Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Night At The Video Store, Part Five (Last Part I Swear)

Here are the first four parts:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

So, this is it. As you can see, I just changed the title of this part and as with the other parts only did some minor editing. Hope you enjoy.

The Prestige

“So you weren’t in the mood for anything?” Stevey asked.

He’d suddenly appeared at the end of the aisle and now stood like the Colossus of Rhodes there, slowing me down just before I reached the checkout line to talk to Jenn. I considered bear-walking between his legs, but thought better of it. There would be another occasion at some point tonight when I’d be alone with her.

“Jenn grabbed something,” I said. “Hey, do me a favor real quick?”


“Look out there to see if the Girl Scouts are still around.”

“O…kay.” He eyed me like I had grown a second head before checking the front of the store. “Yeah, they’re still here.”

“Thanks, dude. See you later.”

Even though he was bewildered, I didn’t waste any time explaining. I moved around him and turned toward the checkout line and saw Jenn and Ralph standing close together, talking about something. Jenn caught me out of the corner of her eye and stopped what she was saying mid-sentence. Oh, so they’d been talking about me?

No doubt she was asking Ralph what he thought of her chances with me. I put on the shy grin and strolled over to them. They were in the middle of the line, so I caught some nasty stares from the people behind them.

“You’re paying tonight, right?” Jenn asked. Her face was a deep crimson. She was nervous, embarrassed. It could only mean one thing.

It was Ralph’s turn to pay, but I wasn’t going to call him out on it. “Yeah.” I beamed a smile at her and took the DVD out of her hands. She turned and went outside.

Ralph and I exchanged an awkward look. His eyes played hopscotch for a moment before he said, “I’m going to catch a smoke.”

I slapped his back. “Funny you two are suddenly not concerned about the Girl Scouts now.”

Ralph looked away and down, then he left the line in a hurry and headed out to the parking lot.

When I turned to the register, I realized Rob, my arch-nemesis, had been waiting for me.

“Hello, sir,” he said through clenched teeth. Rob appeared to be younger than me, but I based that solely upon his level of employment. As he was always wearing a polo shirt with the company name and logo on it, it was hard to tell how old he was. “Robby.” He grunted. His shirt didn’t smell so much as it wreaked.

“Back so soon?”

“Umm, yeah.” I didn’t know if that was supposed to be his attempt at mockery.

I handed him the movie and my membership card.

He opened the DVD box to check the movie and looked at his computer screen. He smirked as if just remembering some knock-knock joke from fourth grade. Or, in his case, it could have been one from yesterday. When he caught me looking at him, the smirk evaporated and he tried to be serious.

“Buy any cookies?” he asked.

“How much for the movie?”

He raised an eyebrow as if offended. “Why so rude, sir?”

I felt like throttling this guy. I didn’t even want to watch the fucking movie. I just wanted a chance to be alone with Jenn, only for a minute or two. That was all I needed.

“Dude, you’re twenty (I guessed his age) and you’re still wearing a digital watch with a velcro strap.” The girl in line behind me snickered. I caught a glimpse of her and wished she hadn’t been jail bait.

That wiped the dumb expression off his face, as much as the dumb expression could be wiped off his face.

He said, “Two fifty-six,” and that didn’t sound right for a New Release. It should have been more. But I had made it one of my life’s missions to get this guy fired. His careless attitude and sloppy demeanor were giving the noble calling of movie store clerk a bad name. He put the movie down on the counter on the other side of the metal detector.

As I handed him the three singles, all the money to my name, I checked out front of the store. No Girl Scouts! Time to skee-daddle.

I waited impatiently while he figured out the best combination of change to equal forty-four cents. A team of monkeys would have figured it out better. I would have gladly traded the extra three seconds for all the crap-flinging that came with it.

I kept surveillancing the lot. It was conspicuously empty. The table with three-and-three-quarters legs was gone. Ralph and Jenn were at the car.

“Here you go, sir.” Rob handed me my change and was doing his best not to smirk. What the hell was he smiling at? I decided to ignore him—Rob was one of those guys that had a lot of inside jokes…with himself.

I took the change and rushed through the electronic detectors and hurried to the front door. Throwing it open, I stepped into the parking lot. I saw my car, less than twenty yards away. Just had to get there and all would be fine. But as I stepped onto the pavement, I felt like Ryan Phillippe at the end of The Way of the Gun, after he’s grabbed the bag full of money. I just knew something bad was going to happen. By the way, that’s a fucking awesome movie, if you can get past the ridiculous first fifteen minutes of it.

Something tickled the back of my mind. I hadn’t done something…my hands were empty…then I realized what it was: in my haste, I’d forgotten the movie. I considered leaving it because Jenn and destiny and hopefully sex awaited. But I couldn’t leave a fallen man behind, even if the Viet Scouts were still in the vicinity.

“Mister, Mister.” Again, I heard them, but it could have been telepathy.

As I turned back to the store, a kaleidoscope of images sparkled and glittered in my head. The girls, Jenn, Rob, Stevey, everything. Then reality sucked me back into its vortex.

A van, owned undoubtedly by the thermally-challenged mother, had pulled up near me, the driver’s window rolled down. Two faces peered out—Mother and Daughter. I looked at the store and saw Rob coming out of it, holding the movie I’d forgotten. So here was his big chance for little revenge: making me look a fool for forgetting to take my movie. It might not seem like a lot to you, but when you’re trading proverbial body blows with a video store clerk, the insignificant becomes epic.

“Mister!” the little girl was waving from the car. I was going to have to say no to them. This was it. I stood there, petrified. How do you say no to the Girl Scouts? How do you shatter their dreams?

I opened my mouth to speak, but there weren’t any words.
Then Rob stepped in front of the stopped van and stood there pretty dumbly in the headlights. Slowly, very slowly, he extended his arm, holding out the DVD box. I saw then the evil smile carved on his face, revealing all that is wicked in man.

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies, Mister?” the little girl sang to me.

“I…I…” My eyes jumped from the girl and the mom to Rob.

“Mister—“ Rob began, doing his best not to laugh, “—you forgot your movie: Cum Hard 2: Cum Harder.”

The little girl, whether she knew it or not, was scarred for life. Mom’s face contorted first with rage at Rob, then with disgust at me. She didn’t need to tell me what she was thinking. She thought me a vile, perverted creep because I had rented a porno. But I hadn’t! Hadn't she seen the sign in the front of the store? Oh no, she'd already found me guilty.

And how did you spawn that little hell-beast in the passenger seat? I wanted to ask. Immaculate conception?

All hot and bothered, Mom rolled up her window, hit the horn so Rob would move, and then floored it, barely stopping before she entered the main drag.

Through the closed windows, I could hear the three of them sing-songing: “Goodbye, Mister.”

Then it hit me. I was a stupid, stupid man. What had been really going on the whole time between me, Ralph, and Jenn. I’d needed this traumatic experience to startle me out of my deluded version of reality.

“Here you are, sir,” Rob said, now unable to contain his mirth.

As condescendingly as possible, I placed my hand on his shoulder. “Joke’s on you, Robby Boy. You just got me out of having to buy Girl Scout cookies.”

A look of confusion crossed his face and stayed there.

“And you just lost a customer.” I nodded in the direction the van had gone.

Rob didn’t understand the ramifications of what he’d done, but at some level, he’d realized he’d made a mistake. He jammed the DVD into my stomach, then stormed inside.

Looking back to the car, I saw Jenn and Ralph next to each other, very close. Ralph’s hand was on her waist. Ralph gave me the eye, and he didn’t take his hand away. I made my way over.

“You guys could have told me, ya know,” I said. I was actually happy for them. Two of my good friends, after all.

“We just wanted to make sure you were cool with it,” Ralph said. “We both know your Senior Year didn’t end the way you wanted it to.”

Thoughtful of them. Senior Year had left me heartbroken and without an acceptance into a graduate program.

I kept the smile on my face because I didn’t want to darken their night too. “I’m happy for you both.” Then I slapped Ralph on the back, and Jenn gave me a half-hug, and everybody had a good laugh, and it was all very smarmy, in a Walker, Texas Ranger kind of way.

We each of us climbed back into the car. This time, Jenn got into the passenger seat, while Ralph lounged in the back.

“So what was all that about?” Jenn asked, referring to my NBE (near-buying experience) in front of the store.

I was about to explain it all but thought better of it. “Oh…that. I forgot the movie, so Rob came out just as the Girl Scouts were driving away. They asked me again if I wanted any cookies. I told them no.”

“Big step for you,” Jenn said.

“We all gotta grow up at some point I guess.”

“So where are we watching the flick?” Ralph asked.

“You know, I’m not really up for it tonight. Why don’t you two watch it.”


“You don’t have to—“

I held up a hand and started backing us out of the spot. “No really. You two should hang and watch it. It’s cool.”

“What are you going to do?” Ralph asked.

“I don’t know. But seriously you guys should watch it. Really. I hear it’s great.”


A couple hours later, I was on my sixth beer when Ralph called.


“Asshole,” he said.

“You’re welcome.”

“Actually, I should thank you. After the initial shock…some good things happened.” He sounded giddy, like he was back in high school and had gotten laid for the first time.

“Good for you, bud.”

Things never work out the way you think they’re going to. And sometimes that’s cool.


Rita Vetere said...

Hey, Brian,

Delightful story! Great ending. Thanks for treating us to the free read; I'll look forward to any others you care to favor us with.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Thanks, Rita. Though now I'm thinking this probably wasn't the best story to post before The Unearthed comes out next week, since the two are totally different in terms of tone and style. Ah well.

Glad you enjoyed it! Have you ever posted your short fiction on your website? I don't remember seeing it there.

Rita Vetere said...

Hi, Bri--
I've posted a couple of shorts to the LPI newsletter--January and February editions--although I've been toying with the idea of posting to my website as well. Will make that my next project, I think.

I enjoyed the different tone and style of your short story--speaks to your versatility, I'd say.


Brian O'Rourke said...

Hey Rita,

I do remember your one story, Shadow, which I really enjoyed. I haven't read Portal yet, but I'm going to take a look at it later.

Lyriodical, January 09 Edition
Lyriodical, February 09 Edition