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The Hatchet Woman

Excerpt from a new novel by Helen Chappell Chapter One Now how this all got started is kind of complicated, so try to hang on while I explain how I got into this. “We called the Vandalay Industries number you gave us,” the woman said. “Then we Googled it. You applied for work at a place that doesn’t exist.” She frowned at me over her glasses, tapping the form with a long black fingernail. Her polish was chipped, I noted idly. So there I was, at the unemployment office once again. And, once again, I was in trouble. See, to collect your check you have to fill out a form stating you’ve applied for work in two different places each week. The trouble is, when you are a reporter for a newspaper that folded and blew away in the techno age, there aren’t a lot of jobs for a woman of a certain age with limited experience. “I can explain that,” I started to say. But the woman, whose name tag said Betty Tiderman, had probably heard it all before. I could tell she was sick and tired of the weary and unemployed and their pathetic excuses in a pathetic economy. “My supervisor is a Seinfeld fan,” Name Tag Betty continued, unamused. “Do you think you are

the first client who ever tried that on us?” I had the grace to look ashamed. “I’ve run out of places to apply,” I admitted. “Look, I’m desperate. I’ve applied at every newspaper and magazine in the state.” “There’s always WalMart,” Betty pointed out. I must say, she had a talent for the obvious. “I applied at WalMart. Twice. Both times they told me I was overqualified. Look, just dock me a week and let me go. You know and I know that this area is in the worst shape since the Depression and I’m too old and have too few skills to get hired for anything. They all want young blondes with big boobs. Even the doctor’s offices. The real estate agents, the office jobs, no one wants people like me. I’m too old to flip burgers.” “Well, I really don’t have any choice but to withhold your check this week. Believe me, I don’t want to, but then I’d be in trouble. And I need this job.” For a minute, Betty was almost human. And I could see her point. A job, even a state contract job with no benefits listening to life’s losers, was better than nothing. “I’m not mad at you. I know you don’t make the rules.” It was a line I’d learned to play out over the 9

January 2015 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times January 2015

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