Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Paper Hearts And A Red Haired Tart
Getting my upholstery steam cleaned made me late for work but no one seemed to mind. Paper Shredder location #42 was starting to look more like a store and less like a poorly organized warehouse. Kathleen and Mr. Palmer were putting the finishing touches on the greeting card department; it was three solid rows of wasted paper and canned sentiment. Our selection ran the gamut from generic condolence cards to garish oversized paper hearts.
My eyes were quickly drawn to the intoxicating read hair of Tallulah. She was hard at work in the book department and Bud was helping her, they were chatting and laughing together.
Or at least they were until I walked over. They reacted to my approach in the same way most drivers react to seeing flashing lights in their rearview mirrors.
I thought to myself, Don’t say anything stupid. Be normal...
Then I said, “Hey are you guys going to let me help you put away books or are you just going to be shelf-ish!”
Tallulah looked at me like I was crazy, “Why would we be shellfish?”
“Not shellfish, shelf-ish! Get it?” I said, “Please?”
“Man...” Bud said, “Your sense of humor is about a sharp as a wet loaf of bread.”
Now that got a laugh from Tallulah.
“Al,” she said, “we’ve got it pretty much under control here. Why don’t you go help Chuck set up the shelving units?”
Of course I’d have rather stayed around the cute redhead but I could tell that she’d already had enough of me.
The shelving units were about three feet long and you locked them into a set of brackets set into the walls or aisles. Each bracket was marked so you could be sure you were hanging the shelves evenly but for some reason the shelves I found were all crooked, making it look like we were in a store designed my MC Escher.
Then I saw why, Chuck was hanging shelves at high speed and not watching what he was doing. He kept glancing back to the book department. I grabbed a shelving unit and got to work myself; since I was actually paying attention to what I was doing it took me longer to get done.
“Hey Bruno,” Chuck said, “you getting paid by the hour over there?”
“Actually yes, and you are too.” That stopped him dead in his tracks for a moment.
Chuck snorted, “You're wasting your time, no one is gonna care if the shelves are a little off.”
“What if they notice and make us re-hang them? That would double our work and set us behind for the soft opening.”
“Why do you care?” Chuck said, “This is retail, I’m just here to kill time and make some cash while I go to college.”
I shrugged, “If that's the way you want to do it. I think anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
“Don't go quoting the Bible at me.”
“By the way, what are you going to college for anyway?”
“I wanna be a gym teacher,” he said, his attention shifting back to the book department.
“Why do you keep looking over there?” I asked, “Is there something going on?”
Chuck walked close to me, he had doused himself with a cheap cologne that reminded me of a locker room thick with the odor of ball sweat. He whispered to me, “Bud’s trying to get a date with Tallulah. He wants to beat me to the punch.”
“Bud thinks he can get a date with Tallulah?”
“Why not?” Chuck said, “He’s got a nice car.”
Bud glanced over our way and said something to Tallulah, then she laughed. “So what?” I said, “He looks like John Wilkes Booth.”
Confusion clouded Chuck’s features, “You mean the guy from the old porn movies?”
“No, that was John Holmes.”
“Whatever,” Chuck turned back to his work, “I told him I was gonna ask her. He better not score with her.”
“Him? Her?” the thought made my stomach twist, although actually I couldn’t imagine me scoring with her either.
Chuck leaned in a little closer, “Well you know what they say right Al?”
“That Hell is other people?”
“No! What are you gay?” Chuck laughed at me- not with me, “They say red on the head is good in bed.”
“I don’t think I understa-” then I did understand and I blushed. Tallulah was grinning at Bud. She had the kind of smile that made you want to smile right along with her.
Chuck nudged me with a meaty elbow, “I bet she’s a demon in the sheets.”
“I bet I’d fail my saving throw.”
“What the Hell are you talking about?”
“It’s a stream of consciousness thing.” I replied.
After that we worked in silence. I tried to eavesdrop on Tallulah and Bud but there was no way to make out what was being said over the general noise of the store being set up.
“Red on the head is good in bed.”
That was a maxim I’d never heard before and I had to wonder at the truth of it. Was there any data to back these claims up? Where did women that dyed their hair red figure into this?
I tried to imagine what it might be like if I found myself in bed with Tallulah, with her soft pale skin exposed, her red hair spilling out around her, her lips breaking into a smile as she pointed at my sub-par wiener and laughed.
Ok, I guess I couldn’t imagine myself with her at all. I didn’t even dare to dream it.
But I found the idea of her being in bed with either Bud or Chuck more than a little nightmarish.