“End of the World Helpline, this is Mary, how can I be of service?”
Marisol tensed. That moment before you know the problem is the hardest. Will she have to instruct somebody on delivering a baby into a doomed world, be a grief counselor, or teach somebody how to set a snare trap (hopefully for animals)?
“Hi Mary, I need to prepare a turkey.”
Marisol keyed open the file on turkeys.
“Is the turkey still alive?”
“Sorry, store bought or are you slaughtering and defeathering yourself?”
“Whoah. It must be getting crazy some places, huh? Store bought. Butterball? Is that good? I’ve never done this before. I mean obviously, cause I’m calling you for help. But I saw Butterball, and I’ve heard of that. But maybe, that’s not good?”
“Butterball is fine.” Marisol knew it was best to neither praise nor defame any brand. People were touchy about their brands. None of it mattered to her. She’d been buying store brand everything forever, splurging only on spices, and fresh produce.
She walked the caller through the process of preparing a turkey. At one point, she had to look up what type of oven the caller had so she could instruct her on how to turn it on.
“Alfredo, I’m taking a break,” she called to her supervisor who gave a thumbs-up.
Prisha was in the breakroom frowning at a cup of coffee. The selection of K cups had been getting steadily worse. First, they’d run out of the darker roasts, then the normal coffees. Cinnamon, which was at least relatively benign, next. Now, everything was strongly flavored.
“Hey, Mari, you were on that call forever, what did they need?”
“A turkey dinner. Can you believe? I mean, I don’t have running water at home, and this girl is throwing Thanksgiving.”
“Bet you, she calls back to make cranberry sauce.”
“Please, let my next caller have to cauterize an amputation.”
Marisol brewed a cup of raspberry vanilla coffee. Neither of them spoke while the machine whirred and sputtered.
When she was a girl, Marisol had wanted to be a vet. She’d sneak food out to the neighborhood cats. One black cat used to follow her. Waiting outside the school. One boy at school had noticed, and he sang, “Mary had a little cat, little cat, little cat, that fur was black as night.” She hated being called Mary, but loved the idea that she was special to animals. During lulls in calls, she liked to read computer manual’s entries on animal husbandry.
“How is your mother?” she asked.
“Crazy. She wants us to move back to India. Not like it’s back to India for me. I’ve been there twice. Like I’m making enough to buy tickets. But she keeps talking about home. But, I don’t want her to be disappointed in me.”
“My mom used to say to me, ‘You are a perpetual disappointment to me. So, don’t worry about pleasing me.’”
“How’d that work out?”
“I continued to disappoint her, but I felt extra shit about it. So, mission accomplished, Mama.”
“I should get back to work. But thanks,” Prisha grasped Marisol’s hand before you got up and left the breakroom.
Marisol sipped her awful coffee, closed her eyes, and said a prayer for her mother. A prayer for Prisha. A prayer for the world.