Mary was the one who told me about Grievances, Inc. It was lunch break, and we were in the courtyard. Mary ordered the Rad Na from the ‘Noodles to Thai For’ food truck. I had my usual tuna sandwich. I was griping again about David from accounts receivable. Today, instead of leaning his arms against my desk so that his elbow brushed my breast, he was now ‘accidentally’ bumping his groin against my hip at every given opportunity.
Mary slurped away at her gravy covered noodles, listening as I bitched. “What you need,” she interrupted, “is a Grievance Counselor.” She fished in her purse and plopped down a card in front of me.
“A what?” I picked up the card. It was entirely gold, with a single phone number etched in the middle.
“It’s a new program I recently joined,” Mary said. “It’s in beta. My friend Frank is one of the creators, so he invited me to test spin it. He said to go ahead and recruit a few friends, too.” She dropped her voice. “Dianne, this program is gonna change your life.”
“But what’s it for?” I set the card between us. Mary was always trying new things, sometimes with negative results.
“Your grievances,” she said, leaning closer to me. “From your smallest quibble to the outright objectionable. You call this number, tell them your complaint, and they will dispatch a grievance counselor to take care of it.” Mary laughed. “It’s quite ingenious, actually.”
“Take care of it?”
“Sure. You remember when my bank was charging me all those extra fees? I called those fucks like thirty times, and they did nothing except give me the runaround. But when I called this number,” Mary tapped her red fingernail on the gold card, “Shit got done, Dianne. Not only did they stop over-charging me, but a thousand dollars was added to my account!”
“I see,” I said. Not seeing at all.
“You’re not getting it,” Mary lowered her voice again. “They do bigger complaints, too……you know, think asshole Dave and his passive-aggressive almost groping.” She pushed the card back at me.
“Do they take care of mother-in-laws, too?” I joked.
She winked. “Just call. Tell them your gripe.” She swung her purse over her shoulder and stood up. “Back to the grind, darling,” she paused. “Just remember to ask for a Maya counselor, not a Jefferson. A Jefferson can be somewhat over-enthusiastic,” she frowned, then laughed. “You’ll figure it out. Ciao!”
That night my husband and I were having dinner with his mother for the fourth consecutive evening. Now that she lived closer to us, she demanded more of my husband’s attention. Pressuring him into these nightly dinners, for instance. Ethel never liked me, and never tried to hide it. If I brought Lasagna to heat up, she said it had too much sauce. If my husband remarked that work was stressful, she berated me for not doing my wifely duties. Whatever I said, was wrong. Whatever my husband said, was my fault. I spent dinners trying to be as quiet as possible.
Her constant complaining got me thinking about the gold card with the enigmatic number. From the smallest quibble to the most objectionable, Mary had said. If I called and lodged a complaint about Ethel, what would they do? Give her a good talking to? Shove her head into some pot roast? I laughed. My husband and his mother stared at me. I excused myself and went outside.
If I was going to see what Grievances, Inc. was all about, I should start with something, someone, other than Ethel, just to get a feel for the whole thing. Asshole Dave was the perfect starter.
I called the number. A thin, dry voice picked up.
“Name,” it said.
“Um, Dianne. Dianne Stevens.”
“Complaint or gripe you wish to issue,” said the voice.
“Well, there’s this guy at work, Dave,” I said. “He’s always brushing up on me, you know, to touch my butt, and my, um, bosoms. I’m sick of it. Why do men think they can just get away with shit like this? And I can’t expect my boss to do anything because he—“
“Sexual harassment has been noted. Please indicate counselor Maya or Jefferson.”
I suddenly felt nervous. “Maya. But, don’t you need to—”
“Preference for Counselor Maya has been noted. No further information is necessary. Expect initiation between 2-4pm tomorrow. Thank you for calling Grievances, Inc. Your account will be billed accordingly.” The voice clicked off.
The next day, when I saw the tall, stoic-faced woman dressed in black, wearing a silk fedora and Morpheus sunglasses, I knew it was Maya. She strode out of the elevator and headed straight toward Dave’s desk. I hid behind my computer and watched her come up behind Dave. He was talking to his two buddies and holding his hands palm-up in front of his chest as if he were holding two large cantaloupes. Maya reached around Dave’s paunchy waist, unbuckled his belt, and pulled down his slacks and boxers in one swift motion.
“Whoa,” Dave cried out. She grabbed Dave’s hand and folded his arm behind his back. His shoulder popped and the office went quiet. Except for Dave, who began to shriek. Maya held Dave in a choke hold and kicked his legs apart, stretching his arm back toward his ass. Co-workers collectively gasped as she began to plant his balled up fist into his own anus. First, his fingers disappeared. Then his palm. Then his wrist. His arm finally separated from his shoulder and hung from his ass for a moment, like a morbid monkey tail. Then he crumpled to the floor, screaming.
The whole encounter lasted maybe a minute. It took much longer for someone to think to call 911. By that time, Maya was long gone. All I could think was, holy shit, Maya was supposed to be the less enthusiastic one. Imagine what the other one would’ve done to Dave.
Later, I cried all the way to Ethel’s. I couldn’t believe I had called that number, let Dave get hurt like that. And to think I almost unleashed Maya on my mother-in-law. I parked and rifled through my purse, looking for that fucking card to rip up, but it was gone. I probably left it on my desk and promised to burn it at work tomorrow.
Once inside, I heard Ethel murmuring in the dining room. “In here, dear,” she called. I bristled at the word dear.
The dining table was adorned with several lit candles. The rest of the room was shrouded in darkness. Ethel sat at the head of the table. Only one other seat was set for dinner. She had an odd look on her face. A cat-ate-the-canary look.
“Where’s Robbie?” I asked, squinting my eyes. I thought I saw a movement in the corner.
“He’s been sent on a business trip. Never you mind, dearie,” Ethel patted the chair next her. “It’s time for you and me to work some things out.”
I saw the gold card on the plate first. Then I saw the man emerge from the shadows. A heavy bat hung in one hand. A pair of pliers in the other.
“Who’s that?” I asked, knowing.
“Oh yes!” Ethel exclaimed, clapping her hands. “I met the most wonderful man today. I invited him to dinner. His name is Jefferson.”