Kada almost stepped on Jag's tail as she raced for the door. The ferry always ran on time and if she didn't hurry, she would miss her normal boat and the next one wouldn't come for another hour. She shook her head chagrined at the concept of being late, especially on a day when heads would roll. She'd need to hurry. She could sell her sweat-stained clothes as a hard worker, but the clock ticked.
Jag meowed. The cat balanced forepaws on the rim of his food bowl and stared at her. The bowl was empty.
She would regret this, but she couldn't start out the day this way. She dropped her purse, notebook case, and coffee thermos, the cylinder tipping and rolling underneath the hutch. Jag's tail twitched with pleasure as he began to purr. She had to let enough people down today and she couldn't do anything to help that, but at least she could make Jag happy.
The thermos had wedged itself against the wall beyond her grasp and she knelt on the floor, stretching her arm to reach for it. Her skirt ripped. She'd caught the edge of the seam on her heel. Maybe, no one would notice at the office. She didn't have time to change. Or to get the recalcitrant thermos. Fortunately, no one would expect her to be in a good mood either.
Her heels clacked against the concrete. The heat never abated in the rainforest and humidity dripped from the leaves of an açia. Over the tree's crown, she saw the tip of the ferry's smokestack. She would make it.
All the seats inside had been taken. She walked onto the ferry's front deck, smelling the sewage dumped into the river, avoiding the eyes of those who had come here to get a seat. She slumped against the wood slats of the bench not caring whether the sweat running down her torso would evaporate before she arrived at the offices in Manaus. She caught the eyes of those sitting around her, they stared, but quickly looked away. Then, in ones and twos they retreated to stand within the ferry's interior.
She might as well get used to this. Laying off half the division would make her a pariah. She understood the business need. Their division bled money and headquarters insisted they focus on the profitable work. She had managed to save half the division, but her team wouldn't see that as a win. You couldn't give everyone jobs for life even if the French socialists thought that would work. Jobs for life wouldn't really be for life since the whole company would go down in losses. No, unfortunately she and the company had no choice.
She looked for the voice. She'd thought she was the only one on the deck.
"You have choices."
The voice came from a coiled Honduras Milk Snake. The red and white scales of the albino's tail curled over the bars protecting the passengers from accidentally falling into the river. It had two heads.
She blinked, closing her eyes tight, keeping them shut for a few seconds. The heat and the run must have made her hallucinate.
"Just because you can't see them, doesn't mean they're not there."
She opened her eyes. It hadn't helped. Two forked tongues slithered into the air. Snakes did not talk. "Don't exist," Kada said.
The snake dropped to the floor of the ferry and slithered until it climbed the bench next to the door. "Of course choices exist. You don't have to fire people."
It could not know about that. She glanced at the door, and then at the snake, uncomfortable at how close it was to the door.
"I won't hurt you."
"Snakes don't talk."
"You don't listen to the old tales." A clear thin membrane dropped over the snake's eyes, and she suspected they saw her clearly the entire time. "Not everything can be easily explained. I don't matter. Think about the truth of my words."
"I don't have choices."
How had she gotten herself in this position of having to explain why she must lay off half her division to a snake? It must be the stress of everything. She was taking her own fears about how this afternoon would go and extrapolating it onto the snake. "I'm just a middle manager. I did my best. I saved half of them."
"You have choices." The forked neck twisted until the heads changed position. "Instead of firing them, quit. The chaos will result in everyone keeping their jobs for another week or two."
Impossible. The snake understood business. International conglomerates would take weeks before they got someone in the country to take care of business. "That doesn't buy anything."
"It buys time. You need that to start your own company and hire the best talent. That will leave them with half the division. No one loses a job."
She had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. She leaned back in the seat and let the river's wind blow in her face. Maybe, today wouldn't be so bad. She turned back to look at the snake, but it had disappeared.