by Sal Monid
First chapter in my 2006 National Novel Writing Month novel.
|Departure from the Maelstrom
Gloria sat idly in the company cafeteria poking at the food she didn’t really feel like eating. Cafeteria food didn’t appeal to her -- ever, but the company paid for this crap as a perk for the employees. It wouldn’t have been so bad, if the food was good, but a bowl of canned soup and a stale biscuit were not her idea of healthy food.
As she poked at her soup she started thinking about the kind of job that she would really like to have. One where there were benefits such as extended health coverage and dental, -- not free food.
“Why so glum, Gloria?” Jason asked as he was walking by with his own basic bowl of soup and stale biscuit.
“I’m not glum, I was just thinking about stuff.” Gloria shrugged. Jason cocked an eyebrow at her answer.
“What kind of stuff were you thinking about? Wrist slitting?” Jason would often stop by her cubicle to ask her about her weekend, ask her about the weather, ask her about her jewellery. Really, he would stop by and ask her many random questions which she chalked up to his being incurably curious. It should not have surprised Gloria that being vague with ‘stuff’ would not satisfy someone as curious as Jason. She didn’t want to tell him she was thinking about looking for a different job.
“You know…day dreamy kind of stuff”, Gloria answered.
“Wow, I certainly don’t want to have your daydreams if they make you that sad. But to each their own. Would you mind if I sat with you?” Jason asked.
“Not at all, please -- sit.” Gloria said as she motioned for Jason to have a seat.
Although Gloria wasn’t in a talking, sharing mood, she realized she had to face the fact that she was never in a talking, sharing mood.
Jason pulled out a chair and sat with Gloria. It always pained him to see someone so sad who didn’t know that they were sad. He wanted to find a way to draw Gloria out of her shell. She had been working in the cubicle across the aisle from him for three months and she didn’t say anything unless asked a direct question. Certainly she did not say anything unless she was spoken to first.
“Don’t like the soup?” Jason asked as he sat.
“Not really. I can make better soup than this.”
“Really,” Jason said excitedly, “Would you make soup for me?” Gloria looked askance at Jason. “I’m serious. I really enjoy a good soup but I can’t make it any better than the cafeteria. You know -- I simply open the can, pour it in the pot and heat. My little sister has a great sound effects gig that she does to explain how to make soup. She’s hilarious.” Jason finished, reflecting on the antics of his sister.
Gloria shocked herself when she answered uncharacteristically, “How about you come over to my place and I will teach you to make soup?”
“That would be fantastic!” Jason said with what he feared was too much excitement. He may have finally found a way to challenge Gloria -- who would have guessed it would be with something as simple as soup -- and he didn’t want to ruin it by being too enthusiastic. Not only would he have cracked Gloria’s shell but he would get two great things out of the deal that he had not expected. Soup and an education.
“When should we do this?”
“How about tonight? I hadn’t figured out what I would make for supper – so, soup would be an easy fix. Unless of course you had other plans for tonight.
“No tonight is good,” Jason fibbed. He would easily change his previous plans. He guessed that if he backed out on Gloria now he would likely never get this chance again. He was astounded at how open and excited she had become over something as basic as soup.
“What do I need to bring?”
“Oh no, you aren’t going to get away that easy. If we are going to make soup and you are going to learn, then you are also going to learn how to shop for soup. Let’s meet at the Johnson Street market at 5 o’clock, and I will teach you how to shop for soup.
“Great, this is terrific.” Jason said as he pushed away his bowl of cafeteria soup. “Suddenly I’m not very hungry for this soup either.” Gloria pushed her own bowl of soup aside.
After returning to her cubicle, Gloria stared vacantly at her computer wondering what the heck had gotten into her that she would invite someone over for a meal. And that she would teach them how to cook something. She wanted to stamp her feet and cry. Certainly if she took up antics like that Jason would hear her from across the aisle and come to her with more questions. She didn’t want to answer more of his questions.
‘Shit…we’re going shopping together,’ she thought.