Working Review: Archetypal Acrobatics, Pt. 2

I pared my list of archetypes down to just three, which I saw as being the most wildly divergent while still being plausible. Heather might have elements of Pygmalion in her personality, but they’re not exactly central to her character and I can’t think of a single scene that would let me demonstrate such an aspect.

The first archetype will be the femme fatale. This is the wildcard: it is the archetype that I cannot find within myself anywhere and the archetype that I see as least like the Heather I imagine. Vulnerable child is the archetype that exemplifies the past I’ve given her. She’s basically a scared kid with a big world that is often times actively hostile toward her. Amazon is the archetype of where I think she is currently. She might not be living her dreams, but she’s making ends meet and she knows how to take care of herself.

I created a basic conflict for Heather to cope with each time:

Heather forgot to refill the bottle of cat’s bane she keeps in her purse. She needs a coworker to cover for her while she goes home to get more. It will take at least 30 minutes to go home and get back by foot. Heather cannot drive. The longer she goes without the cat’s bane, the less able she is to resist changing back to her cat form.

Femme fatale:

“Excuse me for a moment,” Heather said. “Just need to powder my nose.” She said it like it was a euphemism for something incredibly sexy.

Marty, one of the busboys, gave her a goofy grin. “Sure thing. I’ll get the drinks for table seven.”

“What a doll,” she said over her shoulder as she left for the restroom with her clutch. The door swung shut behind her and she let her smile drop. She leaned close to the mirror and massaged her cheeks with her fingertips. The skin turned white under the pressure, but as soon as she stopped, they became ruddy again, almost brown. They formed a perfect mask and muzzle over her features.

“Disgusting,” she said. She ran water into her cupped hand and filled her mouth. She opened her clutch and took out a little pill bottle, white and unlabeled. She unscrewed the cap and shook out a pill.

Nothing.

She looked inside. Not a single pill. Not even a little powder from a poorly stuffed gel cap. She swallowed the mouthful of water. She closed her eyes. She took a deep breath. She would not panic. She took everything out of her purse and lined it up on the counter. Lipstick. Tampon. Cell phone. Face powder. Breath mints. Condoms. House keys. Pen. No more pills.

The door opened and Carol looked in. “We need you out here. What are you doing?”

“Just a second,” she hissed back. “Mind your own business.”

“It is my business. Me, manager. You, employee. Remember? Table nine is ready to order.”

Carol left again and Heather hastily used the face powder to cover up her markings. She snapped the compact shut and saw her fingertips were going dark as well. “Shit,” she mouthed to herself. Then she put her smile back on and let her hips swing and went to take table nine’s order.

“Do you have a car?” she asked Marty as she put the new order in.

“No. Just a bicycle. Why?”

“Do you think you could cover for me?”

“You got someplace to be?” he asked, thinking she was joking.

“I just need to step out for a few minutes. Will you be a doll and just take care of seven and nine? Tell Lacy to take any newcomers in her section.”

“I can’t–”

“Oh, but Marty, think of what an opportunity. You can show Carol that you’re ready for more responsibility.”

“Yeah, but–”

“She can’t keep you a busboy forever. Not if you prove you can do the job. She’s just afraid you’re going to make her look bad when you’re a manager too.”

Marty puffed up. It was just what he wanted to hear. “Okay. I’ll do it. But take my bike.”

Heather grimaced. She couldn’t ride one. “Thanks, but it’s not far. I’ll hurry, I promise.” She gave him a peck on the cheek. Carol could complain about sexual harassment in the workplace until crows migrate, but Marty went off with a bounce in his step. Heather went off at a considerably faster pace and would not notice, until she got home and got her cat’s bane, that the stub of her tail had burst the back seam of her uniform pants as she ran.

Vulnerable child:

“Can you take these drinks to table seven, please?” Heather asked as Marty went past her. “I just have to go to the break room for a minute.”

“Sure,” he said and took the tray. “But don’t be long. Carol’s on the warpath.”

Heather slipped into the break room and opened her locker. She reached into the front pocket of her backpack and took out the pill bottle. It did not rattle at all. She opened it and looked inside.

“Oh, no.” She shook it, hoping irrationally that there might be one stuck inside and she had not seen it. Nothing. “Maybe… maybe I just put a new bottle in. Yeah, I bet that’s what I did.” She took her backpack out and straddled the bench while she riffled through it.

The contents of all the pockets piled up in front of her. Hard candies. Face powder. House keys. Lip balm. Stray gumball from the machine in the grocery store. Gel pen. No pills. She scraped the bottom of the empty backpack in a last desperate search. She wiped tears from her eyes and jammed everything back into the backpack at random. She looked at herself in the mirror stuck inside the locker door. Dark markings stood out on her cheeks and nose. They were creeping up around her eyes.

“Heather, get back to work,” Carol shouted from the doorway.

Heather jumped back from her locker like she had been caught picking her nose in public. She felt her hair try to stand on end. “I have to go home,” she blurted out.

“Excuse me?” Carol put her hands on her hips, an unfortunate pose that drew attention to her middle age spread.

“I forgot something really important.” She clutched her backpack to her chest as a shield. She felt about six months old whenever she talked to Carol. “I need to run home. I’ll be right back,” she added hastily.

“You’ve been late four days out of the past week. You want to keep this job, you better start doing it.”

“I haven’t taken my break yet. I’ll use that. And, and I’ll come in early and open for you tomorrow. I know you like to have Sunday mornings off.”

Carol seemed to consider. “Open Sunday and Monday and you have a deal.”

“Okay. Sure. That’s fine,” Heather said and nodded frantically.

“And if you’re take so much as five seconds extra today, I’m docking your pay,” Carol said as she left the break room so that everyone in the kitchen could hear too.

Heather stood paralyzed for a moment. Wretched old hag, she thought. She stuffed her backpack into her locker then had to open it again when she realized she had forgotten her keys.

She would never make it home and back in time. But Carol would probably keep track and dock her pay for every second, so she still had to hurry. Marty gave her a sympathetic look as she bolted out the door and down the street. Two days of opening would be awful. But she could see her fingers turning dark as she ran, arms pumping, and turning into a cat at work was way worse.

Amazon:

Heather checked her watch as she left table seven and put their order in. Twelve-thirty, on the dot. No one said anything when she excused herself with a nod; she kept the same routine every day she worked. She stepped into the break room and opened her locker. The bottle of pills she kept at work waited on the shelf, neatly labeled with a fake prescription from a doctor she did not have.

When she found the bottle empty, she replaced it on the shelf and shouldered her handbag. She found Carol at the greeter’s desk at the front of the restaurant.

“Going somewhere?” Carol asked when she looked up from the game she was playing on her cell phone.

“I have to get something from my home. I’ll be back in half an hour.”

“Uh, let’s see, no? You’ve got tables to wait.”

“Fine. Then you can call the ambulance when I pass out and need emergency care. Just let me know when my face and hands start going dark, so I can lie down first.” Heather had informed her employer of her “heart condition” when she got the job. No one ever wondered why she had to pop pills on a strict schedule. No one wondered why her face and finger tips sometimes when dark. No one even wondered why she was slightly furry, covered in a soft down of pale hairs. It was all about circulation problems and a weak heart.

“That’s not–”

“Or you can just tell Lacy to cover my tables until I get back. I’ll do the same for her the next time her boyfriend decides to drop in for a visit and a quickie in the back of his truck.”

“It’s pretty irresponsible of you to forget your medicine if it’s that important,” Carol said sullenly.

“There was a delay in refilling the prescription and I just received it yesterday. I forgot to refill the bottle I keep here.” She looked at her watch pointedly. She had made it clear that if she missed taking her medicine for as little as an hour, her life would be in peril.

“Whatever. Just hurry up,” Carol said and waved her away.

Heather made sure to walk sedately until she was out of sight of the restaurant. People with heart conditions were not supposed to run. But after she rounded the corner of Broadway, she jogged the rest of the way to her apartment. She tried to keep her feet flat, but kept rising up onto the balls of her toes. She ran faster that way and she finally gave in. The sooner she got home, the sooner she could get her problem under control again.

End Part 2 :: Continue to Part 3 :: Back to Part 1

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About Joyce

Joyce Sully lives in Southern California. She graduated from UC Irvine. She likes to knit and cook and play video games. But mostly she writes. Joyce writes short stories and novels, songs and poems, scripts and instructions to feed the cat if she stays out late. She has been spotted as far afield as Seattle, but travel makes her nervous. She believes in magic and dragons and ghosts, but is not convinced her next-door neighbors are real.
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2 Responses to Working Review: Archetypal Acrobatics, Pt. 2

  1. Angie says:

    Oh dang these exercises produce really great results. I really like reading the Working Reviews.

  2. Pingback: Working Review: Archetypal Acrobatics, Pt. 3 | JOYCE SULLY

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