Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
The search for fresh markets and suckers had us venturing further and further out from Albany as the summer wore on. By the third week of June we were doing business in Vermont. Sales were brisk and the drinking age was 18. Paul put us up in a motel rather than having us make a three hour drive all the way home each night. It was five of us; Paul, Athena, myself and two of the Casey brothers, Conrad and Lonnie. We had dinner at a little bar and grill the first night.
The lights were dim, the music had too much base and the restrooms were best avoided. There were too many of us for a booth so we sat at a table, our chairs crowding against one another.
Have I described Paul DeSanti for you? He was a middle aged man with a middle aged gut and sly smile, the most noticeable thing about him was his toupee. It flew in the face of everything I thought toupees were for. Wasn’t a hairpiece supposed to make you look better? Paul’s toupee made him look like a homeless person that had gone rooting around in Burt Reynolds’s garbage.
Of course you already know about Lonnie’s Frankenstein-like proportions and Athena’s sheer unadulterated sexiness but let me bring you up to speed on Conrad. He was spindly with a spiky hairdo and eyes that seemed too large and watery for his face. He always looked like he was about to apologize for something.
“There were spiders all inside the crate of Rambo posters,” Conrad’s voice was quivery. “Someone else can unpack those things from now on. I’m allergic.”
Paul made a helpless gesture, “Then what are you going to do?”
“I could sell stuff and take the money. It doesn’t just have to be just Al.”
Paul leaned forward, “Speaking of Al, you enjoying that Long Island Ice Tea?”
“Yeah but it doesn’t taste much like tea at all.”
Paul gave me a nudge, “Hey Al that redhead you were checking out is here.”
“No way,” I gave a panicked look around.
“What’s this about?” Athena asked.
“Get this…” Paul began.
I groaned, “Oh no…”
“Al’s walking around while Lonnie and me are counting inventory. This girl starts looking at merchandise and you can see Al’s drooling.”
“I was not drooling!”
Athena gave me a playful wink, “Trust me Al, you drool.”
Paul continued, “So he’s checking this girl out, and she’s got this long red hair and an ass like a cherry. He walks up to her and asks her if she sees anything she wants.”
“Oh no…” Conrad tittered.
“Then she turns around and she looks like a shrunken apple head doll. Then she flashed him a grin and her front two teeth are missing!”
Everyone at the table laughed, even me. I explained, “Redheads are a weakness of mine.”
“Oh really?” Athena smiled. “I thought gentlemen preferred blondes.”
“As long as it’s the right blonde.” I smiled back at her and then tried to look serious, “If I feel like it.”
Paul said, “Well everyone has a kind of girl they like. I like girls with brown eyes myself.”
Lonnie nodded, “I like mongoloid girls.”
The table went dead silent, my Long Island ice tea almost slipped from my grip, “You… what?”
“You know Asian chicks.”
Athena’s voice took a gentle tone, “I don’t think… that‘s not really… I think you should just say Asian. I think that’s better.”
“Why?” Lonnie’s expression was confused and guileless.
“It’s just…” Athena searched for the words. She looked to Paul and Conrad but they were too busy convulsing and snickering
“More flattering,” I suggested.
“Yeah,” Athena agreed. “More flattering.”
Lonnie shook his head, “Oh.”
“And on that note,” Paul got up, “I’m gonna check on the truck one last time and then get us some rooms.”
“Lonnie and Conrad come on,” We all stood but Paul gestured for Athena and me to sit back down. “You kids finish your drinks. We’ll come and get you.”
He handed Athena a handful of bills, “You take care of the tab and keep the rest.”
Once they had left I turned to Athena, “So we’re alone at last… not that I give a damn or anything.”
“Are you ok?” She asked. “You’ve been acting a little weird today.”
“Must be my carefree attitude,” I said. “You know once we get settled in we should go for a walk. Well I’m going to go for a walk anyway but you may as well come along if you want, not that I need anyone to walk with.”
“Wow,” she shook her head. “I’m not even drunk and I have no idea what you’re saying.”
“I’m not sure I do either… but I’m not concerned about that kind of stuff.”
“I hate these road trips,” she took another swig of beer. “Uncle Paul’s too cheap to get private rooms so we have to double up.”
I had been feeling a pleasant buzz through most of the evening but I was suddenly sober, “Double up?”
“Yeah. Nothing worse than sharing a room with a guy,” she shook her head. “You’re all snorers and using the bathroom in the middle of the night is like taking your life in your hands.”
“You know,” I began. “I was raised by my mother, grandmother and great grandmother so I never leave the seat up. In fact I usually pee sitting down… I don’t know why did I said that … not that I don’t really care.”
“Besides,” Athena finished her beer. “I hate having to wear anything to bed but you can’t really do that when you’re…”
The glass holding the Long Island iced tea shattered in my hand.