“Do you have any beer?”
I had already filled up the Chrysler and searched the rows of coolers without any luck. It was too late for liquor stores. The kid let out a chuckle.
“Naw, man. You know where the seven eleven is?”
I had only been in town for three days, a mixture of corporate suburban America, mini-malls, and some minor industry, with homes tucked away behind neon and fluorescent lights. I had no idea where the 7-11 was.
“Get out here, make a right and at the second light, take a left. It’s just down there.”
It’s not my car, but I feel great driving it. Beer runs are like reconnaissance missions when you’re in foreign territory. You battle the elements, meet the natives, and meet your objective, returning home to a victory that leaves you desiring water and aspirin.
After making the left, I passed through a dark two-lane street with broad tree-limbs, over the railroad tracks, and pulled into the dirt-lined parking lot of the 7-11.
I always end up casing people out before I even get out of the car. Fat guy. Some girl I always think is not too attractive. The usual gang at a 7-11.
I walk to the back, check out the beer. I pick up two six-packs of Budweiser and decide on the $10.99 twelve-pack of Heineken. On the way back I manage to grip a bag of Ruffles in between my fingers as I walk toward the counter. Raising the beer, the bag hits the counter and drops.
“Shit!” I’m smiling.
“Well, I guess they’ll just have to be a bit mashed up, then.”
I look at the clerk, who is balding with long gray hair. He’s wearing bi-focals and that stupid red apron. “It must’ve been because of that mess coming out of your mouth,” he stammered.
I might not be a genius, but I understand his point. The problem is, causation doesn’t work that way: the effect does not produce the cause. I mean I took Logic and all, and passed, but that shit’s real basic.
“What do you mean?” I check out his name-tag, which says “Charles” and “Have a blessed day.” I look at his eyes and notice: he’s agitated.
“That stuff coming out of your mouth. That’s probably what did it.”
Now, I’m no man of the lord, but I’m not about to get preached to at a 7-11 on a Thursday night. “…Except, the bag fell before I said it.” Ass.
He doesn’t look at me. He’s taking his time as he rings the stuff up too, which is really beginning to piss me off, now. But then I think, maybe he’s just too agitated to deal. Anyhow, he looks over and says: “Fifty-four thirty eight!”
Now, at this point, I know he’s got to be fucking kidding. I can budget on beer. I’ve got that shit down to a science involving gum, smokes, a lighter, a bag of chips, and two six-packs for $19.97 on a regular basis.
“That’s not right.”
At this point there are two people patiently waiting in line so I go ahead and pay.
“Look, man. Back at the cooler it says the Heineken is ten ninety-nine.”
He’s god-damned triumphant at this point, grandiosely swinging his arm to rip the receipt off of the cash-machine, and reading out each item to me like it’s the fucking Gospel of Luke or something: item, price, item price, item, price. “Heineken, eighteen ninety-nine! It’s all right there!”
“I’m not questioning what’s on the receipt, but the cooler says it’s ten ninety-nine.”
“Heineken’s good stuff! It’s expensive,” he explains as if that solved everything. I can see the years of idiocy and religion clouding up behind this guy’s bi-focals. At this point, I figure that there’s some sort of class-rage going on here, too, because I bought the good stuff and he’d be happy with Schlitz.
“It’s all right here,” he says and passes me the receipt. It looks like he’s ready to help the next customer, except he really feels like he’s won..
“Look. I’ve already paid, so I can’t be questioning what’s on the receipt. What I’m trying to tell you is that the price in the cooler says ten ninety-nine.”
He prints out another receipt and looks at it.
“No, it says here, eighteen ninety-nine.”
“The price … from where I got the Heineken … that’s where it says ten ninety-nine. You should change it.”
“… Oh … … They’re rearrangin’ the shelves back there.”
On the drive back I mulled over the entire Rod-Serlingesque vibe. I returned to home-base, where we drank those beers and ate the chips. We built a fire and laughed until our heads spun. The dancing brunette, eight years older than me, pressed her olive-skinned body against mine, and we fumbled around until only sheets remained.
“If he had only known,” I thought. I’m certain he guessed that it would lead to this, or worse, in his own mind. Better for me. Into that godless world go I, full of sin and love, while he remains in a fluorescent sanctuary mourning the loss of yet another soul. He knows not the glory of her waist, nor the splendor of her thighs, like I do.
I forgive him everything.
You Might Consider Visiting