Here is the beginning of a new short story I’m working on. Thoughts? Suggestions?
“We’re going for a walk.”
The faculty stared at her. Silence bounced off the walls in steady beats. Sideways glances were exchanged between teachers. Someone cleared her throat. Someone else giggled.
“We’re what?” The young teacher’s eyes darted between the clock and the principal’s face as she stood before them, and shrugged her shoulders. “The bell is about to ring.”
“Yes,” the principal answered, “and when it does, we will go out to the playground and pick up the children to take them for a walk.”
“Why?” The faculty responded as one, just as another teacher, late for the meeting, rushed into the room. Someone turned to her and whispered, “We’re going for a walk.”
“What?” She looked around the room. “We’re doing what?” She turned to the principal. “Why?”
“Because it’s something we need to do.” She walked to the door. “There’s the bell. Let’s go.”
Across the city, cooks were busy preparing for the breakfast rush. The aroma of sizzling bacon wafted through the air as a tattooed man in a chef coat slammed a large cardboard box on the counter.
“I told you to order a case of breakfast sausage links, not bulk sausage.” He pointed his finger at the young kid who stood before him. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“Sorry, Chef.” He picked up a dish towel and began wiping down non-existent grime from the prep table. “I…uh…I guess I messed up.”
An old man snickered as he ran his knife through a stack of vegetables effortlessly. “Don’t worry, kid.” He said as he slid them into a waiting pan. “Chef don’t mind. He likes it when you screw up.” He poured a bowl of whisked eggs over the mixture. “Ain’t that right, Chef?” He chuckled as he shook the pan.
“Yeah, that’s right, Calvin.” Keith, a beefy server, called from behind the line. He was a lifer, working in restaurants for the last 20 years. “Junior here ain’t got the time in like you. Hey, might take him til next week to be good as you.” He grabbed a stack of dishes and muttered “and maybe a month to be as good as Chef.”
Chef Mark spun on his heel and stabbed Keith’s chest with his finger. “What did you say?” He knocked the stack of dishes out of the server’s hand, sending them crashing to the floor.
“I ain’t afraid of you,” Keith said, stepping closer to Chef. “Me and you, outside. Let’s go.”
“Settle down.” The owner rushed in from the dining room, crashing the swinging doors into the wall. He grabbed the chef’s cocked arm. “Just settle down.” He ushered the rest of the staff into the kitchen. “We’re all going outside anyway.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Kyle?” Chef Mark looked at him as he shook his arm loose. “Service starts in an hour. We don’t have time for this. My ragtag bunch of amateurs has work to do.”
“Not now they don’t,” Kyle answered. He turned to the group and cleared his throat. “He’s right. We don’t have time to waste. We’re going for a walk. All of us.”
The kitchen crew protested, each member talking at once.
“Yo man, I already got my exercise for the day,” a pantry chef yelled from his station.
“Yeah, with his mother,” replied a line cook.
“No, Pal,” he responded, “with your mother and she wants me to hit her up after my shift.”
Catcalls and whistles filled the room as they returned to work, ignoring Kyle.
The waitresses rolled their eyes and began heading back the dining room.
“No,” Kyle snarled. His lips pulled back in uncharacteristic snarl. His voice rang with an authority that was usually absent from his daily soft-spoken requests. “If you want to keep your job, meet me out back. No questions asked.” He stomped out of the kitchen and out the door.
The staff looked at Chef Mark, dumbfounded.
“You heard the man,” Chef told them, wiping his hand on a towel. He shook his head. “No idea what this is, but it’s his place. Some of you clowns could use the fresh air anyway.”
Grumbling, but curious, they followed their chef outside.
Down in the corporate office building by the river, a woman settled in at her cubicle on the fourth floor of the IRS suite. Rosa was six months from retirement and could do this job in her sleep.
“Morning, Joe.” She nodded at the armed guard who stood by the door. “End of the month. Should be a fun day.”
“Don’t you know it, Mrs. Hernandez.” He grinned at her. “Don’t worry. I’ll move ‘em along as quick as I can.” He pointed to the red plastic number dispenser. “We’ll get those numbers rolling quick.”
He unlocked the door and addressed the small crowd waiting to come in. “Have your id ready and open your purses for inspection.”
Rosa sighed as she snapped on her computer. She’d heard the drill for 19½ years, but knew there would be a handful of people who arrived without the proper documents. There always were.
A young woman approached the worn chair in front of Rosa’s desk.
“Have a seat,” Rosa told her. “Name? Social security number?” She punched the information into her computer as the woman began her tale of woe.
“I just need an official transcript. I need it for my daughter’s financial aid. That college down in New Jersey keeps asking for more and more information.” The woman twisted the hem of her shirt in her hands. “I don’t understand why the government makes things so hard. I’m a single mom.”
Rosa tuned her out, distracted by an unfamiliar guard talking to Joe. Joe stood at attention, nodding at the man who was clearly his superior. “Yes, sir,” she heard him say. A moment later, three more armed guards entered the small office.
“Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen.” The new guard raised his voice. “Attention, please.”
Rosa stopped what she was doing. This had never happened before. She looked at Joe who was standing at the door, his hand resting on his weapon. He was three shades paler.
“I need everyone to form a line and follow me outside,” the new guard said. “Proceed in an orderly fashion and move now.”
A murmur went through the crowd. Rosa turned to her co-workers who looked equally perplexed.
“No need to be alarmed, folks,” the guard continued, “but you need to move now.” The other guards fanned out throughout the room, weapons in hand. “That includes you.” He nodded at the office workers.
A middle-aged businessman called out. “What’s this all about?”
“What’s happening?” The woman at Rosa’s desk asked. The hem of her shirt knotted in her hand.
“I’m not going anywhere,” a harried woman in a fast-food uniform put her hands on her hips. “I have to be at work in ten minutes. They dock my pay if I’m late.”
The head officer nodded to one of the other guards. He nodded back and stood behind the woman, weapon in hand.
“I realize this is a little unsettling, ma’am, but it’s not optional.” He turned back to the crowd. “We’re going for a walk. All of us. Can’t tell you much more, except it’s for your own safety.” He began ushering people out. “I have my orders. Let’s move.”
Rosa caught Joe’s eye. “Just go,” he whispered to her. “It will be ok.”
She got in line with the others and headed out of the office. The corridors filled with more armed guards as each office emptied, sending crowds of people down the stairs to the exterior doors.
Rachel tried to console the wailing baby as she screamed at her boyfriend.
“Where have you been?” She hugged the baby closer. “Mattie has been up all night. I think she’s sick.”
“Sorry, Baby,” the man replied as he lit another cigarette. “Lost track of time. I was on a winning streak.” He turned the tv to Jerry Springer and turned up the volume .
“I can’t do this anymore, James.” She stuck a pacifier in the baby’s mouth. “You’re out all night and I’m stuck here alone. Did you burn through the rent money?”
He cracked open a beer and took a long swig before he answered. “I had it, Honey. Had enough for two months at one point. But you know how it goes. One bad hand.” He walked over and began kissing her neck. “Don’t worry. Don’t I always take care of you? I’ll get it back and then some.”
“You son of a —— ,” She was interrupted by loud drone of the public alert announcement coming from the tv.
“Attention. This is not a drill. The public is hereby notified to vacate all dwellings and businesses immediately.”
“What the hell?” James turned toward the tv.
“Proceed to the nearest exit. Official personnel will meet you with further instruction. Again, this is not a drill.”
Rachel rushed to the window and peeked out from behind the blinds. Crowds of people were already filling the street as armed members of the military organized them into lines. Local police holding snarling dogs assisted the soldiers.
Across the street, an old man argued with a cop, emphatically shaking his head and gesturing at the old woman who stood next to him, leaning on a walker. Rachel gasped as she saw a soldier knock the old man to the ground. He whistled to a group of men, dressed in black. They rushed in and gathered the old man and his wife. They pushed the couple into the back of a black armored vehicle and drove away.
“Shit,” James whispered. “We got to go.” He grabbed his gun from the dresser. “C’mon, Rach. We’ve got to get out before —”
His voice was drowned out by pounding on the door.
Rachel screamed as the soldiers broke down the doors.