Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Panties Half Off
“You’re working where?” my stepfather stared across the dining room table at me.
“The Julia Shop,” I ate quickly always eager to finish my supper and escape from the scrutiny of my family, “I’m their new stockboy... or stockperson...”
My Mom didn’t look to sure about this either, “You’re working in a women's’ clothing store?”
“Yeah, it’s nine to five, Monday through Friday. This way I can have the weekends to myself.”
“For what?” my brother Phil asked though a mouthful of mashed potatoes, beef tips and carrots, “for Dungeons and Dragons?”
“For your information,” I corrected icily, “we’re currently playing Gamma World.”
It was weird to be living at with my Mom and Stepdad at 19 but still pretty much being able to come and go as I wanted. I almost felt like a tenant; except for the fact I was a tenant that never paid rent and was eating them out of house and home. A tenant that constantly borrowed money from his landlords but then got upset when he was asked to take out the garbage or pay for those calls to a phone sex line.
Not that anyone could ever prove I was the one that made those calls.
I was pulling away from my family but the thing that made this slow melancholy process all the worse that it felt more like we were falling apart. This wasn’t an evolution, it was a kind of disintegration. It wasn’t so long ago that we had been inseparable, when the whole bunch of us would go on trips together and even get along. Sure there were flare ups and arguments but things never seemed to get much worse than they might get on a very special episode of The Brady Bunch.
That all changed by the time I had reached the age of 13. The arguments became bloodier; the reconciliations rarer and angry silences were the order of the day.
My stepfather tried to sound upbeat as he cleared his plate, “Any good looking girls working there Al?”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
My brother laughed until gravy came out of his nose at that, “No big fucking surprise there.”
My tone became ominous, “You better watch it you mouth-breathing troglodyte.”
Phil pounded the table “What your mouth! I’ve got a fuckin’ thesaurus now and I know how to use it!”
“Could everyone please act their age?” my mother begged.
“I am acting my age!” I insisted, “He’s the one!”
“No...” Phil shouted, “he’s the one!”
My mother and stepfather became like animals that had been caged together for too long, keeping to their own corners of the house and only approaching each other with caution and need.
My brother Phil was free from school and gainfully employed. He kept busy with babes and drama and drama and babes. Whenever I saw him with a new girl I became overwhelmed with jealousy. Whenever one of the girls ended up trying to kill him I was overcome with relief.
My sister was gone. She had been gone for some time now, not disappeared mind you just moved out. At fourteen she had fallen in love and run away to be with the boy of her dreams. My family was pretty angry about the whole thing and they got even madder when they found out the boy she had run off with was around my age. They contacted law enforcement but the local police were reluctant to stand in the way of young romance, be it statutory or not.
I know it must sound odd to you modern day readers but this was the way things were done in the 80's. Nowadays police and reporters would have swarmed in to rescue her and sign her up for a movie deal.
It wasn’t until my sister left that I realized how much I had taken her for granted. No, worse than that I had almost seen her as being no better than the yappy dogs my mother had taken to breeding for spare cash. I sometimes wondered to myself if she would have stayed home if I had been a better brother to her.
“Maybe now that you’e got a job you can get that car of yours fixed,” my stepfather said, “I’m getting tired of it just sitting there in the back yard.”
“I’m working on it, I swear,” and I meant that. I wanted my car back desperately; that beat up Monte Carlo been my escape.
Sometimes when the feeling of being lost and desperate got to be too much for me I would take a long ride into the country until I found myself actually lost and desperate. I would speed along down mountain roads driving faster and faster until the sound of the wind roaring through the windows drowned the sound of the Cher album that was stuck in the 8 track and constantly playing.
My mother asked, “How are you going to get to work now? You can’t depend on us.”
“It’s the mall,” I said, “it’s right on the bus route and if I miss the bus I can walk there in half an hour.”
My brother chuckled, “You should walk, you need the exercise.”
“You know what would burn a lot of calories Phil? Me clubbing you like a baby seal.”
“You think you’re man enough to take a swing at me?”
“If we judge manhood by one’s ability to not pee on the toilet seat, then yes I am man enough.”
A confused look settled on Phil’s face, “I thought you were the one doing that.”
My stepfather cleared his throat, “Let’s not change the subject. I hope you’re going to save your money to pay for those repairs. You can’t depend on your grandmother to give you money every time you get into trouble.”
“I’m trying to do this on my own.” I said and that was true; I had vowed I would not fritter away my cash on comic books, music and issues of JUGGS magazine.
Well, maybe a few issues of JUGGS here and there...