THE JOB BLOWER on Kindle Scout: Behind the scenes

THE JOB BLOWER

First pages

One

“You’re firing me because I tripped over a freaking cable?” I shrieked.

Finch frowned using the almost singularly bushy eyebrow that stretched across his forehead. Then he leaned forward, linking his hands on his desk. He spoke with deceiving calmness, as one does when addressing an idiot.

“No, Camilla. I’m firing you because, when you tripped over that freaking cable, you short circuited nearly all of the electronic and electric equipments. I’m firing you because this is the second time in two years you’ve nearly burned down this building. Do you have any idea what grief the insurance company gave me?”

In spite of his initial reasonable tone, his voice rose several octaves.

I felt my eyes round and shiny as a kicked puppy’s. “But-but… The first time it wasn’t my fault. I merely put some flowers in water.”

“And splashed some into the nearest socket!”

This was going nowhere. I’d never been an adept of dwelling on the past. I made another attempt, clutching my hands together.

“Please, Mister Finch. I promise it won’t happen again. Give me another chance.”

“I know it won’t happen again, precisely because I’m not going to give you another chance. Now, you can pick up your final check and release papers from HR. Goodbye and good luck, Miss Jackson.”

With this, he stood to conclude the meeting. I got to my feet as well, numb with shock. I had expected a scene, but this was too much. Tears were stinging my eyes when I walked out of the office with my head down, still in a daze. Coworkers that passed by me avoided my gaze, and I saw several pitying glances darted in my direction as I headed to my desk to gather up my things.

I had been working for Finch&Associates for the past couple of years as a sort of secretary, but actually I did more than that. I ran errands, entertained clients and, in the beginning, even cleaned the johns occasionally. I hoped this job would constitute an ascent in my career, but the truth was I hadn’t any real talent for anything. I had a Law Degree from an obscure university, but had never wanted even to try and pass the bar. Truth was I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I’d only gone to college to please my parents, and I picked Law because it was the discipline with the shortest name.

If I had any inclination toward a certain domain, I hadn’t yet discovered it in my twenty-three years. The only thing I wanted to be was a singer, but even the neighbors’ dog started to howl when I sometimes sang in the shower. Everyone told me I was tone deaf, starting with my fifth grade teacher, so that was one dream that wasn’t going to come true.

So here I was now, being fired from my first job. I sniffled a bit as I emptied my desk drawers and dumped everything into a medium-sized carton box. Thankfully, it was the lunch hour, and not many people were around the firm to assist my total humiliation. I still thought that firing me was too drastic a measure, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

I stopped by the Human Resources department, got my final check and nodded dejectedly as I received a sympathetic pat on the hand from Susanne, the HR manager.

“I’m sorry, honey,” the plump, petite blonde said in her Betty Boop voice. “You’ll find something else soon. There’s always work in Jersey City.”

“Sure,” I said without much conviction as I took my papers from her. “Thanks. Bye, Susanne.”

“Take care, honey.”

I exited the office balancing my box on one hip, took the elevator and walked out of the building to my car. The July sun was scorching, the air dense and oppressive. When I opened the door to my sassy, red Volkswagen Beetle—which my parents had gifted me for my twenty-first birthday—I was blasted by a stale wave of heat. I shoved the box on the passenger seat and climbed behind the wheel, starting the engine so the air conditioning would do its job. The seat burned my skin through the pink, summer suit I wore.

When I drove off and merged the car into the busy traffic, my palms were damp on the wheel. I still felt numb, unable to cry over my dismissal. Honestly, I wasn’t that sorry to have left the firm. My only concern was that I had to pay the rent on my apartment, or else I would be forced to move back in with my parents and sister, which was not an alluring prospect.

My parents were great, but I didn’t get along well with my eighteen-year-old sister, Carrie, aka Bitchzilla. We both had the same pale-blonde hair, rather spectacular gray eyes and good genes that kept us svelte without much effort. But while I knew I was pretty, I didn’t make a fuss of it. On the other hand, my kid sister had a colossal opinion about herself. She was shallow, selfish and a constant flirt, using her looks to attract as much attention as possible.

When I finally moved into my own place, I thought I’d died and went to Heaven. I had gotten used to living alone since I graduated from college and took the job at Finch&Associates. I valued my independence, so I needed to find a new job, and soon. But first, I deserved a pity party.

I stopped by the supermarket and bought half a gallon of ice cream, three boxes of chocolates and a few other similar items any girl needs during a crisis. I’d just paid for my purchases when I realized I needed to pee quite urgently. I grabbed my bags and headed toward the ladies’ room. No one was about, but when I opened the door to a stall, I was confronted by the naked hairy ass of a man. I nearly dropped my bags in my indignation.

“Get out, you asshole! This is for women,” I shouted.

“So is this,” he said, turning around with his penis in his hand. I couldn’t help but stare for a moment, repulsed yet fascinated by the tiny appendage protruding from an impressive forest of pubic hair.

“Put that thing away and get out of here,” I shrieked, noticing from the corner of my eye that two other women had stepped into the room and were chattering loudly. They couldn’t see the guy, but I heard their intakes of breath when the guy asked me, “Wanna touch it?”

I pointed toward the door.

“Out!”

“No, no. Right here, so everyone can see,” the pervert said, still holding his wanger and wiggling it at me.

“Jesus!” I heard one of the women echoing my thoughts aloud as she inched closer to see what was going on. “Martha, call security!” she told her friend in a high, snooty voice. “Tell them there’s a naked man in the women’s restroom.”

The other woman took a peek at the exhibitionist, then clamped a hand over her eyes with a gasp and ran toward the door. I rolled my eyes in disgust and followed her. There weren’t many shocking things in Jersey, and I was really hard to shock.

I drove with my legs squeezed tightly, trying to ignore the protest of my full bladder as the occasional pothole in the road bounced me in my seat. My one-bedroom-one-bathroom-apartment was located in a neighborhood called Greenville, where there were more patches of green spaces than parking lots, and less office buildings than homes. From my small balcony located at the second floor of a six-storey brick building I could even catch a glimpse of the Newark Bay.

All in all, I was very fond of my apartment. The thought of having to move out because of my being jobless depressed me terribly as I walked into my kitchen and threw my keys and grocery bags on the white counter. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I returned to the kitchen. I dug into one of the sacks, grabbed the ice cream, then took a spoon before I went to the living room. I kicked off my shoes and plopped listlessly down on the sofa.

I turned the TV on and ate mindlessly, until I felt a little sick. I was completely at a loss on what to do next. I’d always been sort of an airhead, but now it was like I’d gotten a swift kick in the ass and was flattened hard against the pavement. I needed to make a plan and search for another job. But first, I deserved a good round of bitching.

I reached for my phone and called my best friend, Anna. We were about the same age and knew each other since we were three. Even though she lived in Trenton now, we remained best friends. We often talked on the phone, and tried to visit one another at least every few months.

The phone rang only a couple of times before I heard Anna’s cheerful voice. “Hey, girlfriend!”

“Hey.”

The single syllable, spoken in that unenthusiastic tone, gave me away immediately.

“What’s wrong?” Anna asked.

I gave a big sigh. “I just got fired.”

“Get out! What did you do this time?”

“Why do you assume I did something?” I said, bristling.

She laughed. “Well, you are sort of… accident prone.”

Great. Even my best friend thought I was a screw-up.

“Come on, really, what happened?” she asked again.

“I kinda burned down the building.”

“Again?”

“It wasn’t my fault. I tripped over a cable and ripped a socket off the wall, and there was a short circuit or something… Oh, the details don’t matter. Bottom line is that I’m jobless.”

“Oh, boy. I’m really sorry. So, what do you plan to do now?”

I put my feet up on the coffee table in front of the sofa.

“I have to find another job, pronto. I’d rather jump from Empire State Building than move back with my parents and Carrie. She’s the only person in the world that can drive me completely nuts. If I catch her borrowing my clothes and helping herself to my makeup again, I’ll be in jail for sistercide.”

Anna giggled “Is that a word?”

“I don’t think so.” I spooned in some more ice cream.

Anna said, “Hey, I know about a job. My mom called me yesterday and I remember she mentioned there’s a new pet shop close to her building. She wants to buy a parakeet. She said they had a hiring ad on the window.”

“A pet shop? I know nothing about animals.”

“Oh, come on. How hard can it be to feed them and clean some poop?”

“Charming prospect. Still, I’ll drive there tomorrow. Even taking care of a tarantula is better than sharing a bathroom with Bitchzilla. Thanks for the tip, bud. And for listening.”

“What are friends for? Listen, I have to go. Clients are getting anxy,” she said, referring to the clientele of the coffee shop where she worked. “TTYL!”

“Okay. Take care.”

I dropped the phone next to me onto the sofa and picked up the ice cream bowl again. Half a jar and an episode of King of Queens later, my tongue and throat were frozen and my stomach was bulging. I glanced at my watch. Half past three. A lifetime left until bedtime! I picked up the phone again and called my other best friend, Corrine.

“Hey, where are you?” I asked when she answered.

“Where else? In the park with Andrew,” she said, referring to her five year old son. “We should put a tent here. Whenever I suggest leaving, he starts yelling his head off. I swear, this kid is the spawn of Satan.”

“No wonder that’s your pet name for Dan,” I said, thinking of her husband. “Can I join you?”

“Sure. But shouldn’t you be at work?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you when I get there. Twenty minutes?”

“We’re in our usual spot, at the playground. It’s so hot I’m having one of them mirages, you know, wavy images of naked men in cold pools.”

I laughed. “I’ll bring along a couple of iced teas.”

After I disconnected, I walked to the bedroom to change out of my suit. This was my favorite room, done to match the rest of the apartment—apricot-colored walls, lots of polished hard wood floors, spacious windows and fluttery drapes. The bed was enormous, and so was the closet. I dug up a pair of denim shorts and a white T-shirt, then grabbed my messenger bag. I stopped in the living room to transfer my stuff from my other bag, turned off the TV and locked the door behind me.

On the way to the park, I made a short detour to McDonald’s to buy a couple of iced teas. Fifteen minutes and six traffic lights later, I rolled my Beetle to a stop on the side of the road that led to the park. The air was still hot as hell, the asphalt burning under the soles of my Nike sports shoes. As I walked toward the playground where Corrine and Andrew could be found religiously every day, the shadows cast by the trees and shrubs softened the afternoon heat. I liked this corner of nature, with its old benches and callus paths, where I used to play as a kid. It had changed since then, but the old trees where the same.

I spotted Corrine sitting on a bench. She was dressed in green today—shorts and a T-shirt, which showed off her excellent boobs. Her dark-red hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and her blue eyes were hidden behind an enormous pair of sunglasses. As usual, next to her on the bench was an entire arsenal I noticed every mom has: a huge bag, Andrew’s backpack, a blouse in case he got cold, a cap to protect him from the sun, sunglasses, a bottle of water, wet wipes, hand disinfectant. Resting against the bench was a small bike, which I knew Andrew treated very badly. He was a cute kid, but I liked him most when he was asleep.

He waved when he saw me, shouting at the top of his lungs, “Hi, Camilla!”

“Hi!” I waved back, then sat on the bench next to Corrine. “I brought refreshments,” I said, handing her one of the iced teas.

She snatched it from my hand and sank the pink straw into the plastic container, drinking deeply. It was several long moments before she came up for air.

“Thank you,” she said with feeling, taking another life-saving sip. “I’ve been baking here for almost two hours.”

“You poor thing.” I shook my head sympathetically. “Since I know this is a normal day for you, this makes my problem seem insignificant.”

“What problem?”

“I got fired today.”

“Oh, dear. How come?”

“Well, it was just a misunderstanding. It doesn’t matter now. I’m not that sorry I left, but I do need to get another job quickly. Anna told me about a pet shop where they’re hiring.”

“A pet shop? That should be interesting,” she said absently, then shouted, “Leave that pigeon alone, Andrew!”

Another mother strolled by with a baby. Corrine jabbed me in the ribs.

“Hey, do you remember Florence? We were together in primary school.”

Before I could say anything, Florence spotted us and moved toward our bench, supporting a little girl with wobbly feet, who was obviously learning to walk. I recognized her, but was amazed by how old she looked compared to me and Corrine.

“Hey, how are you doing?” Corrine asked. “Do you remember Camilla?”

“Sure. How are you?” Florence asked me, sitting on our bench and lifting her baby to her lap.

“I’m fine, thanks. How about you?”

“Great. We were just getting some fresh air. Jessie, don’t!” She yanked the kid away when it reached for my hair and grabbed. Despite her mother’s quick reflexes, the chubby little fist clutched triumphantly a blonde strand. I hoped my sunglasses hid my annoyance as I rubbed at my abused scalp.

“I’m so sorry,” Florence said. “She’s not used to strangers.”

“It’s okay,” I lied, rolling my eyes behind my dark lenses.

Perfect. Now I was sitting between two mothers, who were unable to talk about anything except birth, lactation, contractions, membranes, circumcision, twelve hour labors, and so on. I was practically intoxicated with estrogen. Not to mention that every few minutes the conversation was rudely interrupted by their constant shouts, usually when one of the kids did something he or she wasn’t supposed to.

When the discussion revolved around the gelatinous plug that forms in a woman’s hoohah when she’s pregnant, I felt my eyes crossing and started fumbling for an excuse to get the hell out of there. If that’s what’s like having a baby, I thought, I’d rather buy one already big. Besides, I imagined it would be like going to the supermarket—one could choose hair color, eye color, and so on, right?

“Listen, I have to go,” I told Corrine, who was sitting with her neck craned like a meerkat, her eyes following Andrew’s every move. God, these women have no life, I thought as I slid off the bench, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.

Corrine’s eyes focused on me. “Hey, wait. I wanted to ask you for a favor. Could you babysit for me tonight? Dan and I are invited to a party. It’s only for an hour or two,” she added, probably sensing my panic.

“Um… Me? Babysit? Errr… Sure. Right. What time?”

“If you could get to our house around eight, it would be great. I’ll owe you big. There’s really no one with whom I can leave Andrew, since my mom is working tonight.”

“Okay. I’ll be there at eight.”

“Thanks. You’re a life savior.”

“Don’t mention it,” I said, smiling sickly as I walked to my car, wondering what the hell I was doing.

Two

Corrine and Dan lived in the suburbs, in a crammed little house with a small yard and a single tree. Still, the white building with red trimming and a red roof looked homey and welcoming. I parked my car on the side of the street, then grabbed my bag and walked to the front door.

Before I could knock, Andrew opened it, his reddish head and blue eyes popping through the crack.

“Hi,” I said, trying to appear cheerful and friendly.

He gave me a cautious glance. “Hi. My mom says you’re staying with me tonight.”

“Yep. We’re gonna have a lot of fun,” I said, walking in and heading toward the kitchen, with Andrew trailing after me.

“Can we play Alien?” the kid asked.

“Um, I don’t think that would be a good idea. It would give you nightmares.”

“Na-ah. I’m not scared of anything.”

“I’m sure, but the answer is still no,” I said firmly.

Corrine appeared from the living room, looking like a bombshell in a short, tight, red dress and killer matching shoes.

“Wow!”

She grinned, doing a graceful pirouette. “What do you think?”

“I think you and Dan will get busy after the party,” I said slyly.

“You bet your ass,” Dan said, appearing from the kitchen. He was wearing a black suit that fit nicely with his average looks, brown hair and eyes, and his considerable paunch.

He handed Corrine a tiny red evening bag.

“Ready?” he asked her.

“Yes.” She turned to me. “Call me if there’s any emergency. Don’t let him out of your sight, don’t listen to him if he asks you for chips and whiskey, and no porn movies.”

“Hey, can we negotiate on that last part? Okay, okay,” I said giggling. “Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. It’s not the first time I do this. I used to babysit Carrie all the time.”

“Yeah, and look how she turned up.” Corrine laughed, then air-kissed me. “Thanks, bud. I owe you. We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

I closed the door behind them and looked around for Andrew. I followed the sound of the TV blasting some explosion noises, and found him in the living room. He sat in the middle of the floor on his belly, staring at the screen, unblinking.

“So, what are you watching?” I asked, sitting on the sofa. I immediately jumped, barely stifling a curse when the protruding parts of a toy car poked against my ass.

“Die Hard,” he replied without taking his eyes off the screen. “Bruce Willis is awesome!”

“Yeah, he is.”

I pushed all the toys aside and sat more comfortably on the wide leather sofa. I eyed the kid for a moment and decided this was going to be piece of cake. Corrine had said not to leave him out of my sight, and since he lay transfixed, eyes bulging at the screen, I decided to browse the Internet for some jobs.

I took my iPhone out of my bag and started to check my email. This was always an interesting task, since my spam folder was constantly assaulted by messages advertising three hour erection pills, witches that cured impotence, innovative treatments for hemorrhoids, and God knows what else.

When I accessed my Facebook account, I noticed I had a message from a guy in Pakistan. It said ‘My body photo’. Under it was a very graphic photo of a man’s body from neck to knees. The dominant element was a rather impressive penis at full alert.

Tongue-in-cheek, I opened a Google tab and searched ‘big black cock’. From among pictures of roosters, vibrators and penis-shaped cakes, I chose one of a real organ, but way too exaggerated to be genuine, just like the six pack abs of its possessor. I wrote ‘My boyfriend’s body photo’ to the guy in Pakistan, then attached the photo, unable to choke a giggle.

“What is it?” Andrew asked, startling me. Trying to ignore the ear-splitting noise of gun shots and things blowing up, I’d forgotten about the kid.

“Oh, nothing. Just… work,” I said. “Say, wouldn’t you like to watch something else?”

He glanced at me. “Like what?”

“I don’t know. What other movies do you have?”

That was all it took. He jumped to his feet and dashed to a set of shelves encased in a bookcase. They were loaded with DVDs, and he proceeded to show me each one, recounting every movie plot. When he reached Jurassic Park, I said, “I love this one!”

His face brightened instantly. “Me too! I’ve seen the first in the trilogy, but not the other two. Do you want to watch The Lost World?”

“Sure,” I said, but then thought better if that was a smart thing to do. I wasn’t sure that dinosaurs eating humans was quite the right thing for a five-year-old to watch.

“Um, would your mother let you watch this?”

He gazed at me down his little nose. “She bought them for me.”

“Well, all right then. Let’s have it.”

He replaced the DVD in the player with great economy of movement for a kid his age. Then he turned to me. “Shall we have some popcorn?”

“Can you make it?”

He gave me a pitying look usually reserved for retards. “You put the package into the microwave oven, set the timer and wait.”

“Really?” I mimicked his superior sarcasm. “So let’s do it.”

A few minutes and a lot of popping sounds later, we both sprawled on the couch, side by side, with an enormous bowl of popcorn between us and the lights turned off, getting ready to let Master Spielberg scare the shit out of us. We munched away, licking our buttery fingers from time to time, as the movie got right into action.

“Aww, look at that,” I said. “The stupid bimbo wants to prove T-Rex is a good parent. You know, this kind of behavior puts the entire female race to shame.”

“You’re not supposed to say ‘bimbo’,” Andrew informed me primly with his mouth full.

“Sorry,” I muttered. “But anyway, how stupid can you be to go to an isolated island inhabited only by dinosaurs? Only humans can be that idiotic as to create them in the first place. They’re extinct for a reason.”

“I saw a dinosaur skeleton once, at the museum. It was bigger than our house.”

“See? My point exactly. No one should mess about with such creatures. They’re bigger, they’re stronger. That means they’re dangerous.”

On the screen, one of the protagonists—a man this time—had brought a baby T-Rex inside the trailer to treat its wounded leg. Of course, the cub’s screams had attracted its parents, who weren’t happy to find their offspring in the company of humans.

“Uh-oh. Mommy’s here,” Andrew whispered, then gave a shriek as an enormous dinosaur made its appearance, letting out a roar that reverberated off the walls.

“Yeah. And daddy will be right along,” I said between munches. “He’s just stuck in traffic. Eww, that dinosaur has serious dental hygiene problems,” I remarked, as Papa T-rex gaped a humongous mouth full of sharp teeth. “Oh, look, that’s sweet. They’re sharing the human. Just a quick snack.”

Andrew’s eyes bulged. “You’re mean! That was one of the good guys. How come you’re not sorry the dinosaur ate him?”

I spared him a glance in the flickering light.

“Kid, any person who’s stupid enough to get himself in this sort of situation deserves to be T-Rex food. I bet even your mother would agree with me.”

****

The next morning I woke up with a dull headache, result of Corrine’s lecture when she caught me and Andrew watching Jurassic Park. Both of us had assured her he wouldn’t get nightmares, but try telling that to the mother of a five-year-old. She was worse than Mama T-Rex.

I crawled out of bed and under the shower. A few minutes later I was feeling more alive, especially when I sat down at the kitchen table with a mug of strong coffee. Actually, judging by the amount of cream I usually put in my coffee, I could say I had some cream with a bit of coffee.

I riffled through my permanent supply of pastries and chose a bagel, nibbling at it as I took my mug and went to the living room. I sat on the sofa with my legs under me, dressed only in my fluffy pink robe. It felt strange, not being at work at this hour, and not altogether bad. But, I thought with a sigh, I desperately had to find a job.

After finishing my breakfast, I went to the bedroom and dug through my closet. Jeans and a white V-neck T-shirt seemed a perfect outfit to visit the pet store Anna had told me about. If they hired me, I wouldn’t need the fancy suits I wore at the law firm to clean up parrot shit, or whatever they did there. I swiped some mascara over my lashes, applied some lip gloss and brushed my hair, pulling it back in a ponytail. I nodded at my reflection in the mirror, which looked efficient and professional—an excellent disguise.

I drove toward Anna’s parents’ house with the windows down and the CD player blasting. It was a little past nine, and the morning air still wore a trace of the night’s coolness. Traffic was light, so I made the trip across town in less than twenty minutes. I spotted the pet shop at the corner of the street, next to a pizza place and a pharmacy. There was a free parking spot near the sidewalk, so I squeezed the Beetle between the other two cars, grabbed my bag and climbed out.

The pet store was quite large, with floor to ceiling glass displays and a pair of glass doors. A sign was stuck to one of the windows: PET SHOP ASSISTANT WANTED. With a deep breath, I approached the automatic doors and stepped inside.

The interior was cool and smelled like the zoo. I looked around to see dozens of cages sheltering hamsters, mice, rabbits, birds of all kinds, cats and dogs. The opposite wall was covered in dozens of fish tanks, and all around there were shelves loaded with animal food, toys, collars, and other stuff I couldn’t yet identify.

In front of all these was a small island counter. Two girls who didn’t appear to be more than eighteen fussed around a computer. They both had brown hair twisted in schoolgirl braids, brown eyes and the rosy cheeks specific to country girls.

“Hi,” I said, walking toward them. “I saw the sign in the window. Can you tell me more about the job?”

They both glanced up at me, measuring me from head to foot.

One of them asked, “Have you worked in the animal retail business before?”

“No.”

“Well, if you’re willing to learn, there’s not much to it. We work in twelve hour shifts, with a free day after. You get minimum wage, but you have high discounts on all products.”

“Um… I don’t have a pet.”

“Nor will you want one, after working here,” said the girl in a tired voice. “Come on, let me show you around. Today is cleaning day, so we could use a hand.”

I blinked. “Do you mean I’m hired? Just like that?”

The girl shrugged. “If you want the job, yes. I’m Shauna, by the way, the Assistant Manager. We can take care of the employment forms later.”

I followed her through the shop, still dazed, listening as she explained what I was going to do and pointed out the animals. There were dozens of them, and my heart gave a little twinge of sorrow as I saw them crammed in those cages. A parrot watched me with sad eyes through the bars. I didn’t know if I could work in this environment. Why people felt the need to capture the poor animals and take them as pets was beyond me. Of course, I would have liked a cat or a dog, but only if I had a house and a big yard. But why would anyone want a lizard or a mouse as pets?

“This here is Mister Happy,” Shauna said when we reached a glass panel, from beyond which a white Persian cat frowned at us. It didn’t look at all happy.

“He’s the most bad-tempered cat I’ve ever come across, so you have to be careful when you empty his litter box and brush him.”

“Brush him?” I repeated, eying the cat, who watched me back with hostile yellow eyes.

“Yeah. You have to do that once a week. The puppies are really sweet, you won’t have problems there,” she said, pointing out lower to another compartment, where a few puppies sat or played with bones.

I let out a long sigh as we headed toward the fish tanks. This was not a job worth minimum wage. Still, I reminded myself I was desperate. So were they apparently, if they were hiring me so fast.

“These are simple to take care of,” she said, pointing at the aquariums. “Once a week you clean the filters, take out about a third of the water and replace it with fresh one. You feed the fish twice a day, each with their own food. The names of the species and their specifications are written under the tanks. The only difficult thing is when customers want a certain fish and you have to catch it. That might take some time and work, but it can be fun too.”

“Right. What are those?” I asked, pointing at several bowls that contained a single fish each.

“Those are Betta fish. They’re the most popular, because they’re extremely resilient and easy to take care of. They don’t tolerate any other fish within reach, except when it’s mating time. See?” She took one of the bowls and brought it closer. “When they’re ready to mate, they make these bubbles at the surface.”

The bowl in question was full of bubbles, and the occupant, a red, fluffy-looking thing, was eyeballing me with interest. I didn’t blame him, poor thing, all alone in that small space. I hadn’t had a date in months either, and lately I was beginning to throw coquettish glances at my vibrating massage device.

Shauna put the bowl back and turned to me. “So, what do you think?”

I chewed at my bottom lip. “Well, I need a job. If you want to, I can start right away. This doesn’t seem too difficult.”

Two hours later I was ready to swallow my words. After cleaning the tanks and washing dozens of filters full of fish crap, I stank like a swamp. My white T-shirt had a dozen different stains on it. Shauna promised to provide me with a uniform tomorrow, a simple red T-shirt and pants, like they wore. She and Christy—the other girl—had cleaned the dog cages, but they left me the pleasure to do the others, so I could learn—or so they said. I was amazed by how much shit a parrot could produce, not to mention the army of hamsters and white mice.

If you have enjoyed this sample, please NOMINATE this book.

AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Melinda De Ross is an international author of Romanian origin. She writes in two languages, and her books combine the elegance specific to the European style with the modern appeal of the American culture. She has a Law degree and has been a professional target shooter for over a decade. Her favorite genre to read and write in is Romance, and anytime she prefers to watch a classic movie instead of going to a noisy club. She loves to hear from readers. Find her at: https://melindadeross.com/

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A. The message is that anything that can go wrong in life is actually a detour to bring you to the right path. Whenever things seem tragic, always see the humor in the situations, and remember to watch the full side of the glass. In the end, things always work out as they should.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A. I write in several subgenres, but no matter how interesting the plot, there always has to be a love story for me. I’m an incurable romantic, and I’m a person who laughs a lot, therefore I like combining love with humor. After all, these are two of the biggest pleasures in life (besides chocolate).
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A. Ah, there are so many I could write a book about them! But the most significant names are: Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Diana Gabaldon, Janet Evanovich, Jilly Cooper, Mary Stewart, Edgar Allan Poe, Mircea Eliade, Paulo Coelho… I should stop now before everyone falls asleep. 🙂

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