Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Portraits - Part 1

-  The convenience store clerk is cherub faced, receding fortyish, round features, big creamy flitting eyes. His flowered shirt is buttoned half way up, and tufts of reddish chest hair waft out.  His arms are just as hairy, and his cheesy (actual cheese smears) company blue vest with the Tesoro monogram is a size too small.  He runs, actually runs, to the back of the store when I walk in.  Vik says I look like a cop, but this guy was working alone on a snowy night, and I'm guessing he was thinking I might represent the other end of the crime spectrum.  He watched me from behind the soft drink machine.  I'd come in for a loaf of bread, but I should have known they'd have only three day old cheap heart stopping 'Sunrise' brand, with baked-in-Alaska plastered on the side (as if Alaska bakes better).  I make a point of searching too long, acting shifty for the clerk's sake, then choose the wheat bread (as if the bit of extra brown in the commercial "wheat" version  might prolong my life), then I catch the man watching and lock onto his eye, and when he he looks away, I walk to the counter.  I hear the air poof out of him.  His shoulders drop, and he starts toward the register.
-  The cashier looks relieved, at first, when another customer rushes in.  This guy looks rough, and urgent.  He has a black scraggle on his face and a three day neck beard.  His eyes are black, his crumpled frayed cap is black, his carhartt bibs and plaid flannel shirt are mostly black, and his mood, black.  He nods an apology, but steps in front of me anyway.  "I need to use your restroom", he booms.  God, what a deep, clear voice. 
-  The clerk glances at the open bathroom, but snits, "Well.., actually..., our restroom are reserved for our customers, and..."  He turns his head to the side when he talks.  His voice is as light and creamy as his skin. 
-  The other customer cuts him off.  "I think I'll use it anyway", he snarls.  He glares, gets no response, and hustles into the john. 
-  The clerk looks only at the register and the bread while he silently charges me three times it's actual nutritional value, then bags the bag in another bag, which I remove.  I stuff the change in my pocket and start out the door when I notice the liquor side of the store.  Beer is on the list, so I trip the door sensor, pull a pack of Molson's, and put it on the shared counter.  The other customer has returned, looking much relieved.  He is buying a pack of cigarettes from the sulky clerk, perhaps validating his use of the restroom, or more probably just needing a smoke.  He smiles and shrugs when my eyebrows rise at the announced cost of his Marlboros.  You must need a good job in Alaska to support an addiction.  He opens the pack, taps one out, and lights it.  Rules don't rank high on his priority list, evidently. 
-  The clerk turns to my beer and whines, "Fyi, in the future, you can take your bread into the liquor store and make a single purchase.  You just can't do the reverse."
-  Several responses crossed my mind.  I could have told him I'd just remembered the beer.  I could have apologized for inconveniencing him.  I could have walked back into the other side of the store and bought a quart of milk for the hell of it.  I could have told him that the order of my purchases was none of his damn business, and walked out.  But what I DID do was laugh, and start to leave, when I heard that big voice again.
-  "F---Y---I!", he almost shouted.  "In the FUTURE, it don't matter how me or this guy get our shit, so long as it ain't here! Cuz you are the creepiest fucker I've run into in a long long time."
-  I nodded my agreement, stripped the flimsy plastic bag from my beer, fired up the Suburban, and waved... to them both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, you just totally summed up the nightlife of the Interior, right there. I think I know that guy.

Wait. I know them both.

That's just eerie.