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The Unwanted

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Brrrrring!

Ralph jolted awake. He yawned as he sat up in his bed. As usual, he hadn't gotten much sleep last night. Squinting, he took a look outside his window. Sunshine streamed through, promising another pleasant day.

Brrrrring! Brrrring! Ralph turned around and slammed his hand down on his bright green alarm clock. A small screw popped out of it and fell to the floor. Sighing, he picked it up and placed it on his bedside table. The alarm clock had lasted him quite a while, and years of being hit and pushed to the floor had its consequences. Ralph made a mental note to fix it up before lunch. He got out of bed, knocking over his lamp in the process. His clothes hung on the lamp, and were promptly thrown to the floor. Another mess to clean up. A wonderful start to the morning.

Fresh out of college, Ralph was living in his own tiny apartment. At first the freedom had been an exciting privilege, but after a few months became a burden. He lived on Easy Mac and spent half his days looking for a job. Actually, all of his days. Ralph had been through them all: babysitting, waiter, busboy, Staples assistant... There was even a golden time then he worked at Starbucks and received daily discounts. That soon ended when he accidentally spilled scalding hot coffee on his co-worker. Children didn't like him, customers annoyed him, and he had once fainted from the cleaning chemicals in his days as a busboy.

Ralph grabbed a brush off his nightstand and smoothed down his ruffled hair. It was another day of job hunting. To start off his normal routine, he quickly changed and then headed outside for a cup of coffee. Ralph trudged toward his favorite cafe, when something caught his eye. On a dirty looking lamppost, a sign was posted. There was a picture of a sad-eyed dog with a bone in its mouth. “Help wanted. No experience required.” The old dog pound! Ralph had a vague memory of such a place. Well, why not? Not an ideal job, but he could do part time while he looked for a better one.

He quickly ripped a slip off the poster that had the phone number on it. Ralph ran home, and grabbed his phone. He punched in the numbers, and waited anxiously for the other line to pick up.

“Hello, New York City Dog Pound,” the voice said. “How may I help you today?”

“Well, um...” Ralph paused. “Actually, I wanted to apply for a job?” Now that he thought about it, maybe it wasn't such a great idea. But this was definitely better than nothing.

“Oh, that's good.” The other person sounded tired. “We don't get many workers around here... Just come by tomorrow at one and we'll see how it goes. Have a nice day.” The line went dead and Ralph hung up. We'll see how it goes... Well, yes, he would. He might not get paid much, but it wasn't as if he was going to get any other job. Besides, helping sad little puppies was quitea noble feat, wasn't it?
***

One o clock the next day came by quicker than Ralph had anticipated. Before he knew it, he was sitting on a broken down stool in an equally broken down building. It had existed forever, just about, and was a place that everyone went to once during their childhood. Ralph faintly remembered begging his mother for a dog, a big, fluffy, friendly, dog. She had reluctantly agreed, but once they got to the building she changed her mind. The dogs were locked up into dirty little cages, and they seemed scruffy and mangy, she had said. Ralph had curiously peered into every cage, while his mother complained about how all the dogs looked either depressed or rabid. The place was even more dilapidated than he had remembered. Or had the shabbiness not occurred to his ten year old mind at the time? Either way, this place was probably not an ideal workspace. Sad puppy eyes surrounded him, and he shifted uncomfortably in his stool as his future manager asked him questions.

“So... Do you have any experience in taking care of animals?” the man began. He peered at Ralph over his round, wire rimmed glasses. He seemed to be around fifty, and wore a worn black fedora on his head to hide his thinning hair.

Ralph thought about it. “Um, no... I used to have a few pet fish as a kid, but not much else.”

“Well, that's fine. What kind of education did you have?” What did education have to do with anything? Didn't the sign explicitly emphasizes that no experience was needed? Probably 0% of the people who worked here went to a special animal training school.

“Yes, I graduated from Columbia, and majored in English,” he answered.

“Do you live by yourself? Employed?” The old man really was quite intimidating. He asked the questions in an abrupt, cutting, business-like manner, and continually stared into Ralph's eyes.

“I live in an apartment on 14th street. By myself. Unemployed.” Ralph couldn't help but notice what a sad life he lead. A jobless young man with no friends, living in the middle of SoHo. Were these the kind of people that this place hired?

“Sounds good. That'll be all. Come everyday at ten, and we'll get you started right away.”

The man dismissed him, and Ralph slowly got up. Wow... That had been pretty quick. It hadn't been a very thorough interview. For all they knew, he was actually out to kidnap their dogs to make cheap fur coats. A ridiculous image of 101 Dalmatians popped into his mind, and he awkwardly brushed it away.

Ralph walked out of the old building and strolled back to his house. What would he be doing with his job, anyway? Well, at least he had one now. That was a start. He switched on his computer and opened up Firefox. Time for some research. There were quite a few questions he had about his new job.

An hour later, he was all set. Ralph knew what he would be doing starting tomorrow... Which he was not too excited about. Apparently, he would have to stay in the building all day for about six hours and get paid next to nothing. It was only temporary, he told himself. Only until another job was available. With that thought in mind, he ripped open a container of Easy Mac and stuck it in his microwave.





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