Read Part I, here.
My attempt to compensate my employer by writing one premature ticket every day worked better than I would have preferred. My overseers called me in to the office. They told me my performance was exemplary; I was making more rounds, bringing in more revenue, and using more chalk than any of the other maids. “That’s the key,” they said. “Getting as much chalk on as many tires as possible. You can’t ticket them if they haven’t been chalked.” I nodded with enthusiasm and felt a lump of chalk in my stomach. They told me we’d talk again in two weeks. When I put my chalker away in the supply room, feeling good, I stashed two white cylinders in my pockets.
I went to see Lacey. Lacey started doing freelance design and layout work while we were still in college, so she worked from home. She once got the job designing the Fudrucker’s Menus. That impressed me.
I kissed her when she answered the door. “My superior’s like my work,” I said. “Oh,” she said. All of Lacey’s emotions show directly on her face. She can’t feign interest if she doesn’t feel it. She’s preternaturally direct. She swung the door open to let me in. Kip ran up next to her and barked at me. “Screw you,” I said as I took off my shoes.
Kip, I’ve come to understand that I don’t want you hurt in any way. Lacey likes you. That counts. But I can’t imagine a way forward. How do we fix this?
I sat on the couch with Lacey, talking, and occasionally, as the flow of conversation allowed, I would kiss her or she would kiss me. After the fourth kiss she said, “What’s that weird taste?” I thought “Damn” to myself. I’d eaten a celebratory half piece of chalk on the way over. “I dunno.” My expression matched my shrug, probably straining at the edges of believable.
“What’s it like?” I asked her. “I have no idea,” she said. “But I don’t like it. Go brush your teeth.” “I don’t have a toothbrush,” I said. “If you’re willing to kiss me, you can use my toothbrush.” She pointed through the kitchen to the bathroom, but then she jumped up. “Actually, I want to brush my teeth first. I can’t stand this taste.”
She disappeared into the bathroom and shut the door. I decided to have another bite of chalk, since I was going to brush my teeth anyway. It couldn’t hurt. I plucked the chalk from my pocket and flipped it into the air so it did one perfect rotation and came down flat on my palm with a very satisfying “thunk.” Except it’s not just a “thunk.” Chalk rings faintly when struck. So it’s a “thunk-eeeee . . .”
I stood next to the door out of the line of sight of the kitchen. I looked the cylinder up and down. I took a bite. I marveled that it continued to be as good as I thought it was. I heard the bathroom door. I shot my hand to my side. Lacey was almost around the corner. I couldn’t get it back in my pocket. I looked down at my empty shoes. I dropped the chalk and heard it ring from the bottom of the shoe with Kip’s design bitten into it.
“Your turn,” Lacey said from the kitchen. “I will make you a Quesadilla, if you like.”
“You don’t mind cheese on my breath?” I said as I walked toward her.
“Okay, I’ll pour you a lemonade and whiskey.”
I enjoyed the intimacy of using Lacey’s toothbrush, but I brushed quickly. I came out into the kitchen and Lacey handed me my drink. I heard Kip making noise. I looked into the living room. He had my shoe in his teeth. I said, “Kip, let it go.” Kip continued to tear at it.
Lacey said “Be nice” to me and “Let it go” to Kip. Kip looked up at her, but did not let it go.
I stepped towards him, and he turned with the shoe, spilling it. Lacey and I watched as a large piece of chalk rolled onto the floor. Kip dragged his quarry behind the couch and left the chalk sitting there.
Lacey looked at it. “What’s that?” she asked. I said, “A piece of chalk.” She crossed the floor and picked it up. “It has bite marks in it,” she said. “Hm. Maybe Kip did that,” I said.
“Is this the weird taste?” she asked. “Probably not,” I said. She took a tiny bite of the chalk. “Yeah. That’s definitely it. Have you been eating chalk?” I looked past Lacey, hoping someone held a cue card with a good answer to this question. “From time to time,” I said.
Lacey went into the bathroom to brush her teeth again. When she came out I tried to hold her and kiss her. Maybe she doesn’t even care, I thought. But she cared.
“I don’t really care,” she said as she avoided embracing me, “but that’s a weird thing to do. It can’t be healthy.” She looked at me from across the kitchen as though she didn’t quite recognize me. She poured another drink. “You probably have chalk deposits all over your gut.”
Even though she looked at me that way and wouldn’t let me hold her, her words warmed me. She was thinking about my health. That she felt like she could talk about chalk deposits in my gut — even if she spoke with a hint of malice — made me feel close to her.
“I’ll stop,” I said as I stepped toward her.
“Please do,” Lacey said and she put her hand up to my throat preventing a kiss.
I stopped eating chalk. My performance at work suffered. I shuffled without joy from car to car. I cited fewer perps out of laziness and mercy. I spared the blue Toyota that hated minivans. I felt I could sympathize with someone who couldn’t help themselves, or who couldn’t explain their behavior.
Regardless of my flagging enthusiasm my overseers wanted to move me. My English degree qualified me to work generating and editing internal documents, with the possibility of helping produce text for city mailers and newsletters and things as time went on. “You’re motivated,” they said. “We think we need to keep you interested, so you don’t move on.” I felt a pang.
“Where would I work?” I asked.
“At the Main Street building.” This cut me off from the chalk. I guess my face fell. “Think it over,” they said. “Let us know on Monday.”
Concluded in Part III, here.