Retail Hell: Part One


“Darcy, it's me,” I whisper. I am crouched behind the cash register, pretending for the sake of anyone who might be watching that everything is normal and that I am simply searching for something important. My dignity, perhaps.

“Is someone there? I can't hear you,” Darcy sighs. “Who is this?”

“It's me, your best friend,” I hiss. I risk a peek over the counter at the elderly lady who is, at ten-thirty A.M., my first customer of the day. She is sniffing the shampoo lids methodically, one after the other, to discern their scent and is paying no attention to me or my crisis. I am too preoccupied to tell her that all of the bottles in our shop have protective plastic caps which keep customers from over-eager sampling. It also keeps the scent from being released.

“Kat?” Darcy asks. “What time is it? Did I oversleep again?”

“No, no, it's only ten-thirty. Listen, I need a huge favor.”

“Does it involve me getting out of bed? 'Cause I was with Dave last night and I may be walking a little bow-legged today, if you know what I--”

“Just listen!” I interrupt shrilly. I am now very close to being in panic mode. From the corner of my eye I see the elderly lady shoot me a curious glance, but she is the least of my worries right now. At the moment, the extra-large Mocha Jo and bran muffin I snarfed for breakfast is at the top of the list. “I need you to come in, like, right now,” I say with a pleading note in my voice. “It's...urgent.”

Now? You want me to fight Saturday morning mall traffic and come in two and a half hours early?” I hear the rustle of bedclothes and hope I haven't interrupted Dave in the middle of something. “Is this about that little bald asshole at the jewelry store? What's he done now?”

“It's not him, just please come up here and I will make it up to you, I swear!” The need to empty my bowels is urgent now. I feel almost sick with it and wonder if the elderly lady will think my pasty face and sweat-beaded upper lip are caused by a drug problem. God, to be so lucky.

“Wasn't Rebecca supposed to open with you this morning?” she asks suspiciously. The entire staff hates Rebecca and they are always looking for an excuse to get her fired.

“No, she switched her days off so she could go to her sister's wedding, remember? I'm here by myself until you get here, which is why I need you here now. There may be a big mess if you do not come and relieve me.”

I am trying to speak in code to remind her that, since the mall big-wigs decided to expand the food court, our little store is now without its own bathroom. This means we are forced to either stomach the mall restrooms, which reek of stale cigarette smoke and never contain a working lock mechanism, or trek all the way down to the nearest department store (and face dirty looks from the perfume counter girls, who know exactly what we are up to). I suppose it's a small price to pay for twelve more inches of counter-space at Sbarro.

“A mess?” Darcy says, alarmed. It figures that out of the entire phone call, that's the one word she picked up on. She's something of a clean freak and I imagine she's now sitting up fully awake, picturing broken bottles of hand cream everywhere. I decide to take a different approach.

“Yes, you know, because of something we no longer have in the stockroom?” I say through clenched teeth.

“Something we...dammit, did Rebecca forget to do the supply order again?”

“NO, YOU IDIOT, I'M ABOUT TO SHIT MY PANTS!” I yell into the receiver.

I've never seen an old lady move so fast.

StarPoet   StarPoet wrote
on 5/10/2008 12:08:13 AM
Clever! And original. I hope you made it to the bathroom in time!!!!!!

Novel / Novella
writing mandycrum
Vita brevis, ars longa.
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Rating: 10.0/10