Screwmates(4)

By: Kayti McGee


I’d started at the counter but was quickly moved to the back where I could operate the screen printing machines. Every night I came in at five, an hour before the store closed to the public, then I spent the rest of the evening pumping out orders. I was usually done by ten or so.

If I got done at a reasonable time, I got to play with my own designs, often staying another two or three hours to knock out some new pieces. I liked to consider that my “real” job, but it was more like my goal job. The SplatScreen work itself was easy (boring) and paid the bills (barely) but the two main reasons I kept it was for the free use of equipment and the health insurance.

Those were things my Etsy store and occasional convention booth would never provide, no matter how successful they became. Even with a roommate and a car older than my (mom’s) high school diploma, health insurance would be impossible to pay for on my own, and I couldn’t even imagine being able to afford my own studio. Just keeping a single press in my room would be a lost-deposit waiting to happen.

I couldn’t even begin to imagine explaining an ink explosion to Marc. The horror!

Anyways, it took every extra dime just to keep me stocked in supplies. It is the eternal struggle of many an artist, and I’m not saying my struggle was any more difficult, just that it’s real. The struggle is real. Hashtag, full stop.

And so, for that sad but reasonable reason, I put away the commissioned piece of Jessica Jones that Marc had mistaken for Orphan Black, threw on a pair of jeans and the new Stranger Things graphic tee I’d made a few nights before (#FreeBarb) and headed out to work.

The Closed sign was showing on the front door of SplatScreen as I pulled my car in front of the store, but sometimes it accidentally flipped as people were walking through so I thought nothing of it. The lights were on inside, and I could see JD, my boss, talking to a man dressed in jeans and a blue button-down. Obviously we were open.

Except, when I pulled on the handle of the glass door, I found it locked.

With my brow furrowed, I used my key and walked in to find the retail space’s carpet was squishy and damp. Beyond nasty. Beyond. And the smell? Bee. Yond. I was unpleasantly surprised, to say the least.

“Surprise!” Jack said pleasantly. “A pipe burst next door. Take the night off.”

I looked around to notice the wet floor extended through most of the store. “I can’t leave you to deal with this alone.” I had perfect attendance at work, thank you very much, and yes, I was bitter I didn’t get a little ribbon for it like I did in elementary school. “I could still go in the back and knock out some screening jobs, couldn’t I? You don’t want to get behind.”

“There’s too much water back there to run the machines safely. The plumber here is working on the pipe. Everything’s already off the floor, and I have a company coming in to take care of soaking everything up. You’ll only be in the way if you stick around. Plus, it smells like dead ass.”

That was an extremely accurate description of the smell. Perfect attendance or not, he didn’t have to tell me again. I was out of there like last year. A whole entire night to myself on a Friday? That was a three-day weekend. Another thing you don’t get nearly so often outside of school.

But wait. I turned around. And opened my mouth. “You’re still getting paid,” Jack yelled over. Closed my mouth and carried on. Score.

The situation definitely called for some celebration of my own.

I texted Ava, Lizzie, and Scarlet. Dranks on me. Because I am nothing if not chivalrous. One by one the refusals came in.

Ava: banging the new guy rn suggest you find one 2

I know, sister. I know. But who has time to look? Not me. See the whole two job thing. Also, the anxiety. How do you even meet people when you’re out of school and working alone most days? If the answer is the internet, no thank you.

Lizzie: No sitter, sorry! *sad face emoji*

Always.

Scarlet: Can’t drink on my pills. Want to come to Bible group?

On a Friday? Heck no I didn’t. Or did I?

Me: Can I bring my own Bible?

Scarlet: The graphic novel collection that is Sandman is NOT THE BIBLE YOU HEATHEN.

Clearly not true at all, so I chose not to respond. Not the bible? It was my bible, and I felt duty-bound to spread the gospel. Excuse me, but do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior Neil Gaiman? It was extremely apparent that she was discriminating against me. She was always casually leaving her King James edition around, I saw no reason I couldn’t hand out my Neil Gaiman edition.