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Ellen's story

Dear Diary:
I've been working at Dreams Underfoot too long, I think.  Normally I'd be gone by now.  But it's not like other jobs, where I wake up bored one day and just split.  Thus far it's been unpredictable.  I have a coworker who's a dog sometimes, a boss who's a witch, and my friends do weird shit like get secret messages from the radio.  Oh, and we have a portal in the basement to another world.  

That's been pretty exciting.  I've started a small wholesale/retail business with a goblin on the other side, supplying goods that translate well into their realm.  The portal is funny that way; not everything shows up in the same condition in which it was sent.  It could really turn into something.  Ironically, running my own business is something that would make my family proud, but the business I'm running is one I can never tell them about without getting checked into a psychiatric unit.  

Despite getting perilously close to having held down a regular job long enough to be found by Revenue Canada (or worse, my family), I'm liking the unpredictability of my week. I have a second job at a bar on Queen, which isn't exactly mundane either.  Dreams Underfoot gets people from another world, but some of the bar patrons outweird even them.  I'm keeping up with my kickboxing lessons and yoga and have bothered to learn some people's names.

***
My parents are worker bees.  They got their first jobs at 14 and just kept buzzing.  They worked their way from the bottom to the middle of the hive.  Somewhere amidst all that they managed to raise three little bees: me, my older sister, Edith, and my brother Michael.

Edith went to business college and started off where mom and dad had finished their careers.  They love Edith; she's polished and professional.  She's a worker bee.  Michael's more of a drone.  he went to work right out of highschool but never really found his niche.  Mom and Dad keep saying he has potential but that he needs to (surprise) work harder.

I an mot a worker bee.  I don't even think I'm a bee.  I think I'm a butterfly raised by bees.

I did well in school and Mom and Dad had me pegged for university.  I took the tuition money, packed a suitcase and sent them a postcard from paris instead.  On some level, I'm sorry, but it had to be done.  They love me, but their boring-ass lives were killing me.

I'm having a good life, even if it's not helping the hive.  I've worked as a waitress, portrait painter, bartender, sidewalk artist, clown (yes, I know...creepy), magician's assistant, and telephone sex operator, to name only a few of my more amusing paycheques.

Most people who meet me would never guess I was raised by bees.  I cut my own hair and instead of looking like a hobo I look edgy and cute.  I've bee doing a femmy menswear look lately: skirt, dress shirt, vest and tie, and high leather boots.  I was written up once in NOW magazine's My Style section, but everything I own came from Value Village, which I think they found disappointing.

I like people in general.  There have been some creeps along the way (like Mr. Manager hands in brussels) but in general people are amusing and descent if given the chance.  I've made a lot of friends and there are plenty of places where I could crash for the night if I had to.  I have an email address and keep in touch in my own sporadic way because my living address changes so frequently.

Oe of my obstacles is money.  I get jobs when I need it, but they never pay well.  I tend to get paid in cash a lot, which I prefer.  I don't file income tax.  Waiting two weeks for a cheque is a pain.  SOmetimes I leave before the two weeks even happens.  If I wake up one day and don't want to be there any ore I just leave.  I hate feeling tied down.  I don't sign leases and I don't have a credit rating or a bank account.  I live in furnished rooms and hostels, but that's where life happens.

Mom and Dad are always talking about the future.  If they knew my financial situation, they'd have an aneurysm.  They're always telling me to put money in an RRSP.  I do sometimes wonder what will happen when I'm too old to get a job on looks and charm.  

Relationships are a bit of a problem.  It's easy enough to attract interest, but I don't seem to attach to people emotionally.  I like people, and the sex is good, sometimes great.  But some days I wake up and just don't want to see that person again.  And yes, I'm playing the pronoun game.  I don't discriminate based on genitalia, but I don't march in parades or wear rainbows either.  I sometimes wish I had a co-conspirator in life, but it seems unlikely to happen with the frequent moving.  I'd get a dog if they weren't so much responsibility.

On of my passions is travel.  I love to drive, especially motorcycles. One tie in Italy I stole a motorcycle on the spur of the moment.  It was great.  I sometimes think I'd have made a great thief if I didn't plan any of my crimes.

Another passion is guerilla art.  Murals, graffiti, changing ads, etc.  I like leaving little sketches behind in unexpected places.  Twice a year I accumulate a portfolio and mail it off to Rochelle Feinstein at Yale's School of Art.  That's the best art school in North America.  I don't actually apply, mind you.  I don't send the $75 or fill in the application.  I just send the art.  Maybe I'm afraid of rejection.

The only secrets I have are those I keep from myself.  Maybe I'm afraid that if I stay in one place too long, learn to like it, get to know people, enjoy something too much, I'll turn into a worker bee.   

***
Tomorrow was payday.  This thought had propelled Ellen Marlowe through three hours of coffee pouring and would now propel her through five hours of assembling cappuccinos.  Capussino - Italian for "litthe hood."  She always laughed whe she thought of that.  It made her think of her genitals.  She slammed the portafilter onto the edge of the knockbox, dumping the burnt grinds into the trash.  Ellen liked that part of the job.  Any job with a bit of violence in it couldn't totally suck.

It was the slowest part of the day now, between the early rush of caffeine addicts and the afternoon rush of late risers and people back for a second fix.  It was warm out, so most people took their drinks and left.  Others lounged indolently on the patio - workers snatching long lunches and students surfing the web instead of completing their papers.  Even the music was becoming lazy.  Frank Sinatra sang "Everything Happens To Me."

Ellen ran her hand down her dark men's shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles in a way that the casual observer might find vaguely sensual.  Many people saw Ellen as sexual in an ambiguous way.  her hair was constantly changing, in part because she was frequently cutting and restyling it.  her frame was athletic and slim, but not boyish.  Her shape came from a general indifference to food rather than a regime of self-denial.  Ellen wasn't big on self denial.  Her skirt was shorter than most women would find comfortable to wear--certainly shorter than the clothing regulations laid out in the employee handbook.  her boots were practical rather than stylish; they were made for walking, standing and stomping.  Ellen had concluded that the secret of being cool was to stop trying and just be cool.  Since then she had worn whatever she felt like wearing.

It was time for a fix of her own.  Ellen wiped the basket clean and filled it with fresh grounds.  She tamped and twisted it with precision born of habit and locked the portafilter into the group head against the gasket and pressed the button for a medium run.  She always stepped back when she did this because there's always a chance something could go wrong.  If she'd tamped too hard or ground the beans too finely then the pressurized water couldn't get through and would build up until it burst the head off the gasket in a shower of boiling water, steam and scalding coffee grinds.  It ran just fine as it had the last hundred times.

She grabbed a metal caraffe from the fridge, filled it with skim milk and pushed it onto the steam wand.  She liked the screaming sounds of the wand.  It was a reminder of the power of water.  If she had a religion she sometimes thought she might worship water.  It was the source of all life, mutable and strong.  And she suspected that a water religion wouldn't make a lot of demands on her time.

She poured the milk into the espresso, holding back the foam with her spoon.  Sometimes, for special customers she would draw images in the coffee as she poured, but today was just about the contents.  She opened a 50ml bottle of Baileys and poured a dollop into her latte.  "Thank God I'm not an alcoholic," she thought, "or I could never justify drinking at work."  Only people who were in no danger of becoming problem drinkers should drink during work hours.

She leaned against the counter and savoured her drink and her life.  Things were pretty sweet right now.  She had a room in a house in the Annex that was costing her just under $500 a month.  her roommates were pretty cool, and she'd only slept with two of them.  her mom used to say "don't shit where you eat," but Ellen had learned that you could eat just about anywhere.



 

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