I sat in my living room, scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook. It was a lot of the same stuff I was used to seeing. People I knew in high school posting pictures of their kids, friends I’d made online posting political memes and of course there were family members posting random statuses or commenting on pictures of things. My Aunt Linda tried to be social networking savvy but her age and inexperience showed.
Outside lawn mowers started up because it was Tuesday and that was one of two days a week the landscapers were out making all kinds of racket in the apartment complex I lived in. King’s Court was a nice place, as far as complexes were concerned. The rent was decent, too. I couldn’t complain. Particularly since I was out of work and had been for the last few months.
The bar I had been working at was forced to close after the economy crashed and there was no hope of it reopening. I would never say I was thankful for my grandmother’s death, but the small inheritance I had received as a result was what I had been living on, since I made practically nothing on unemployment. I was being thrifty, however. I didn’t have much of a choice. I’d been putting in applications everywhere I possibly could, but since I wasn’t the only one out of work, I was getting passed over for college graduates who were desperate for just about any job they could get to pay off their looming student loan bills.
I had graduated high school but hadn’t been sure what I wanted to study in college, so I hadn’t gone. I didn’t see the point in continuing my education when I didn’t have the slightest idea what I wanted to do with my life. That seemed like a big waste of money to me. As a result I had tried working in various industries and had experience doing all sorts of things. I hadn’t intended to get a job working as a waitress at Merlotte’s, but I sort of got roped into it by my best friend. Tara was tending bar there and one of the waitresses was always calling in sick so she begged me to come in one night out of desperation. She swore that it was a piece of cake and thanks to my girl next door face and Playboy model rack, I’d make decent tips.
It wasn’t the worst job in the world but I wasn’t anxious to find another one in the service industry. It was looking more and more like I wasn’t going to have much of a choice in the matter, unfortunately. I was just hoping some other opportunity would present itself to me. That didn’t seem likely, though.
I wasn’t the luckiest girl in the world, that’s for damn sure. My parents had died in a car crash when I was seven. Thankfully, my grandmother had stepped up to raise my brother and me because I’m not sure if my Aunt Linda could have handled it. She had her hands full enough with her own daughter, not to mention Aunt Linda had been diagnosed with breast cancer the month after my parents were killed. It was a tough time in my family. By the grace of God, Aunt Linda survived the cancer and she’d been in remission for the last ten years. It was possible it could come back at any point so it was constantly in my prayers that she would remain cancer-free.
So there I was, sitting on my couch and scrolling through Facebook when I heard one of the maintenance guys at my door, leaving some kind of notice under the doorknocker. Probably some kind of notice about water shutoffs for plumbing repairs or something. It happened from time to time. I set aside my phone and got up to retrieve the letter from the property manager. Sure enough it was a notice, but not of a water shutoff.
No, it was a warning that the parking lot was going to be resurfaced and I was going to have to move my car out of the way or it would be towed at my expense. The work was starting the next day. I sighed heavily – angrily – and slammed the door. My car had been on its last life for a while. I knew the time was coming when I was going to have to replace it, but while I was out of work was not the right time. On top of everything else I knew I couldn’t afford to take on a car payment.
I also couldn’t afford the cost of a tow or the storage fees I’d incur as a result. At Gran’s insistence I had signed up for roadside assistance when I got my cell phone. It was good for flat tires, jump starts, tows or extrications if I ever found myself stuck in the mud or something. With the way some of the back roads were, it was entirely possible that I could get stuck somewhere. I hadn’t used the service but it was nice to have in case of emergency.
This was an emergency.
Just two days before I had gone out to try to start the car and it wouldn’t start. I didn’t think a miracle had occurred so I had to grab my phone to look up the roadside assistance number. I was probably going to need to have the car towed but I had no idea where to take it. Bon Temps was a small town and most people could either make their own repairs or had a family member that could take care of it. I wasn’t that lucky.
I probably needed a new battery and maybe a new starter, in addition to new brakes, new rotors, new tires, spark plugs, windshield wipers, and I knew a few of the belts were either loose or worn. It’s not like my transmission was falling out but the little things added up too, especially with the labor costs. That was more expensive than the parts.
Roadside said it would be an hour or so before someone could come out. That was fine with me as long as they showed up. I figured I’d better fix myself up a bit, so I went back to my bedroom and changed out of my pajamas. I put on a pair of leggings and a loose, extra long T-shirt. No need to get fancy or anything. I twisted my hair up into a knot and secured the golden mess on top of my head.
Not ten minutes later my phone rang with an unfamiliar number on the screen. Probably the roadside driver.
“This is Sookie,” I answered.
“Hello, Sookie, this is Mel from Dixie Auto Club. I should be arriving at your location in less than five minutes,” Mel informed me.
“Alright. I’ll be waiting outside for you,” I replied. We hung up and I slipped on my flip flops. With my phone tucked in my back pocket, I grabbed my keys and went outside to meet Mel.
As I feared, my car needed to be towed. At the very least I needed a new battery. It turned out that Mel was actually employed by The Busted Knuckle, a garage about five miles north of Bon Temps on Highway 20. I took a ride up to the garage with the tow truck driver that came out. Dawson was a bear of a man and seemed a bit grouchy, but he got my little yellow shitbox safely to the shop.
I had driven by the garage plenty of times. It was a pretty big shop, all things considered. While Dawson unloaded my car I counted the number of slots for cars in the bays. There was a lobby/office area in the middle of the structure. To the right ten cars could fit in one bay and four could fit in the bay to the left of the office. All of the overhead doors were up and guys were working on cars inside.
“You can go on in while I unload the car. Eric’ll probably have some questions for you,” Dawson told me in his deep, raspy voice. If I didn’t know better I may have thought he gargled with gravel or something. I noticed he lit up a cigarette as I walked toward the shop, so that may have been a factor.
Inside the shop there were eight chairs, all of which looked past their prime. There was a counter straight ahead with a flat screen TV mounted on the wall above it. To the left of the counter was a closed door, either for a closet or a bathroom. My money was on a bathroom. There was another door behind the counter just to the right of it. That door was also closed. Glass doors led to the bays on either side of the office. All kinds of tools and equipment were lying around that I had no clue what they were for or how to use.
The door behind the counter opened and a guy roughly my height, maybe an inch taller, appeared from inside the inner office. He kind of reminded me of Aziz Ansari… if he had a love child with Mr. Potatohead.
“Can I help you?” He had some kind of Middle Eastern accent but I’ll be damned if I knew what it was exactly off the top of my head.
“Uh, yeah, Dawson just towed my car in,” I supplied. “My name is Sookie Stackhouse.”
The guy was definitely checking me out but trying to look like he wasn’t. I was a sucker for pretty eyes and his were kind of bloodshot, like he was coming off of smoking too much weed or getting over a hangover.
“Yes, of course.” He moved behind the counter and grabbed some papers off the printer.
Granted it was a garage so it was probably never in pristine condition, but the office was in desperate need of a good deep cleaning. The door beside the counter opened and a very tall blonde man walked out. There was something kind of dorky about him, but he made his way back behind the counter to take the papers from the other guy.
“I got it, little buddy,” the blonde guy said. It earned him the bird from the littler guy. “You must be Sookie,” he said to me.
“Yes, I am,” I confirmed. “Are you Eric? Dawson said Eric might have some questions for me.”
“I am and I do,” he agreed.
The questions were standard. First he wanted contact information and then he wanted to know about the car. While I was explaining all the things wrong with my little yellow shitbox, another Middle Eastern man strolled into the lobby from the outside and a guy with filthy hands and a Bluetooth headset on his ear burst through the door leading to the right bay.
“Someone call fuckin’ SEAL team 6! Al Qaeda is in the fuckin’ house!” Bluetooth yelled.
“Then call INS on this fuckin’ border jumper and the thirty cousins in his trunk.”
“I’m not Mexican, I’m fuckin’ Greek you terrorist,” Bluetooth said.
I just stood there, completely stunned.
The fact that both guys were smiling instead of throwing punches set me at ease, but only slightly.
“Don’t worry, they do that all the time,” Eric assured me.
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that but no one was asking for my opinion on the matter.
Bluetooth actually stopped walking and stared right at me.
“You here for the dispatching job?” he asked me.
“Des, she’s a customer,” Eric explained.
What dispatching job?
“Too bad,” Des replied.
“What job?” I asked. It couldn’t hurt and it had to be better than pouring beer and slinging hot wings to drunk rednecks.
“The job dispatching calls for the auto club. I need someone to work evenings and days on the weekends,” Des told me. “You got experience?”
“Uh, no, but I know every back road in this parish and I don’t really need a map to know where most folks live,” I replied. He looked impressed but judging by his accent, Des wasn’t a native.
“Rasul, you’re fired!” Des yelled.
“What else is new?” The little guy in the office stuck his head out.
Eric chuckled behind the counter. “We get fired at least four times a week,” he explained.
“Right,” I nodded.
“So, do you need a job? If you can answer a phone and type you start tomorrow,” Des told me.
My head whipped to the right.
“Are you serious?”
“Rarely, but right now I am,” he said.
It was obvious he meant it and he was waiting for my answer. If the job sucked, I’d keep looking for something that didn’t. What did I have to lose?
“Uh, yeah, okay,” I nodded.
“Good. Rasul! Get the new girl an application and ask Mama for the tax papers,” Des ordered. “Can you start tomorrow?”
“Well my car is going into the shop for repairs–”
“We’ll pick you up. 9:00 okay?”
Rasul brought out an application for me and then Des followed his terrorist friend while Rasul returned to the office. Whoa.
“Is it always like that?” I asked Eric.
“You’ll get used to it,” he smiled. He had a nice smile. It was friendly but kind of cheesy. With the dorky vibe I was getting from him it made sense.
“So, where were we?” I tucked the application into my bag to fill out when I got home.
I hadn’t gone to the garage looking for a job and I wasn’t even really sure what it entailed, but I was confident I could do it. I was a fast learner, after all. If nothing else I had a feeling I was going to be working with some characters, starting with the guy who was going to be signing my paycheck.
I had no idea what the dress code was at the garage, but I decided to go with jeans and a T-shirt. I couldn’t imagine Des would require anything fancier. It was obvious to me from the start that the place was somewhat of a circus and Des was the ringmaster. As promised, a tow truck came to get me at quarter to nine. It wasn’t Dawson, but another guy with greasy hands and this look on his face like he was trying to figure out how fast he could get me into bed with him.
The answer, by the way, was never.
His name was Lochlan and he was wearing a wedding ring. I wasn’t into married guys. As far as I knew I hadn’t ever been involved with a married man and I planned to keep it that way. Not to mention, wedding ring or not, I didn’t find Lochlan the least bit appealing. Plus I had a strict policy about dating co-workers. I was a strong believer that it was a terrible idea to shit where you eat.
While it was true that the rest of my new coworkers were male, except for the bookkeeper/payroll lady, I wasn’t there in search of a new boyfriend. I had things to focus on outside of a relationship. In addition to finding a new job, being out of work meant I had been less active than I was before I lost my job. It wasn’t like I’d packed on sixty pounds, but I had gained some weight.
Not that it stopped the guys from checking me out.
Eric was at his post at the front counter, dressed pretty much the same as he had been the day before. Black jeans, a Slipknot T-shirt and a white button down top over it that was unbuttoned and untucked. There was still that dorky, awkwardness to him that was a bit odd. I suspected it had something to do with his height. Eric was definitely over six-feet-tall. As a result his limbs were pretty long and it had probably taken some time to get used to coordinating their movement. He was, I’ll admit, a good looking guy. I mean it’s not like I went loony tunes for him or anything, but he had stunning eyes.
Des was running around like a chicken with his head cut off so I took a seat in the lobby to wait for him to slow down enough for him to talk to me.
“You actually came in,” Eric said with a hint of surprise.
“I figured this can’t be worse than waiting tables,” I replied.
“Don’t be too sure about that,” he chuckled.
The glass door on the left opened and a large person walked through it. I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a male or a female.
“Morning, Bobby,” Eric said. Oh great, an ambiguous name.
Bobby looked right at me and after looking me up and down he asked Eric, “Is this Sookie Whatshertits?”
“Stackhouse, you dillhole,” I replied.
The look on both of their faces was priceless. Obviously Bobby wasn’t expecting me to answer for myself and Eric was amused by my response. Any embarrassment Bobby may have felt for the new last name he’d given me evaporated quickly.
“Good. Maybe they’ll finally fire fuckin’ Bubba. Is Rasul here yet?” Bobby asked.
“In the garage blowing Andre,” Eric answered.
The sad thing was that I couldn’t tell if that was sarcasm and I was a damn near professional at discerning sarcasm from a legitimate answer.
“One day Ras will upgrade to bottoming,” Bobby muttered.
Jesus Christ, these guys are nuts…
It never ceased to amaze me how differently men related to each other as opposed to the way women were. Not that we couldn’t be sarcastic assholes sometimes but at least for me, we weren’t so dirty. I wasn’t offended. Between working at the bar and growing up with the brother I had, their way of talking to each other wasn’t that much of a shock. Obviously Des didn’t mind that kind of talk, considering he had called someone a terrorist the day before.
Bobby lumbered into the inner office while I tried to figure out his or her gender. The super short haircut was no help, nor was the fact that Bobby was overweight. It meant there was boobs either way but it was impossible to tell whether they were supposed to be there. On top of that, Bobby had one of those voices where it was too high to be obviously male but too low to be obviously female. The first thing to come to mind was Pat, the androgynous SNL character from the early nineties.
“Don’t worry; none of us are sure which one Bobby is either. The motor club reps call him ma’am and he doesn’t correct them,” Eric told me.
I shook my head.
“Does actual work get done around here or are you all paid to give each other shit?” I asked seriously.
“It’s a healthy dose of the two,” Eric answered just as seriously.
“Good to know,” I nodded. “Are you going to be the one training me?” He smelled the best so I hoped so.
“Uh, no, unfortunately you’ll be training with Ras,” he told me. “I’m a service writer.”
“Ras is the one blowing Andre, right?” He didn’t seem so bad… It was going to take a little time to figure out who was what and what their porntastic specialty was.
Eric chuckled at that.
“You’ll get used to it. Lots of homoerotic humor here,” he informed me.
“Good to know,” I nodded.
Without knowing anyone, I had a feeling I’d sit back and study them for a few days. Before long I could imagine myself joining right in. My humor was definitely considered inappropriate. So far they reminded me a lot of my brother and his friends, but worse, if possible. If I could handle myself with them, I wouldn’t have an issue with the guys at the shop. Of course I was nervous, new job and all, but I could tell I was going to fit right in.