Apprehension is the best word I can use to describe how I’m feeling before starting my new job. I’m due in ten minutes and this taxi is taking it’s sweet time. Someone does not want a tip. Floor manager at Miami Leather Goods, the UK arm of the US based clothing line for ‘plus-size’ women. That term grates in my throat; plus-size are the best size and everyone knows it, yet the term is used almost derogatively. Surely plus means positive, so ‘positively sized women’ is the best term, meaning that everyone else is negatively sized, although as long as a person is healthy, it matters not what size they are.
The taxi turns one more corner and pulls up at the gate. The arches loom large and menacing above, giving a feel of something out of Roald Dahl. Did factories like this exist anymore? I had my interview at head office with some executive, but here the whole place was run by the owner from the offices in the US. I paid the driver sans a tip (as the UK holds no custom to tipping, especially those who almost make you late) and watched him drive lazily away. I pressed the intercom, until a buzz replied.
“(crackle) good morning, Miami Leather Goods UK division. How may I help?” It all sounds professional enough.
“Good morning, this is Mr. Colin Greene. I am the new floor manager.”
“Certainly, Mr. Greene. Upon entering, please follow the signs to the entrance and await someone to escort you. Stand clear of the gates.”
A loud rumble announced the opening of the gates. Every creak preceding every inch felt like an hour. It started to rain and I just wanted to get inside and start work. I expect I’d be given a tour of the building and then sent to meet the staff under my charge. Finally the gates opened, clanging as they stopped. I followed the instructions issued through the intercom and found myself at a large green door with a brass handle protruding from the middle.
The wind was picking up, and as I reached out for the handle the door swung inwards. There standing before me was a smartly dressed security guard, wizened in his looks yet friendly with his atmosphere. His grey hair belied his youthful look, but the wrinkles around his eyes hinted at a man who had seen many tough days.
“Good morning, Mr. Greene.” he said firmly, offering his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I accepted his hand and we shook, his grip not being as firm as I thought it would be, probably to avoid unnecessary intimidation.
“Likewise Mr…” I probed for a name.
“Thomas. I am Mr. Thomas, head of security.” He finished with a tone hinting at a definite pride in his position. “If you would care to follow me, then we can begin.”
He turned as if beckoning me to follow.
“Close the door behind you.” He said as he heard my footsteps upon the marbled floor. The air was warm and welcoming with a pleasant earthy smell I could not quite place. I looked about. This was some hallway. Beautifully lit with glass windows lining our path, each housing a cubicle behind with people hard at work. All of them looked and smiled as I passed. The cubicles were almost in checkerboard fashion in terms of the gender of the inhabitants within: alternating male and female side by side and face to face. Each wore the same uniform. No one person looked the same, all kept their identity in their own little way. That was encouraging.
After a little while we reached a staircase to the left descending and to the right ascending.
“We have a choice now, sir. Upstairs to your office to settle down, or downstairs to your team to catch up.” He could barely control a smile at his own use of opposites.
“I’d like to put my things down first, but quickly. I’m eager to meet the team.”
“Delicately put, sir. Well done. This way.” Thomas started upstairs and I followed.
The corridor at the top of the stairs was much like the one below. We walked to the very end instead of taking the steps any further up. We reached the end of the glass cubicles and came across a large set of dark mahogany double doors.
“Your office, sir.” Thomas said, unlocking the doors with a key dangling from a keyring on his belt. As this was the only key he held, I surmised that this would be the master key. The office was relatively unremarkable, a desk, a chair, a lamp, a phone, a television screen behind the chair most probably for conference calls. A coat rack stood to my right. I hung my jacket and placed my bag on the table. Straightening the cuffs on my shirt and the tie at my neck, I turned back for Thomas to lead me to my team.
Lead me he did down two flights of stairs onto the noisy factory floor. This was where all the clothing was produced. The smell I first experienced when entering the building was strongest here and was now unmistakably that of beef. Not stale beef either, warm freshly roasted silverside sitting in its own gravy. My mouth was watering. It was only 9 am and I had a full bowl of porridge before leaving but I was hungry again now. Starving in fact. It was such a strange sensation I began to feel light headed. A loud ringing interrupted my thoughts, and then silence. Absolute, deadly silence. Several seconds passed, then Thomas spoke:
“Good morning factory workers. This is Mr. Greene, your new floor manager. Make him feel welcome and no one needs to worry about a thing. Back to work.” As soon as he finished speaking, the noise started up again; machines whirring, clamps clamping, people talking, gossiping, laughing, nothing more than the sounds of a happy and productive workforce.
Everybody was so focussed on their work they had no interest in looking up to greet me as I wandered around the machines and through the rows of those hard at work stitching both with machine and by hand. These were some seriously skilled workers and it was easy to see why Miami Leather Goods had such a terrific international reputation. I felt as though getting this job truly was my landing on my feet, and not just because the pay was good. This really was a step up for my career.
As I wandered with my clipboard making notes on productivity, I became once more overwhelmed by the smell of roast beef. I looked at the clock. It was 11 am. Was this just a smell wafting in from a canteen somewhere? Lunchtime isn’t far away, could this just be lunch prep? Or was it just the leather? No, that was a silly thought, leather doesn’t smell like a Sunday roast. It was like a Sunday dinner, I could almost taste the roast potatoes and honey-glazed carrots. Lunchtime was definitely at 12. I just had to get through this last hour. My stomach rumbled and growled. I was so hungry.
I tried to focus on other aspects of my work to distract me. The light bulb above machine #6924 needs replacing. Like a hot lamp above a restaurant pass keeping warm the golden, fluffy Yorkshire puddings sitting on a slope of pink roast beef supported by peas, carrots and cauliflower, swimming in a rich, viscous red wine and onion gravy. I needed it, now. My heart was pounding at the thought of that warm meat touching my lips, the warm gravy running off into my mouth and trickling down my throat. I shuddered. This was too much. I had to have it, I couldn’t contain myself. I was dizzy with desire, couldn’t really see straight. I stumbled into the worker on machine #305.
“Where is it?” The comely young lady with blonde hair looked surprised and confused.
“What do you mean?” she gasped, worried about the break in her productivity.
“Don’t toy with me,” I snapped. “I need it now. I can’t take it any longer. Where is the beef?”
Deathly silence. The whole room stopped. Everyone faced me. The poor girl in front of me looked devastated. There was no sound from anywhere. I don’t even think anyone was breathing. The bated breath on display was pretty impressive; as I scanned their faces I expected to see some becoming blue. What was going on?
“Please sir, I don’t have any idea what you mean.” She turned away to continue with her work. A few beats later and the rest of the workers continued in the same vein as before. It was like nothing had happened. I put my hands on my knees and panted. I was struggling for breath. That’s when she turned back to me and whispered: “No matter what you do, don’t mention the beef. However much they ask, there is no beef. We have no beef between us. There will never be any beef.” She had tears in her eyes. Whatever had just happened had clearly frightened her.
Just then I felt a hand clasp onto my shoulder from behind, and before I could turn around Thomas’ voice came cutting through the factory noise in an insidious whisper.
“I’ll need you to come with me now.”
He spun me around whereupon a large man and a large woman who had been chosen specifically for this occasion for intimidation purposes flanked me and began to escort me back towards my office.
The corridor where my office was situated was dark and quiet where previously it had been light and chatty. All the cubicles were darkened, and I could not see if anybody was still working inside. Thankfully, the haunting smell of roast beef was barely noticeable here and coupled with the eeriness of this whole situation had nullified my hunger pangs considerably. We reached the doors to my office and the large woman shoved me inside. The heavy doors slammed shut behind me. It was dark. The curtains were drawn so no light could enter. I stepped forward to turn on my desk lamp when the phone rang and the conference screen flashed on.
Staring back at me was a sensibly sized woman of Cuban descent sporting an excellent pair of breasts and dark eyes that could snap a man in half for daring to take a cheeky peek. She was beautiful and dangerous in equal measure. She had long dark hair tumbling down to frame her expressive, sensual face with skin of dark olive complexion. My heart jumped. She was definitely the heart and soul of this company.
“Well?” she said in a voice that turned my knees to water.
“A-are you the B-Boss Lady?”
“What?” she screeched, quite indignant, her full lips looking as though they were throbbing.
“I-I asked if y-you were the boss l-lady.” I could barely form words with my lips. That craving I had for roast beef earlier was now replaced with an equally strong craving of a different kind. I took shelter behind my desk, sitting on the chair reserved for guests. In my own office this woman had reduced me immediately to that of a visitor.
“I am the Bo$$ Lady” She announced with a passion of fire and thunder. “I am NOT the ‘Boss Lady’.” I was puzzled, how was I saying it? Her Florida accent certainly did not sounds that much different. I had to ask.
“I don’t understand, I’m sorry. How is what I am saying different to what you are saying?”
“I am the Bo$$ Lady. Dollar signs instead of the double ‘s’. You must learn this immediately.”
I was incredulous. It made no sense whatsoever, but then again, nothing else from this day made sense either and so I just rolled with it.
“My apologies, Mrs…” I probed for a way to deflect the pronunciation issues.
She sat there, swivelled in her chair slightly to her left and smirked.
“I am not married. Call me ‘Bo$$ Lady’. It’s easy, try it like this” she moved her face towards the screen so her full, tasty lips were in full view, just cutting off the line of sight towards her chest and mouthed “‘Bo$$ Lady’.” Things were getting difficult. She was a sexual being, and she knew exactly what she was doing. “Now say it. Now I’ve shown you, say it.”
“Say what?” I knew exactly what, but I was transfixed and I wanted to play.
“Say my name.”
“The Bos$ Lady.”
“The Bo$s Lady.”
“The Bo$$ Lady.”
“My Bo$$ Lady.”
She sat there looking at me, her dark eyes goring me, flicking me up in the air and devouring me like a demonic bull assaulting a timid, submissive matador. Then she whispered, firmly, powerfully, accepting no substitute,
“You’re goddamn right.”
That was it. I was hers. Whatever witchcraft had preceded with the roast beef smell and the hunger and the deep, sexual desire mattered not anymore. I had melted. She had won. Whatever she wanted, she could have.
“Now then, Mr. Greene. Tell me, where is the beef?” Not this again.
“There is no beef.”
“Why then did you ask for beef?”
“At that moment I was weak and I wanted the beef.”
“You want beef with me? You? Want beef? With me?”
I wasn’t sure if she was engaging in some sort of verbal foreplay or trying to street talk me into crying but I just thought I had better answer truthfully.
“Yes. I want beef. I want your beef. Not beef with you. I want you. You are what I want.”
She looked as though she understood.
“What do you mean?”
“I want you, My Bo$$ Lady. I want you. When I wanted the beef, it was exactly what I felt when I wanted you. It is one and the same. My desire, my hunger, my cravings. They are for you. They are yours.”
The Bo$$ Lady smiled, flashing her perfectly straight pearly white teeth.
“Good,” she whispered, and leaned back in her chair. “Then work for me it. You earn the right and you can have it. You are mine, and I can be yours. Get back to work. Let me see how much you mean it.” As she spoke she was running her fingertips across her chest, between her breasts. I swallowed hard as she flicked her hair back and her crooked finger caught the neckline of her top, revealing some more of that dark, delicious skin.
“I will do whatever you say.” I smiled.
Suddenly, the door burst open. The screen went black and Thomas marched in with his goons. They thrust a uniform at me and ordered me changed. I did so in silence. They marched me back down into the factory proper and set me to work. I was number #15922, and I was working for My Bo$$ Lady forever. I could not be happier.
© Kris Blackburn 13/07/2015