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I didn’t last at Bert’s and like you’ve read, I had him bring me back to my dad’s place.

***

The day after Martin and I went out to Mayer’s, I braided my hair into a neat plait, and looked through my small closet. I found the black dress I’d worn for Mom’s funeral. That would do. I’d wear it and put on the little gold and pearl chain she’d given me for that last birthday before she died.
I slipped on a pair of flats and I was ready to go. The day was sunny and nearly warm. The walk took a while, as I met up with some of the other neighbors, as they did their yard work, and everyone wanted to chat. I didn’t mind. I thought that my second choice for a job would be at the Golden Age Home. I liked my elderly neighbors.
I got to the hardware store just after nine o’clock. I stepped in and the bell above the door announced my arrival.
Mrs. Jensen, in a bright red shirt that was emblazoned with “Jensen’s Hardware” across the pocket, greeted me.
“Well, Lainie, I see that you took my advice. You look very professional. Now, how about filling out an application?”
“Yes, please,” I said.
Mrs. Jensen walked up to the counter and reached behind, bringing out a sheet of paper.
“You can go into the staff room in back and fill this out. Bring it up to me when you’re done.”
I nodded and took the paper from her hand. I walked to the back of the store and peeked around the corner. There was a small room with a table and chairs, coffee pot and a small fridge.
I sat down at the table and looked over the application form. It was simple enough, asking for my name and address. I stopped when I got to the next line, though.
Experience? What could I fill in there, I wondered. I’d done housework for my parents and for Bert. That was about it.
I wrote it in and then jotted down my reasons for applying. I left out the part about my dad telling me I was useless, though.
I stood up, gathered my pocketbook and the paper, and went back up to where Mrs. Jensen stood. She took the sheet and looked it over. She glanced at me and then she smiled.
“Good work, Lainie. You’re hired. Can you start this afternoon? I’ll give you some company shirts and you can wear your jeans.”
“I’d love to. Oh, thank you so much!”
“Now, don’t get too excited. It’s not a job that pays a lot, you know. And you’re on probation for the first ninety days.”
“That’s not a problem. I amjust so happy that you’ve given me this chance!”
Mrs. Jensen smiled and I left the shop. I felt like I was walking on air all the way back to the house. I changed into one of the shirts that she’d given me, and a pair of jeans.
Dad arrived home just as I was about to leave for work.
“What’re you wearing that shirt for? Where’d you get it?”
“I just got a job at the hardware store, dad.”
“We’ll see how long that lasts before you make some mistake and they fire you.”
Tears filled my eyes, but I refused to let him see. I grabbed my backpack and left the house. I would be early for work, but that was better than late, and I didn’t want to stick around and have dad berate me any more.
I spent that afternoon learning what was stocked and where. Mrs. Jensen showed me how to ring up sales on the cash register. She patted my shoulder after I served my first customer.
“Good for you, Lainie. You were polite and helpful.”
I beamed at her words. Maybe this job would work out for me.

***
When I got back to the house after work, Dad told me to get him a beer as usual and I made supper. It was a good meal and I was proud of my cooking abilities, but Dad said, as he sat down at the table, “What kind of crap is this? Salad? Are you tryin’ to put me on some kinda diet now?”
“Dad, it’s the first course. I’ve got steak and potato pie next.”
He harrumphed and ate. He ate it all up and still complained at me between bites.
“Real men don’t eat salad. That’s some kind of city stuff. Don’t bother making that again, eh?”
I agreed with him just to keep the peace. I trembled as I washed the dishes after the meal. I tried not to cry. I told myself that I was a big girl, and didn’t need his approval. Besides, I was never going to get it, no matter what I did or what I tried.
He left for Mayer’s after that.

***

I went upstairs and into my room. I read a few pages in Moby Dick. My phone rang. It was Kate. We chatted a bit and I told her about my new job.
“Good for you, Lainie! Say, are you interested in sharing my apartment? I could use a room mate to help with the bills. And I know how things are between you and your dad.”
I was overcome with excitement.
“Kate, do you mean it? I’d love that.”
“Great! Let’s meet for coffee tomorrow at Mayer’s. I’m off that day. What hours do you work tomorrow?”
I told her and we agreed to meet up for a discussion of our plans around six o’clock. I was so happy I had trouble sleeping that night. This was going to be my successful move out of the house. I’d get away from my dad, and start a new chapter in my life. One where I was in control and not under my dad’s thumb all the time.
When I fell asleep at last, I dreamed of a huge mansion, and Kate and I were living there, serving coffee to customers who wore red shirts and carried fishing poles and power drills.

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