A Story From The Eighties

Submitted into Contest #97 in response to: Start your story with an unexpected knock on a window.... view prompt

1 comment

Drama Teens & Young Adult American

        Janice was startled when she heard the rap on the window. She wasn’t supposed to sleep while working as a watch person at the poultry barn but she may have dozed off. She was sitting in the employee lounge of Sunup Poultry, Inc. Old man Petrie, the owner, threatened to dock the pay of anyone who called the place a “chicken factory” but that was what it was. It supplied the maximum amount of meat and eggs at the cheapest possible cost. 

          Janice used to work during the day on the floor with the chickens but after thirty years even with the safety equipment breathing in the chickenshit was affecting her health. The nightwatch job paid a little less but Janice felt it was time for less demanding work. She remained at Sunup because it was the best employer in her town. Now she spends five nights a week, eleven to seven, in the huge brick “barn” just her and the chickens. Except when she did her half hour rounds where she logged any chickens that appeared sick and occasionally removed one that died, she stayed in the employee’s lounge listening to the country station and reading a paperback, this one was a mystery with a Russian detective.

          The rapping at the window persisted a little louder this time. Janice supposed it was her job to prevent break-ins but no one had given the possibility much thought. The metal doors were locked up tight after the evening workers left, the parking lot and outdoor areas were surrounded by a high chain link fence with a sturdy padlock and chain at the gate, the grounds were surrounded by farmland and who wants to break into an industrial chicken coop, anyway? She glanced at the clock, 2:45. 

          She picked up the big flashlight that she used for her rounds and shined it out the window. 

          She saw a teenage girl blinking her eyes to adjust to the sudden light in her face.

          “Pleez, lai-dy, let us in. We just jumped off train. We don’t know where we are.”    

          The girl spoke with an accent, maybe Russian. Her dark hair rested on a white “Queen” t-shirt. She was wearing grey sweatpants, sneakers, and carried an olive rucksack. Behind her was a honey blonde in a black “Guns and Roses” shirt with a burgundy rucksack. Janice thought she had never seen prettier girls outside of tv or the movies. 

          “Pleez, lai-dy, we climb fence, saw light in window, let us in.”

           They didn’t seem like criminals. The safe thing would be to tell them to go away. It was years ago but there had been unsolved murders of young girls in the vicinity. Janice would have felt terrible if they went away and then something like that happened. 

            “Come around to the main door. I’ll let you in.”

            Janice kept her flashlight on as she walked past the hundreds of coops to the door at the other end of the building. She used a key from the big keyring chained to her belt to unlock the door. The brunette entered first, followed by the blonde. 

          The brunette spoke,  “I Sofia, she Irini, we ac-cro-bats in Romanian cir-cus. We want live in Amer-i-ca. Train stop. We jump off. Help us, pleez.”

           Romanian acrobats!? This was certainly the most unexpected event in Janice’s whole life. “I’m Janice”

           Irini began to walk around looking at the chickens as she chattered in Romanian.

           “Ing-lish, Irini!” said Sofia, “We in Amer-i-ca.”

          “So man-y chic-kens. I love chic-kens!” said Irini. “But why in cages? At home, my chic-kens roam yard.”

           “Are you really acrobats?”

           “Course, we do tight-rope, trap-eze, but best at tumb-ling. Irini better than me. Don’t be shy, Irini. Show Ja-nice.”

           Irini became a blur as she did backflips to the far wall of the barn and then somersaulted the way back. She stood in front of Janice with a proud grin and slightly flushed face. 

           “You are good!” 

           “We try out for gym-nas-tics team. I not seri-ous en-ough. Irini thought the coaches were mean. Join cir-cus instead. Things bad in Romania. Cir-cus come to Amer-i-ca. We like Amer-i-ca. Want live here. Join Amer-i-can cir-cus. Maybe t-v, mo-vies. I can sing.” She sang a few bars of something plaintive in Romanian.

           “Are you two sisters?”

           Sofia laughed. “No, friends. I from city. Irini from coun-try.”

           Irini said something in Romanian. It sounded like a worried question. 

           “You’re right, Irini. I ask. Jan-ice, we have moms and dads in Romania. They want to know about us. Can we make phone call?”

           Petrie was a skinflint who would not appreciate the charge for unauthorised overseas phone calls but Janice knew the girls’ mothers would worry. She was sure that if she explained the situation he would pay up in order to help the girls, as he would call it, “escape from commies.”

            “Come along.”

             The girls followed Janice to the part of the building where Petrie had his office. She unlocked the door to the reception area where his secretary had her desk. While she dialed up an outside operator Sofia pulled a piece of paper from the pocket of her rucksack. Janice handed her the phone and she read through the steps to finally get through to her parents. She seemed to be having an argument but sounded completely confident in her decision. When  she was finished she hung up the phone. 

              “Your turn, Irini.”

               Irini had the operator put her through. She seemed more hesitant about her call. She started calmly but then got more and more upset. The call seemed to last forever. She   eventually hung up and burst into tears.  

               Sofia put her arms around her. “It o-kay, we talk about this. Your Mama and Papa will miss you but know you’re better off. This is what we want.”

                Janice felt slightly embarrassed watching this little scene. Then she looked at the clock. “I haven’t done my rounds!” 

            Sofia and Irini looked at her “Rounds?” 

             “I’m supposed to check on the chickens.”

             “We help,” Irini said. “Seeing chic-kens make me feel better.”

              Janice picked up her flashlight. “Okay, let’s go.” 

               Janice shined her light ahead as the girls followed her among the coops. The rounds took longer than usual because Irini examined every chicken and made “pwee, pwee” sounds to the ones that were awake. Fortunately, this time the chickens were all healthy.

               “It was nice to see chic-kens”, she said at the end. “Even though they seem sad.”  

                “Would you girls like some coffee?”

                “Yes, pleez.”

                Janice led them to the break room. While she was making the coffee Sofia opened the refrigerator. Janice knew there wasn’t much in there but Sofia found some left behind cold cuts and Irini dug into a piece of three day old birthday cake. Janice filled two paper hot cups with coffee and set them on the table in front of the girls and then filled her personal kitten mug. 

                 “Is country music okay or do you prefer rock like your shirts?” Janice asked as she sat down.

                  “Listen what you want,” said Sofia. “We don’t know Quen or Guns n Roses. We just like shirts.”

               “Ja-nice,” Irini asked. “Do you have husband?”

                “I’m divorced. My husband wanted something different.”

                 “Do you have children?”

                “I have a daughter. She lives with her father. I guess I was overprotective….”

                “Overpro-tect-ive?” Irini looked confused. 

                “I tried too hard to keep her from harm. She didn’t feel free. When she was fourteen she said she would rather live with her father. Jim is a good dad so there was no reason not to let her go if that’s what she wanted. Jim sends her to see me a couple of times a year but I miss her.” 

                 Irini said, “If she nice like you, I like to meet her.”

                “I’m sure she’d like both of you. She sings and acts in shows at school. Jim records them and sends me the cassettes but I’d love to see it live.”

                 “Sor-ry, that sad.”

                 “What are you plans?”

                  Irini and Sofia looked at a loss for words.

                 “You can stay here for now. When my shift is over I’ll drive you to my trailer. You can meet Tinkerbell, my cat. Usually when I get home I have breakfast and a nap. There isn’t a lot of room but I have a loveseat and an easy chair that should be comfortable enough if you two want some sleep.”

                   The girls nodded.  

                   “After my nap I’ll call a friend who works in a law office. I think you are going to have to ask for asylum. I don’t know what will happen after that.”

                   Irini said, “Maybe we watch your daughter’s tapes with you.”

                   Janice began to tear up. “I’d like that.”

June 12, 2021 02:43

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1 comment

Michael Regan
00:59 Nov 14, 2021

I liked the story line. It was a nice read.


Show 0 replies
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