Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
The Creep On The Borderlands
Ivanhoe Books Incorporated was a dark storefront between the mall’s church and its candy store. There was a small crowd milling before the store’s darkened entrance. Sometimes I wondered if any of these folks knew there was a library just a few miles up the road. Of course I was no better, I had tons of books, more than I thought I would ever get a chance to read. I kept buying new books anyway though hoping that a long and partially debilitating illness would leave me unable to do anything but work my way through the Book of Swords trilogy.
I hurried through the doorway that led into the labyrinth of hallways that ran behind and around the stores of Northway Mall. For a moment I stood in front of the back door of the book store trying to find the keys I had been entrusted with. What if I had left them home? The store keys were in my jacket pocket instead of my pants pocket. I got into the back room, flicked on the lights, set up the cash register and got the store open as fast as I could.
The small crowd of customers grumbled as I let them in. Many asking what the big idea was, I apologized, explaining I had overslept ,but decided not to mention my dream of a hot redhead in a chainmail bustier. Though I suppose it might have as a mitigating circumstance to some folks.
A good number of customers got their copies of the daily paper and shuffled right back out into the mall again. A few retirees and teenagers made their way into the interior of the store. All the employees of Ivanhoe Books Incorporated knew that old folks and teenagers stole from us like crazy. It was some kind of circle of life thing but with the new generation stealing heavy metal magazines and comic books and the old generation trying to stuff crossword puzzle collections and romance novels down their shirts.
On a normal day one employee would wander the aisles while the other ran the register. There was nothing like a friendly “May I help you?” to scare off someone with sticky fingers.
But today I was working solo until One PM so people could be walking out with the Stephen King displays and I would be too busy to notice. With one part of my brain I was ringing up the never ending line of sales, with another I was answering customer questions, with another I was suppressing the slowly building urge to pee.
“Excuse me fellow,” one of the customers asked me. He was a one of our regulars and particularly notable for the black beret he wore and the way he seemed to stare intently at your right earlobe as he spoke to you. “Where are the new Mac Bolan novels?”
In case you don’t know Mac Bolan novels are a long-running series of mens adventure novels. And in case you didn’t know what a mens adventure novel is, they’re like Harlequin romance novels for guys except that instead of ending in passionate embraces they usually ended with large amounts of property damage and gunfire.
I finished counting back a paying customer’s change before I answered Mr. Beret, “I don’t think they’ve been unpacked yet.”
“They’re supposed to be on the shelves by Friday. Today’s Sunday.”
“I’m sorry about that,” I tried to sound apologetic but ended up just yawing instead, “we will make them available as soon as possible.”
He asked “Can you go get them out of the back room for me?”
“Not right now unfortunately, I’m the only one here right now,” I explained as I cashed out the next customer in line. Only later would I realize I had just sold a thirteen year old boy the latest volume of Playboy’s College Girls. I hope he remembered to hydrate himself in between bouts of whacking off. “When my co-workers get here in about an hour I will make sure to find them and set them aside for you.”
“My time is valuable,” the Beret-wearing customer’s face became a grimace. He pointed disdainfully at the next person in line, “You think I am going to wait around for two hours while you sell copies of The Satanic Bible to the holi polloi?”
“It’s for a friend!” my first grade teacher said before leaving in a huff.
“I am sorry sir but there is nothing else I can do right now,” I insisted.
That wasn’t good enough for Mr. Beret. If looks could kill my earlobe would have been a dead man. He said to me, “Then where is your manager?”
“Not here that’s for darn sure.”
A voice to my right startled me, “Oh really?”
It was the manager of the Northway Mall branch of Ivanhoe Books Incorporated. My face became a terrified smile, “Karla. How good to see you. And on your day off. I guess that is why you make the big bucks.”
“Give me one reason,” she said, “one reason why I shouldn’t fire you.”
A hush fell over the line of customers. My face felt as hot and as my bladder felt full. I cleared my throat before I spoke, “Because there will be no one left to work next Sunday morning?”