The same story, over and over again.

Get up. Change bras, change panties. If it’s the third day since the last shower, take a shower. But make it quick. Need a puff a day to get the sadness away. If you need to puff before you change, then just wear the same clothes to work.

This morning, however, the story changed, and Sinthia was left wondering if it would ever be the same again.

The phone rang.

That was weird—no one called her anymore, not since she’d started the new job. She was too busy, and in any case, cannabis sativa had a tendency to eventually afflict one’s social life. Now all she had were “friends.” It wasn’t her fault that her breasts were so smooth and plump, or that her belly had a soft, river-y curve to it, or that her buttocks would overflow from the hand that cupped them. Cannabis sativa also made one real, real hot. It was tough to keep your clothes on if a handsome hunk or slick broad started unbuttoning their trousers when that high buzzed deep in you.

Every so often, when she’d have time off, she’d have a few of these “friends” come by. But they kept getting harder and harder and she kept getting sorer and sorer. It didn’t matter. Any pain she had could be patched with more pot, and the pot would once again sedate the inhibitions of her guests, which would lead to more of those hands touching her all over.

But yes—the phone was ringing.

She picked up. “Who’s this?” Her voice was low and scratchy, and had a lustful husky quality to it. She’d regret that it had that sound when the man on the other end reply.

“Sinthia, you tramp, you slut! You’re fired, you hear? Fired!”

“Mr. Dearborne! You can’t be serious! Why, I’ve worked for your glue factory for the last five years!

“I couldn’t care less, you . . . you fiendish trollop! I wanted to pay a visit to your apartment last night to make reparations for Friday’s incident. I did so out of the goodness of my heart, and love for you! But when I arrived at the door, I could hear you screaming in dirty ecstasy in the arms of those . . . those brutes! And what’s more, I smelled marijuana coming from under the door! I cannot employ any drug-addicted sluts at my factory! You’ve broken my heart and you’ve broken my bank on all those paychecks I wasted on you. Why, I’d sue if I . . .”

She slammed the receiver down, using the action as part of a spontaneous ritual to curse him. That lousy, no good . . .!

“Friday’s incident.” It would’ve been a laugh if it hadn’t spooked her so much. She’d been on cap-screwing duties on the line when he’d called her back. Lemmy, the one with the bitter-looking face, had taken her place, and had done so bitterly. She hadn’t been afraid to go to Dearborne’s office—she’d done it several times before. Each time, however, there had been some degree of apprehension. She didn’t know about what, exactly, but that Friday was the day she found out.

“Come in, come in, Sinthia,” he’d said in his child-like lilting voice. “I’d ask you to have a seat, but I’d prefer to have this conversation standing. You’ve got some work to do.”

“Some work?”

“Yes. For me.” He had been standing behind his enormous oak desk. The wood had come from a tree that had saved his life when he was hounding the Hun during the First World War. He told the story to all the new employees on their first day, before the long stretch of completely forgetting their identities commenced. He’d spotted a sniper who had taken aim straight at his heart. He wasn’t scared until he noticed the second German sniper, who was aiming at his head. Both pulled the trigger at the same time a mortar shell came down on the last tree standing in No Man’s Land. The tree had fallen to form a shield from the whizzing sniper bullets—then he’d bounded over the tree and gunned the Huns down.

He later recovered the tree and had it made into his desk.

Sinthia had rolled her eyes the first time he’d told it, and he’d taken time to tell her on several occasions. According to some of the other workers, however, she was unique in that. Most of them had forgotten at this point, because he’d only told them once. It was almost as if he was trying to impress her. That’s why she’d had much apprehension. She didn’t like it when ugly people tried to impress her.

And Jesus, he was ugly. Pimples and acne scars, sunken cheeks with low jowls, low cheekbones, bleary eyes. His hair was thin and greasy. But still, she’d be nice to him if he seemed humane and empathetic, and he had never behaved thusly. He was intimidating—a self-centered man with a lot of power and a strong desire to get what he wanted.

He sucked his breath in deeply, and she noticed his hands were shaking. He took long steps towards her. “I am in love with you, Sinthia. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen . . . you are from an Arabesque, though the beautiful flesh of the Caucasian race is in you.”

And suddenly, she was in his arms, and she immediately tried to squirm loose. “You would make the Fuhrer proud,” he whispered.

The entire story slid into place in her mind. His story about the Great War perhaps had truth. But he had perhaps been captured by the Germans, and tortured. His will broke and he became a German citizen, never returning from his tour of duty. Later on, he ended up following the National Socialists, who besmirched the name of the creation of mighty Marx. God, perhaps he even met Hitler himself!

“You and I must breed the Master Race!”

And suddenly, his skeletal hands were up her uniform’s skirt, working furiously at her slip. She was filled at once with terror, and began screaming. “Get your hands off me!” But screaming aloud made her embarrassed, and she’d always been angered by embarrassment. Now his cold hand was on her sex, and fumbled awkwardly in the sea of soft pelt. His other hand was on her left thigh when her right leg snapped up and hit him in the throat.

He fell backwards over the desk. “I killed him!” she mused. But no dice. He was on his feet again in an instant, and he now had a chair in his hand. With an angry cry, he charged at her, intending to break her or the chair. Probably both.

Again she kicked and managed to knock the desk into him. He dropped the chair and it shattered on the ground. He still didn’t give up, the old fogey. He crawled over the desk and suddenly threw her over it. That caught her off-guard, and once again his hands were at her thighs, trying to shove her legs apart. Her frustration rose again.

“Pah!” she cried out bitterly. “Goddamn no-good scummy old men!” And she reached down her bra, but not erotically. Betty Blue was in the navy blue of that bra, though the slugs in Betty Blue’s clip were gunmetal. They’d soon be red if this fogey didn’t watch out . . .!

If he really was in war, he’d know the cock of a gun, and he didn’t. It was aimed right at the zipper he was presently opening.

“Don’t move, or your Master Race is getting erased.”

Anger flashed onto the businessman’s visage. All the same it was quickly replaced with cheap panic. Sweat oozed down his lumpy forehead, and his broken teeth chattered.

“Perhaps we can talk this over . . .” he whispered.

“Or maybe we can never talk about it again,” she shot back. “I got this thing after something already happened in this rotten factory. I won’t tell you how I ended that one, but let’s just say I don’t necessarily need this thing to take care of fellows with ugly souls who think with their peckers.”

He said nothing, and she liked it that way.

She left, thinking it was over. Betty Blue was always with her, though she’d only fired a single shot from her before.

Now it really was over. The goddamn hard way.