Price Breaks And Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Al And Tallulah’s Wild Ride
Another Saturday at Paper Shredder.
I hated working Saturdays and not just because I missed cartoons, I also missed Tallulah because she didn't work weekends. When she wasn't there work felt like work. I was on book department duty, which was always better then the boredom of working the main register or the chaos of working in the copy center. Of course let's be honest here, part of the fun of shelving books was looking at the covers of each new tome, reading the titles, and admiring the artwork. That done I would then read the plot synopsis and maybe the few first pages of the story, all so I could sneer arrogantly and tell myself that my own work was so much better.
Unpublished and un-proofread but better.
Just like now.
“Hey! Bruno!” a voice called.
At that sound of that voice a crawling sensation started in my loins, and it wasn't the good kind of crawling sensation either. It was the voice of my arch-nemesis Orville. Personally I thought I was a little young to have an arch-nemesis but these things happen.
I put on my most professional demeanor, “Hello Orville. Welcome to Paper Helper, How may I shred you today?”
“Whatever,” Orville was pushing on of our squat plastic shopping carts, he handed me a list, “I need these items.”
“Oh of course let me tell you what aisle's these are in.”
“No I want you to go get them.”
“Hey I don't work here, you do.”
I scanned the list it was mostly party supplies but it also included two sympathy cards. “Planning your own birthday party I see?”
“This is for my grandfather's funeral you ass.” Orville's lip curled in disgust.
“Oh...” I turned pale and blushed at the same time, I'm still not sure how I did it. I was sure this was going to get me sent to Hell or worse yet fired, “Oh my God I am so sorry. I didn't mean...”
“No he isn't! You are such a pussy!” Orville burst into laughter, “Now go get my order, I'll be in the book department.”
I should have refused, I should have told him that's not how we do things at Paper Shredder but I was too taken aback by his unique combination of evil and passive aggressive behavior to do anything but fulfill his request. As I pushed the cart from aisle to aisle my mind returned to the realization I had inadvertently asked my best, and only, girl to marry me. I wasn't really upset about it because she was my best, and only, girl and I had planned to ask her to marry me someday anyway. I think I was bemused by the whole thing, wasn't asking a girl to marry you supposed to be some kind of big dramatic gesture? Did this count as eloping? Did it count if I didn't even give her an engagement ring?
A ring! I crumpled Orville's note to my chest. What was I going to do about a ring? Didn't the advertisements say that a good ring should cost about three months salary? What the Hell kind of ring could I get for one hundred and sixty dollars?
With the list and cart filled I headed back to Orville, he was glancing through a Bloom County collection and chuckling. When he saw me coming he put the book down on the wrong shelf.
“Here you go,” I kept my voice neutral.
“Thanks,” he sniffed. “Took you long enough.”
“I just wanted to make sure I got it all just right for you,” I said, “Paper Shredder places a premium on customer service.”
“Then why did they hire you?”
I pursed my lips, “Is there anything else?”
“Nope,” he turned to go and then paused. “Hey, have you been talking to Captain Majors?”
I looked around cautiously, “You mean the Army recruiter?”
“No the gynecologist!” Orville rolled his eyes, “Of course I mean the recruiter you moron.”
Where was a call for a price check when you needed it?
“I think I did speak to him,” I said.
“Just was looking into my options for the future.”
There were customer’s everywhere but none of them made eye contact with me. Of all the times for it not to be busy. By this point I would have been happy for a small fire or a robbery.
Orville sneered, “He said you chickened out.”
“How do you know him?” I asked.
“He’s a friend of my Dad’s.”
“Oh. That’s great,” I decided to just get away from him. “Now if you’ll excuse me.”
“He figured you wouldn’t do it,” Orville called as I walked away, “He said you weren’t going to amount to much of anything.”
I froze in place, “He what?”
“Yeah,” Orville snorted, “he was talking about you at dinner a couple of nights ago.”
“Me? Me specifically?”
“He knew you were class of ’86 so he figured I might know you,” Orville started to had for the registers, “we all had a good laugh about it.”
My teeth were clenched tightly to keep me from hurling insults and profanities at him. I walked away because I knew a physical confrontation could cost me my job. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than losing being able to see Tallulah while getting paid minimum wage.
But that night, when I was driving home I wondered if there had really been common sense in my brain or just cowardice in my heart.