Today's prompt: National Backward Day–show someone who feels backwards or like they’ve got it all wrong. BONUS if they’re the only one who sees the problem!
(Unfortunately, Shay is not the only one who sees her problem. And sorry, Mom, this one called for the "B"word. Those who read my post about that last week will understand what I mean.)
Shay's Backward Day
by Rebecca Blevins
I pounded off the alarm and accidentally fell back to sleep. Once I finally opened my bleary eyes, the red numbers of the clock stared at me evilly. New clock, new apartment, new city--I still wasn't used to any of it.
Thanks to mistaking the "off" button for the "snooze" I had only five minutes to get ready for work. I threw on the first clean thing I found--a loose knit dress--slipped on sandals while praising my new job for Casual Friday, and ran out the door.
The seat in the car felt kind of weird, like it had lost a lot of cushion. "It's probably time for a new one anyway," I muttered. I'd said that each year for the last three, but my old Civic kept barely holding together. My rump was so bony that I noticed as soon as anything lost a bit of softness, so likely the cushion had settled even more. Weirdly, my stomach seemed a little larger than normal, but that wasn't out of character. After all, I had eaten quite a bit of Chinese last night, and salty food does that to me. Still, my middle felt . . . strange. I poked my stomach, and it wasn't soft and squishy like when I'm bloated, but kind of hard, with a couple of weird bumps. I got this nervous, anxious, fluttering feeling, but the car behind me honked. I looked up and the light was green.
I swung into the parking space and hurried into the office, holding my tiny purse in front of me. The bathroom was just inside the large sales room everyone sat in, sectioned off in short cubicles. As soon as I reached the room, everyone looked up. As if they were part of a single, ginormous organism, their gazes dropped to my belly. A couple of the guys laughed; a few of the women seemed concerned. I turned and fled into the bathroom and locked the door.
Breathe, just breathe!
My heart pounded, and after I set my purse down, I felt my stomach again. Yep, two weird, roundish lumps. I went over to the mirror, and I looked several months pregnant. I had always been skin and bones, so any bit of swelling was noticeable. But I wasn't in a relationship, hadn't been to any clubs where someone could have spiked anything, had no memory loss--what the heck was going on?
Someone knocked on the door. Oh, not now. Please. A voice came through the thin wood. "Shay, it's Jennifer. Are you all right? I didn't know you were pregnant."
"I'm not!" I blurted. "Uh--I'll be okay. Give me a minute." Jennifer worked in the cubicle next to me. Unlike me, she was fashionable, smart, spoke with a British accent, and was quickly becoming a good friend--my only friend. I'd started here just three weeks ago, and I couldn't afford to become the laughingstock of the company. I'd already done that at my last job. Maybe some alien had abducted me? I'd been having strange dreams ever since I'd been working here.
I couldn't put off knowing what was happening forever. I stood in front of the mirror and lifted up my dress.
My stomach looked terrible! Instead of being smooth and flat, it was in two rounded lumps with a huge split down the middle. Curiously, it looked familiar. I tilted my head, trying to wrap my brain around what I was seeing. Where have I seen that before? After a few moments it dawned on me, and I gasped in horror. It was a butt! I felt the bony points--my butt!
I spun and checked where my rear used to be, and found that somehow my front was my back and my back my front.
Jennifer pounded on the door. "Shay! Please let me in! I can help!"
I hadn't a soul in the world to turn to. Not who wouldn't make great fun at my expense, anyway. The doorman in my apartment building enjoyed ribbing me a little too much. I sighed and let her in. "Jennifer, you'd better steel yourself. You're not going to believe this--"
She interrupted me. "Let me guess. Your bum is on backwards."
I was floored. "How did you know? Why didn't you tell me?"
She put a hand on her slim, green chino-covered hip and studied me through blond bangs. "You've been drinking those free bottled drinks in the break room I told you to stay away from, right?"
I nodded sheepishly.
"I tried to give you a hint. If I'd said anything more you would've thought I was nutso." She shook her head. "The guy you replaced didn't stay away from them either. He couldn't handle working here after his incident."
This wasn't making any sense. "How is that legal?"
"This company is full of whackadoos. When you signed your new hire papers, you took personal responsibility for anything you ingest. It's buried in lots of legal jargon. You probably didn't read that closely, did you?"
I shook my head. "No. I feel like an idiot."
She smiled, her even white teeth the perfect candidate for a toothpaste commercial. "Don't. Hardly anyone reads the fine print. When you sign on you're basically agreeing to be experimented on, but of your own free will. The higher-ups like to try out their products on unsuspecting employees, but it's all voluntary. You get big bonuses if you act as their guinea pigs. Heck, when I started, I ate a granola bar and had blue hair for a month. But don't worry. The guy before you had his bum back where it belonged in two weeks, so yours should follow suit.
"The longest anyone had a change was when Edwina sprouted chicken feathers that didn't go away. She went through several molts before she disappeared without saying a word. Rumor is she lives in Hawaii with a huge retirement pension. Everything has been highly tested before it comes to us to minimize symptoms, but no one takes anything knowingly unless they are desperate."
"Seriously?" I stared at her.
"Seriously." She leaned against the door. " They brought the drinks in a few months ago. I'm curious--what do they taste like?"
I thought a moment. "Kind of like cherry Kool Aid. Pretty good."
Jennifer chuckled. "I guess you shouldn't drink the Kool Aid, then. She handed me a long sweater. "Here. I keep this on hand for emergencies. And a hat, and a scarf, and yoga pants, and after last October's fruit snacks, a pair of knitting needles . . ."
I raised my eyebrows.
I wrapped the sweater around me. It concealed my belly--bottom--pretty well. "So . . . this should be switched back in two weeks?"
"Should be." She sighed. "I guess we'll have to cancel going clubbing tomorrow night."
"Unfortunately, yeah." I felt so awful. I had been so close to making a real friend in this new city.
"So," Jennifer said, "You like chick flicks?"
As much as I wanted someone to hang out with, I had to be honest. "Not much. I'm more of a Vin Diesel kind of girl."
"No way! Me, too!" she exclaimed. "Tell you what--I'll bring some Thai food and ice cream if you have movies, and we'll party in your apartment instead."
I couldn't believe my luck! "Sounds great!"
Having to walk around bum backwards for a couple of weeks would be awkward, but at least I had someone to groan about it with. Things were definitely looking up.