Day 3

Julie never thought of herself as being a terribly pretty girl, not since elementary school when her father would still compliment her on one of the frilly dresses he bought her, not since junior high and high school dragged the last vestiges of her self-worth out kicking and screaming, not since college, when the lays she managed were boys she later convinced herself were only bored or too drunk to care. No, she wasn’t pretty, but in the years since college ended anticlimactically, she had developed several important coping measures which allowed her to get by day to day.

First off she was a first-class smart-ass. This had been a fault in school, when her lip would get her scoldings from listening adults, but now that she was an adult herself, Julie found that a well-placed comment or quick response would earn her respect among her peers. She’d stay up more nights than she’d like to admit rolling turns of phrase around in her head like stones in a smoother, grinding out hard edges until only a jewel of a biting comment emerged, ready to be thrown as if casually when an opportunity presented itself. And she could dress too: she was well-regarded in her social circles as one who knew the latest fashions—and when to ignore them. She had a website where she shot videos of herself after shopping sprees, and the views registered in the high thousands. She wasn’t sure how many viewers were eager girls looking to be directed to a cute outfit, or boys shopping for a quick voyeuristic thrill, but given her low opinions of her physical appearance, she estimated that the latter were quite in the minority.

And so Julie Marster, 23, was a minor web celebrity, biting wit, and pathological under-eater. She lived in the very bottom floor of an extremely ugly apartment building in New York City, next to a ramen shop she ate at almost nightly and a coffee shop which she tried—and often failed—to avoid. Her rent was too high, and so she shared the tiny space with two other girls who were also being mostly supported by their parents until they landed an actual career. Patty Ono, 22, was a drunk and a flirt but at least she was mostly harmless. Audrey Mellon, 26, considered herself the big sister of the apartment and thus considered it her supreme duty to enforce curfews and codes of conduct and other sorts of lists which she would make and would be immediately ignored by the two younger girls. Nine months of living together had as of yet included six of harmony, interspersed by screaming and glaring and tearful calls home to parents and nights spent with boyfriends far, far away from offending females.

Not that Julie had a boyfriend, mind you. Not since moving to New York. Not that it was a priority. Those were work, her blog, and staying somewhat sane. And these priorities, such as they were, had quite a way of coming into conflict.


Day 2

The box was three inches by three inches, and three inches tall. Made of cardboard, brown, and extremely heavy. Laura could barely lift it, it was so heavy. She’d been trying for an hour just to lift this one little tiny goddamned box and it wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t the first time she’d been sent on a ridiculous errand, but this one had to take the cake. She scanned the room one more time. A table, a receptionist’s desk, a television, three cloth chairs, and a swinging door with a port window, leading into a small beige hallway. No. There was no one else here.

She tried again, just to make sure. Shit.

Nothing for it but to call headquarters and explain to Mr Sanford the situation. He wasn’t an understanding man. Laura was dreading the call. The last time she hadn’t been able to deliver a package—it was midnight, it was pouring rain, she ran out of gas, and the deliveree wasn’t home—she’d been sent home with an order not to show her face for another week. But jobs weren’t easy to come by in this environment and so she wasn’t exactly going to tell Mr Sanford to shove it, as much as she’d love to.

She reached into her company-issued jumpsuit and pulled out her company-issued cellphone, and punched in some company-issued numbers. Two deep tones, and a company-issued voice appeared on the other end. “Kangaroo Express Portland, can I help you.” The words were high-pitched, almost warbly. Sally. Or, no, Paula. No, Paula was fired. Sally.

“Sally, this is Laura, I need Mr Sanford.” She knew she sounded gruffer than she meant to, but she was in a rush. This was no time to get caught in in workplace gossip. “Laura? Is something wrong?” said Sally, sounding more interested than usual.

“Yeah, it’s this damned package I’ve been sent for. Just find Sanford for me, OK?”

“I can’t, he’s out. He’s at lunch. It’s just Wally and me in the office today.”

Wally. Just what I need. “All right, send Wally out here, quick. Can he bring the hand cart?”

“I don’t know if he can, there’s a—”

“Damn it, Sally. This package needs to be moved, and if I can’t get ahold of Sanford to get another team on it, then I need all the help I can get. Send. Wally.”

“OK, OK. Jesus,” said Sally on the line, and Laura knew she’d upset her for no reason. She said the address into the line, which wasn’t necessary because Sally should have been able to look on the sheet and find it herself, but everyone she worked with was incompetent, so there it was. She’d gotten over it, at least she told herself she had. Kangaroo Express wasn’t the worst job in the world, and it was the first job she’d managed to hold for more than six consecutive months since graduating college. Making friends was something she used to do in school, an old habit. One she’d learned to stop doing after she was fired for the fifth time. Usually for talking too much.