Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grin and Bear It

"Arcoss the corridor Ellie watched the man roll his eyes at Donny and make a big gesture of handing some money to the woman with him. One of her Grandfather's saltier expressions came to her, "You can forget a face but you'll never forget an asshole." She'd dealt with him before too.

She finished wiping down the outside windows of UnBearably Cute, it was ghoulish how quickly the company had regrouped. But there was a grim kind of hope in it, perhaps if the grinding economics of making it day to day still existed the good and the beautiful did too. Or at least would return in time.

The memos sent in the four weeks after The Event when the company had decided to reopen some of its stores were carefully worded and to the point. Down went the pictures of children posing with the store's selection of bears and other animals, and for the time being the Baby Bear model and all accessories were pulled. Only the basic bear, Peter Ribbit the Frog, and Flip the Flamingo were displayed.

A new model, Doc Bear, had a display in the corner. A sign told lookers that all proceeds from the sale of this item went to The Rebirth Project. The Rebirth Project had been making press as a group of scientists of all stripes coming together to see if humanity was still capable of reproducing, how to protect these possible new preganacies, and in finding out if humanity would survive perhaps uncover a clue to the missing children.

Missing, they were still using that word, but as every day ticked by Ellie saw the look in parents' eyes get more and more hollow. She almost didn't want to come back to work but as time went on she saw that while corporate might have just been interested in getting the bottom line moving again the store gave people a way to face their grief.

People walked in the store now carefully, almost as if they were entering an old graveyard. Some bought animals already made, some took their time making their own, all the little clothes for them had been pulled but when a customer asked Ellie would go and get what they wanted. She saw them leave the toys in lines at the windows, or by the makeshift morgue tents, dotted with candles and flowers. Some walked out with them clutched tightly in their arms.

And then some just cried. They would walk in, almost seeming to not notice where they were. They would walk to a pile of bear skins waiting to be stuffed or the mural of dancing animals and just break down. It was a delicate affair, some wanted to talk, some just wanted to be left alone. It had been one of the latter when he'd walked in asking to use an outlet because his laptop battery was low.

Actually he'd prefaced it "I'm a member, platnium, of the Pan Con Lounge. I have to get this email sent to my editor at the Global Weekly, I'm the senior staff writer." There was a pause were he seemed to expect her to recognize him from this info. Another pause, he was completely oblivious to the woman weeping not three feet away. Ellie blinked, "Of course sir, there's an outlet right by that shelf."

Looking none too pleased that she hadn't recognized him or asked his name he sat on the floor and plugged his laptop in. Ellie glanced at the woman and quietly walked over. "Could I get you something Ma'am? There's a nice cookie place across the hall, would you like a coffee or some tea?" The woman calmed down and dabbed her eyes, "I'll be okay, I've got to get to my gate soon, yes...yes, some coffee would be nice." She opened her purse to fish for her wallet, Ellie stopped her. "It's on me, I won't be a minute."

She was as good as her word and handed the coffee to the greatful woman who soon left. Ellie walked to the register to pick back up her book trying not to look at the man on the floor watching her intently. "Probably wondered why I didn't ask him if he wanted something," she thought, "well I can be petty too." She sat behind the reigster and glanced across the hall at Sheila and waved.

She hadn't really met Sheila until after The Event. She popped in once for a bottled water when she'd started working, and Sheila offered her a free cookie. Explaining she was diabetic Sheila switched the offer to a sugar free drink and Ellie hadn't had to pay for her Diet Sprites since.

But they hadn't really talked until after Ellie had spent hours telling the FBI that she saw her coworker Jane vanish into thin air and her clothes crumple into a pile on the floor. And did she ever wish she had an explanation but she didn't. She really didn't, and she really wanted one. Sheila had gone through pretty much the same thing.

Sheila was the first to spot Donny, and Ellie's heart glowed that some of the good and the beautiful was still here watching Sheila's kindness toward him and how he began to come out of his shell a bit. She thought about walking over there to tell the man off but let it go. He was already sauntering away like some hero who thought he'd won an important battle the woman a few steps behind, looking sumpremely embarassed at his antics.

Ellie pulled down the gate the same time as Donny and they walked towards each other. She smiled, "Kevin at duty free brought in some of his Aunt's amazing lasagna to share, want some?" Donny nodded, "He won't be upset you brought someone else along?" Ellie almost started to cry, "Nah, in fact he asked me to bring you along, let's go."

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