After two months, a new employee joined the service team, Gerhard celebrated her like the Saviour had finally arrived. The new Christ was called Celine. She was hot. Good ass, nice small breasts, the way I like them. But I didn’t like the girl herself. I was too blasphemous for her, even though Gerhard bought into the cult surrounding her. She was 18, I was 19 at the time. From age alone, we should have been able to find similarities, but the old hag wanted nothing else but flirting. Flirting. Flirting. Don’t get me wrong. I love flirting. In these times you get so little chance and meaningless flirting can save you from the hard day’s work, but this girl was so clumsy that there was no tension building in my pants, not even the slightest tension in my head. Only contentedness when she talked to me.
She worked in the service area. A round prison, surrounded by a bar where the customers could lean onto and where she answered questions with the help of a computer. There were two computers there, one for each side, with only one running at any given time, because there was only one service employee at any given time. There were two corded telephones on both sides, also only one of which was in operation.
If the boss was in the house, she was on the line. As soon as he was gone, you could have turned to God with your problems as well. She was in charge of everyone and took all the calls from the store and answered them and everyday I answered the phone at least once for her when I passed by. She should normally wear one of these headsets to make phone calls, so she wouldn’t even have to sit down. The boss had bought it especially for her, but it didn’t underline her outfit, so she never wore it. She answered the cord phone and then complained in the break room when her hand hurt from holding the handset.
“I’ll be a model, you can’t have a wounded hand” she said.
“Neither a brain,” I replied, and she kept her mouth shut, pouting, buried in the chair for the rest of the break. I enjoyed the peace as long as it lasted. Afterwards Celine asked me to invite her for a coffee after work so that we could talk and get to know each other better. I agreed and went home after my shift.
“I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour,” she said to me in the morning.
“Thank God it wasn’t a full hour. ”
“I’ll tell the boss”
“Do that, he’ll take a burning interest in your free time. ”
He wouldn’t have for mine, but I have no inviting bosom, no pout, no ass, and I hadn’t thought of that.
“We don’t need a quarrel between employees, Mr. Schradinski. ”
I agreed with him.
“So I want you to apologize to Celine. ”
“Okay,” I just meant, apologized when I came out of the office and when the boss took his eyes off us, I asked her, “What do you think you’ve achieved with that now?”
She started to answer, but what she had to say didn’t interest me, it wasn’t meant as a question and I walked past her and went back to my place of work.
I didn’t cry, I didn’t whine, I didn’t complain, I didn’t sigh loudly out of frustration. That usually just made things worse. Instead I helped a middle-aged woman find her lithium free antidepressants that she could take with wine, and when the book was sold and she went to the checkout, Celine came on strutted and stopped in front of me. She just couldn’t let it go. I ignored her, put supplies in the holes on the shelf, did busy.
“Don’t you want to ask me what I want?” she asked me.
“I’m more interested in what I want and I don’t want to talk to you,” I replied head on task. She didn’t go. I turned to her. “Shoo shoo, butterfly”, I fanned her away with both hands. Her hair was raised by the gust of wind. She stopped in front of me. She pulled her eyebrows together, which is what she usually did when she got angry.
“I wanted to apologize to you, asshole,” she let me know loudly and to everyone behind the shelves. I sighed and continued to load the shelves. The indifference gave her a seizure. She took a book and threw it on the floor. Some pages came loose from the back and floated over the linoleum. I bowed my head as I noticed the sound of the impact of the book, watching her wordlessly, standing there, looking at me between single pages. Most women just want a reaction. If they don’t get one, they have time to think and if they are lucky, they haven’t done anything irreversible during that time. I picked up the torn paper sheet from the floor, placed them in the book and the book in a carton. Celine, I think, wanted to apologize for a moment, but then decided against it. She left. When I had stored the evidence of her seizure behind other novels in the meantime, she no longer stood in my hallway. I thought to myself that later, when I knew the boss couldn’t catch me, I could remove the last traces and it would have been as if nothing had happened.
After my lunch break, I had to wait another hour. At 14 o’clock he had to leave, Mr. Konrad announced that already in the morning, so I saw an opportunity. I’d dump it in the back and declare it lost. At 1:45 p. m. I got ready to execute my plan. I wrote it off as lost in the inventory list in the warehouse and then returned to the bookshelves where I had hidden it. When I returned from the storeroom, I saw Celine. She sat in her island and took conversations, pretending nothing had happened.
I’ve been digging away the books in front of me. It wasn’t there. I looked behind those next to it, maybe I had just overlooked it or put it somewhere else. Nothing there. Maybe someone bought it, but that was ridiculous. The same copies were in front, without creases on the cover and loose pages. It was gone, what was I supposed to do?
“Mr. Schradinski,” the voice of my boss echoed from afar. The blame was already vibrating in the tune of his call.
“Yes Mr. Konrad”
He came closer and I saw what he was holding in his hands. In one hand the book with the broken cover and in the other the missing pages.
“Have you lost this book, perhaps?” he asked sniffily.
“No, Mr. Konrad”
“Then why did you write it off as lost?”
I didn’t say anything. I looked past him. Celine took cover behind the table. I knew where the book disappeared to.
“I’m afraid I have to deduct this from your salary. ”
I looked him in the face again.
“Okay,” I said, and he explained to me again how things work around here. I would have loved to knock his head against the shelf and work on his jaw with the back of a book until it hung down like Christmas ornaments from a Christmas tree; after I was finished with the would-be model.
During his speech I looked through Mr. Konrad. He was a fat accountant at his core. That friends of books in general seemed to cultivate no friendships with significance was to be seen at this man. He was a fat belly with malicious accuracy and fantasies that drove even schizophrenia patients to shame. His looks reminded me of a grandfather. Above all, his well-groomed white mustache was not believed to tremble so elegantly when he explained how the world had to run and why my actions were fundamentally wrong anyway. On his cheque stood the higher numbers, which in this world meant that when it came to this world, he could only be right considering all premises.
Mr. Konrad finished his lecture. I nodded when he wanted to hear that he was right and acted outraged when he enumerated examples of negative work ethic to me. When he was finished and satisfied, that he had made a good drone out of me again, he left for his appointment. On the way, he threw the book into a trash.
As soon as the boss was out of sight, I went over to service island and set myself up. Celine saw me approaching her early and clung to the backs of the office chair as if she was afraid that the roar might blow her away. I stayed calm and asked calmly: “Is it plausible to say that in all forms of existence there is only one less intelligent being than you? Or is the chance, I guess, equal to waking up tomorrow and marrying a three-legged dinosaur with daddy issue called Jean?”
“I’m sorry. ”
She laughed at it as a trifle.
She stopped the laughter.
“Nat, I’m sorry. I thought. . .
“Push the I-am-sorry-for-what-I-did to where you should push your modeling career. ”
When I went out of range, I could swear I heard a soft sob. She was gone for 15 minutes, then she was back, her nose was red and she didn’t speak a word to anyone anymore. She never got close to my department again. The next day she was with Gerhard and that was a chapter in its own right.