Thursday, April 13, 2006

Customers: Part 17 - Crackheads‏

  The couple waited at the front counter.  Nothing in hand.
  "Hey, can I -- "
  "Is this place hiring?"  the male interrupted.  Loudly.
  "I love music!"  the woman added.  "I'm a expert for music."
  Tank tops, both of them, faded and shabby.  Skin parched, leather brown.  Skinny, wrinkly arms.  They looked mid 40's, though I gauged them to be early 30's.
  Pure white trash.
  "Not sure who's coming and going,"  I replied, evasively.  "And The Boss is off today."
  "You got a application?"
  "Two applications!  I need a job, too!"
  "What kinda discount can I get once working starts?"
  "Are CD's free?"
  the male demanded.
  "How about concert ticket?"
  "I want to meet me  -- "
  "Oh my God, will I get to meet George Strait?"
  "God damnit, don't start up about George."
  "Too late.  I'm already getting squishy thinking about him,"
  she panted.
  The couple jabbered like their mouths were on fire.  Their mouths were on fire.  So were their jaws.  Both suffered "cockroach jaw," the involuntary twitching of their lower mandible.  Telltale meth addicts.  We'd never hire these human abortions, but I still had to go through the motions and hand, then accept, their applications.  Just as they had to go through the motions for their unemployment or welfare checks.
  Because we live in a society where every member is valuable.  Special.
  Even fuck-ups.
  I pulled out the empty register drawer.  Empty.  No applications.  Damn.
  "Gimme a second,"  I said.  "I'll print up some applications."
  "Is there a pen?"
  "Open your eyes, you dumb bitch!"
  "Record shops don't drug test, don't they?"
  "Shit, them test don't mean nothing.  I'll get the neighbor's pee."

  I found the settings and began document loading.  I tried to tune the crackheads out.  I flashed back to drama class, Cal State.  Eugene O'Neil.  All God's Children Gots Wings.  O'Neil must have been hammered.
  "Mama, the way you're leaning cross that counter ... I see titty."
  "I lost my bra."
  "We need to go to King's down the street."
  "They ain't got no bras."
  "I said King's.  Said nothing about bra.  Pay attention, bitch."
  "Fuck you."
  "That an offer?"

  Both laughed.  Their teeth resembled rotten pickets.
  I hit PRINT.  I wanted these waste products gone.
  "Applications are printing over on the other side,"  I advised as I began walking.  "I'll be right back."
  As usual, the printer took a minute to warm up.  I suddenly wondered how fragrant they reeked.  Both seemed allergic to soap and laundry products.  I'd have to ask Mandy to walk up and tell me if we needed one can of Lysol or two.  If I knew Mandy, she'd recommend a flamethrower.
  "Hey!  Hey!  We can't wait fellow!  We gotta go!"
  "Yeah, thanks.  Maybe we'll come back and do them forms.  Bye."

  I did have a guardian angel.  I started humming a Beach Boys tune.
  Mandy came when I called.  Made a face, wheeled, returned with the fan.  Set it to high.
  Then she asked.  "Where's the March Of Dimes display?"
  "What?"
  "On the backup counter.  That clear plastic box.  Where customers leave their loose change for crippled children."
  "Isn't it ... right ... there?"  I craned my neck.
  "It was there this morning, gone now.  They stole it when you walked away.  That's why they left."
  I knew Mandy was right.
  "There was maybe three dollars in there.  Nothing."
  She walked back to the Listening Center.  I tucked the printed application forms in the drawer.
  Gazed past the parking lot, scanned Camp Bowie.
  Didn't see them.
.

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