Gertha sat back down in her too-small chair and sighed. She had smiled in front of a customer and for that she would surely be reprimanded. Might as well get some work done before that happens, she thought. She picked up her pencil and began to fill out a form for the last individual, Sarkard DeLure. He had high-tailed it out of the Trading Union lobby once he had heard the screams of “nasty hour” begin. Gertha shook her head and wondered why the Trading Union couldn’t just simply be straightforward, allowing people to pay their dues without trying to scare them.
“Gertha!” A shrill voice sounded from the backroom to her left. She knew it was coming but still she could feel her anxiety beginning to build in her exceedingly plump stomach. Gertha stood up, with some effort, and began the trek to her boss’ office. As she turned down the hallway, she found herself in the doorway of the Trading Union regional director, Mr. Sell. Gertha doubted that was his real name, but no one knew him by otherwise. “I would ask you to sit, but I know that takes way too long,” Mr. Sell squeaked. “Rather, I’d just like to hear why you decided to smile today – this is the second time in a month. I can replace you…”
“I’m sorry, it slipped.”
“Gertha, Gertha, Gertha,” Mr. Sell stood up, lacing his fingers together. “I will begin looking for new desk jockeys. The quality of applicants that come in will determine your fate.” He walked up to Gertha, standing at least a foot shorter, “Here at the Trading Union, we have a reputation to maintain, an aesthetic to project… do you think I have those actors in the backroom hooting and hollering for my own good? No Gertha, I am an artist that specializes in creating fear. Fear is what keeps the Trading Union afloat. Fear is what keeps the rentals under control and fear is what keeps the fees paid. Sure, Mr. DeLure might be a little late on his payment now, but no one would dare cross the Trading Union. Our success, and the fear we’ve mongered will keep regulating legislature at bay, surely none that will pass at least; there will be no revolt. Do you understand now?”
“Yes, sir,” Gertha responded.
Mr. Sell walked back to his desk and sat. “The next time I have you back in this office, it will be because you are discharged. Dismissed for now.”
Gertha waddled back to her station and sat down in her creaky chair. She was almost relieved. Her office visits to Mr. Sell pretty much erased the possibility for a smile to come anywhere near her face for at least a couple of weeks. Which was good, because she needed to maintain this job for at least another two weeks or she would never finish collecting the documents necessary to undermine the Trading Union. She wasn’t a saint, she was still going to vote for the purist DeLure and she certainly didn’t have much care for the population, who often called her every synonym for fat. However, Gertha knew that there were individuals out there who deserved help – she was doing this for them. Having almost collected enough documentation to expose Mr. Sell and the Trading Union, she would just need to find an appropriate contact to whom she could leak the information. Thinking of bringing Mr. Sell to his knees, Gertha suppressed a smile – two weeks ahead of schedule.