Saturday Storytime: Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass

Here’s one by Jeremiah Tolbert for all of us serial escapists.

The agency had placed Louisa with Dewem, Putnam, and Low, a small but venerable legal office downtown. The interview had been very brief, as temps were harder to find since rabbit holes. In the past six months, the calls had gotten more frequent; Louisa had developed a good reputation for dependability. She had little else to do with her time since the cancer had finished its relentless march through her mother’s bones.

“Do you have one?” asked the office supervisor, a stern-sounding woman named Catherine (absolutely never, ever to be called “Cathy,” she had instructed). Her name and voice conjured pictures of Catherine the Great, but in person, she was considerably shorter, wider, and balder than the Russian leader.

“No.”

“The last girl we hired never bothered to come in. And the young man before that showed for three days. I’m sure it’s wonderful, frolicking with elves in the forest, but we here in the real world have work to do.” She said “real world” with a degree of bitterness that evoked considerable sympathy in Louisa. Perhaps she too had been passed over.

“I am dedicated to my work, don’t worry. What would you like me to do?” Of course, she didn’t say that if her rabbit hole did arrive, she wouldn’t be coming back. She still had to pay rent for the time being, after all.

Catherine waved at the paperwork threatening to topple from the side of her desk. “File these, to start.” Catherine dismissed Louisa by simply ignoring her in favor of the computer. It took a long moment before Louisa realized she was supposed to leave. She could appreciate a supervisor who didn’t expect her to spend hours chitchatting about television or current events, two things that held no interest for Louisa, unless you counted the rabbit holes as “current events.”

Louisa gathered up the paperwork and wandered in search of the filing room. Most of the offices were dark and empty. The few people she saw looked frazzled and weary, like people for whom sleep had dropped a few levels on the hierarchy of needs—kindred spirits, those. She had seen that exhaustion many times in the mirror during her mother’s long decline.

Many of the lawyers were nearly hidden behind stacks of paperwork as large as the one she was attempting to file, which, if nothing else, signaled job security. One young man looked up as she stopped to stare. He gave her a half-smile, raised an immaculately sculpted eyebrow.

Louisa blushed. “Um . . . which way to the filing room?”

He pointed down the hall. He opened his mouth to speak, but she turned and fast-walked away before he could make a sound. She didn’t know how to talk to attractive young men anymore, if she ever had. Best to avoid it as much as possible.

Instead, she went to work in the small, dimly lit room down the hall. The system was a standard, though slightly antiquated one, as promised. The room itself would have been unremarkable but for one of the ceiling-high wooden cabinets; it was padlocked with two fist-sized chrome locks and a heavy steel chain. A sticky note indicated that T to Th had been moved to the neighboring cabinet indefinitely, and pointed with marker-drawn arrow to the right. When Louisa pressed her ear to the drawer, harp music whispered from within.

Louisa rooted through her pockets for her notebook, flipped to the end of her list of “Types of Rabbit Holes” and wrote: FILING CABINETS in neat letters. She snapped it shut, tucked it away, and began to work.

Keep reading.

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Saturday Storytime: Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass
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