Monday, February 06, 2017

15 Minute Random Word Challenge: "Premium Ice"

It was Robert’s first day at work, and he was a little nervous that they wouldn’t be satisfied with his performance. He had no experience working with ice, and the conditions were far from perfect - outdoors temperatures would get up to 95 degrees during the day, and it was far from unlikely that a batch of ice could go completely to waste if he wasn’t paying attention. And, to be fair, attention wasn’t his strongest side. He had once lost an entire bag full of cigarettes that he was looking after for his friend Billy. It seemed obvious in retrospect that the bag had been of great importance to Billy, because Billy’s parents didn’t know that he was a smoker, and if they found out they would likely have cut him off entirely. Billy’s aunt had died of lung cancer after thirty years of smoking, and his mother had made a point of telling that story to Billy during his childhood, often enough that he should certainly never pick up the habit himself. 

What Billy’s mother didn’t know though, was that Billy wasn’t particularly afraid to die. He didn’t know why - ever since he was a child he had felt that there was nothing bad about death, at least not his own death. So when a friend offered him a cigarette at a party when he was fifteen, he thought “why not” and from that day he had been a smoker. He knew better than to let his mother know though. He may not have been afraid of death, but he was very afraid of his mother’s wrath. So when he struck a deal with a cigarette smuggler and got a bag full of cigarettes for the bargain price of $500, he knew he would have to find someone to help him keep it safe. Robert and Billy had been best friends since fifth grade, when a sixth grade bully had decided to target all redheaded children younger than himself and in that represented a common enemy for the two. The bully, Jack, would be scouting the hallways for redheads with a nasty look on his face, and Robert and Billy would be hiding behind curtains, under tables and around corners, always looking out for each other. 

So it was only natural that Billy should turn to Robert with his cigarette catch. There were no less than 3400 cigarettes in the bag, which to Billy meant that he would not have to worry about cigarettes, cash for cigarettes or any other problem related to cigarettes in the foreseeable future, possibly more than a year. Robert’s parents were both smoking, and though they might have been interested in getting their share from the bag, Robert did not run any risk of getting into trouble if caught with it. His task was simple: take the bag home, hide it from his parents and get a handful of cigarettes out now and then to provide Billy with supply. It was perhaps precisely because it seemed so simple that he wasn’t paying attention. What could possibly go wrong? As he was walking home, not a care in this world, he heard a swoosh as a bike came up next to him, and the bag was swiftly grabbed off his shoulder and whisked into the hands of the rider, who disappeared as quickly as he had arrived. Robert didn’t even get a look of his face! It was a total disaster. He tried to run after him, but he didn’t stand a chance. 

Slowly turning around he had to accept the fact that the bag was gone, and he had absolutely no idea of how it could be recuperated. He started to prepare sentences in his head, how he would tell Billy of what happened, but he couldn’t bear it. What would Billy think? Would this be the end of their friendship? He went over the incident again and again, trying to at least remember the clothes of the thief, or the color of his bike, but it was all one big blur. In fact, the more he thought about it, the less he remembered, and he got confused about how it had actually been and what he thought might have been.

He could try to get hold of a new bag of cigarettes. That was one option. He had no idea how to go about that, he didn’t know any smugglers and he certainly did not have any money. Certainly not $500. It was then that he noticed the ad that was tucked to a pole: “Premium Ice - Help Wanted”. He read the description, and it seemed like something he would be capable of doing. No previous experience required, training provided. Employees would get discount on bulk ice purchases. He could start already the next Saturday. And so an idea manifested itself in Robert’s mind. His friendship with Billy was too precious at this point, he did not want to risk losing it. He might not have $500, but if he had a job, he would gradually make enough money to buy a cigarette pack now and then, certainly enough to provide the handful that Billy would require now and then, and Billy might never have to know that the bag was gone! It was a beautiful idea. He didn’t bother to do the math to find out for how long he would have to work there. The most important thing was to keep the friendship with Billy until the summer holiday. After the holiday Jack would be gone, and he might be able to get by on his own. He would miss Billy for sure, but he wouldn’t necessarily have to keep working at Premium Ice until he had made the money’s worth of 3400 cigarettes.


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