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Asha:

Asha ***Ben=Kal


No sound, no vision, no nothing. Well, there is a smell. This place reeks of sweat, sawdust and pigs. It’s also pitch black and takes me about a month to find the light switch. I grunt in pain when my hand grazes a jagged piece of unsanded wood and I get a handful of splinters.

“Ben,” my dad calls from outside the warehouse. “I got another load for you.”

“Got it…” I say, less than enthused about the new pile of wood that needs to be loaded into the shredder. Finally I find the switch and flick the lights on. Piles of wood, untouched from the day before, clutter the sides of the room and are stacked against the walls. I sigh and walk into the center towards the shredder.

Just as I bend down to scoop up a plank, a familiar voice trills from the door behind me. “Knock, knock.” It’s Asha.

Turning around, I see her bound over to me. She throws her arms around my neck and plants a kiss on my lips. Asha knows how to brighten a guy’s day.

After she releases me, she practically jumps up and down with excitement. “Do you know what tomorrow is?” she asks me as if I have any clue or context as to what she’s referring.

I go back to my work, lifting a wooden plank. “No,” I tell her over my shoulder, “If I kiss you again will you tell me?” Hefting the wood on my shoulder, I pause, waiting for a response.

She pretends to think about this offer, “Um…”

I drop the wood onto the bed of the shredder.

“No,” she finally says, a grin stretching across her face. “You have to guess.”

I give her a blank look and turn on the shredder, feeding the rotten wood into it slowly, then forget I’m not wearing my goggles. The wood is now dust piled up to the tail of the shredder.

“What if I don’t want to guess?” I ask her.

“Well…” she spies my goggles just as I do and makes a leap for them, snatching them from the hook before I’ve even taken two steps forward. Then she dangles them in front of me. “Guess.”

I breathe a sigh. “Okay, um… You won an award for something…” I toss out there.

Her smile disintegrates and her shoulders sag. “Who told you?” she asks, suddenly serious.

“Oh, you did?”

She nods. “Tomorrow I’m going to give my speech in front of the Counselor and he’s going to give me a plaque… or something like that, anyway.” She scoffs, “you’re no fun… you’re too good at guessing games.”

I shrug and move to get another piece of wood, then I remember my goggles. “Please?” I hold my hand out. She reluctantly complies, dropping the plastic into my hand. I stretch them over my face.

“So… what do you think?”

“About you giving a speech to the Counselor? I think it’s amazing.” In goes another chunk of wood.

She says something as the wood goes into the shredder but I can’t make it out over the grinding and squeaking. I stop the machine halfway through. “What, Asha?”

“I said will you be able to go?”

“Oh… um… I don’t know, you said it was tomorrow?” I turn the machine back on to give myself a minute as she nods. No more wood left on this one. “Well, my dad’s supposed to get a huge shipment in tomorrow, so I don’t think I’ll be able to make it…”

She pouts.

“I’m sorry… maybe Hollis will go see it and fill me in on how amazing you are afterwards,” I offer.

“I guess that could work, but I really want you to be there…” she says, a look of disappointment etched across her face.

“Sorry, Ash…You know how much I want to be there, but,” I gesture around at all of the wood. “This plus tomorrow’s load…”

“Okay,” she concedes. Then she comes up to me, kisses me once and pulls away. She walks carefully around the wood piles. When she gets to the door she looks back and waves, blowing me a kiss.

I pretend to catch it and stuff it in my pocket. For some reason, when she leaves, I pull it back out of my pocket and look at it. All I see is my empty palm. Around me, though, the room is still filled with wood.



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