Friday, August 5, 2011

Shades of Risa

Shades of Risa
By Solstice Stevens

It was supposed to be a simple excursion: now that Risa had a job at McDonalds, she, Gisele, and I were headed to the fast-food joint so she could score us some free food. As it turned out, there was a whole other side to Risa's job and Risa herself that I hadn't even known about.

The first sign that not everything was as simple as it seemed was when the guy sweeping floors greeted her with a bright, "Hey, Megan!" I've heard some crazy nicknames before, but tell me how you get Megan from Risa and I'll moo like a duck.
Risa led us into the kitchen. Once we were alone, I asked her, "Why are you Megan here?"

"Fun fact about corporations: they like going by first impressions. It saves them time," said Risa. She piled nuggets into flimsy paper boxes and tossed one to Gisele and one to me. "If your name sounds foreign or eccentric, people are going to assume you're outside the mainstream culture and therefore incompetent. You'll be dead on arrival the moment they read your application. I only apply to Mexican food restaurants as Risa. I apply to American restaurants as Megan, and I apply to Asian food chains as Amy or Kim, because most Asian chicks take the name Amy or Kim."

"How many sets of false paperwork do you have just for restaurants?" Gisele asked.

"Eight, and I'm going to need more soon. Megan and Amy's reputations are starting to get around in the business."
"How fast do you go through restaurant jobs?"

"Really really fast," said Risa. In a second, I saw why that was the case.

She pulled something from her sweater pocket--a little brown vial--and emptied it into the vat of nuggets that weren't destined for our own stomachs. "What is that?" asked Gisele.
Risa smirked. "Ipecac."

"Why?"

"I just want to get families cooking again," she said. "My daddy goes on about the way life used to be, on your own little farm with corporatism worlds away. Things were simpler. People were happy. Now, the world sucks."

I'd never wanted to see more children eating fast food.

I wanted to see corporate buildings spring up from fields like big shiny sunflowers.

Funny how much you can come to resent an idea when it's enforced in such a twisted, fanatical way.

As we walked back to the college, Risa led the way and Gisele and I lingered behind. "What's wrong with her?" I whispered.

"Risa's…she's just damaged. Stuff happens," said Gisele.
"What happened to her?"

"We don't speak of it."

"Oh." And that's all I could say was, oh. I wanted to ask if I was allowed to speak about what happened to Megan or Amy or the other shades of Risa, but I had a feeling it would be out of the question, so I kept my mouth shut and tried to deal with the situation at hand.

Stuff happens. Sometimes you wind up with friends you don't entirely like, who spend their spare time doing things that aren't entirely legal. But then, who was I to judge? I didn't know the whole story, and seeing as nobody was allowed to talk about it, I probably never would.

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Solstice Stevens is an uprooted Canadian and proud Texan of sixteen years. She is a published novelist and poet, but studies at Rice University in the hopes of becoming a psychiatrist. Her works tackle the subjects of disillusionment, social rebellion, and the decadence of commercialism. 

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