Pronghorn, Chapter 36: A Walk-in

Continued from the previous chapter, here.

Asa Pemewan drove east on Texas State Highway 411 from its junction with Texas State Highway 701, soon passing by the Caída de Roca and the end of what got called East Park Street to where big-box stores and fast-food franchises clustered as near to San Antonio as they could be and still be in Pronghorn. Most of the national chains’ local branches had cleared the local tree branches out of their parking lots, and many were open and operating again–although to look at them, business still seemed to be down, as people in the county were more interested in setting things to rights than going out and having hamburgers or shopping for cheaply made imported goods. So there was plenty of parking at the pizza delivery place–there was only one in Pronghorn; one restaurant downtown made pizza, but it did not deliver, and the Tuesday Storm might well have closed it forever–when Asa reached it, and he pulled smoothly into a spot. And, on the door, was a sign that read “Hiring drivers.”

Asa went in and was greeted with a “Welcome to the Pizza Place! What can we get you today?” from a youngish woman he thought he recognized. And he replied, “I’m here to see about getting a job. I saw the sign up; are you still hiring?”

“We are, indeed!” The young woman came around the counter. “Hi, I’m Jennifer. I’m the manager here.” She extended her hand; Asa took it and replied “Asa Pemewan. It’s a pleasure.”

Jennifer gestured towards the back of the restaurant. “If you’d like to fill out an application, you can come on back with me; we’ve got a couple of tables back here, and my office. Have you got a resume with you?”

Asa nodded as he followed Jennifer back and she called out “Dave, keep an eye on the counter for a minute, would ya?” Something sounding like an assenting grunt came back, and Jennifer preceded Asa into a largish breakroom, one wall of which was hidden by stacks of pizza boxes, both folded and yet to be folded. Another wall had tables and chairs leaning against it; Jennifer pointed at one and said “Have a seat. I’ll be right back with an application form.” She exited through a door opposite that through which she and Asa had entered, and Asa thought It’s a better reception than I expected. But I haven’t filled out any paperwork yet, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

Jennifer returned a few moments later, a thin sheaf of papers in hand. “So I’ll need you to fill out some basic information, a work history, and a background check authorization. I’ll also need a copy of your driver’s license, Social Security card, and insurance card.” She smiled. “If you’re going to be a driver, you’ll be going lots of places. We’ve got to make sure you can go anywhere, and we’ve got to check to make sure you’re a safe driver.”

Asa nodded. “Makes sense,” he replied as he pulled a pen out of his pocket. “Oh, yeah, I know you’ll want the resume to fill out the work history bit, but I’ll need you to leave me a copy, too.” Asa nodded again and bent to the paperwork. For the address, he wrote his parents’. Hardly a point of pride, but it’s what’s true at the moment. Phone number, date of birth, email address were all his own, and on his work history, teaching job after teaching job. Adjunct work, visiting professorships, assistantships, fellowships, but all teaching, all the time, going back more than the four jobs for which the application form left room, more than the seven years common for job applications on the resume he had in hand. And all of it for nothing. All of that work, and the work that went into doing that work, all for nothing; I could’ve gotten a job delivering pizza straight out of high school.

He smirked a bit and snorted a laugh. Maybe it would’ve been a step up from working at the donut shop that first year of undergrad.

Jennifer returned from where she had been running copies of documents and checking on Asa’s background. “So that’s good. You’re clean. No tickets, no accidents, no criminal charges we need to worry about. One old charge of public intoxication, but that’s, what, ten years back? I think it’s okay. Clean driving record, good insurance record. So, yeah, that all looks good.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Asa replied. “And I think I’ve got everything filled out that you need.” He pushed his application forms and resume across the table to Jennifer. If you need anything else, I can, at least, try to get it to you.”

“Let me see.” Jennifer scanned over the forms and the resume. “You have reliable transportation, right?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She looked at him with an eyebrow arched. “Kind of weird to have you call me ‘ma’am,’ you know.”

Asa shrugged. “You’re the manager.”

“Well, yeah, but you’re still, what,” and she looked at the application form again, “a little older than me.”

“Probably more than a little.”

“Yeah. So. Weird.”

“‘Jennifer,’ then?”

“Only if you don’t want me to ‘Dr. Pemewan’ you all day.”

Asa cocked his head. “You know, I’ve not thought about that and dealing with it.”

“It’d be weird for a driver to go around getting ‘Doctor, Doctor’ all the time, right?”

Asa did a double-take. “Excuse me? I’m not sure I caught that right.”

“Oh, yeah. Pay starts at eight, plus a dollar per delivery. Claim your mileage, claim your tips. Can you start Monday, come in around 2 in the afternoon?”

“Full-time or part-time?”

“Part-time for now. After six months, if you’re doing well, and if you want it, and the store can use it–and it probably will–then, yeah, full-time. Paid vacation after a year either way. Medical and 401(k) if you’re full-time, partial matching contributions starting at two years, fully matching up to seven percent after five years. But all that’ll be in your packet on Monday, if you want the job.”

She stood and looked at Asa, her hand extended to shake his. After a moment or two of him not moving, she asked “Are you okay?”

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