Her name was Gladys. Must’ve been. Well, one hundred percent it would’ve been if she’d been a character in a book. An American book. From the seventies, maybe. Come on, man, that was prejudiced. Maybe even racist?
Racist? Puh-lease. How could it be racist when she was a white woman and I’m a white man.
Fine, it was a little … rude. And probably – what’s the word – “namist”? Slapping a name on to a person who I knew nothing about, except for what I saw right in front of me, and then thinking the name is a catch-all for everything. And what’s in a name? Not all Gladyses are the same. (Gladysi?)
She’s stressed, that’s for sure. Man, she’s stressed. Picking our her groceries like that and slamming them on the belt without slamming them, of course. That would be poor manners, and I’m sure she knows the girl at the register – Michelle, according to her name tag … she does NOT look like a Michelle, by the way – and wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings.
Gladys would never do that. Not the Gladys we all know and love. She’s just stressed because it’s Thursday night and she’s in the grocery store getting something to cook because the kids have to eat proper meals – everybody knows that – and not just go for takeaway pizza every time somebody else in the family has realized that the fridge is empty but has done exactly nothing.
Well, the fridge is never empty-empty, is it, but you know what I mean. Besides, Gladys hates Thursdays with the same passion that Garfield hates Mondays. Gladys, on the other hand, loves Mondays because she can go back to the office.
Then Tuesday and Wednesday come along, and she’s taking care of business at a speed that make her bracelets rattle around her wrists. She’ll be tied to that Bluetooth ear piece like ugly on an ape. She’s going to be in control, the world at her feet, catering to her every whim. In the office, nobody calls her Gladys. In there, all she hears is, “yes, boss.”
And then: boom, like that plastic box of grapes landing on the belt right now – she forgot to un-slam it, wonder what Michelle is thinking now – there it is. Thursday.
Time flies when you’re having fun, they say, and that’s why – paradoxically – she thought she was living in a perpetual Thursday. Come Thursday night and the lonely grocery store store round – although the last thing she wanted was for her husband to follow her to the store, this way she could at least listen to some podcasts – and her Bat-Audi turned into a pumpkin, and she turned into Gladys.
Every time she stops to think of her life, it’s Thursday.
Thursday should have been a good day. The day before Friday, which is supposed to be a great day: the end of the week just around the corner, the weekend just one half a work day away.
Hey, man, that’s YOUR dream. That’s Gladys’s nightmare.
Suddenly, or at least what seemed suddenly, Thursdays had become a constant reminder of the clock ticking away. If it was Thursday again, another week must’ve gone by, and how had things changed? Was she not in a grocery store? Did she not stand in line, smiling at Michelle, the nice girl who, by the way, was supposed to graduate from high school at the same time as her son, why was she working here?
On some good Thursdays, Gladys did her round with a big smile on her face. She just pushed her cart around and whistled Dire Straits. Why worry, right? She was going to get to next Thursday soon enough.
When she had moved to Sweden right after college, on a scholarship, everybody had been so friendly. They had told her she was just like her name – which they pronounced “gluh-diss” – because she was always so cheerful. She did not feel like a gluh-diss today.
She was about to faint, for sure. She reached down to her cart and was down there for so long that even I pulled one of my earphones out of my ear to raise my eyebrow to Michelle. And then Gladys started to laugh. Hysterically, at first, and then just as if she was simply the happiest woman in the world.
She pointed at something on the bottom of her cart and then at me, so I raised my other eyebrow in sympathy. Gladys dove into her cart, hanging by her waist, her legs dangling in the air, and when she got them back on the floor, she was holding a yellow candy bar in her hand.
She slammed it on the belt, and I could tell she had intended to slam it, too. She slammed it like a boss, and she wasn’t holding back. I kept my eyes on the floor and put the divider on the belt.
That’s when I saw the chocolate bar. Instead of the original name, it now said, in the recognizable brand font, obviously, “KEEP PUSHIN’!”
“Good for you, Gladys,” I said. “You keep pushing, girl.”
But by then, her Audi had already left the parking lot.
Working for the weekend by Loverboy
This is a part of an ongoing series of stories, mostly flash fiction, inspired by 80s pop songs. You can find them all here.