Saturday, 25 February 2012

NoHo Noir: It's Not Just a Job, It's an Adventure

Illustration by Mark Satchwill
It's Not Just a Job, It's an Adventure
Written by Katherine Tomlinson
Illustrated by Mark Satchwill

The job fair had only been open for an hour and Lindy McAuliffe was already ready to gnaw her own arm off to escape. It wasn’t just that the only people who were coming up to her table were pimply faced boys who were working as mall security guards and got hard at the thought of carrying a gun, it was just that the whole scene depressed her.
Her table was set up in the middle of a large-sized community room at a senior center that was jammed with job-seekers. The air was thick with the reek of desperation.
The woman at the table on her left was promoting a continuing education program at L.A. Valley College, the table on her right was manned by an executive from a fast-food franchise who told her that his sector of the service industry was booming.
She wasn’t surprised.
She wasn’t even surprised to see people in suits—and not just cheap suits—lining up to sign his clipboard and take his card.
She kept reading that the country’s economy was getting better, but if it was, the people in this room hadn’t gotten the memo.
She sighed as she saw a middle-aged man making his way toward her table.
“How you doing young lady?” he asked.
“Good morning sir,” she replied, emphasizing the “sir” slightly.
He smiled a little at that, as if he got the subtle dig at his age and appreciated it.
“Oh, I’m not here to sign up to be a peace officer,” he assured her. “Even if I were younger, I don’t think I have the right temperament.”
She smiled noncommittally, hoping the guy would move along to bother someone else.
“Do you enjoy your job?” he asked her.
“Yes sir I do.”
He nodded his head as if that confirmed some conclusion he’d already processed.
“You find it fulfilling then?”
“It’s very rewarding sir.”
He nodded again. “You like working with the public? Interacting with the citizens?”
“Yes,” she said, “I do.”
Except when people waste my time with stupid questions, she thought.
“Well, that’s good,” he said. “It’s good to have a job you like.”
Lindy smiled at him again, hoping it didn’t look strained.
Go away.
As if he could read her mind, the guy gave her a jaunty two-fingered salute.
“You have a good day Officer McAuliffe,”
“You too sir,” she said.

“Hi,” said the next person in line, a pimply teenager who had clearly stopped by on his way to his mall guard job because he was already wearing his gray uniform.
“Good morning,” Lindy said, wondering how tall the kid was.
Back in her dad’s day, you had to be 5’8” if you wanted to be a cop but around the time she was graduating from grade school they’d relaxed that rule. Nowadays there were no minimum height requirements, which was how she’d made the grade at only a few inches over five feet.
She had to watch her weight though. The rules said your weight had to be proportionate to your height and that wasn’t always easy given the junk-food lunches she was always grabbing on the fly.
“I hear starting salary for a cop is like $50,000,” the kid said.
He saw her wince and misunderstood the reason for her reaction.
“I mean, for a police officer.”
That hadn’t been the reason she’d winced. “Cop” was what she called herself. “Cop” was better than what a lot of people called her.
“There’s a range of compensation,” she said. “A lot depends on your experience, military service, education…”
She trailed off when she saw that her answer excited him.
“I’ve been working in the security field for two years now,” he said, turning his skinny arm toward her so she could read the patch on his shoulder.
“I can see that,” she said.
“I know your company,” she added.
He beamed at her, puffing up his concave chest.
“I foiled a robbery at a Jamba Juice last Christmas,” he said. “The perp never saw me coming. Cried like a bitch when I subdued him.”
His hands unconsciously dropped to his crotch and he adjusted his package.
“Like a bitch,” he repeated.
Oh kid, she thought, seeing how happy the memory made him. Get out now while you still can.
“You sound like you’re just the kind of officer we’d like to see in the department,” she lied, handing him a brochure.
He clutched it as if it were Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.
“I’ll be seeing you,” he said and winked.
No. Don’t wink. Don’t ever wink.
The day wore on. The woman from the college got up to stretch. “Can you do me a favor and cover my table for a couple of minutes?” she asked Lindy. “I’ve got to have a cigarette.”
“Sure,” Lindy said.
It’s not as if anyone’s lining up to take continuing education classes.
“You’re the best,” the woman said.
Lindy was coming up on her eighth year with the department and she’d been thinking about moving into something more federal, like a job with Homeland Security or even the CIA. She didn’t like what she saw happening in the country—the illegals pouring in from Mexico, bringing their narcotrafficante bullshit with them; the liberal politicians backing programs that rewarded the weak and lazy.
For every genuine hardship case Lindy ran across on the job, there were dozens of welfare cheats and low-life scammers trying to get by by getting over on the system.
And more coming to the city every day.
It made her sick sometimes. Her dad had told her that things had been different in his day and that was true enough.
He’d worked out of Rampart Division at the same time the scandal went down and she’d always wondered if he’d been part of the corrupt blue crew that had given the department such a bad name.
They didn’t talk about Rampart.
Her mother wanted her to go to law school but racking up another three years of debt so she could compete with thousands of other law school graduates didn’t appeal to Lindy.
She sighed. At least she had a job.
“Excuse me,” a woman’s voice said, breaking Lindy out of her reverie.
“May I have one of those pamphlets?”
Lindy sized her up. Tall. Young. In good shape. Black.
Can you say minority recruitment?
“Absolutely,” Lindy said, handing the pamphlet over. “Are you interested in joining LAPD?”
“I’m interested in having a job six months from now,” the woman replied.
“What do you do now?”
“I’m a mailman,” she said, deadpan.
I like this girl, Lindy thought, delighted that she hadn’t given her some bullshit answer about wanting to protect and serve the people of L.A.
Lindy laughed. “And now you’re thinking of becoming a police man?”
Before the woman could answer, a middle-aged man’s voice interrupted.
“Just what the city needs, another nigger with a gun.”
The woman recoiled from the speaker.
It was the guy Lindy had been talking to earlier, the middle-aged guy who’d told her to have a good day.
Lindy stood up and put on her cop voice.
“Sir, I think you should leave now,” she said.
“You don’t remember me, do you Officer McAuliffe?” he said. “You don’t remember coming to my house to tell me my boy was dead.”
What the fuck?
“Sir, you really need to leave.”
“You really need to leave,” he mimicked as he pulled a gun out of the pocket of his windbreaker.
Oh shit Lindy thought, knowing she’d never be able to reach her weapon in time.
The man raised his gun.
“You fucking cunt,” he said. “You don’t even remember his name.”
Lindy made a desperate lunge over the card table but the black woman moved faster, In one fluid movement she pulled out a tiny mace canister hanging from a key-ring and sprayed him in the face.
The guy dropped the gun to claw at his eyes and the woman maced him again.
Lindy wanted to applaud.
“You’re wasted as a mailman,” Lindy said.


  1. YES! You at your best - great story, characters, ending, nice reintroduction of a previous story line. Just freakin' nice.

  2. Really good, Katherine. I like the way you submerge your own voice in the character's internal POV, even when it's very different from your own.