Slightly autobiographical, as I’ve done both retail and repacking. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to fix people. Fortunately, we can choose not to.
What the people broke, what the people damaged, the woman in the REPACK room fixed.
Hers was a night shift, but she always seemed to be present. At the end of the day the employees left their particular ruinations at her door like crooked offerings. One knock and no words sufficed to open the door. She’d work through the night, and the next morning, those former ruinations left the room gleaming and complete, ready to be put back out on the sales floor. Customers never noticed anything amiss, which pleased management greatly. The employees always marveled at her skill, but never complimented her to her face. In fact, they rarely spoke to her. They learned quickly to leave her alone.
The REPACK room did not have a desk, for the woman sat on a cushion on the floor. She was always surrounded by zipties, bent plastic, ripped cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic wrapping, and price gun labels. She would go through the day’s piles of damaged product and breathe not a word. Why should she? No one would hear, because she was the only god in the REPACK room, and only her breath reigned.
If a tool broke, she left it outside her door and eventually someone would bring her a new one. Her tools had names, of course, but she never bothered to remember them. She took satisfaction in simply knowing they had names. Good things had names, and good places had good names, like REPACK.
She repacked their merchandise and nothing else, until the nothing in her office eclipsed her duty and became something else.
One night, the shift manager made the mistake of sending her a new hire. He shook in terror as he knocked on the door that simply stated REPACK. She scowled at the sight. His clothes were too big. His mustache was an embarrassment to both masculine and feminine standards. His glasses were crooked.
For the first time in too long, she really looked at a person.
She shook her head. This would not do.
Fifteen minutes later she sent him back out into the world. His clothes were stapled to his skin, and indeed they fit him much better. Beads of blood dotted the skin above his upper lip where his mustache used to reside. Duct tape evened his glasses.
He walked out in a daze and would not speak a word.
A new taste lined her tongue, one that did not disquiet her.
The next day she repacked another employee, a young redhead. She left with a bald head and her fiery tresses taped and stapled to her waist. Her mouth was full of Styrofoam and blood, and in her hands she cupped all her teeth, neatly labeled and priced according to size.
Management straightened their ties and knocked on the REPACK door. She let them in, a staple gun in one hand, duct tape in the other. Management demanded answers. She demanded silence. Management began to shout. She began to work. Management left with their tongues stapled to their ties. She closed the door.
Soon after the employees ceased bringing her merchandise to fix or new tools, so the woman finally ventured out of the REPACK room in search of work and help. The store was dark, and she found no customers or employees.
What time was it? What day was it? She went to the aisle where the clocks were but could not make sense of their numbers. She went to the aisle where the calendars were but could not make sense of their grids and words.
She didn’t like that new taste on her tongue anymore.
When the woman returned the door — her door — had been tampered with. The door was still a door, but it was not a REPACK door. The label REPACK was gone.
What kind of door was it now?
She tilted her head and listened. There was someone in the room. She could hear slight shuffles and heavy breathing.
She sighed. She was no longer the woman in the REPACK room. Someone or something else had moved in.
What kind of room was it now?
Unwilling to knock, but unwilling to leave, she stared at the door and hoped they would let her in.
© Cat and Moth Writings
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