Author: Thomas Desrochers
Rebecca set her fork down. “Be honest with me. How is work going? I mean, really.”
He sighed, shoulders rolling forward. “It’s bad. Real bad.”
Damn, she hated to see that look in his eyes. She reached across the table and snaked her fingers through his. “Tell me about it. Please?”
“Alright.” He gave her a weak smile, looked at the wall behind her. “I’ve got eighty people under me, mostly slumcats from under the table. They’re not the smartest, but they work hard – we post the best numbers of any sump crew. Hasn’t been a flood in our section in thirty months, gotta be a record.”
There it was again – his eyes going cloudy. He was tough. If he was showing this much, God, but he must be hurting. Rebecca squeezed his hand. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “You don’t have to bear this alone.”
The pressure, the words, both pulled him back just enough. He breathed in sharply. “They’re axing us, Bec.”
She couldn’t believe it. Her heart climbed into her throat. “But why? Your crew is the best, right?”
He shook his head. “Not just my crew. All of them. Corporate’s LawBrain found a loophole in the contract. We’re not required to maintain the sumps. Nobody is. They’re just gonna let them run until they fail.” He looked her in the eyes. “What am I going to tell them? They live down there, have families down there. God, what do I tell them?”
Rebecca swallowed hard. She came around the table and embraced him, ran her fingers through his hair. “Oh honey,” she crooned. “I wish I knew.” Tears were running down her face, hot and fast.
He let out a weak sob and clutched at her skirt. She had never seen him so broken. She took him to bed and comforted him, stroking his hair and singing the songs her mother had sung to her as a child.
He fell asleep just after eleven. Rebecca held him a little while longer as she watched the beads of rain gather on the bedroom window, feeling his heartbeat. She wished she could be there for him in the morning. A kiss, maybe. Breakfast. With enough time she might find the right words to help get him through the next day, the next week.
There was no time.
She wanted to cry. No time.
She slipped out of bed and tucked him in, kissed him on the cheek, left a note saying, ‘I love you.’ Out to the kitchen: put away the leftovers, do the dishes. Grab her bag, fix her skirt and makeup, head for the elevator. An auto-cab waited outside the lobby. She got in the front seat, half listening to the radio broadcast.
“…and for those just joining us, today we have our esteemed guest David Goldwater, founder, and CEO of Whole Life Industries.”
“Now, David, the rise of Whole Life has been astounding, an unprecedented success in today’s market. Investors are wondering, what’s your secret?”
“Well, there isn’t much of a secret! I simply saw a need and moved to fill it. The continued improvements to the efficiency of our working class has led to increased consumer spending, but it has created holes that were traditionally filled outside the reach of the service industry. I felt this was a moral oversight – after all, everyone deserves to be loved, and modern robotics isn’t up to the job quite yet. We simply work to provide that necessary servi-”
Rebecca turned the radio off. Only five hours left on shift. She looked forward to her bed.