Hayden’s Corner: YA caretaker novel

haydenscover

Hayden’s Corner Excerpt:

After I received my community college degree, I got a job at the local casino in the records department which was located in a warehouse. I received and data entered all the financial, legal, and human resources document storage paperwork for the casino operations departments. It was a chilly office set in its own warehouse at the far end of the building and adjacent to the blackjack university and inventory warehouse where they stored all the big ticket prizes, old slot machines, craps tables, cards and dice awaiting cancellation or destruction. The records warehouse was kept at a cool temperature to prevent damage to all the ten thousand copy paper sized boxes stored in there. I started taking my kids to work with me almost immediately. The girls hung glow in the dark stars up around the records warehouse the played flashlight tag with the boys. Or the group of them would play with forts and cities constructed of a combination of Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and plastic building blocks—all of which were scattered throughout the warehouse.

My kids enjoyed the place. We brought in a baseball for the boys to play catch with down one of the long corridors of metal shelving that reached about twenty feet high. It they weren’t doing that then the youngest two usually spent their time zooming matchbox-sized cars across terrain tiles, battling it out with miniature metal figurines, rattling a shaker cup full of colorful poker dice or slots dice. My kids collected dice during one of their phases. Scattered across the concrete floor just outside my office lay bright ruby red polyhedrals, antique ivory and glass dice with hand-painted pips. Off to the right were scrimshawed bone, keepsake slot dice with cigarette characters on each side, math multipliers, anatomy dice, twelve-side months of the year dice, rock-paper-scissors, horoscope dice, and a metal shaker cup hold LCR, WPS dice and a set of Put & Take. All total: there were nearly two thousand dice. The newer stuff consisted mainly of role playing game die that came in sets of fifty or so and included sides displaying weapons, tracks, and hit targets. The kids never really knew the games; they just kept the dice around nonetheless. Over the past month, the kids have been letting go of some of the dice, from the Lucite or pastel-toned celluloid—newer girly colored bohemian-style dice, as my son called them. In addition, they let go of word game sets and the pig and bowling game dice. They held back some of the unique pieces like the scarab and kanji sets but most importantly fifty-year-old casino dice from across the country—each with its own advertising symbols—flamingos, fountains, mascots and other emblems.

In order to sneak the kids into the casino warehouse, I’d pull up to the entrance, wait for the surveillance camera to rotate to the opposite direction then I gave the kids my ID so they could race inside the outer door. They swiped the card through the reader quickly and darted across the warehouse aisles all the way back to my office. My son kept the key around his neck to unlock my office door while I gathered the coolers before the security jeep rounded the corner. It was secret to my coworkers that the kids were there in my office; but we couldn’t let security know for safety reasons. For meals, we’d stop at the grocery store and buy rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, a baguette, cherry turnovers and an apple pie. That was a typical meal, outside of the chips and crackers we had for snacks. Occasionally, we got fast food when we were short on time.

During the overnights, the kids set up electric blankets and sleeping bags in the empty bays of the warehouse shelving’s lower rows or slept snug in the corner on a thick bundle of quilts, felt scraps, and rug remnants. At times, the youngest slept on a craps table we dragged through the garage door from the outer storage warehouse. The additional wool blankets helped with the chilly temperatures in the climate controlled document storage environment. Boxes scattered the aisles; some contained extra clothing for school each morning. We were too afraid to go home because of my husband’s release from the workhouse; it was a lenient sentence, in my opinion. Despite the booming noise from the adjacent blackjack university’s training room, the kids were able to sleep well most nights.

When we weren’t at work, we left on road trips to the parks: Yellowstone, Devils Tower, and the Black Hills. Our travels put 66,000 miles on a brand new car during its first year. My husband never knew because he was so out of it. His drinking hit such a low that I started keeping the kids with me at work. We began spending overnights in the casino which was the time that my husband was off work and most likely to come and harass us. In the mornings, I’d take the kids to school and during the afternoons, when my husband was at work, we’d all go home to bathe or shower. At work the kids enjoyed stacking the boxes on the pallet then shrink-wrapping the lot so they wouldn’t fall apart during transfer to the appropriate offices throughout the campus to the various unloading docks. I lifted the garage door and hauled the load out to the main dock with the pallet jack.

Along with work at the casino, I started picking up five postal trays full of postcard warranties and rebates that I’d data enter each night. There were 2800 names and addresses to be recorded from rebate and product registrations, UPC offers, surveys and questionnaires. The pay rate was $220 per 1,000 pieces and each day we turned in the finished trays, we’d get more from the driver. I loaded the software on my computer then simply entered all the data before returning the data and cards at the pickup location which was at Canterbury Downs parking lot. The company was located in Young American but had drop off/pickup points at various stops throughout the week.

One of our godsends during this time was the EAP social worker, Genevieve, who cosigned a loan for our family. The money was for a security system that I’d attempt to install myself. She was also the one that listened to and recorded all the harassment calls made by my husband and left on my work voicemail.  Another helpful soul was a fellow worker from the nearby landscaping nursery. She was the one with me when a worrisome call came in from my husband which I put on speakerphone. During the call, he told me that his coworker girlfriend was planning on committing suicide and he claimed she’d asked him to join her. When I prodded for more information, I learned he’d gotten himself fired the previous night and planned retaliation against the CEO that did the firing. After many long, drawn out questions, I learned that the firing was to keep my husband from harassing his coworker girlfriend; but that wasn’t how my husband saw it. He spilled the details on how he knew the CEO’s schedule and was planning a murder. I nearly fell off my chair by the end of the conversation. Afterwards, my fellow worker in the room with me during the call asked what I’d planned on doing about my husband’s threats. I told my coworker that I planned on doing nothing because I was scared myself—which is why we were living in the casino in the first place.

So my coworker took it upon herself to pick up the phone and dial information to get the number of the company then ask the responding receptionist to speak with the CEO. At first the receptionist was said to be out of the office; however, when my coworker gave the information on my husband and alerted the death threat, we were suddenly connected directly to the CEO. After going over a good twenty minutes of what my husband said on the speakerphone, the CEO said that he sensed something was up last night when he fired my husband; he’d been concerned about the reaction. The CEO called the police immediately and a restraining order was put in place protecting not only the CEO but also the employee/girlfriend of my husband. Apparently she was a younger woman whose parents wrote a letter to the CEO asking the company do something about the harassment of their daughter. Afterwards, we hung up the phone call and sighed. It was relief on my coworker’s part but fear on mine.

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