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In Good Company

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“Welcome to Betty Crocker Corporations!
Here at BC, we don’t like to think of our employees as robots grinding away in the factory, we like to think of them as our children.
Within our unconfined walls one can find endless opportunities to grow with us as a company.
We don’t just sell pre-packaged baked goods. We sell love.”

As if the logo, motto and general atmosphere of the Betty Crocker Company was not obscenely charming, the email Peter received that morning was downright adorable. Unfortunately, it’s seemingly welcoming messages only made the knot in his stomach tighter. The fact of the matter was that he didn’t want this job. He didn’t want to be part of this eerily friendly company. Not the very company he had been fighting to shut down.
He shouldn’t complain, though. Out of the four of them, he probably had gotten off the easiest. He and his two other friends had been roommates in college. The fourth? Well, she was more like a mother to them all. Mostly Duncan though, considering she raised him from such a young age. Taking in Duncan was only the beginning of Mary’s kindness however. You don’t meet many single women willing to adopt a ginger baby with a scream like a wounded puma in them when upset about something, anything. She did though, without a second thought, because that was just who she was.

Perhaps it was because Duncan was charismatic from birth - he had a way with words and people. He was intuitive and in touch with the emotions of everyone around him, but he never let it get him down. He was always talking about his new plans and ideas, constantly making up new theories and movements and never ceasing to be the loudest inspiration on campus. Peter supposed that 'hippy' was the best way of describing him, and it fit him to a T. He was a scruffy young man, with a mess of ginger locks and the beginnings of a beard framing his face; he walked about acknowledging every nameless face about the school and made them feel human again. He was also so enthusiastic when he talked about his ideas, and it made Peter wonder how anyone could walk away from him. The day Peter stopped and listened to him was the day his life changed forever, and he could do nothing but roll with it be swept away by it all.

Actually, when he thought about it, the emotions stirred up by the email, were strikingly similar to how he felt on his first day of college. He was never the type for friends, or at least that’s what his parents said. “There’s nothing wrong with being a bit…awkward. It’s a phase! You’ll grow out of it! Study is what’s important.” So study he did. He studied and worked hard and began to dabble more into the art of taking apart his computer and putting it back together…better. His father saw it as a marketable skill and so it was off to college to study I.T. for him. He spent his first week trying to avoid other people as much as possible, a remarkable feat for a boy in a student population of over one a few thousand. After class he would scurry to the library, at lunch he would scurry to the library and on the Friday of his second week, he couldn’t scurry past Duncan. In fact, he practically crashed right into him. His mind was in another place and Duncan was too busy talking the ear off a less than eager senior. The senior, happy for the distraction, made his way back into the crowd and Duncan wouldn’t let Peter leave without berating him, buying him a muffin and asking how his first week was. Somehow from then on, they were inseparable. Until now.

While Duncan was known for his “peaceful protests”, his companion tended to take the more aggressive approach, especially when it came to animals. The girl was never without cats, whether it be on a keychain, shirt or the actual animal curled up in her arms. Catrina was mellow most of the time, especially around Duncan, but when she saw or heard an animal’s rights being abused, a dangerous temper flared up within her. Peter supposed feisty was the word for her. Unfortunately, their protests had become too feisty, they fought with the wrong people and they lost. Through no fault of their lawyer, Constance, who was nothing if not dedicated to Justice. Perhaps borderline obsessed with it was the best way to describe her. The judge did not share her keen sense nor did he share her sympathy; he had Duncan pegged as a miscreant and almost seemed gleeful as he sentenced him to five years in prison. As his track record wasn’t exactly clean, trying to preach to the judge only added to his misfortune, and the stunningly articulated insults were digging him a deeper hole.

With Duncan gone, the group was destined to disband. Through no fault of their own, they were just so much more passive than him. So willing to take what life threw at them. They were not without punishment, naturally. Catrina got off a little easier than the others. (Duncan seemed to believe it had something to do with the security guard on duty, he mentioned that he was “leering” at Catrina the whole time. Peter hadn’t noticed.) So she was under house arrest, where she stewed alone with her cats, pining for what Peter could only assume was her lover. Though they never made it clear*. Mary and he were requested to “make it up” to the company. This required at least one hundred hours of unpaid work for the company and the assurance that the media would know that Betty Crocker is their brand. Somehow, Mary was weaseled out of this by a very curious reporter. The rival’s lawyer seemed to have a lot to say about this, his mutterings garnished with a rich vocabulary of swear words.
Having relived the past for long enough, Peter snaps his laptop shut and looks up and around him. Not in possession of a car, Peter was forced to catch several buses to his new, unpaid job. The intense joy was obvious on his face, his eyes looked dull and unenthusiastic and his mouth was pulled in a tight frown, hiding his somewhat ridiculous teeth. He hated the things, nobody took anyone with a lisp seriously, and it was a fact of life. Everyone at that damn place was probably going to laugh at him, but he had to get it over with. Duncan would murder him if he ended up in jail with him, Duncan would just be in jail longer, and then Catrina would murder him again for separating him from her for even longer.

The bus rolls to a stop and he can see the bright red spoon logo, far in the distance. Trudging to the front of the bus, Peter was becoming aware that there is nobody else occupying the seats. He looks about before turning to the bus driver, nervous about speaking to a stranger. “Uh…doesth thisth busth thtop at the Betty Crocker company?” he manages to choke out. The bus driver turns and stares, seeming as though he’s absorbing the words. “This is the last stop.” He says, offering no help beyond that and opening the doors. Peter gets off without a word. Stepping down onto the pavement, He took in the view of the long, hill garnished road ahead of him.
It reminds him of something Duncan used to say. "Hills are a fuck of a thing to climb, but once you're at the top, it's a fucking breeze going down the other side." With that thought in mind, he starts walking.