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Gwen Dickerson

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A Meal and a Job
By Gwen Dickerson
Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Rated "G" by the Author.

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A story of a woman's plight of hunger and un-employment.

She paused at the restaurant window, wrapping her coat collar high around her neck, shielding herself from the windy gusts of the San Francisco Bay. She stood there, staring at the suckling pig that was roasting, impaled on a rotating spit, its golden-brown skin glistening as it exuded juices that dripped down into a waiting pan below.

She couldn't remember the last time that she had eaten a full meal. During the past few weeks, she had eaten only sandwiches, salads or sweets, but now, viewing this suckling pig had triggered an aching hunger within the pit of her stomach. Mentally, she counted the few dollars in her purse.

There was enough to pay one more month's rent and hopefully enough for bus fare to search for that ever elusive job. She deduced that after those expenses she would have about $46.00 remaining. "Oh, Dear God," she thought, "What am I going to do after my money is all gone?"

She desperately needed a job since her previous one had ended months earlier, after her employer had declared bankruptcy, an act that she hadn't been prepared for, one which had left her almost penniless. She'd left resumes every where she could, but to no avail. For the first time during adulthood, she was alone, terrified and desperate.

The only living relative that she had, was a distant cousin residing in Ohio. Her best friend and former room mate had recently married and had moved to New York with her new husband, and since there was no "prince charming" in her life, she was indeed alone.

Her eyes searched the menu that was neatly framed and posted on the restaurant's window. She noticed that the prices were equal to the elegance of this famous restaurant. She gasped as she read a selection from the menu:

Roasted suckling pig
Medley of carrots and green beans
Baked potato
Salad of mixed greens
Choice of dressings ...... $38.00

Saliva filled her mouth, causing her to gulp, uncomfortably. "This is crazy", she thought. "I can't afford this meal. What's wrong with me, for goodness sake?" Yet, she inhaled deeply, as if savoring the aroma of the roasting pig, but the only thing that filled her nostrils and lungs was the cold bay wind.

Her nostrils flared as her eyes watered at the realization of her futile longing. Backing away from the restaurant window, she turned and hurried down the busy street, away from the high rent district. Wiping the tears from her eyes and fighting the dull ache within her stomach, she headed for a destination approximately seventeen blocks away, a familiar little cafe nestled amongst a few apparel shops and a little bookstore. Fear gripped her as she forced thoughts of homelessness from her mind. She knew that if she didn't find a job soon, she would be at the mercy of the streets.

She had already sold most of her possessions, her nice clothing, jewelry and other belongings, in order to pay her rent. She had lost numerous other items in pawn shops, unable to redeem them, and now there seemed to be little hope of avoiding a dismal and alarming fate.

As she walked, she began to anticipate her forthcoming meal, envisioning the cafe menu which listed her usual selection:

Turkey, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich
plus coffee or tea, free refills.. $6.95

Although tired from the long walk, she quickened her steps in anticipation of the food. She could almost taste that sandwich! She now wondered if she could get free pickles and extra tomato with her order.

A frowning passerby stared at her, causing her to realize that she had voiced this question, aloud. She smiled nervously, in an effort to conceal her embarrassment.

She thought of Brittany and Alana, the waitresses at the cafe where the ambience was clean and simple, yet warm and inviting. They were both related to Sonny, the hard working owner and chef who had once hired her to work there for two weeks, while Alana was out of town, after which he had praised her efforts and had said that he would hire her again, if needed. However, there had been no need since. Now, it seemed to her, that all of her luck had completely run out. She wiped away the sudden tears that escaped her eyes.

She mentally envisioned herself seated in the cafe, savoring each bite of her juicy sandwich and enjoying the pleasing aroma of food, that drifted from the little kitchen. She liked this cafe and the adjoining bookstore that she often frequented. Somehow, they felt like home. They were the only "hang outs" that she could afford. Places where she could linger a while, relax and read and enjoy her meager repasts. The cafe was a welcoming little haven for her, one where the owner and waitresses were pleasant and friendly. She gave a sigh of relief as she entered the cafe's doors.

Immediately Brittany approached her frowning. "Hey, Where have you been? I tried to call you yesterday, but the phone number was no longer in service!" Before she could reply, her eyes again filled with tears and she began to cry, much to Brittany's bewilderment! Brittany embraced her and asked, "What on earth is the matter?" However, she could only cry, not being able to utter a single word.

Through her sobs, she was aware that customers were staring, but she couldn't stop. Suddenly, she became aware of Brittany's words. She stopped crying as she realized that Brittany was saying the most wonderful words that she had heard in a long time, words that vibrated in her ears, words that caused stabs of eery feelings within her stomach, yet soon filled her with those of relief and pure joy.

Brittany said tenderly, "Stop crying! I'm trying to tell you that we have a job opening starting next Friday and Sonny wants to offer you the position! He bought the little bookstore next door and needs someone with your business skills and personality, to manage it. More importantly, we all like you. You've become very dear to us. You're like family. Sonny says that you've got the job if you want it. Congratulations!"

Copyright 2005 by Gwen Dickerson
All rights reserved.

       Web Site: Gwen Dickerson's Site

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Reviewed by MaryGrace Patterson 3/30/2009
A very touching story. I have been there also, only I had 5 children. I was lucky and got a job. The pay wasn't that much , but I counted every penny I earned and made sure we had a place to live and food of some kind. Those days were very hard for us and this story brought it all back.......M
Reviewed by David Arthur Walters 12/12/2008
Oh, I've been in those shoes, several times, including in San Francisco, where I was broke and hungry yet would not eat out of the garbage cans as other young men and women were doing in 1969. When I finally got a ticket to NYC and went over the bridge I refused to look back at that city, and when I had to go there on business years later I made my stay as short as possible.



And that a decent sandwich now costs at least $7 anywhere gripes me even though I am working - the $5 Footlong Special at Subway excepted.


Reviewed by John Domino 7/6/2008
A very nice story with a cool ending!

Any truth to this story?

Cheers,

John Michael
Reviewed by Renee G 7/12/2007
Very very cool! This was an gratifying short story.
Reviewed by P Lewis 10/29/2006
Gwen, I thoroughly enjoyed your story. It's more difficult than most people realize to write a good short story and end it in a satisfying way. Your descriptive skills are excellent. I was right there, standing before the restaurant, smelling the smells and feeling the ache of hunger. What if she had sucumbed to her urge to spend all on one meal? She would have left the restaurant full, but would have missed the job at the small cafe. An example of delayed satisfaction, which is rare in today's society. Also, a lot of writers would have sent her to a charitable organization for help.
You are an excellent writer. Keep it up!
Reviewed by Elizabeth Parsons 6/29/2006
I was so wrapped up in this story that I was taken by surprise when it ended. You're a very talented writer and have a new devoted fan. Can't wait to read more. Elizabeth :)
Reviewed by Rhonda Galizia 6/14/2006
Congratulations to you, Gwen! You are a truly gifted writer. This was a wonderful experience...God bless! ~ rhonda
Reviewed by Betty Overstreet 6/9/2006
Gwen, You have a wonderful writing talent! I pray for your success and feel that you could certainly write novels that would excite your readers. What a way with descriptive words! This is the first of your writings i have read but will certainly return and sign up to be advised of your future submissions. Betty Overstreet
Reviewed by Edgar Blythe 5/8/2006
Writing as one who has "been there," I can tell you this tale is very real. Your writing here puts me in mind of a feminine Jack London, made me think of a work of his called, I think, "A Piece of Steak" - or meat. Can't be sure at the moment. I wish you success.
Reviewed by Peter Paton 4/20/2006
Gwen
This brought a tear to my eye...God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform !
Blessings
Peter
Reviewed by Victor Farrell 4/10/2006
I knew the feeling when I was young! Enjoyed!

Victor
Reviewed by Alex Nodopaka 4/9/2006
You're a gifted writer. You had me salivating all along for that pig. The price of meals date the story. I think it is on the high end showing an expensive taste that dimisnished my sympathy for her. In her situation it might be more heart wrenching for her to visualize the roast & bring her home to a depleted refrigerator.
Reviewed by Birgit and Roger Pratcher 2/18/2006
There were some scary moments during this story, downright heartbreaking! You can't imagine the relieve in the end!
Birgit and Roger
Reviewed by Sandra Mushi 12/28/2005
Pheew, you should have seen me holding my breath - hoping for the best. What a beautiful ending, Gwen! What a wonderful story!

God bless,

Sandie.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor 11/18/2005
What a great story!
Reviewed by Mark Rockeymoore 9/23/2005
what a wonderful ending! she certainly is blessed. you did a great job of writing this, through your writing i was able to feel empathy for the protagonist. you made her real, and her situation real. just the right combination of details to make her familiar, i was genuinely happy that this character had received a blessing in the middle of her travails! great job!
Reviewed by Regis Auffray 7/9/2005
This story brought tears to my eyes. Most well done, Gwen. Thank you for sharing it. Love and peace to you and congratulations on your web site. Regis
Reviewed by The Smoking Poet 7/6/2005
Gwen, how painful to read of such hunger, yet it is around us every day, every day. Indeed, I have experienced this myself, although for a blessedly short moment in time. There but for the grace of God... yet we must remember that the grace of God is in all of us, and each of us hold its obligation, each to another.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 6/9/2005
enjoyed the read
Reviewed by Henry Lefevre 3/30/2005
I know the feeling although I never had to spend down to my last month's rent. Losing a job can be an earth shaking thing.

Been there and done that.

Hank

(The Itinerant Engineer)
Reviewed by Lee Garrett 3/18/2005
Very strong piece. You engage the reader's with your character's plight, sucking them in. Great write.
Reviewed by Tinka Boukes 3/3/2005
Excellent story Gwen!!

Love Tinka
Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 3/2/2005
wonderful story of hope in the face of hopelessness. thanks for brightening my mood; i really needed to read something like this today after the crappy day i had yesterday! (read my poem; you will see what i mean. i wrote it yesterday; i was having a poor, poor, pitiful me day.) today i am doing much better! well done, gwen; thanks for sharing!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in tx., karen lynn. :D

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