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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not Even a Mouse: A Rona Shively Short (Chapter Four)

I studied the paper for a moment and then folded it and slipped it in my pocket. “So, there’s no problem if I come in and talk to each of them during their shifts?”

She brought her hand to her chin as she thought for a moment. “I don’t see any problem, but what reason can we give them?”

We both sat for a few minutes trying to come up with a ruse. “I’ve got it!” she said, nearly jumping out of her seat. “You can say you’re coming in to talk to them about their experience making the product, like it’s part of our new marketing campaign or something. How would that be?”

It made sense, so we decided that I would talk with the lady who worked first shift before I left this morning. Though I hadn’t seen any workers other than those gathered in the kitchen area, she assured me that they were all present. I would come back at around ten this evening to catch the second shift worker and then just wait around for third shift to come in. We got up from the table and she walked me back to the “workshop” as she called it. This time, instead of ten empty stations, there were at least twenty people bustling about. At each station there was someone who was putting something together. There were four people roaming around with carts, picking up completed items and then there were several people huddled in the middle of the room throwing papers about and speaking loudly amongst themselves. I wondered where all of them had been when we were in here earlier. This place was just bizarre.

Mrs. Clos approached the Move ‘N Shaker station and introduced me to a skinny woman in a green velvet smock. “Violet, this is Ms. Herman,” she said, “She needs to talk to you about your experience making the Move ‘N Shakers. She’s going to be helping us with our marketing.” She winked at Violet and patted her on the back before pushing me forward and walking away. I extended my hand to the lady.

“Hi, my name is Jenny Herman,” I said, thankful to have remembered who I was today, “I’m doing some market research for the company and I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to ask you about the Move ‘N Shakers. Is now a good time?”

The lady pursed her lips, but did not stop assembling her pieces to shake my hand. Instead, she nodded and finally broke into a smile before saying, “Pleased to meet you, ma’am.”

“Your name is Violet Tooney?” I asked.

She nodded again, still putting together one piece with another. I watched her, mesmerized by her efficiency. She didn’t fumble around with the pieces; she simply picked them up from the bins and put them exactly where they went. I admired people who could do things like this. I wasn’t the least bit handy.

“Can you tell me a little bit about the product and your experience making the Move ‘N Shakers?” I asked, thinking this sounded like the right thing to say.

To my surprise, Violet started talking up a storm. She told me all about the different pieces she was working with and how each one worked with another. Today, she was working on the consoles, but that could change from day to day. Some days, she worked on controllers. Some days, she worked on both. She had worked here for several years and had just been moved to the Move ‘N Shaker line about two years ago. This hadn’t been a popular item until earlier this year, so she hadn’t had so much to do until this Christmas season. Before, she had been able to work on both controllers and consoles at the same time. She told me that she enjoyed putting the machines together because there weren’t very many pieces and they usually all fit together without any problem.

“It’s a good job and I’m lucky to be here,” she said, “so many people out there right now don’t have anything.”

I nodded to show that I was listening. “I know, it’s rough.”

“My sister just lost her job and she’s got three babies to take care of,” she said, shaking her head. “I give her any extra money I make with my overtime.”
That was interesting. A sister that needed money might be willing to sell off some stolen consoles if things got bad enough.

“Does your sister live here in Nevada?” I asked, hoping she would think I was making conversation and not fishing for information.

“No, she lives in Baltimore,” she said. “We hardly see each other because we can’t afford airfare. We just talk on the phone a lot and I used to try to get out there at least once a year. The problem is that I don’t have a lot of vacation time and if I take off, I lose money, too. I haven’t been able to make the trip for two years now.”

“You don’t get vacation time?” I asked.

“Oh, I do, but I used a lot of it when I fell last January,” she said, “I was laid up for about three months with a busted knee.” She stopped working long enough to point to her left knee by way of explanation.

I nodded again. We talked for a few more minutes and then I told her that I thought I had enough information. She smiled politely and told me to come back if I thought of anything else. “You can pretty much find me here all of the time.” She stopped assembling again long enough to reach out and shake my hand. Then she smoothed the sides of her graying hair back away from her face and set back to work. I walked away feeling not one way or the other about her. She didn’t seem like the type of person who would be running a scam. I took the paper out of my pocket and unfolded it. Jordan Sinclair and Monte Bergman were the other two assembly workers I needed to see. Dirk Morris and Tony Albertson were the two stockers. I hadn’t seen Dirk when I was talking to Violet, but he’d probably be there later when I go back to talk to second shift. I couldn’t wait.

Come back tomorrow for more of the story...

Until next time...

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A Little Bit of Mystery: Short Mysteries to Confuse and Amuse

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