Chapter 7:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 152



Some days, it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.  I got to work ten minutes early, greeted by three cars with angry customers already waiting in the parking lot.  “What time do you open?” one angry man asked me as he rolled his window down.


“It’s close enough.  Open the damn doors.”

Yeah, that’s not the way to get on my good side.  Since I’m a veteran at this whole game, I took my sweet time in the back room, clocking in, writing down who was working what today, tapping my foot.  At two minutes til I went to the front and logged on to my computer.  The angry guy was standing by the door, knocking on it.  “Unlock the door,” he ordered.

“I don’t have the keys,” I said to him.

“Get them.”  I hate when people are impatient.  I went around the corner and patiently waited for the manager to come up front.

“What are you doing back here?” he asked.

“Hiding.  There’s a mean guy up front who’s on a tight schedule.”

I followed my manager up and took my spot at the check stand.  I was never going to forgive the day checkers for going on vacations.  But then I was going on vacation next week, but still.  That wasn’t important. 

On the week days there’s always the first little rush of parents running in to get their kids something for breakfast or something that they can fix for lunch.  That ends by about eight twenty.  Then I stand there and look pretty. Or… “Keely, the owner is coming in today.  We need everyone to clean.”

I didn’t complain, because cleaning is part of my job.  But in the almost three years that I’ve worked at this place, I’ve seen him once.  He calls every other weekend and says he’s coming up to discuss something.  Then he never shows.  I have a theory that he does that just so we run around in a frenzy and make everything perfect.  If he really wanted to catch us doing something, he should just show up.

Kirsten showed up in time to face the pop.  Apparently the owner likes all the labels on the pop cans in the cooler to be facing out.  I was busy scrubbing every flat surface down with bleach water.  “This place practically sparkles,” Kirsten said, coming up front at eleven, minus the bleach water.  We were prepared for the lunch rush.

From eleven to one, things get crazy busy.  The farmers, the hands, the farmers’ wives, they’re all coming in to get something easy to make for lunch for the guys out on the fields.  The local business folk walk over and get a deli meal.  There’s a lot of conversation about the weather.  Half the time the customers during that period don’t even talk to the checkers, they just talk to each other, digging for information.  This is the greatest time to hear gossip.  I knew who was sneaking around with who, who’d been drinking too much again, who was running out of money, and who was in jail.  Small towns… you gotta love them.

At one I slipped away for a break.  The Jolester had been in earlier and I’d been dreading him sitting back in our break room, meaning I’d either be standing in the back room or making conversation with him.  I’d rather stand.  But at the moment, I just wanted to sit, eat my sandwich from the deli, and flip through my magazine to get caught up on Brangelina and T-Swift.  Thank god the break room was clear.

I went back up after twenty minutes, double checking that my tail wasn’t hanging out.  By now you’d think I rated a shirt that fit but nada.  That was fine.  I knew that my shirt looked pretty stupid from the back but what I could see looked fine.  Out of sight, out of mind. 

Kirsten had a line stacked up at her register.  One of them I recognized by name.  “Tate, I can get you on the middle one.”

He beat me to the check stand, since I’d paused to put my magazine back.  “Take forever,” Kirsten griped over her shoulder at me.  I just smiled at her.  She’d take just as long.  We call them revenge breaks.

“Hmm, hotdog buns, ketchup, mustard, and three different types of chips,” I smiled at Tate.  “You must have been the errand boy. “

“They gave me a list,” Tate held it up.  “I checked it multiple times.  Ry dropped me off here and went to go pick up Jonathan.”

“Ah, yes.  He rolled his car so he’s been nixed from driving for awhile.”

I still remembered that phone call.  I’d been here and had picked up the store phone.  Dad had told me that Jonathan was on his way to the hospital, nothing serious.  He’d just rolled his car.  The car was totaled, Jonathan was not.  We’d all gotten the safe driving lecture from that one.  I couldn’t win with five siblings.

“I remember Ry telling me about that.  He was mildly amused that all six of you drive on that road even though you’re not supposed to, and he’s the one to get caught.”

“That’s because Jonathan has a complex that he’s the best out of all of us.  He could give Leigh a run sometimes.”

“Then you slap it out of him,” Tate guessed with a smile.

“Not anymore.  He’s a minor.”

“Right.”  I bagged the groceries and handed Tate his receipt.  “See you later, kiddo,” he said.

I smiled but it was forced. Did he just call me kiddo?  After that little rush was over, Kirsten turned to me.  “Did I hear Tate call you kiddo?”

“Yes, I do believe you did,” I said.  “I’m maybe eighteen months younger than him.”

“I’m glad that you’re insulted,” she said.  “That means you like him.”

“I do not,” I protested.  She grabbed a magazine and breezed for the breakroom. 

“Whatever,” she called over her shoulder.

“I don’t.”

Kirsten was on break for maybe fifteen minutes when Creeper Joe came in.  He came up front a few minutes later with a meal from the deli.  That meant he was going to eat here.  Kirsten.  I had to save her.  She’d kill me. 

Luckily we have a code for these things.  I got over the intercom.  “Kirsten, we need a clean up in the shampoo, a clean up in the shampoo.”  The customer standing in front of the shampoo looked a little confused.  I hung up before that made me giggle.

Kirsten was up front a few minutes later, out of breath.  “I smelled him coming.  I dodged into the back room but he followed.  I had to loop around and pretend to ask the deli lady a question.”

“I tried to warn you as fast as possible,” I said, smiling at the next customer.

About two months ago, the store stopped taking bottle refunds.  It had been a day for celebrating.  We had a policy, that no one followed, where one person was allowed to bring in 250 cans per day and they had to be clean and sorted.  The guy that used to take our cans wanted bottles separated from cans and then we had to sort them into the companies.  It was a pain in the ass when someone brought in 250 cans and they were a mix of Dr. Pepper and Pepsi.  There were signs everywhere, we politely reminded people, turned cans down, and even then, no one paid attention.  We hated it but there was a state law that any place that sold the bottles, had to refund them back the deposit.  Then came the good news.

The law got changed so that if there was a refund company within twenty miles, your business was not required to take the cans back.  My boss had been delighted.  His wife had put up signs on every door, in the pop and beer aisle, and on our registers, advertising the last day that we would take cans.  We even hung up the directions to the place that was only twelve miles away.  For the first month our regulars still brought in nasty cans.  It had made my life to be able to tell them no with no consequences from my boss.  Of course I bore the complaining about having to drive out of their way to get the deposit, blahblah, I’m not going to shop here, blah, but it was soooo worth it to not have to touch those nasty cans.  I have some horror stories there, but I’ll save those for some other time. 

Anyway, today Esther decided to bring in her six plastic bottles.  It’s been two months, mind you.  And it was a noticeable change.  The boxes for the cans had taken up about half of our space and someone was constantly over there clanking cans around.  Esther, being Esther, hadn’t paid attention.  Her husband was a big farmer, she shopped here constantly, so the boss was eager to keep her happy.  Today, we had no choice.

“Heads up,” Kirsten said.  She had the perfect vantage to look out the window. 

I saw Esther coming through the glass door a few minutes later.  I sighed.  “Not it,” I said, index finger to my nose.  It was a checker rule to put the chore on the other person.  I turned.  Kirsten was already standing there, finger to the tip of her nose.

Esther, maybe sixty five to seventy, shoved the three bags of two liters into my arms.  That was just rude.  “Um, we don’t take cans anymore,” I said politely.  She might be polite today or she could be in a mood.

“What do you mean?”  It looked like she was in a mood.

“We no longer take the cans and give you the refund,” I said.  “We haven’t for about two months.”

“Then why do I get charged for the deposit?  If you’re not taking them back, you shouldn’t charge me for it.”

“That’s not up to me,” I said, trying to keep the sting out of my tone.  “That is a state law.”

It is so hard to be polite under those situations.  People can be so ignorant and stupid sometimes and even when it’s their fault, they blame someone else.  It drives me nuts.

“Where am I supposed to take them then?”  Typical question.  I was already handing her the paper with the directions and hours.  “River Valley?” she said indignantly.  “That’s hardly convenient.”

“We know that and we’re sorry-“

“Sorry?  I’m going to stop buying my bottles here.  I’m going to stop shopping here period if I have to drive my bottles to River Valley.”  If she could have spit on me and gotten away with it, I think she would have. 

She grabbed a cart and stalked off into the store.  I was left there, holding her bottles.  “That. Was…. Ugh,” I threw her bottles onto the next check stand.  “She was so rude. And ten to one she’s hunted down anyone of authority and is requesting my head on a platter.”

“People get snippy when it comes to five cents,” Kirsten said, patting my head.  “It’ll be okay, twin.”

“I’m not checking her out,” I told her.  “I’m not bagging.  I’m not even calling for a carry out.” 

“That’s fine,” Kirsten said soothingly.  “I’ll take care of her.”

Sometimes that’s not how things work.  Kirsten and I were both busy with carts when Esther got in line.  And of course she chose my line, probably determined to get her thirty cents.  I would give her thirty cents out of my pocket if that would shut her up.

I smiled and told my current customer to have a nice day.  Then I straightened my spine and turned to face Esther.Kirsten was already checking over her shoulder, probably to make sure I didn’t start throwing the bottles at the customer.  I was better than that.  I would crack at least two of her eggs while pretending to check them, maybe squish her bread…  Poke a hole in her package of hamburger or possibly her gallon of milk.  There are tons of little, spiteful things I could do that couldn’t be proven.  Checkers have ways, my friend, checkers have ways.

Lookie here, I said to myself.  She’s buying a bunch of pop.  AFTER she told you she was done with this place.  I called up the carry out.  Evan would cheer me up after Esther ripped my throat out with her fake nails.  He wouldn’t say anything in the midst of the discussion but he would have comments for me later.  She narrowed her eyes at the screen and I knew she was going to say something, I was prepared.  And she went for it.  “Why am I still being charged a deposit on those bottles?” she demanded.

I so wanted to beat my head against the computer.  I’d explained this so many times it was memorized.  “There is a state law that we have to charge a deposit,” I emphasized the word ‘law.’  “The law where we had to take them back and give you a deposit was changed so that if there is a refund company within twenty miles, we no longer have to do so.”  Evan came onto the scene.  I saw him bite back the smile as he started to bag the groceries.

“So I have to drive twenty miles out of my way to get my five cents back?” she asked indignantly.

Exactly.  Five cents, you bi- I stopped myself.  I glanced at the clock.  Where was the next shift?  I had five minutes left and no one was here to replace me.  “Yes.  The owner and our bosses,” emphasis on those two, “decided that things would go a whole lot smoother if we stopped taking cans.”

She crossed her arms and glared at me.  “I’m not paying for it.”

I sighed and arrowed up on the screen to take the first bottle of pop off.  “What are you doing?” she said to me.

“I thought you weren’t going to buy them,” I said.  This lady had approximately two seconds to start writing out her check or her empty bottles were going to make things very painful.

“I never said that,” she said, getting even more defensive.

“Then what do you want me to do?” I asked, losing the slightest grip of patience I had left.  “It’s not my decision.”

Then a hand settled on my back.  Great.  My boss missed out on her ripping me a new one but came up just in time to hear me get bitchy.  Perfect.  I steeled my face again.  “Esther, how are you doing today?” he asked.

“What’s this business about not taking my bottles back?” she asked him.  I was a little satisfied when she was just as rude to him as she had been to me.

“We stopped taking cans because the law changed.  We still have to charge you for them though, because that one is still a law.”

“Well, it’s highly inconvenient…” she blustered.

“It was also highly inconvenient to my staff,” he said, his voice cold.  Yes.  That made me happier.  “The checkers and the office manager had to deal with disgusting, unsorted cans, and that slowed things down for the customers actually buying their groceries.  It was also a huge health risk, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

Esther sulked while my boss stood by my side.  I didn’t say anything to her as she scribbled out the check and I ran it through the machine.  I handed her receipt, wishing I could circle the deposits with little stars.  Maybe highlight them a little.  “Have a good one,” I said, super sweet.

She made a little irked, ‘how dare she,’ sound and turned on her heel.  “Well, Keely,” my boss looked at me.  Here it comes.  He would either fire me or calmly tell me that he was disappointed in my conduct.  Either of those would have me crying in my car.  Every adult that’s ever dealt with me knew that all they had to say was that they were disappointed in me and I would try to make everything better.  “Where is your replacement so you can get out of this place?”

The doom and gloom that had settled on my chest lifted.  “I don’t know,” I said.  “They never show up early.”

“Speak of the devil,” he said as a car raced around the corner.  Another car barely stopped at the stop sign.  Super Foods employees, we are wonderful citizens. 

“Welcome to work,” Kirsten said as they walked in, three minutes late.  Sure three minutes, no big deal.  But when you’ve been standing there since eight in the morning, dealing with crap, the last thing you want to do is stand there for an extra three minutes. 

“You’re late,” my boss said.  “Hurry it up.”

The two evening checkers scurried for the back, wanting to clock in before he could say something else.  I rolled my eyes.  I made a mental note to never show up early for them.  “You handled Esther very well,” he said to me once they were gone.  “I was around the corner in produce, heard the whole thing.  I figured you were going to need back up.”

“Thanks,” I said.  “I was to the point of throwing thirty cents at her.”

“Me too,” Kirsten spoke up.  “And I wasn’t even checking her groceries.”

“The next time some customer starts dealing with you like that, call one of us up,” he said, patting my shoulder.  “Now go home and enjoy you Friday night off.”

I smiled at him, but my heart wasn’t in it.  He went back to the produce and my replacement finally showed up.  She was already complaining about working another Friday night.  That wasn’t true because Kirsten and I had worked the last three Fridays and Saturdays.  Weekends sucked.  “Enjoy,” I said, grabbing my bottle of water.

Kirsten and I walked back to clock out.  Evan was back there waiting for me.  “That lady was such a bitch to you,” he exclaimed.  “For five cents?”

“Actually thirty cents,” I said.  I could feel the black mood settle over my head.  “She’ll be back tomorrow or Sunday and she’ll be all sweet and tell me how horrible she feels.  And then she’ll get me again when her cantaloupe isn’t ripe.”

“Checkers are supposed to be experts in everything apparently,” Kirsten told Evan.  “This is why every time you say you want to be a checker, we tell you no.”

“We’re looking out for you,” I said, sliding my time card into its slot.  “Do you work tomorrow?”

“Yeah, morning.  You?”

“Same,” Kirsten and I said.

“But we’re split up on Sunday,” I said.  “I work morning.”

“Me too.”

“Dang it,” Kirsten said.  “I’m probably stuck with the sloth.”  He’s slow and practically useless.  Hence the nickname.

“He’s on vacation so you’ll get people not quite as bad,” Evan said with a smile.

The three of us went back up front.  Evan waited while Kirsten grabbed her purse and tossed mine at me.  The three of us had parked next to each other.  Three red cars, all in a row.  For ten minutes we stood in front of them, chatting and watching all the cars pull into the parking lot.  “I’ve got dinner at my girlfriend’s,” Evan said finally.  “Gotta go.”

“Okay,” Kirsten said.

“Have fun,” I said.

“See you tomorrow.”

I gave a small wave and got into my car.  He was gone before I even had my car started.  I was going to miss him.  He had graduated with me and Kirsten and was going to college four hours away.  He was on their soccer team and couldn’t come back until Thanksgiving.  And his replacement probably wouldn’t be half as fun or hard working.  Plus he helped out Kirsten and me if we needed it.  That was one carry out who knew how to run the lottery machine better than me.

I parked my car next to the shed, since the circle was a mess of cars lately.  I needed to get out tomorrow morning.  I stopped to pet Ro, who always came to check when she heard a car coming.  Kirsten was already inside when I made it to the front porch.  From the bottom step I could hear Leigh.  I sighed.  Eff my life.


“I don’t care,” Leigh was complaining as Tate saw that two red cars come racing around the corner.  Kirsten and Keely had worked at separate times this morning.  “I’m not getting married at a golf course.”

Then it happened.  The moment they’d all been waiting for.  Her dad snapped.  “Then do it yourself, Leigh.  I haven’t seen you doing anything so time consuming that you couldn’t do it yourself.  If you mention it even once to your sister until it happens, you will be out of here so fast your head will spin.”

Kirsten had entered before that.  Tate was sure that it was a good thing her back was to Leigh.  Kirsten was probably smiling.  Then Keely stepped in.  She looked tired but gorgeous.  Her long hair was pulled over one shoulder of that hideous blue shirt.  She’d looked so at home in that grocery store, making easy conversation and not even having to look at the screen as she hit buttons.  Ry had said she worked a lot but memorizing the button placement was slightly ridiculous.

“Everyone is on your side, as usual,” Leigh snapped at Keely, jumping to your feet.  “I hope you’re happy.”

“You know what, I am.  I am so goddamn happy I don’t know how to contain myself.  Now you can back off and sit down or you will regret ever having screwed with me.  I’m not in the mood for your shit right now, Leigh.” Then Keely stormed for the basement.

“That was awesome,” Kirsten squeaked.  She stopped and looked over the room.  Leigh looked like she was about to explode.  Kirsten quickly followed after her friend.

Tate couldn’t help but agree.  “Do you hear how she speaks to me?” Leigh asked her dad.

“I didn’t hear a thing.  Did you hear anything, El?” he asked the toddler, who was sitting in his lap, trying to do a kids puzzle. 

El shook her head.  “Shit,” she repeated.

“Oh, no, we don’t say that word,” Tori’s mom mode kicked in.  “Where did you learn that?”

Leigh narrowed her eyes and then shrieked like she was having a break down.  She stormed out of the room.  “Dad, I can’t deal with this anymore,” Ry said to his father.

His dad sighed.  “She’s not going to let Keely get away with that.  Your big sister is in for a surprise if she thinks that she can walk all over your little sister.  Out of all my kids, Keely is the one that I wouldn’t screw with.  But she doesn’t deserve to be stuck home with Leigh constantly picking at her.  I don’t know what the deal is there but I don’t need them bickering.  Tell Keely and Kirsten to pack up their stuff.  They can stay at your grandparents.”

“Dad,” Ry protested.  “I am the one suffering. I’ve got midgets right next door.  Do you know that they wake up at six?  At least Keely has the basement all to herself.”

“Sorry about that,” Tori said.  “But try living with it all the time.”

Ry just waved her off.  “Dad.”

“I’m not stopping you.  If you want to stay over at your grandparents, go for it.  We’re probably going to take Rosie over there.  Keely doesn’t say it but she hates riding the other horses.”

“Her and Ro have that freaky mind thing going,” Ry explained.  “I’ll hitch up my truck to the trailer.  Tate, you’re probably going to want to take your car over.  Keely never lets anyone drive her car.”

“Not true.  She lets Kirsten drive it.”

“What?  I’m her brother.”

“She’s seen how you drive,” Tate said dryly. 

“Would you let me drive your car?” Ry asked him.

“Friendship doesn’t go that far.”

Submitted: April 25, 2012

© Copyright 2022 DMT. All rights reserved.


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