At the crack of dawn, Taneka Martin scrambled to dress in her nicest business clothes. She slipped into her four-year-old son’s bedroom and watched him. After a few seconds, she picked him up.
“No, Mommy, I stay in bed.”
“Not today. We’re going to see grandma.”
“Mommy has a job interview.”
“I want to stay in bed.”
“I know, baby, but you can sleep in the car. And at Grandma’s.” She carried him to the car.
“What’s a job interview?”
“It’s where the people I want to work for ask me lots of questions.”
“Manager stuff. Maybe about what I’d do if all the hotel rooms were full.” She strapped him into his car seat.
“What’s manager stuff?“
“It means I’ll be the second-shift boss.”
“I want to go back to bed.”
“You have your sippy cup right next to you and Mr. Puff Puff right here.” She showed him his cup in the car seat cup holder and handed him a worn stuffed animal.
“I want to go back to bed!”
“Baby, you can sleep in the car and at Grandma’s. And I’ll pick you up after my interview.”
“I go back to bed.”
“I know, baby. If I get this job, you won’t have to get up early anymore. And you and I will be able to spend lots of time together. But today is special.” She closed the backseat car door and slid into the driver’s seat.
“I go back to bed.”
“I know, baby. Pretty soon.”
She parked in the Patterson Blu hotel ramp at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, next to a maroon cargo van near the elevator, and opened her car door. First a boom and then a deafening rumble filled the air. The open car door flew out of her hands and then swung back against her body. She caught it and held on. The car shook with the parking garage floor. An earthquake? Don’t those only happen in California? She turned her head, searching for cracks in the concrete, and said a silent prayer for the parking ramp to stay intact. The shaking and rumbling stopped after a few minutes. Other than a car alarm from another floor, all was silent.
Earthquake or not, she needed that job. She checked her makeup in the car mirror and looked down at her blouse and pantsuit. No damage. The earthquake would be a good icebreaker for the interview. She stepped out of the car and closed the door.
She noticed a faint fuel oil smell as she locked her car but didn’t give it any thought. Maybe that van had an oil leak. Then something buzzed. It sounded like a cell phone on vibrate. It was coming from the van. The one that smelled like fuel oil. Somebody must have left . . .