Short Story: Reading Between the Lines 1: How hard is it to use commas correctly?
“There are so many spelling mistakes! This is just horrible! How does one misspell ‘because’?” I asked, clenching the agreement. I closed my eyes, head leaning forward, wanting something to bash it into.
“Stop complaining and edit it!” The man bellowed, gun clicking in his hand.
“If it weren’t for the money, I wouldn’t be here,” I whispered. This many errors in the contract were hurting my little heart. It cracked and burned with each misplaced comma. Some sentences didn’t even have full stops! Who wrote this mess?
“Leave the little editor,” the boss said. I rolled my eyes and kept my mouth shut. I’m going to be rich! I’m getting paid well, so I won’t say anything that’ll hinder my next paycheck.
“She complains too much!” The brute man said.
“I would like to know how horrible your grammar is.”
“Wait,” I said, looking up. “You wrote this?”
The man’s cheeks reddened, and I smirked.
“No wonder it’s terrible!”
“Shut it!” he shouted, his face looking like a tomato. He pointed his gun at me, again. “It’s not that bad!”
You’d think I’d be scared when there’s a gun pointed at me, but this is a daily occurrence. And me being the little idiot I am, I stuck my tongue out. His face twitched, and I bit the inside of my cheek to stop the smirk from coming out. I keep reminding myself that it’s worth it because of the pay. This is the best job I could get with a master’s in publishing. And I didn’t even have to go through a lengthy interview process!
Score for me.
Not going to lie, it’s a sketchy job where they are all big on anonymity. Maybe not even knowing the name of the guy paying me should’ve made me quit but desperation truly overpowers any common sense or rationality. But my new apartment, spacious as if I am in space itself, makes me forget the sketchy part. The number of books I bought! And I was able to make a library like those seen on Pinterest. A small hammock hanging in the corner with a lamp switched on. Light enters softly as I read.
A sketchy job will not stand in the way of my dreams!
Being rich, of course.
I probably should’ve thought about that when I chose my degree, but here we are. Life’s giving me a chance to go back on that, though a weird one. So, we take it.
“You want to try reading this nonsense, then?” I asked, handing him the contract. “Go on, read it out loud.”
The man didn’t say anything, and the boss laughed.
“I need you elsewhere, so go,” the boss said, relieving the man from the terror and humiliation I was putting him through.
“Yes, sir,” the man mumbled, and I was sure happiness cooled him.
“Remind me what this was for,” the boss ordered, voice commanding an answer. Well, I’ll give him something worthy of authority.
“It’s a contract for acquiring merchandise from foreign places. He was at the meeting and had tried, huge emphasis on ‘tried’, creating something because this is not a contract!” I shouted, making sure the man heard every last thing I said. I imagined his face twitching as his neck burned. Good for him. Let him suffer. I suffered just reading this—my poor head.
“Surely it can’t be that bad?” The boss asked, eyebrows raised. I imagine he was trying to save the man’s dignity, but it was shattered far more than a mirror when it falls to the ground.
“Go ahead, try to read it,” I replied as I organised my papers.
“No, thanks. That’s why I hired you.”
“More like begged me,” I whispered.
“What was that?”
I shook my head, biting my lips. I can still remember being hired as if it was just this morning. The money was worth every headache and the horrible punctuation.
I was running, trying to alleviate the stress of my life. I was a publishing student doing a master’s when life caved in on me, and I was left to suffocate on my own. I was already dealing with bad grades, then rejection after rejection; it was hard to get a job. The publishing industry is a competitive one, and I couldn’t see myself doing something that wasn’t related to my degree – funny, I know.
That’s when I bumped into the boss. We tumbled to the floor, and I had apologised (I think) since it was my fault for not looking. I get very distracted when I’m stressed. He said it was alright, and I helped collect his papers when I noticed a spelling mistake. Then, the boss asked if I wanted a job. I was low on energy (and desperate for money), so I said yes. I thought he was an idiot but my desperation overruled any rational thought.
“Anyway. You need a break. It’s nearly midnight.”
I was startled and looked at the clock. Again, I was doing overtime!
“I am getting paid for this, aren’t I?”
“Yes, you are,” the boss said.
I smiled as I imagined jumping into a pool full of money. Wealth was storming down on me (I should be more concerned about the legality of things, but that slips my mind when my paycheck comes in). Honestly, I was scared when I joined. Guns and teeth bared, waiting for me to slip up. The people had just sneered at me while I read their work. And their boss (an idiot, if you haven’t got that already) had just remained neutral. He told me what to look over and just asked for my honest opinion. I somehow felt like a teacher harshly marking her student’s work in front of their parents. The boss just smiled a small smile while drinking his coffee. I did feel like a teacher when he asked for feedback for improvement.
Over the days, I worked with each individual on their writing, utilising the magic of laptops. A lot of typing occurred with each member of this beautiful gang having the sound of keyboards cracking in the daylight drilled into their ears. My mind still spins; why do drug dealers need to take notes? Or even have typed up contracts? But I quelled my curiosity and shoved it down in my belly, as I was not about to do anything that would make me lose my only source of income. Even with a master’s, I don’t think I can get another job soon and I don’t have the energy to keep trying.
“But seriously, sir!” I whined loudly, ensuring everyone outside my office heard every complaint. Let them stew in humiliation for a while. “How hard is it to use commas correctly?”
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