Frozen

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Sometimes she knows she is angry shouting at the twilight shift workers on the freezers or restocking the tinned goods aisles. The American experience hadn’t been good.  This was after two years back in the windy city. Not Chicago but Edinburgh.

This night getting ready to don a freezers jacket she was angry. Again. The American Dream is just that a vision designed to fill and occupy hearts and land. Who would get there and get the dream would be the Chosen like her grocery manager promoted above her in Texas. They had been there five years and her husband had lost his job at a motorhome manufacturing plant. She had just been about to try for that promotion with the chance to move to Oregon. Now they were back here. Her husband had lost his mum and they had stayed in the small house. The need to go back and gone and gone when the house went to them and the small savings she had also went to them and not her sister-in-law.

And mum was ill with motor neurone disease.

The long night shift was hellish in January. They always lost workers who did the night shifts and she would put on the freezer jacket.

Loading up a trolley full of burgers, steaks and ready meals she picked up some gloves from the warehouse office and headed on to the supermarket floor.

The sight of her blonde hair and small figure meant misery for her twilight pickers who shimmied and knelt down in their light blue nylon uniform. She had control of the Grocery aisles most week days. The total lack of interest in them and their lives meant she was disliked and hated by whatever target she would pester that week or month.

‘You’ve got to clean and check the freezer before restocking. And don’t be bringing stock into room temperature too soon.’ She said to Kerry this month’s victim.

Her workers got finished their stocking the quickest of all the Twilight managers. It meant the complaints and subsequent punishment by her (although it had been dealt with confidentially) was usually ignored by the Senior Manager. Mostly a person who complained would leave. If they were to stay and then be off at any point she would phone a few times with a message that had nothing obviously malicious in it. That would come face to face when no one would be in her earshot. Just two people in a deserted aisle with windows that were blackened eyes beyond the strip lights glare of the shopper free supermarket.

Her venom was also reserved for students who were sometimes clueless and unused to anything resembling hard work. They were game but she would usually see them off. Her one year at university had been spoiled by a relationship and the rumour was a failed pregnancy too.

 

**

It was two am. The re-styling and arrangement of several aisle ends was behind. It was seasonal promotions and they had to be laid out and finished well for the morning opening.

Derek who was about sixty avoided her anger and bullying. Twenty years as an army squaddie in Germany and more as a truck driver meant he did his job quietly but thoroughly. He would take control of the warehouse picks and would, carefully, shield those he thought about to go under or collapse in tears from her words.

He was in the warehouse getting boxes of French mustard from Level Four. The ladder he was on slipped and as he fell he used the better arm he had to grab out. The right hand got the steel edge of the shelf but it slipped and as his hand left the edge of the shelf he managed to get back on the ladder which only his left foot had been on. But then both feet went as the wobble in the ladder continued. Slipping down his left hand was the only one to just about to get a grip. The weaker one due to the accident that had finished his HGV driving it slipped and the wedding ring that he wore caught on a rivet. The small rip he felt and the scoop and tearing pulse of pain made him shout. He fell hitting his back on the side support of the shelving unit.

Blood was streaming down his hand on to his trouser and the sandy coloured concrete floor. The scream of her worker who had gone in with a trolley for the boxes of mustard brought her and the shift in.

Derek was the First Aider and he was semi-conscious. She froze. The sickness and vomiting she would feel or bring up since her miscarriage when she loved a man that didn’t want her was there. Years of it when she or her husband would be sick.

Bending over and looking at Derek writhe in pain with a bloodied stump of a finger she struggled. The angry and familiar black bile she could felt like warmth and lay on others was gone. A small figure with red hair came under her left arm that had been stuck to her side. Kerry.

 

The security guard came and began wrapping the finger while putting Derek into a recovery position. Well, enough to swear he asked after her as the one weakness she could not hide behind her won door eased off.

‘You cannae stand the sight of it, then?’ Kerry asked.

The moment and tightness in her stomach went with the silence. She could say nothing back to her. Taking her arm off Kerry’s shoulder she looked up at the full crew of twelve from her shift.

‘Is the ambulance going to take long?’ she said.

The small amount of liquid from her was just away from the plastic entrails: the curtain flaps that marked the entry from the warehouse. It was round the corner from Derek’s black boots.

‘It’s something I’ve always had happen. Sometimes I can help it.’ She said.

 

The small explosion of activity and the bright jackets of the paramedics meant the shift finished late and by 6am everyone was tired. The hour she spent on her own in the café next to the vending machines was a long one. Kerry’s tears from before the accident had come back to her. The smell of her light perfume and the conditioner in her hair.

It reminded her. Brought to the front that her love for that man had not left her but she didn’t know where the never being able to have a child began from that hurt.

They all noticed the silence when she returned. A few shrugged and nodded heads-perhaps their faces smiled but most might not have been sure as they left the floor. She was speaking to the security guard who was a bit of an idiot but didn’t enforce all the petty rules. They passed her as they clocked out.

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