Chapter 1: Happenis
The din of customers stacking their food on the cramped conveyor belts drowns out my whispers. His aisle two rows down from mine churns along with minimum wage efficiency.
I send past another mother desperately juggling the needs of two screaming toddler while the beer-gutted man behind her runs off the retrieve whatever he left in the frozen food section.
I capitalize on the break of routine to scurry over and tap Scott on his hair draped shoulder.
“Psssssst! Scott!” I aggressively whisper.
His crystal eyes whip back and forth from the elderly woman complimenting his slim figure to his best friend crouching in the corner.
“What are you doing here Jack? Go back to your register.” He hisses.
“I wanna play a game.”
He’s about to ask what until the sees the smirk creeping across my cheeks.
“No. Go away.”
He duplicitously smiles at the elderly woman as she leaves with congratulations on his “luscious” eyelashes.
“Don’t worry about them they’re all gay.”
He bats his eyes despondently, inadvertently flashing those luscious eyelashes of his. He gets pissed whenever people compliment him like that so I do my best to distract him.
“Sooo, you playin or what?”
Our manager Ms. Gloria stares at us from the back of the line. She hates Scott and his gender ambiguity. Poor bastard.
I kneel down even further behind the register and continue pleading.
“Fuck off, no.”
“Please, please, please, please, I won’t leave until you say yes, so please?”
“No Jack! Seriously, go back to your register there’s people waiting.”
I beergut guy’s returned with a sweaty brow and arms laden with two twelve packs of Bud-Light.
“Fuck him, we’re playing a game. Walter and Isaac are already in.”
“No, I’m not,” comes Isaac reply from the adjacent sale cell.
“Well Isaac’s a party-pooper but Walter said yes, right Walter?!” I call to our elderly friend. He raises a bushy eyebrow and smiles before giving a woman middle-aged woman his phone number.
“See, Scott, everyone’s in except you.”
“Still not doing it.” Isaac chirps in again.
“See, Scott, all the cool kids are doing it except you. And don’t you wanna be a cool kid too?”
“You’re fucking five,” he snubs while a dimple peaks through his porcelain skin.
I’ve got him.
“Penis.” I whisper.
Isaac sighs then replies a little louder, “penis.”
I look to Walter and he continues, “penis.”
Isaac and I look to Scott reddening ferociously.
“Your turn dude,” I coyly mock.
“Hey! Where’s the cashier?!” Beer-gut guy groans from my register. Walter turns to him and commends his alcoholic choices. The man’s taken-aback by Walter’s rugged charm but soon returns the compliment with homo-erotic remarks on Walter’s handle-bar mustache.
“Still your turn Scott.”
“No, Jack. No.”
“Please don’t reference Twilight.”
“Say it out loud.”
“I’m literally dying now.”
“Just gotta say one word Scott. One little word and I’ll go right back to my register.”
He clenches his delicate fists and mutters the magic word under his breath.
“Penis!” I shout back drawing the attention of Scott’s whole line.
His burnished cheeks burst into flames as Isaac and Walter repeat the word louder and louder.
“Final round Scott let’s go.”
“P-penis.” He speaks as quietly as he can.
“What was that?”
“Penis…” he says again.
“Didn’t quite catch that bud.”
“Penis.” He insists.
“Ooone more time into the mic.”
His shout thunders through the store. His eyes dart across the customers before bearing down on my finger pressed on the intercom.
“Oh, you son of a bitch.”
“Who said that?!”
A bulbous woman tears through the chuckling customers to aim a monstrous finger at Scott’s thimble nose.
“Was it you Mr. O’malley?!”
“Hey Ms. Gloria, what’s going on?”
Her grimace immediately transforms into a gaping smile revealing two rows of perfectly tarnished teeth.
“Oh, hello Jack. I was just wondering what this little delinquent was thinking when he yelled “penis” across my store.”
“Is that what it sounded like? Oh, my goodness what a mixup! Scott said, “he likes happiness,” isn’t that right Scott? You like happ-enis?”
At this point I legitimately think Scott wants to kill me.
“Yes.” the admission grinds between clenched teeth.
“You know we really oughta get that intercom fixed Ms. Gloria. A repair like that could cost thousands of dollars.”
“Thousands?” she nervously gasps.
“Yea, tens of thousands even. Luckily! My father taught me all about electrical engineering so I could get that fixed right as rain for you. Free of charge of course,” I add with a wink.
Her shriveled hand caresses my bicep, “Oh, you are an angel Jack Carmichael.”
“Anything for you Ms. Gloria.”
Call me a dick for taking advantage of creepy old women, but I’ll offer the rebuttal that she’s a creepy ass old woman.
I remove my arm from her probing fingers and lay it over Scott’s shoulder, “I’ll you what Ms. Gloria, how bout I take this little delinquent, and show him a thing or two about basic repairs. Might help straighten him out a bit.”
Oh yea, Scott’s planned the murder.
“I think that would be a wonderful idea.”
She returns her finger to Scott’s nose, “you could learn a thing or two about being a man from your friend here.”
I feel his shoulders sag beneath my arm.
“We’ll be right back Ms. Gloria.”
“Take your time dear, take your time!”
Isaac eyes us enviously.
“Hey Ms. Gloria, is it cool if I go on my break? I’ve been at it for five hours now.”
It’s 10:16 a.m. and we opened at 8.
“Of course, of course! Go right ahead, thanks for working so hard.”
“Anything for you Ms. Gloria.”
We begin walking towards the break room together and gesture for Walter to follow.
The peppered stud waltzes over to Ms. Gloria hammering away at the register and drapes his arms over the railing.
“Hello Ms. Parsons.”
He practically oozes testosterone the fucking stud.
She giggles like the rattling of cans across the counter, “Why Mr. Quakerman, how lovely of you to stop by.”
How can anyone so amorous be named Walter James Quakerman?
He gingerly lifts her hands and coos, “my dear, the only lovely thing here is you.”
Now it’s Ms. Gloria’s turn to blush and ours to groan in disgust.
“Dude is a total manwhore,” Scott snides.
“Fucking chad.” Isaac admires.
“Walter, you always know what to say to lift my spirits. Don’t you?”
“How bout I make you an iced coffee to lift them even more?”
“That would be… lovely.”
He winks at the poor star-struck woman and gracefully lowers her hand, “be right back then.”
We walk back to the breakroom flattering each other’s bullshit skills while Ms. Gloria operates the only open register bragging to every customer about what “fine young men” she has working for her.