Department of Human Resources

by Katie Hackmeister

The tink of silverware and clink of glasses is heard over the awkward silence. “Pork chop?” a brother asks sarcastically. “Sure, sure,” another brother responds as he stabs a pork chop from the offered plate of meat. The plate of dead meat is laid to rest as the last brother farther down the table suddenly giggles. He quickly feigns a throat clearing. This dinner is strife with smothered smiles. Eyes dart around the table both hoping and dreading an outburst between my father and my new boyfriend.

My mother sits next me, politely ignoring my boyfriend as she plays with the toddler of my brother’s friend. This interests me for two reasons: a) my mom dislikes children that she didn’t bear and 2) this child is a bastard.  I realize something else, as I chew my baked beans. As if this dinner isn’t intolerable enough, I’m on a liquid and soft food diet due to a recent tonsillectomy. I notice the child sitting to the left of my mom is also a bastard. My brother’s stepdaughter was born out of wedlock. And in fact, as I wash my shitty dinner down with a swallow of iced tea, my oldest brother was conceived out of wedlock. Mom and Dad had a shotgun wedding. This Sunday family dinner is littered with fornicating bastards and the bastards that fornication has produced. I realize this as the last of my insipid supper slides past my cauterized wounds. I wince. This wincing has become an involuntary movement.

My parents hate my boyfriend. Recently (the previous afternoon), they deduced that their daughter has sex with men. A fact they have yet to deduce about two of their sons. How did these sleuths unlock the mystery behind their sacred daughter and the sexual deviant that they are currently housing for the duration of the weekend? We slept in the same bed with the door open. As their youngest son sashayed around the house in skinny jeans, a facial mask and a propensity to end his sentences with a higher octave, these detectives were on my case.

The blueprint of tension for this dinner was created the night before during another dinner. That dinner was interrupted by a phone call from my father to my brother. My father screamed into the phone, asking what my boyfriend’s intentions were with me, all the while dropping f-bombs with every meaning to the word behind them. My father is bipolar. This dinner, this Sunday family dinner, contains the potential to explode worse than all the worst dysfunctional family dinners combined. A mentally unbalanced father breaks bread with a man he thinks is fucking his sick little girl. Ka-boom.

That night, that Sunday night, my dad will apologize to me and tell me that he didn’t think Brian was a bad guy; he is simply concerned. This is my dad in a non-maniac phase. In the car with my mom the next morning, she and I will talk about why my parents dislike Brian. Her reasoning will be partially based on her communication with him. That consisted of, “Hi”, “How’s your finger?”, and “Would you like some eggs?” This is my mom in her logical phase. Her concern originates from crimes as grievous as we were “lying all over each other on the couch and you don’t do that in someone else’s house!” and the aforementioned sharing of a twin bed.  I remember the first time my mom hugged me. I graduated from high school. I remember the first time she told me she loved me. I was moving to Chicago and I was twenty years old. It took my mom twenty years to muster up the courage to tell her daughter she loved her. I’ve read about parents like these – in Victorian literature. For her to see me holding hands and throwing my legs in Brian’s lap while I read a book is unfathomable. A display of genuine love and affection? She didn’t raise her daughter that way. Something is amiss.

Brian’s chances with my parents were fucked before he met me. Fucked even before I sent him this text message:
Hi! This is Katie, Jeremy’s friend. Your brother thinks we should bone. Bone like wild animals. Like the coyote. What have you?

Brian’s chances were fucked in the summer of 2004 when my parents watched their only daughter retain a restraining order against her bloated sociopathic ex-boyfriend.

That morning, that Monday morning, my mom turns to me and says, “Katie, your father and I don’t want to see you end up with someone like your ex-boyfriend or worse.” Does this have anything to do with my ex-boyfriend? Really? Or does it have to do with my mom’s fear of men that she had been trying to instill in me all my life? In high school, my younger brother’s curfew was later than mine. When I complained, she told me, “Women aren’t respected in society.” This was her excuse for everything “women aren’t respected in society.” This is also the reason burkas are big out east. My mom thought she could protect me by acting like a drill sergeant. Instead, I went out and fornicated with the enemy. Children are a reaction to their parents. This has everything to do with my parents rather than with the bloated sociopath. He was a reaction and he misfired.

Standing outside my parents’ house on that night, that Sunday night, Brian and I say good-bye. By the way, Brian is leaving a day early. The tension is that bad. I’m genuinely worried my dad will do something irrational. As we left the house, I made the entire family say good-bye to Brian. They did – gleefully. Good decision. Good decision.

“I don’t get it,” he tells me. “I didn’t do anything. I behaved the way I would at my parent’s house [who are Christians. Serious Christians.] They never talked to me. They were just fucking rude. I just..I don’t fucking get it. All I did was love their daughter.”

I don’t know what to tell him. Was it the stubble and the tattoos? His smoking and love of Jameson? Because my mom’s beloved animals loved him? Or because the way he absolutely adores me? No. None of that. He has a dick. Case closed.

Brian’s face is creased with anger and hurt. This makes me thirst for vengeance. I want to repeatedly punch the perpetrators in the face. They are in the house directly behind me. And they fucking look like me.

This morning, this Sunday morning, I wake up at the hotel, the hotel we had gotten on Saturday night after my father went ape-shit. Brian walks in from smoking with a bowl of oatmeal for me. Even though I was asleep, he had gotten my food first and now he is going back to get, “Waffles! Yay!” He kisses me on the forehead and leaves. I doze. He returns. I wake up again and watch him walk across the room. I smile. He sits down and prepares his waffles. He apologizes for eating solid food in front of me and I tell him it’s okay. And it is.  I sit up as he tells me about an elderly couple he encountered while getting breakfast. The wife kept yelling into the deaf husband’s ear, “Did you get enough to eat!” over and over again until he responded. I laugh and ask how his waffles are. He says okay and shows them to me. I decide not to eat the oatmeal. I opt for painkillers and a Popsicle, which Brian brings to me. A smile is on his face the entire time and mine as well. This is one of those mornings when you think, “Fuck. I completely love this person.” You both want and know that this morning will happen again and again. This is a great feeling.

That Monday morning, my mom finishes her rant. I remain pensively silent for awhile. Then I tell her, “Mom, I have been unhappy to some degree my entire life. But for the past two months, since I have met Brian, I have been happy. For the first time I can remember.”

“What about your childhood,” Mom asks in a stunned tone.

“Dad manically destroying the house on a weekly basis and punching my brothers didn’t make a very nice childhood,” I respond.

She doesn’t say anything. She looks in her rearview mirror and merges lanes. I hope she takes an extra second to look at herself in that mirror. This car ride will last forever.

“People Person”
by Chelsea Gopaul

I never used to be much of a people person. Just never had much use for them. I just found them
rather animalistic, rather repulsive. However, I’m now highly friendly and people-oriented. I can thank
the night I was outside of a bar right after closing. Threw down a few too many Jack Daniels, and had to
throw down a white-livered hippie. Don’t call me a murderer just because I stand for the 2nd
Amendment. I showed this guy that murder can be done without a pistol. He made the dire mistake of
stepping up right in my face, and OFF I bit his greasy nose. As I was chewing, I was propelled into
orgasmic bliss. Oh, the deep, mellow flavor of the sebum swimming around his chewy, meaty cartilage!

Oh, the thick layer of skin wrapping around my tongue in a tango! O bliss, o joy! O bliss, o joy! O bliss,
o joy! One chomp and I couldn’t stop. I knocked Woodstock unconscious and dragged him to the back
of my van. Drove home, parked and carried him inside, with his gaping bloody nasal bone jutting
upward. Tossed Woodstock in my bathtub, ran to the kitchen and returned with a cleaver. And A1
sauce. Who knows if he was dead or just unconscious, but I always preferred meat well-done, so I
turned the water to scalding hot. I carved out the pieces I wanted to sample, and allowed to water to
carry away his blood and broil him. I slathered sauce on his forearm and took a bite. Orgasm, WOW!
His drumstick was so tender and fragrant with the herbal scent of flax and marijuana. He was preseasoned
already from the inside! I didn’t need my sauce, it’d overwhelm the flavor!

Well, so I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to regularly supplement my diet with protein. The next day, I
spent my day shopping- that is, I created a list of people who were irritating me. My ex-girlfriend, my
co-worker, my landlord. Luck would have it that I received FREE DELIVERY within an hour. My landlord
pounded on my front door, complaining about my excessive water use. I promised her that it wouldn’t
happen again. Minutes later, she was inside my oven -indeed, no water usage!- and I sat waiting for
the “ding” ready sound. I removed her, and took a bite of her knee – with no seasoning – and spit out
the chewed remains, gagging. Oh, the horrific bitter, spiky, medicinal taste! However, her blood was
still fit to drink. Although still tainted with medicine, the 0.15% gimlet composition of her blood masked
the taste and got me drunk enough to forget the experience.

I have hence decided to open a health food store. My mission is to reduce the number of humans
reeking of Prilosec and Prozac! No more will people slather chemical Jergens slop on their skin! I
recommend fragrant herbs for their ailments, I recommend delicious coconut oil to be applied topically
for eczema cases. I also collect customer addresses, so I know where to find them once they’ve been
continuously purified and re-flavored. The addresses are also useful when I’m dealing with delinquent
customers on account. I need them to pay me the money they owe me so I can eat. But in the event
they don’t, I find them and get my food directly.

It’s now 8:47 a.m., almost opening time. I straighten out the pile of vegan lifestyle magazines at the
front counter, and inhale the lingering scent of parsley-shampooed hair. Ah, garnish. I can already smell
the difference. I love people. I. need people, dammit.

“Why do you look so worried, sweetheart? For anxiety, I highly recommend lavender massage – me. A
tube usually costs an arm and a leg, but right now I’ll offer it to you for half that. Come on over.”

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