere spiraling back toward Blue Hair, grabbed my elbow, and began walking away from the vehicle.