Strangeness was in the air that night. Although the full moon lit the sky, I thought I saw mysterious shadows dance across it’s face. Moments later, alien beings invaded the street. These were not the beings of daytime. These could not be creatures of this world. Their shapes and features were so varied that I could not guess their origin. A small green one with tentacles emerged from the crowd. “Not so scary”, I thought. Then it came at me with startling speed. “Trick or Treat, Grandma” yelled my favorite Martian.
“Think outside the box.” That’s what the boss said. He still hadn’t seen a raise. What did Bill Gates have that Bill Goat didn’t?
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Cal looked at Beth and smiled.
“I’ve figured out a way for you to work at Pinnacle.”
“I thought you said …“
“I said that Pinnacle doesn’t hire those convicted of certain crimes. Not everyone who works at the store is a Pinnacle employee. Sample distributors, for example, are staffed through temporary agencies. And those agencies have different hiring criteria than Pinnacle.”
“I’ve noticed distribution stations throughout the store. I’m sure I could cook and hand out samples.”
“I think you’d do well. It requires more than cooking skill, but that is an important part of the job. No amount of persuasion will convince shoppers to buy something that doesn’t taste good. Customer service skills are important too. Your familiarity with the store will be a real asset. You’ll need to watch for unsanitary conditions as well.”
“I’ve had a lot of practice keeping things clean.”
“It’s more than that. You’d be surprised how many people will pick up food, take a small taste and put it back with uneaten samples.“
“I’d never thought of that. Not very appetizing. I’m sure it’s a quick way to spread germs too.”
“Pinnacle expects to see an increase in the sale of featured products. Don’t worry, it’s not high pressure sales. If the food is good and the distributor is pleasant, the products almost sell themselves.”
“You think I’ll be hired?“
“I can’t guarantee it, but I can help. I’m one of three department managers who make decisions regarding those positions. If I send someone to the agency, that carries some weight.”
He pulled a business card from his wallet.
“On The Spot is the agency we use most frequently. Estelle Sterns does our hiring. Let her know that I’ve referred you. We just lost one of our morning distributors, so be sure to go there tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Cal. If I get this position, I’ll make sure the store is very happy with my work.”
“I know that you will. “
“In a way, Beth, Pinnacle’s policy works to my benefit.”
“How is that?”
“Pinnacle does not like their managers to date other employees.”
A blush tinted her cheeks as his words sunk in.
“Would you have lunch with me on Sunday, Beth?”
“Depends, Cal. Do I have to cook?”
Cal laughed and assured her that wasn’t the case.
The next morning, Beth headed to On The Spot. She approached the receptionist’s desk and asked to speak with Estelle Sterns.
“Are you looking for a position with our agency?”
“Then you’ll need to fill out our application first.”
Beth took the application and began to fill it out. It was similar to the innumerable ones she’d completed over the past few weeks. This time, however, she had a good chance for the job. She returned the completed application to the receptionist, who scanned it quickly.
“Thanks. Someone will call you if a position becomes available.”
She should have known. This would be no different than her other employment attempts. Beth turned and started out. Then she stopped and faced the receptionist.
“Mr. Kaufman at Pinnacle Grocery referred me. He said I should speak with Estelle Sterns while I was here.”
“In that case, have a seat. I’ll see when she’s available.”
Fifteen minutes later, Beth sat across from Estelle, waiting as she reviewed the application. Estelle was interested in Beth’s cooking experience at Redemption House. She asked a few questions, then paused. Beth knew what came next.
“You’ve been convicted of a felony. Although it doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from employment, I do need to know the charge.”
“Did it occur at your place of employment?”
“Did you ever threaten or harm someone at your place of employment?”
“Any other convictions?”
“Any parole violations?”
“Any history of drug use?”
When Beth had answered “No” to each of the questions, Estelle stopped and made a note on the application. Beth braced herself for a dismissal.
“You seem to be well suited for this job, Beth. Pinnacle has a morning shift available. You’d be needed Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm. And Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Can you work those hours?”
For a fleeting moment, she wondered what Pastor Bob would say. Then Estelle drew her back to the present.
“All employees are required to pass a drug screening. The lab we use is just across the street. Can you take the test when you leave here?”
Beth nodded, barely able to believe her luck.
“The position begins at minimum wage. If your work is satisfactory, you can qualify for a raise in three months. While you are at the lab, I’ll be checking with Redemption House.”
Estelle consulted the application.
“You didn’t list a referral.”
“Cal Kaufman referred me.”
“I noticed and I’ll give him a call. I need to talk to someone at Redemption House too.”
Beth felt her luck slipping away.
“Who is your supervisor there?”
Her supervisor? Beth could barely restrain a smile.
“Cassandra Forbes is my supervisor.”
Estelle made a note.
“Come back to see me when you’ve finished your screening.”
Thirty minutes later, Beth was greeted by a smiling Estelle.
“Cal speaks highly of you and Miss Forbes gave you a glowing recommendation. Can you start work on Monday?”
“Yes. Even sooner if they need me.”
Estelle gave Beth’s attire an appraising glance. The jeans and top were clean, but worn.
“Why don’t you take that time to do a little shopping for your work attire. I’d recommend a crisp white shirt and black slacks. Can you manage that?”
Another affirmative. She’d find a way.
Beth checked the time as she left the agency. She should be back at Redemption House and starting dinner preparations. Judith did well with single dishes, but still lacked the ability to coordinate a meal. She’d deal with the time crunch when she got back. She needed to make one more stop.
Jane Watkins was talking to the receptionist when Beth entered the parole office.
“Hi Beth. Didn’t I just see you on Tuesday?”
“You did. But I’ve got a question and it won’t wait until my next visit. Do you have a minute?”
Fifteen minutes later, Beth left the office and raced towards Redemption House.
First she’d deal with dinner. Meatloaf took too long to cook. She’d make that tomorrow and serve pasta tonight. Later, she’d deal with Pastor Bob. If only he was as easy to handle as the menu.
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