|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)|
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"You the new driver?"
The petite young girl scowled behind the desk. Her scowl said she didn't believe he was the new applicant. That maybe someone was playing a joke on her.
"That's what they tell me." Kyle wasn't getting a warm fuzzy about this place. Too many negatives. The chick's attitude, for one thing. The olive drab wall behind her reminded him of Army film clips. The paint job looked old--peeling in places, bubbling in others. And the room's musty smell took him back to the bathroom at the State Home.
"You have a sheet?" Her large brown eyes zeroed in on the thick tan folder he held in the crook of his arm.
"Got a bunch of stuff." At the Employment Center they'd loaded him down with a ton of papers, forms, and leaflets. The fat man in the rumpled blue suit--"call me Ralph"--crammed even more crap in his folder after the interview. A necessary evil, Ralph explained with a sly wink. They live for paperwork. They'll want your work history, blood type, I.Q.--everything. It's the Government we're talking about, Sonnet. They can't function without it.
The girl forced a hand through her short black hair. He caught a whiff of lavender perfume. At least there was something positive about this place. The tiny reading glasses hanging by an elastic black band above her small breasts shifted. She wore a watch with a plain black leather band on one wrist, a tiny gold bracelet on the other.
"The sheet you filled out at the Employment Center." She sounded bored. "I need form thirty-three seventeen. It's got all the information we'll need for your profile plus the results of your last physical."
He laid the folder on the counter, opened it,glanced at the top sheet, and handed it over. She snatched it and squirmed onto a metal stool, which squeaked like a baby mouse. The glasses were now balanced on the tip of her small upturned nose. More lavender drifted in his direction. He wondered if she ever smiled. He tried not to appear obvious studying her breasts beneath her sleeveless tan shirt, but sometimes a man just had to give in to his shortcomings.
She skimmed the report. Without looking up she said, "Sonnet. Kyle. Age eighteen. Your last known address was the Children's Foster Home of Pleasant Valley."
"I know all that," he said, grinning.
Her blank expression didn't waver. "Where are you living now?"
"Home is where the heart is."
When her dark eyes met his, they told him she was not amused.
She obviously liked her men reserved and businesslike. He could be that way--at least until she understood just how complex he was for his young years. "They told me I'd be staying here at the Station."
She blinked. "They already gave you the job?"
"They called here during my interview. Someone here said I could start any time. The sooner the better. They said a Mr. Stoner okayed it."
"The Stone hired you without an interview?"
"The stone?" Another not-so-warm fuzzy.
"They said you were desperate for drivers."
"We're desperate, all right. But that's a real hoot, giving you the job without references or a formal meeting. They mention salary?"
"They said Mister Stoner would give me the details."
"By the way, he's a captain. You call him mister, you might as well get yourself primed for one long, lousy day. The Stone's a former Marine. He headed up the National Guard a few years back. His unit was recalled during all that trouble with those medical school closings. You heard about those, didn't you?"
He recalled something like fifty closings that were covered on CNN. The National Guard was called in to handle the rioting at the affected locations. The Guard threw heavy nets at the crowd and used rubber bullets on the rioters. One elderly woman whose apartment was teargassed fell from a third story window and landed on a parked car. Two dozen people struck in the face with rubber bullets were suing the police. Many deaths resulted from others being trampled or run down by police vehicles.
"The Home has TVs all over the place," he said. "Even in the bathrooms. Yeah, we heard about the riots."
"The people who sent you here. They tell you anything else?"
"They told me Mist--Captain--Stoner would give me the details. But they said it was a County job, and the County pays top wages."
"That's all?" She sounded disappointed.
"A job's a job. Money's money, right?"
"When you're talking about this job, some think it's better to sponge off the State."