July 1, 2015

Fiction By Alan Semrow: "Hard Chairs"

Alan Semrow lives in Wisconsin and is a graduate of English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His poetry and fiction have been featured in multiple publications, including BlazeVOX14, Red Fez, The Bicycle Review, Earl of Plaid Lit Journal, Danse Macabre Literary Magazine, Potluck Magazine, Blotterature Lit Mag; The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society; The Commonline Journal, Crack the Spine, Indiana Voice Journal, EAP: The Magazine, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Golden Walkman Magazine, Barney Street, and Wordplay, and he won the Essayist Award from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point English Department for his nonfiction work. In 2015, his stories are set to be featured in several journals, including TWJ Magazine, The Corner Club Press, The Biscuit, Eunoia Review, DoveTales Lit Journal, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Calliope Magazine, The Chaffey Review, and The Radvocate. Semrow spends the majority of his free time with his boyfriend, friends, family, and Shih Tzu, Remy. His blog can be found at http://alansemrowriter.wordpress.com

Hard Chairs
Cindy Mayfield, my boss of six years, sits in her make-up chair, the bright bulbs tracing the mirror’s frame. She tells me, “I’m so fucking ready for the weekend.”
    “Me too,” I tell her.
    “But remember, Ari, I really do need that presentation done this weekend. Make sure it’s done well, also. I’m really thinking you should use the new branding, so if you’ve been using the old one, please change that.”
    “Yeah,” I tell her. “I will.”
    She traces the outside of her eyes with a dark pencil. She once told this technique prevents the appearance of aging.  “It’s going to be a slow show,” she says.
    “I’m sure it will be great, though, Cindy.”
    “I’m just not very appreciative of the fact that they’ve been so stern about the schedule lately. I’m going to talk to Bill on Monday. Can you please schedule that?”
    She looks over at me. “Like as soon as possible. I really need to have my schedule in place.”
    “Okay. I’ll make sure I do it right away when I get back to the office.”
    Cindy checks her phone—reads some email, some text message. She stares at it, confused—semi-fascinated. She looks to me. “No. Like, seriously, Ari. I need it done now.”
    I exit the dressing room and head to the office area, passing people that are above me—above and below. The narrow, dark hallways. The gloomy, dull lighting. I sit down at my desk, right outside Cindy’s door.
In school, they told me that rising to the top wasn’t something I could control. As long as I worked hard, I shouldn’t feel guilt. The guilt of hardly getting by. I sit down and sign in. I open my inbox and go to Cindy’s schedule. I type the words, “Meeting about schedule.” I never get much detail. I do as told. I am the dog and she is the owner.
    My cellphone lights up. It is Cindy. “Cindy,” I say.
    “Please don’t hesitate to get back here.”
    I press send, lock my computer, scurry back to Cindy. I sit down at the dressing room table. She says, “Were you taking a dump or something, Ari? I mean, Jesus Christ.”
    “Sorry, Cindy.”
    “It’s fine. Don’t worry. So, Ari, I’m really going to need you to come in this weekend. Like, I really seriously need that presentation to get done. I know you’ve been working very hard lately, but I really need this to be done.”
    “Also,” she says. “If possible, could you stay late today and complete my expense report. I’m supposed to go up north with Harry this weekend and I know he’d prefer it if I was not on my laptop the entire time.”
    “Like an hour late?”
    “Honestly,” she says. “I don’t care how late. It’s really up to you right now. Until it’s done, Ari.”
    Percy, one of our camera assistants, knocks and then pops his head in the room. He says, “Cindy, we’ll be on in seven. Just wanted to let you know.” Percy looks at me, winks. I narrow my eyes back. He shouldn’t be looking at me like this. If she knew… Oh, God. I’d never hear the end of it.
    Cindy tells Percy, “Whatever.”
    He says thanks, looks at me one last time, closes the door. Cindy asks me, “So who do you see outside of work? Do you have like a significant other or something?” She says it as if I’m a lesbian.
    “Yes,” I say.
    “I imagine you don’t want to talk about it, though. I mean, I was sort of the same way. When Harry and I first met and I was just starting out in the industry, I really kept it on the DL.”
    “Yeah. I mean, this is business.”
    “You’re reputation is everything, Ari. You should feel comfortable talking about things and I want you to, but… You know, don’t feel too comfortable.” She puts her hand on my knee. “You know what I’m saying?”
    “We need to get out there.”
    Cindy looks down at her phone. She reads some message, looks up to the mirror—wipes a line below her eye. “I need to get out there, don’t I?”
    We walk to the stage in silence. Before she steps up the desk, I make eye contact. I’m just not used to the silence. I’m used to reciting the stories with her on the way out—the big stories. She climbs the stage. The make-up girl, Lauren, runs up to her and dabs a few brush strokes of foundation on her skin. Cindy created an empire. The first woman on the network to rule the desk alone.
    Percy counts down, mouths, signals with his hands, “Five. Four. Three. Two. One.”
    “Hello everyone, I’m Cindy Mayfield and this is your five o’clock news. Tonight, we have…” She wipes her forehead, stares at the monitor, glares at it, winks at it. “I’m sorry, I can’t see the monitor, guys.” I look to Percy. He grabs a few patches of his hair, moves the monitor forward. “Tonight,” Cindy says. “We have stories from…” I look to Percy. He moves the monitor closer. He shakes his head. In the production room, they’re all sweating, panicking. Our producer is yelling, yelling at the window.
    Percy tells her, “We just cut.”
    I run up to her leather desk chair. I ask her what’s going on. She shakes her head. A tear rolls down from her left eye. I tell her, “Cindy, really don’t cry. We really need to get back on like right now.”
    “Harry’s leaving me. I can’t do the show right now. I really need to just leave.”
    Cindy rises from the chair. She looks up at the production room. She brings both hands to her mouth, creating a megaphone of sorts. She yells, “I quit, bitches. I seriously quit.”
    “How can you do this?” I ask.
    Cindy grabs my hand. “I’m going to need you to come with me, Ari.” She takes me off the stage, down the dungeon of a hallway.
~Alan Semrow

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