Short Fuse Is Out + An Excerpt

So I recently released a new book, which is available on my free stuff page! If you’re still not sure whether to take the plunge of downloading it – although seriously, what do you have to lose? – maybe this sample will help you decide.

Get your free copy of ‘Short Fuse’ here.

‘Good morning’ is not a phrase in my vocabulary. It’s an oxymoron to me, as it should be to any sane person. There is nothing ‘good’ about being woken by an alarm clock. Most people say that if they could go back in time and change the course of history, they’d kill Hitler or something. If I could go back in time, I’d kill the alarm clock guy. (I’m not joking. I’ve looked into it at length. Having weighed all the pros and cons, taking everything into account, I think that even though he said some things that people apparently think are important, Plato deserves to suffer for his alarm-related crimes.)

Breakfast cereal is another crime of the morning. It’s cold and wet, yet crunchy. This is not an appropriate combination of adjectives in any context, and certainly not for anything that goes in your mouth.

Morning also entails getting ready (a waste of effort) for one of two terrible options: school or work.

Gerongate High is that generic public high school that exists in every town, where you can tell from the name exactly what you’re getting into. You know the one. Anything called ‘[Location] High’ is basically the same school in a different area. It will have roughly one student-related incident of arson every six months, and every year or so someone will get high and send the entire establishment into lockdown by threatening a teacher with a spatula.

I hate school. I know, revolutionary. I’m not very good at it, but that’s not what I hate. (I’m not very good at a lot of things – school doesn’t exactly have the market cornered.) My real issue is that being told what to do every minute of every day is so endlessly frustrating. That is why I put roughly 3% effort into all tasks set by my teachers, and why I’m coasting along on a 55% grade. Why bother trying? The last time I’d done well in a test it had ended with me straddling the principal in front of the entire school, and not in a fun way. I know I’m not going to attend university (more school? Where you have to pay to go? Why hello, worst nightmare), and I’ve already resigned myself to a life of retail. It is what it is.

***

My job at Gregory’s Groceries (run by a guy named Jeremy – I don’t know, he got the sign cheap or something) is still awful, but it’s better than school. As much as I hate customer service, standing for long periods of time, greeting chipper customers who for some reason turn up at 8 a.m. on the dot whenever I’m opening the store and chastise me for being so much as a minute late, as if they have something better to do with their time (I know for a fact that you’re unemployed, Margaret – I know every detail of your life because you just won’t shut up about it), and also working in general, on the plus side it requires zero brain function.

Another upside of my terrible, terrible job (which certainly isn’t the pay, because that equates to roughly one small soy latte per hour) is that my manager, Jeremy, doesn’t care about customer service. Like, at all. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean Jeremy is a good boss. He’s old (like, thirty at least) and yet he follows around one of the girls from my school who is seventeen. He goes to watch her cheerlead at school sports games in other cities. Oh yes. He travels across the state to be with a schoolgirl. Creep alert.

But nonetheless, I do kind of enjoy working for someone who once told a customer who ‘had a problem with my attitude’ (get in line, lady) that he ‘had a problem with her face’. When she started huffing and talking about respect he told her to just pay for her groceries or get the eff out of his store. After that he instructed me to tell any future ‘I want to talk to your manager’ customers that being polite wasn’t part of my contract and I was the cheapest employee there so they weren’t going to fire me. He also typed out an all caps sign stating our ‘Price Match Policy’: IF YOU SEE AN ITEM CHEAPER IN ANOTHER STORE, BUY IT THERE.

We’ve got enough regular customers to make a baseline income, and I guess Jeremy isn’t interested in growing the business. Plus, nothing in Gregory’s ever goes off, so he doesn’t lose any revenue there. As Jeremy says, ‘expiry dates are just a suggestion’. Which is why he pays me extra to change the use-by dates on food after hours. He says ‘best before’ is very non-specific, and changing that date to a later time doesn’t really change anything. It was still best before that date. Logically, it makes sense. Ethically, I don’t care. If people were willing to shop somewhere as scummy as this place, they knew what they were getting into the second they walked through those doors.

But back to the story…

It was Monday morning, which is the worst thing it could possibly have been. Monday + morning = I don’t know, I’m not great at maths. But it’s definitely a negative. I stumbled through the school gates five minutes after the bell had rung, telling everyone that the day’s torture was about to begin.

Even with my glasses on, my vision was blurry. It takes me a while to warm up in the morning. You know, kind of like an old computer. Takes me forever to wake up, even when I do I’m still a bit slow and you’re a little worried that I’m going to burst into flames at some point because I don’t appear to have been assembled correctly and I’m running Windows ’95.

Sorry, that got a little off track.

Anyway, I stumbled into my first class – woodwork – five minutes late. This was so standard that most of the teachers had stopped bothering making a big deal out of it. It’s not like I was missing out on a valuable woodwork education that would come in handy for future employment. Quite apart from being something of a useless life-skill, I was so clumsy that the teacher had banned me from using any of the machines or equipment other than sandpaper on the first day of class.

“I don’t want you to die on my watch. Sit in that corner away from the machines and touch nothing for the entire term and I’ll give you an A. Deal?” It had sounded like a good deal to me, though I’d beaten him down to a B. (No top marks for me, thanks very much. Nothing good could come of that.) A more studious person might have used that time to catch up on their homework. (I did not do homework – a protest. I went to school to learn. I didn’t believe in taking my work home with me.) I used this time to subtly read romance novels by hiding them inside the dust jacket from The Concise Encyclopaedia of Birds. Right now I was halfway through When The Moon Hits Your Eye – Gianna had nearly managed to seduce the sexy stranger with the dark secret, but now she was worried that he might freak out when she revealed that she was a werewolf.

I tell you this in confidence. No one can ever know about my romance addiction. I’d lose all of the street cred I got from being one of the five kids from my school they sent to anger management classes (out of whom I was the only one who hadn’t subsequently been sent to juvie). Not that those classes had turned out to be particularly useful. They focused on teaching us how to channel our anger into physical activities, which seemed like a bad idea to me since channelling my energy into hockey is what had landed me in anger management in the first place. Well, channelling my energy into a hockey stick. Which may or may not have channelled its own energy into another person.

The stress ball they gave us seemed more like my thing. Much more calming. That was until the same person who’d been the object of the hockey stick debacle decided to steal my stress ball. He and I have different recollections of what happened after that, but all I’ll say is that he didn’t even have to stay overnight in the hospital and his X-rays came back clear, so really he was just whining about nothing.

I wish it weren’t the case, but I have a feeling he’ll come up again at some point in this story, so I guess I’d better introduce you. Everybody, meet James McKenzie – my arch nemesis.

James McKenzie is my brother’s best friend and as much as I love Topher (the aforementioned brother), he’s a terrible judge of character. People are just blinded by James’s frustratingly attractive exterior and fail to see the soulless creature that hides underneath. To be clear, when I say ‘frustratingly attractive’, I don’t mean frustrating in that way. I just mean that it’s annoying because all of my friends are in love with James McKenzie.

James does sports and studies hard and tutors younger kids and just generally tries to weasel himself into everyone’s good graces. He’s like one of those male protagonists you see in teen movies, who can’t deal with all of the success that is coming their way and have a breakdown because they’ve had too many scholarship offers. His hair is dark and his build is athletic and people seem to like that about him. In my opinion, personality > looks. That’s some maths even I can do.

Want to keep reading? Get your copy right now! 

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