An hour later he was home sitting in his windowsill with his laptop, which was so ancient it was practically vintage, featuring a spiderwebbed screen and cooling fans so loud he couldn’t watch his sister’s Netflix account without subtitles. The meager collection of groceries had been put away, and he was now eating his homemade version of ramen out of a chipped bowl. In reality, it was just rice noodles in spicy broth with a few chopped vegetable ends, but he liked to pretend it was as healthy as it was cheap.
He Googled “magic staffing agency” and leaned back, slurping noodles and looking out over the alley, which looked almost charmingly rustic in the evening light—grimey bricks glowing dull red in the sunset, lengthening shadows obscuring the litter-strewn row of dumpsters below. His internet was slow enough that he’d learned not to watch the screen when waiting for search results to appear. The windowsill was the only part of his rented room he liked, because for whatever reason it was two feet deep and wide enough to sit cross-legged in. He just had to be careful not to lean against the window frame itself because he was pretty sure it would go crashing down two stories into the alley with the slightest push, and he didn’t want to go tumbling down with it. A prized Goodwill-found pillow padded the windowsill so that it was almost like a country cottage window seat, if you ignored the crooked plastic Venetian blinds that had been wrangled into submission and tied up awkwardly with twist ties. They were so mangled that they couldn’t descend all the way anyway.
The white light from his laptop abruptly dimming turned Lir’s head back to the screen where the Google results had popped up. He groaned in annoyance, as there was of course a dildo some company had made called the Magic Staff and it was impossible to find anything else as it was apparently a very good dildo that nobody could stop talking about. Lir made a mental note about the sheer number of glowing reviews and, um, interesting pictures and filed the information away in the part of his brain dedicated to “when I have disposable income again”. He then resigned himself to waiting another ten minutes while his computer struggled to ask the internet in more refined terms about “‘magic staffing agency’ employment”.
By the time he had finished his soup, he had managed to find and load the website, learning in the process that the agency abbreviated itself as “MaStaff” to avoid confusion with...other products. Despite the questionable naming choice, it at least looked like a professional and legitimate website. Lir ignored the thunderous roaring of his laptop’s fan as he demanded the impossible of it—using two applications at once—and pulled up his résumé to see what could be spruced up a little.
Lir cringed as he looked at the pitiful collection of minimum wage jobs he had worked. Even if Silton had tried at all, his résumé made him look flighty instead of constantly being given fewer and fewer hours until he was forced to quit and find new work elsewhere. He couldn’t be certain it was because of his transness, but given the looks some managers had given him… he wouldn’t be surprised. Turning his attention back to the matter at hand, Lir considered deeply before beginning to type.
Reading fanfiction and leaving reviews? More like “Providing editing services to writers not yet associated with a publishing house”.
Writing fix-it fanfiction of Lord of the Rings and posting it on AO3? Sounds like he meant “Engaging deeply with written materials and produced more digestible versions for online communities”.
Posting and commenting on the celiac subreddit? Hmm, he’s pretty sure he was actually “Communicating and collaborating with a collection of colleagues to compile a comprehensive guide aimed to alleviate the burden of patients with celiac disease”.
Lir paused for a moment, reviewing what he had written. The hobbies that he had gratuitously transformed into hireable skills made him seem a bit too swottish, and he didn’t want to block off even one avenue that might lead to a stable job. Lir tipped his head back with a small tunk! and tapped his fingers idly on the thundering laptop, wondering how much he could embellish. He really wasn’t all that physical. The combination of being chronically ill as well as chronically short of cash to properly feed himself left little space for things like working out.
At that moment a bolt of inspiration struck. Lir jerked up and almost dropped his laptop in his haste to write “Varsity competitive swimmer in various high school and college club friendly competitions”. It made him sound somewhat athletic and, by not disclosing an exact placement, club, or official competition, it would be a tedious affair to prove otherwise. Really, he was fit enough, he just needed a little boost to make him seem like a nice, able-bodied, young lad that anybody would be happy to hire.
Done with the polishing up, Lir saved the document and uploaded it to MaStaff’s site. His computer seemed to sigh in gratefulness as he let it rest. Just one short application later—Lir’s mood sobering as Coral’s warning rang through his head again—and he was now in the hands of MaStaff’s algorithms.
With that out of the way, he decided it would be best to get some sleep—he had an early shift volunteering at the LGBTQ outreach center the next morning. The nice thing about volunteering there was that being trans didn’t disqualify him from the position, unlike just about anywhere else. The downside, of course, was the whole not-getting-paid aspect, as well as the fact that he was hesitant to list the experience on his résumé for obvious reasons. But he loved it all the same, and it helped dispel his sense of restless unemployed unfulfillment.
After using his capped razor to squeeze another impossible drop out of his tube of toothpaste, Lir put on his favorite boxers, featuring winged toasters inspired by the After Dark screensavers of his youth. He flopped onto his bed, which was perhaps more accurately described as a nest of blankets on a lopsided mattress on the floor (who could afford a boxspring or a bedframe, anyway?), and tried to sleep. It was almost impossible because of his growing queasy anticipation. Would he wake up in the morning to an email from MaStaff offering him a job match? Or would he simply be added to the queue and be forced to wait in uncertain agony as jobs were doled out to other more qualified candidates?
A chilling thought struck him. Would the agency request a background check, and discover the paper trail leading to his entirely legal yet still unfairly incriminating name change? He couldn’t afford for this to be another dead end. He watched the lights of the cars driving past on Linden Avenue arc across the ceiling and listened to the sounds of his neighbors discovering that their cat had birthed a hairball in their shoes yet again.
Everyone had problems, he reflected as he pulled a blanket over his head to compensate for the sounds of betrayal and despair traveling through the paper thin walls. Everyone went to sleep restless and anxious and caught up in worries that might be as trivial as cat vomit in a shoe or as enormous as the prospect of not making rent next month. But worrying about it wouldn’t do any good. Somehow, telling himself that didn’t seem to do much good either. He fell asleep wondering if the shoes were ruined, and had very strange dreams indeed.