Wake Up, Temporary
You wake up naked, in a strange room, next to a strange girl. You have no idea where you are and no memory of how you got there. The only thing you recognize is the top of the Chrysler Building out the window. You’re still in New York City. At least you didn’t cross state lines like you did on your last bender.
Your cell phone is ringing. You find your pants on the floor by the bed and you fish the phone out of the pocket.
"Why, you little shit! Get your ass to work right now or I’ll find you wherever you are and rip your asshole out your mouth!"
It’s Holly, from your temp agency.
"Sorry, Holly. How late am I?" you ask.
"Late enough for me to get a phone call from their HR office looking for you. Plus, they’re asking me what you’ve decided about going perm and I have to tell them I don’t have a clue. Do you know how humiliating it is as a temporary employment services agent to admit that my own temps keep secrets from me? Let me in, dammit!"
It’s all coming back to you now. Today is the day you’re supposed to go into your temp job at SkoolKidz, the nation’s largest children’s school uniform designer and manufacturer, and tell them whether you want to go perm as executive assistant to the CEO and founder, Ms. Haviland Payne. Last night you were mulling over the decision and the pressure all started to bear down on you, so you went to the bar around the corner from your apartment to have a drink. That’s the last thing you remember.
"Well?" Holly barks. "Do you wanna go perm or not? Or do you still feel the need to build walls between us and keep me in the dark?"
Your mouth feels like you swallowed an old glue trap. You’re so hung over that your vision is actually blurry and a little gray, like you might faint before you even get out of bed. You’re nauseous. You smell like cigarettes and buffalo-wing sauce. Despite how cloudy and murky you feel, one thing remains perfectly clear.
"I can’t go perm, Holly. I know it means a really big commission for you, but I just can’t do it."
"Motherfucker!" she screams. You hear a crash on the other end. She probably threw a three-hole punch at somebody. "You been talking to Perky Temps?"
"I know they’ve been calling you with assignments. Don’t make me remind you that you are a member of the Tempting Temporaries family. And no one takes better care of you than your family. No one knows better how to destroy you, either."
"I’m not working with another agency. I just decided—"
"Well, decide again! Don’t you want health insurance? You know what happens if you get hit by a car when you’re uninsured? The ambulance just runs you over a bunch more times to put you out of your misery. You wanna die in the street?"
"No," you answer honestly.
"Oh, screw it, just get to work." Holly slams her phone down.
You drop the phone to the floor and it lands with a loud smack. You turn to the girl next to you to apologize for waking her, but she hasn’t awakened. That’s when you notice how wet the bed is.
Please please please don’t let me be the one who peed, you think. You touch your hand to the soaking-wet mattress and lift it up to your nose to—
Oh, shit, it’s blood!
It’s on your fingers. Now it’s on the comforter. You peer under the sheets and find that the mattress between you and the naked stranger is soaked in red. This isn’t the first time you woke up from a blackout naked and covered in blood, but usually it’s because you partied with the wrong kind of people, the kind who’ll start the night all fun and "let’s dance," but by the end of the night they’re beating you senseless and stealing your clothes. This girl doesn’t look like that kind of people.
She doesn’t move when you shake her shoulder.
"Hey you," you say. "You, on the bed."
She doesn’t respond.
You roll out of bed, the panic making your heart race and aggravating your headache. You find some mail on her bureau. It’s addressed to "Laura Kennedy." Never heard of her.
You go around to her side of the bed and you finally get a look at her face. Even if you had met her before, you wonder if you would recognize her now. She looks to be made of stone. Her eyelids and lips are sealed tight. You can see some blood on her neck, hinting at the throat wound just an inch down, thankfully hidden by the bedsheet. You run to the bathroom, ill.
Before you can make it to the toilet, you get a look in the mirror and you’re frozen solid by what you see there. Scrawled in blood across the glass:
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF
What the shit happened last night?
You’re sent running back into the bedroom when your phone rings again. The caller ID screen reads "Unknown."
"Who’s ready to get himself some health insurance?" a man sings.
"Who is this?" you ask.
"Who am I?" the man asks back. "Don’t you have some more pressing questions? Such as, where the hell are you? What the hell happened last night? And who the hell is that dead girl in that gosh-darn bed?" He’s very jovial, and it creeps you out. You’d prefer that he growl through a voice modulator or something.
"Who killed her?"
"Who killed the girl is a multiple-choice question. The answer is either, (a) you. Or, (b) not you. If you want to select (b), go into SkoolKidz today and tell them you’re going perm."
You’re thrown. "Who the hell are you?" you demand.
"An interested party. One who can make all evidence of everything that happened last night disappear. One who can also make a load of cops swarm that apartment like locusts in under five minutes. Depending on whether or not you decide to accept permanent employment."
"And if I don’t?"
"You go to jail for capital murder."
"So I either have to accept a permanent position as an executive assistant in an office environment that requires corporate dress, or I spend my life in prison?"
"That’s pretty much it. What’s it gonna be, temporary?"
If you wanna just go to the police and turn yourself
in right now, turn to page 87.
If you want to try and clean up the scene of the crime
and dispose of the body, turn to page 125.
Excerpted from The Terrible, Horrible, Temp-to-Perm Debacle by Bob Powers.
Copyright 2009 by Bob Powers.
Published in July 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.