“Damn it, Kudou, I’ll never forgive you.
I want my holidays back…”
I took a sip of the warm bottled mineral water and swore internally so that my junior colleague, slumped in the seat across from me, would not hear.
Working the late shift from 10:00 a.m., I couldn’t take a lunch break or even a bathroom break until 5:30 p.m.
The rest room was not crowded at the end of the day, and the serving counter in the cafeteria area long closed, with only self-service water dispensers and plastic cups piled up.
I could only sigh at the brief break I finally got.
“Oh, what if I get a bladder infection? That would be hard.”
“I’m already covered in foundation.
I’m so humiliated to be standing on the sales floor with this face…”
I’m sure I was hungry, but you never know when something would be over, and I had no appetite by then.
In another ten minutes, I would have to go back to the sales floor to fix my makeup that had been ruined by all this sales talk and smiling.
I had to let the early shift go home.
…Today was actually my day off.
This was my eighth year working as a beauty consultant in a department store.
There was a consecutive holiday after a series of ten shifts, and I was supposed to sleep in a day to heal my tired mind and body, clean my room that I had accumulated living alone, and go to a hair salon tomorrow.
I was thinking of making some jam with the small strawberries I bought at the closing supermarket yesterday and having a relaxing holiday.
I was still asleep when a phone call from my sales representative woke me up at eight in the morning.
“I’m sorry, Takano, it’s your day off.
It’s my bad, but I was wondering if you could help me out at the third store today.”
Kudou? What? I don’t want to talk about that in the morning.”
My husky voice from waking up from sleep must have been powerful.
I heard the younger salesman, who had been reluctant from the start, talk like a pig.
If I was going to be woken up by you, I’d rather hear a more austere, handsome voice than yours.
“You know, Sakashita was hospitalized in an emergency for gastroenteritis.
There’s no one else I can go to.
Please, just for the day.”
“Sakashita?… Oh, well, she must have caught something wrong, poor thing.
I’ve told her many times that she’s pent up, and should take care of herself, haven’t I?”
“I’m sure she had no problem with the shift, but she has a thin margin.”
“Yes, but not today.
You know, it’s my last day off after a series of ten shifts.”
“I know that!”
In the end, it was my fault for not being able to say no.
I knew firsthand how hard it was to be short of one person, since everyone was running on a deadline.
I had worked at the third store for two years before, so I knew my way around, and the junior staffs from that time were still there, so in that respect it was easy, but… I was tired.
What was this, this number of visitors.
I thought I was like a panda in Ueno.
The customers in front of the counter were not leaving.
When I was waiting for the cashier, I asked my junior colleague about it, and she told me that a popular model or actress fortunately praised our foundation on TV, Internet or something last night.
I didn’t know because I didn’t have the energy to watch TV or surf the Internet after a ten series of shifts.
So did that mean my store was in this state now? I didn’t know if I should help at another store.
Hey, Kudou, get in there and help now.
“It’s okay for skincare, but for foundation, you have to look at the color, so it takes time for each person.
It’s also a lot of pressure to have people waiting in line behind you.”
“Well, I can’t afford to be lousy at customer service.”
“I’m very grateful that Chief Takano was here today.
If you make that person wait even a little, she’ll complain and ramble.
If it were me, she’d still be lecturing me.”
“Oh, that’s her… I don’t know if she’s that difficult to serve, she’s just a pretty old lady.”
“Only the chief can say that.
The senior killer is alive and well…”
What was that? It was true that most of the clients who followed me were older.
I think it was because I’m a grandmother’s favorite.
“To practice for the future, why don’t I pretend I’m your mother-in-law and you serve me?”
“Yeah, I can’t live with them, I swear! I mean, they probably wouldn’t like it!”
I’m sure Yukou will adore you.”
I had already decided that I was going to get married next year, and that my new house would be near my parents’ house! I knew that my junior colleague, who was proud to be a man-eater, had been free for the past year.
If you could joke around, you were still fine.
My feet were feeling dull, though.
Sakashita, who had gastroenteritis 1, was the new chief of the third store and my junior.
We met when I was assigned as a mentor during my on-the-job training immediately after joining the company.
She was friendly, quick to learn about new products, and had a certain number of customers.
Still, it was a good thing that I had worked for four years at this women’s section with a high turnover rate and had been given the job of chief.
“Chief Takano, please don’t become an area manager and come back here like this…”
“I’ll tell Mr.
Kudou that, and I’ll also tell him it’s easier for me to change trains this way.
I hate it when the stations and trains are always so crowded, on the other side.”
“Kudou… He’s useless.”
‘The last time I saw him, he was being talked into it by the store’, the junior complained.
In every sales workplace in the women’s field, the bosses and sales representatives were usually men.
I always wondered if it wasn’t hard to do so.
The salary is not very high, and the girls who work for me are salespeople who have worked their way up in the field, despite their education, and they are not afraid or shy.
If I did, I wouldn’t be able to do anything, and I’d end up being used for good.
Well, so the bottom line is that it’s not pretty from a male perspective.
There was an abundance of people you can meet, but the honest women who know what was going on in the industry never go deep into it.
So did I.
However, it had been six months since I broke up with my long-time boyfriend, and I was enjoying my solitude to the fullest.
I didn’t want useless men in my office or in my personal life.
Oh, so this was how the number of unmarried and late marriages was increasing…
I shoved my feet, which had been dangling barefoot under the long table in the break room, into my heels, stood up from my seat, greeted the familiar faces in the smoking booth, and left the break room.
Well, I guess I would brush my teeth, fix my makeup, and get back to the battlefield.
It was about ten minutes before the firelights glowed and the night came for the restaurant.
The area near the main entrance on the first floor was still full of people, some returning after shopping, others rushing in.
Everyone at the counter was still serving customers, but I had a free moment and headed to the backyard to pick up a delivery I hadn’t been able to get to yet.
I left the store with a note and walked swiftly through the shoppers.
In front of the employee door, I bowed to the store and opened the door, which was heavy as a fire door.
As expected, no one went to pick up deliveries at this hour, just before closing time.
I pulled out a cart placed by the side of a deserted aisle and hurried forward, feeling sorry for the security guards if I went too late.
A long-established department store that had become decrepit.
The store had been renovated, reinforced and cleaned up, but the backyard had been put on the back burner.
I felt the history in the bare concrete as I pushed the cart down the darkly lit aisle.
Around the corner, in a corner of the contractor’s parking lot, there was a baggage drop-off point.
There was no security guard in the small booth that looked like a janitor’s office, and there was a cardboard box on the ground in front of it.
I could tell from the packing tag that it was from our manufacturer.
I cut out the slip, stamped the copy, and stuck it in the document holder at the security booth counter.
I was about to load the cardboard onto the dolly I’d brought with me when I saw the delivery company’s truck pull into the parking space… Onward.
You had to park backwards because you were unloading right, but there was a space in front of you to switch right, so was this person a newbie- or the driver lying on the steering wheel!?
By the time I knew I was in trouble, it was too late.
The truck came barreling by me at full speed, knocking down several old pillars, and finally stopped when it hit the wall of the building.
And then, just like that, with a strong, thunderous sound like the shaking earth, the old concrete footing cracked, and the ceiling fell.
I wondered if this was considered a traffic accident, even though it hadn’t hit me directly, and that was the last thing I thought about.
… Ah, I knew it, Kudou, I won’t forgive you.
Isn’t death caused by working on holidays covered by workers’ compensation?
…Hmmm? I felt like my face was getting all wet.
Oh, my neck, that tickled… Ah, my God, okay, I understand, so stop licking me, you’re lifting my cheeks up.
‘Woof woof’, what, this hot breath, a dog? Eh, a dog!? Eh, the tongue!?… Uwah! What’s with this big, long, hairy dog that looks like an Afghan hound!
Oh, my God, you scared me! Eh, what is this place? It’s empty? An Afghan Hound with the blue sky in the background? … Ah, I was lying on the ground.
And the Afghan hound was looking at me.
That, I was at work, wasn’t I? Wasn’t seeing the blue sky strange because the store was about to close? If you could see the sky, it would be the night sky.
Ah, but you couldn’t see it because there was no sky in Tokyo.
Why are you here, Chieko-sho? I’m Takano, not Takamura.
What, that, I remembered.
Work, I was working.
I sold cosmetics at a department store.
So, I helped at the third store today.
Then? I had been so busy… And delivery.
Yes, in the backyard… That.
I was dead.
…Oh, I see, was this Heaven? That’s right, blue sky, breeze blowing softly… A dog… I was not sure about the dog, but it was not Cerberus or anything, so it was heaven.
I’m glad I’m not in hell.
… You were dead, me.
Consciousness remained even after death, didn’t it?
If this was heaven, I wonder if I could see my mom and dad.
I wonder if my grandmother was there.
She was going to be angry that I came too early.
Brother, sister-in-law, pardon me for leaving first.
I would probably get the worker’s compensation, so please take care of the apartment and clean up the mess.
I’m sorry for being the sister who was a workaholic until the end.
It had been a series of ten shifts, so it was a mess, but I had little furniture or stuff, so I don’t think it was that hard… I’m glad I ditched my boyfriend and his things six months ago.
Oh, the strawberries were probably ruined.
I wanted to make jam.
I don’t need a funeral or a grave… I don’t know if they remember we were talking about this at a bar a long time ago.
If you’re going to do it, keep it simple, and have seasonal flowers, something like that.
I don’t know… I don’t know why I feel little regret.
I guess I had lived my life with a certain amount of attachment, and I wonder if dying meant letting go.
It’s kind of simple, isn’t it, me?
The wetness of the ground was very realistic.
It was like the smell of the soil, or the green the leaves that seemed to seep into my clothes.
It was comforting to think back to my childhood when the neighborhood bank was my playground, but heaven was not above the clouds.
Oh, by the way, where was the Afghan hound… Well, that’s fine.
It was a very friendly dog.
I was just… I was a little tired.
Not just my limbs, but my whole body was heavy.
No, I had been asleep, and I hadn’t even gotten up once.
I felt like my body’s made of lead… It didn’t matter, I was dead.
I think I’m going to go back to sleep…no-w…
In the corner of my waning consciousness, I thought I heard the barking of a dog and the soft, troubled voice of a woman in the distance.
Gastroentritis as known as the stomach flu, Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever.
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