Friday, February 20, 2009

A Night At The Video Store, Part Two

If you haven't read Part One yet, I'd suggest starting there. Unless you're just too big a fan of Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, and Graham Greene, and you need your stories to read achronologically.

Here's Part Two:

The Deferrment

“Just keep moving,” I said, between pursed lips like I was ventriloquizing.

The three Girls Scouts waited for us, like Scylla, Charybdis, and the other monster you never hear about, name of Becky. Okay, I made that last one up.

I felt their tiny little eyes on me. Like an angry mob eyeing a guilty defendant who’d just got acquitted by a jury. Now I knew what it was to be O.J. Simpson.

I didn’t even need to hear them ask. They were capable of telepathy—Would you like to buy some cookies?

But my plan would work. They would know I wasn’t interested if I didn’t look at them. I pictured their cute, little crooked-tooth smiles turn into disappointed frowns as I shattered their entrepreneurial dreams, and my heart broke. But my bank account smiled and laughed diabolically.

The triumvirate of what looked to be girls younger than ten huddled in front of a folding table that had one leg shorter than the others. Yeah, look all the more pathetic so people will be even more compelled to buy from you. The cookie boxes leaned over precariously like little Towers of Pisa. Behind the table was an older woman, definitely one of their mothers. I knew she was a mom because she was wearing a sweater and it was almost eighty degrees out.

We had twenty feet to go before we reached the sphere of solicitation. They weren’t engaged in a transaction, so they had nothing to do but stare right at us as we approached. Fifteen feet. I felt a cold sweat on my back. Ten feet. Ralph slowed down half a step—what the fuck was he doing? He could never keep rhythm when we jammed, but now it was having repercussions in the real world.

Jenn stepped ahead of Ralph. The Girl Scouts didn’t seem interested in her, as if they could sense she was one of their own and they didn’t wish to prey on her. It reminded me of that scene in Alien 3, where the monster is about to kill Sigourney Weaver, but stops because it realizes she’s carrying one of them in her belly.

Did Ralph make eye contact?

Five feet.

“Hi, there.”

Fuck. Ralph had said hello to them. Hung out to dry by my best friend.

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” they asked. I wasn’t sure which one had spoken, or if all three had talked in unison, or if they were using their telepathy. I stopped dead in my tracks.

“We’ll see on the way out.” Because I couldn’t say no.

“Okay,” they said merrily, not realizing I’d just turned them down. “Be fast because we’re leaving soon,” one of them said. They kept smiling at me, but Mom glared at me, as if I’d just told them they were the poster children for abortion.

When I got inside I stared at Ralph till he was forced to look at me.

Finally, he said, “I couldn’t help it.”

“And after you talked, I couldn’t say no.”

“Don’t pass the buck on that dude,” he said.

“You could have said no,” Jenn said before walking away.

“They’re leaving soon,” I said. “Let’s take our time.”

A line snaked around the front of the store to the register. I realized the place was abuzz for a Friday night. Then I felt ashamed because I knew the place was abuzz for a Friday night. The TVs suspended from the ceiling were playing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a classic in anyone’s book. My eyes cut through the crowd to see who was working the register.

“Our arch-nemesis,” I said to Ralph, and bobbed my head toward the register.

His name was Rob. Not Robert. Not Bob. Not Bobby. He made sure to tell us that all the time, and we made sure to call him anything but Rob. He’d screwed up our account balance once, trying to charge us for two copies of the same movie. When I explained how it didn’t make sense—no one would rent two copies of something—he’d failed to see the logic. “If it’s in the computer,” he’d said, “it’s in the computer.” I’m still not sure what that meant, but it was in the computer.

So we’d asked for his manager, and the manager explained to Rob, in front of many customers, how Rob was wrong.

Ever since then, his wounded pride had tried to exact vengeance upon us any chance it got.

“Where’s Jenn?” Ralph asked.

I stood on my toes and craned my neck up like a periscope. “She’s talking to some…”

“Didn’t think he was around anymore,” Ralph said.


Rita Vetere said...


This is such a fun read. More, please. (I'm pretty sure I know that "Rob" guy...)


Brian O'Rourke said...

Hey Rita,

That's funny, because I'm pretty sure I know that Rob guy too!

By the way, I just got your email and am giving the matter serious thought. Like you, I'm torn.