"What?" Oh, fuck me, I thought.
I hadn't been paying attention. I was writing groups for D Catalogue bin cards. Blockbuster gave us thousands of nice, new bin cards, but we carried so many obscure and local groups that we had to print hundreds more. Usually Mandy, Kristi, or Sarah did these, but it was Saturday and I could either work on bin cards or help Krause in Classical.Bin cards.
So I was engrossed. Didn't see Poopdeck totter into the store. I didn't have a sense of smell, so there went that early warning system. I wasn't deaf, though, I should have heard him.
Poopdeck was ten feet and closing.
"What do you need?" I asked, coldly.
"What? I bought an album of pirate songs here awhile ago."
"No. You bought an Errol Flynn soundtrack. Sea Hawks, I think. It wasn't a recording of authentic 17th Century pirates."
"What? Where do you keep your sailor songs and sea shanties?"
"We don't stock crap like that!"
Poopdeck always demanded shit like this. Pirate music, sea man tunes. That's half the reason Dan and Rob nicknamed him Poopdeck. Why couldn't he just reenlist in the Navy? Fall overboard.
"Well, how do you know if you don't bother looking?"
"Because I check everything in. Yes, everything." I swept my hand in a broad arc across the store. "Every single item that comes into the store, checked in, priced, entered into the database. Me. I'm the one accountable for inventory. And ... I ain't checked in no pirate ballads, no Marine Corps hymns, no lusty mermaid songs. Or do you want Octopus's Garden?"
"Then ... who do I see about ordering what I want?"
"Do you want to talk to Dan?"
Swear to God, Dan, on the other side of the store, heard his name, looked over, recognized Poopdeck, hurried out the store.
Typical. Lucky bastard.
Poopdeck and I were getting louder with every exchange. He was hearing impaired. Working those below deck boilers, or cleaning his ears out with a screwdriver. Customers glanced our way, curious about the ruckus. Once they took in the full glory of Poopdeck in his bespattered raiment, they shielded their eyes. Then wondered why I abused such an individual.
Years earlier, when I saw Pepe attack Gnarly, I figured she was the meanest, most insensitive person.
I worked one register, Sweeney the other. There were two lines. Friday night.
"Excuse me! Can I get to the front? I have a cab."
Big guy, really big guy, hulking. By his wailing tone, I knew he had been shortchanged in brain cells. I motioned for him to cut line.
"Oh, no, you don't. Gnarly, you don't ever cut in line like this," Pepe loudly chastised him. "Do you understand me?"
"But I have a cab!" he wailed.
"You have no such thing!"
How rude. Here was a guy, clearly with some mental challenges, and she was publicly scolding him.
"I'm in a really big hurry."
"Then you can just hurry yourself right out the door. But you're not cutting in front of all these people."
"What if my cab leaves without me?" he insisted.
"Then I'll take you home myself," Pepe answered. "Or ... " she pointed to Video, "your parents can take you."
Later, I realized Gnarly exaggerated his deficiency to interrupt conversations, jump lines, give incorrect change. What were once special indulgences, he now accepted as permanent advantages. Plus, he used his intimidating size. I learned. Pepe had been completely justified.
So, I'm dealing with this half deaf, nautically obsessed, old fart weirdo. Poopdeck shouted loudly. The other half of that Poopdeck moniker? He always wore a sailors cap. Not a U S Navy cap. No, a British tar's cap. Aarrr. And it was actually Poopdeck Pappy, though most of us abbreviated it. That day, he wore bib overalls, with the remnants of some shirt underneath. Everything from chin to zipper was terribly, permanently soiled. Grease, pizza, paint, mustard, unidentifiable discharges. He now stood six inches from me. Barking. Still deaf.
Of course, no rescue posse was forthcoming. Somewhere, a cluster of coworkers were laughing. Wisely hidden.
" ... I mean, I've seen these. You know, at the base."
Christ. Why don't you shop at the base that stocks pirate music?
Maybe I should dump him onto The Professor?
Ahh, that would be cruel.
"Hey! Follow me."
Led Poopdeck into the Rock stacks. Procal Harum. Flipped through titles. There it was. Placed A Salty Dog in his grubby hands.
"Well, now you're talking." He glanced at the track listings, but kept returning to that cover of a happy British tar inside a life preserver.
"Is this good?" he asked.
"Considered a classic," I replied truthfully.
Poopdeck paid and departed. Maybe next time he'd ambush someone else.
There was always that next time.