Daily Fiction Challenge Day 16: Deceiving Appearances

I’m still a day behind on posting my daily fiction, but at least I’m getting it written on time. This story developed out of a thought I had because I get so angry about the way people judge one another based solely on appearance. And then when I got down off my high horse, I wondered if I do it too.

Deceiving Appearances

The day had been tiring and I just wanted to take a nap.

Everyone and their brother demanded my time, begging for my attention. As the thirtieth, no thirty-first customer for the day walks through the office door, I consider running screaming from the room.

Instead I paste on a smile and ask, “How can I help you?”

The man’s eyes are bloodshot and he twitches, his hands deep in the pockets of his hoodie. He hasn’t opened his mouth yet to show that evidence, but I can smell him from across the desk. No one ever tells you that meth addicts, like the drug itself, have a smell, an acrid burn that hits your nostrils and makes your eyes burn.

I hope he noticed that signs that say we don’t take cash, but I’m not at all certain that he can comprehend what that means.

He’s practically vibrating with nervous energy as he leans forward and smiles, the missing teeth and the rotted ones that are left, leave his breath smelling of decay and death. Or maybe I just imagine that.

He props his elbows on the countertop of the desk and I keep the fake smile pasted in place, trying not to flinch away.

Does he know I’m alone in the office today? Does he care?

“You got a bathroom I can use?”

There’s one right around the corner and if I say yes, I can call someone, anyone while he’s in there. But I use that bathroom and I don’t want him using it.

“No, I’m sorry. The restrooms are for employees only.”

“Ya’ll hiring?”

I’m thankful I haven’t put up the help wanted sign yet. We are looking for an evening janitor and part-time maintenance guy, but the owner wouldn’t hire this guy anyway so why waste the application?

“No.”

He hangs his head and says thanks, then turns to go.

He gets as far as the door and I’m feeling like a fraud, not the kind person I pretend to be but just another bigot afraid of someone who is different, judging him by his look and his clothes, not whatever skills he might possess.

“Sir,” I say, reminding myself I want to do better. I stand up to offer him the paper. “We haven’t officially started the hiring process yet, but we’re going to be looking for a janitor. Would you like an application?”

He turns back and smiles and shoves the gun back in his pocket.

“Yes, ma’am, I’d like that a lot.”

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