‘So… what?’ his manager asked, blocking the door to the employee locker room. ‘I’m just supposed to let you in?’
‘I’m late for my shift,’ Jerome protested, gesturing at the restaurant.
‘No, Jerry,’ the manager sneered, using a nickname he knew Jerome hated. ‘You’re late for every shift. Didn’t I warn you?’
Jerome faltered, tried to explain how his bus – the early bus he’d caught so he wouldn’t be late – had broken down, but his manager wasn’t interested.
‘You’re fired,’ he said flatly. ‘I hope you didn’t leave anything important in your locker.’
‘Actually, I kind of di–’
‘The door slammed shut in his face.
‘Dammit,’ Jerome whispered to himself. He took his nametag off and threw it in the dumpster.
The whisper from the alley startled him, and he clutched his chest. Squinting, he peered into the darkness.
His entire body protesting, telling him to run, Jerome took a tentative step forward, closer to the shadows.
‘Listen, buddy,’ he started, ‘I’m having a bad enough night as it is, so if you want to mug me could you just get it–’
‘Mug you?’ the voice almost seemed to recoil. ‘I want to helpppp you.’
The whisper broke off into a hacking cough, then a deep wheezing breath, and a man in a white suit stepped out of the alley.
‘Oh thank god, that’s been stuck in my chest all day,’ he breathed, thumping his chest. ‘Anyway, I want to offer you a job.’
‘What?’ Jerome asked, deeply confused.
‘A job!’ he grinned. ‘Doing professional corporate video production near Melbourne.’
‘B-but, I don’t…’
‘Jacob, the world could use you and your talents,’ the man said, tapping his nose with a wink. ‘You’re the man for delivering our expert post-production services.’
‘My name is Jerome.’
‘Jerome,’ he repeated. ‘Not Jacob.’
‘Is this Melbourne?’ the man asked, looking around the alley. Jerome shook his head.
‘Dammit, Jean, not again,’ he muttered to himself.
‘Well,’ he turned around with a sheepish grin, ‘this is awkward. Have a good life!’
And he disappeared back into the shadows.