Show Don't Tell contest entry 2007
"It's going to be another hot one, folks..."
Ruby groaned before blindly slamming the radio's snooze button. Minutes later, she threw back the covers.
Standing like a flamingo against the kitchen counter, she blew over the top of the steaming coffee mug. The first sips always taste best.
In the closet, her hand moved the hangers slowly over the rod. Each garment carried a memory of her last job. Her employer’s downsizing explanation did nothing to lessen the blow. While over the worst of it, her wonderful Teflon exterior still seemed damaged. The tiniest things stuck and could send fight-or-flight signals to her brain.
She took her time getting ready for the Homeland Security interview. Then she viewed the results in the full-length bedroom mirror. Casual yet professional.
With the gray suit jacket over her arm, she grabbed the black shoulder bag, and slipped into her gray heels.
She stepped outside. "It's a damned sauna," she gasped. She felt her sleek auburn pageboy succumbing to the humidity, as she climbed into the car.
The clock read seven-thirty. She had to be at the interview by nine. Plenty of time.
"Come on, guys!" She fumed, stalled in Lake Shore Drive's gridlock.
She finally arrived at the public parking facility. Fortunately, it was only minutes from the interview's building. The rapid echo of her heels marked her rush toward the fourth floor elevator. Filing into the elevator, they stood cramped in the hotbox like melting crayons.
Exiting the elevator, she inhaled cool, 'fresh' air, and then merged into the broad tide of bodies moving outside.
Arriving at the interview's building, she glided into the revolving door like a Roulette ball. Smooth as glass , she thought, until the door suddenly jolted forward. Within the commotion, an edge of her heel skidded on the granite flooring. She didn't see the man, but felt the collision and the hot coffee splashing against her neck.
"Ow!" She immediately pulled the steaming fabric away from her burning skin. Her frown deepened as she watched the brown stain spread over her gray silk blouse.
"I'm sorry! Are you OK?" A man asked.
"No, it hurts!” Her hand thrust forward. “Give me your handkerchief."
“I need your handkerchief.” She looked into deep brown eyes. For a moment everything stopped.
Stepping back, she looked at the man. He was taller, but damn if he didn't resemble Robert. She watched him reach inside his suit jacket.
Unwanted memories flooded her mind. The break-up remained fresh and hurtful.
"I'm sorry," the man said, handing Ruth his handkerchief.
"Me, too,” she said while dabbing his handkerchief against the ruined blouse. “I have an interview in a few minutes.“
"What can I do to help?"
"Nothing!” She shoved the stained cloth forward. "Thanks for your handkerchief."
She walked quickly past him, and then stopped. The security lanes were jammed. "Aw come on," she whined as she grabbed her cell phone and walked to the end of the slow moving line.
"Hi, this is Ruth Edgerton. I have an interview scheduled at nine, but I may be a few minutes late."
"If you are more than fifteen minutes late, we may not be able to interview you."
"I'm in the lobby, waiting to clear security."
During the line's slow procession, she tried to dry her blouse. Her foot tapped impatiently.
With only minutes left before the 9:15 deadline, she filled a bored security guard's open palm with her passport and license.
"Sign in." He nodded and stared at the logbook on the desk.
"Do you have a pen?"
He held her passport and license hostage while she dug for a pen. Quickly completing the form, she felt her anger vent through the pen. The security guard looked from her passport to the logbook's abstract scrawl. Sighing heavily, he gave the documents back to her.
At the last station, she put her shoulder bag in a security basket. Five men dressed in black suits suddenly rushed in front of her.
"Excuse me?" The men ignored her. "May I ..." Ruth stared wide-eyed at the no-neck geek in front of her. Is he wearing a mask? Her eyes focused on the narrow margin between his shirt collar and the flesh-toned mask. It suddenly moved as if jostled. Her stomach turned. His skin is green and scaly. Like a lizard. Blinking she looked again, but they were too far away.
I saw that, didn't I? Her mind replayed the picture, as the men disappeared into one of the elevator banks.
"Step forward!" A man yelled. A painfully thin guard stood at the end of the conveyor belt, pointing at her bag.
"Did you see the man wearing a mask?” She asked as she picked up her bag.
Ruth left the area shaking her head. What did I see? Her mind played with the possibilities. Maybe he had a full-face tattoo. In the end, she wrote it off to nerves and her imagination.
On the twenty-fifth floor, she walked toward a desk in front of a dark orange wall. Large brushed-aluminum letters spelled out Homeland Security. A wilting bouquet sat on the corner of a nearby desk.
A woman looked up from a computer. "Yes?"
Ruth smelled coffee and decaying vegetation. She glanced at the drooping flowers in the scum-ringed vase.
“My name is Ruth Edgerton. I have an interview."
Ruth noticed her staring at the stain on her blouse. Blushing, she buttoned her jacket.
"Please have a seat." The woman nodded toward a line of black upholstered chairs.
Sitting in the only available back chair, she placed her shoulder bag on the floor. Breathing deeply she relaxed, and then mentally reviewed her interview questions.
A woman dressed in a blue suit waited outside a frosted glass door. "This way."
She followed the woman through a security door. Offices and cubicles lined the narrow hallway.
The woman opened an office door. She nodded and said, “Take a seat."
Beige sheers draped the wall of windows. A round, white Formica table occupied the center of the small, sterile room. Selecting the black leather chair facing the door, Ruth retrieved the interview folder from her bag.
The door opened. A broad man, dressed in a black suit, stood framed within the doorway. Heavy lidded golden-brown eyes stared at her. "Come with me."
Get out of here, now! Her internal voice screamed. Her trembling hand closed the folder while she grabbed the strap of her shoulder bag. "Perhaps this is not the right time ..."
His serpentine eyes narrowed to slits. "Now!"
Ruth slowly rose from her seat. Her gait felt stiff as she followed the man out of the conference room. However, when he turned away from the reception area, she turned toward it.
Her hand reached for the frosted door's handle. She felt its cold metal.
Suddenly, a strong hand grabbed her arm tightly, and then pulled her close. "Don't make a sound," the man hissed. “Turn around, and walk with me."
He forced her through another security door.
Closed white doors lined both sides of the hall. She saw a group of men at the end of the hall. They were the same men who cut in front of her earlier. Instinctively, she pulled back. The man's grip tightened hurtfully as he pulled her forward.
One of the black suited men looked at her. A warning frisson coursed through her body. She watched him reach into his pocket as he turned his back.
She heard a strange ringing tone. A series of melodious notes not unlike those she had heard in the movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Her rude escort positioned the cell phone against his opposite ear. "I know."
The men in black suits then disappeared into an office, closing a door that she and her escort passed moments later.
The man opened a door. "Wait in here,” he said, pushing her inside the room.
"Wait!" She yelled, as the door closed. She heard a bold thud as a deadbolt found its place, then the low hissing of his voice.
Stunned, she stared wide-eyed at the door. She tasted the metallic zest of fear just before panic took charge.
"Oh my God; Oh my God," she whimpered. Shaking hands dove into her bag, frantically searching for her phone. Holding it with both hands, she slid it open. The bars were empty.
Her body shook as if an icy finger swept up her spine. Closing her eyes, her neck arched. A stuttered breath escaped fear-parched lips as she stared at the ceiling.
God help me. I did see a lizard!
Nauseous, her trembling hands gripped and tried to turn the cold stationary doorknob. Tears welling in her eyes, she began screaming and kicking the door.