Smiley Guy sits out front and greets everyone who passes by: “Help the homeless! We got tons of hungry mouths to feed!” When someone slips him a dollar, it’s an open invitation. As the person drops the bill in the box, Smiley Guy says with a grin, “Five dollars will feed a hungry family for a week. If you don’t got change, we take credit cards too!”
Inside Smiley Guy gets more and more angry as people saunter on by without even a glance, ignore his charming please. Smiley Guy was homeless once himself, so he knows the desperation that hunger brings. Sometimes he imagines spitting in the faces of the people who walk away, or tripping them till they fall to the ground, kicking them in the ribs, punching them in the face till they bleed.
Instead he swallows his pride and moves on. “Isn’t worth it,” he mumbles to himself. And quickly remembers that that kind of shit lead to the streets. And ain’t no way in hell Smiley Guy’s going back to the streets.
“ATTENTION RITE AID SHOPPERS!” the Twitchy Man booms into the mic. “IT’S FLU SEASON AGAIN, AND YOU DON’T WANT TO BE CAUGHT UNPROTECTED! SO GET YOURSELF OVER TO THE PHARMACY COUNTER TODAY TO GET YOUR VACCINATION! ONLY 39.95 AND YOU’LL BE CAUGHT PREPARE! SO DON’T BE CAUGHT UNAWARES!”
The Twitchy Man shuffles over to the ice cream counter, quickly washes his hands, and pops a paper hat onto his head. “WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU TODAY!” he says much to loudly.
“THAT’S A DOUBLE SCOOP OF BIRTHDAY CAKE ON A CAKE CONE!” he shouts before digging into the brightly speckled ice cream.
“THAT’S A SINGLE SCOOP OF ROCKY ROAD, AND A SINGLE SCOOP OF PECAN PRALINE IN A CUP!” he hollers, causing the Manager to walk over to have another talk with him.
The Manager explains to Twitchy Man how the loudness of his voice disturbs the customers. For the umpteenth time, the Manager implores him to tone it down. The Manager wonders how he can get rid of the Twitchy Man who has more complaints than any other employee. But he can’t. The Twitchy Man is autistic, and he can’t really help his behavior. The Manager walks away thinking how he never really wanted to manage a Rite Aid in the first place.
The Big Burly Dude with the mop of messy hair holds his seven year old in one hand and a fifth of vodka in the other. He keeps twisting his body around with the movements of his kid. It’s obvious he doesn’t want his kid to see the bottle. As if children do not know.
The Kid clutches at toys on the shelves near the register. “Put um back,” the Burly Dude grumbles. The Kid grabs bags of chips with sounds of delight. “Leave em alone,” the Burly Dude growls.
The Kid pulls Burly Dude toward a rainbow display of candy bars. “Ooooh!!!” he coos.
“Don’t touch!!! Burly Dude commands yanking the Kid away as he plunks his bottle down on the counter in front of the wide-eyed cashier.
So so close to sweet relief.
The automatic doors fly open with a rolling crunch as a Frantic Lady bolts toward the nearest cashier.
“Are you the manager?” she stutters, out of breath.
The cashier shakes his head and calls the Manager over.
“Can I help-” the Manager tries to say before he is interrupted by the Frantic Lady.
“There’s a silver Escalade out there,” she says in a shaky whisper. “And all the winds are up. And there is a dog trapped inside.”
There is an awkward pause while she waits for the Manager to respond.
“It’s against the law,” she says much louder. Then ducks down a little and looks around. “I don’t want the drive to see me. Last time I did this, the driver got really mad at me.”
“I’ll handle it,” the Manager says with with a half-smile and a slightly exasperated sigh.
The Manager picks up the mic and breathes before pressing the button: “Will the owner of a silver Escalade please come to the front of the store.”
Then to the Manager’s chagrin but not his surprise, the Frantic Lady shuffles down an aisle and disappears before anyone can actually come to the front of the store.
The Young Cashier is having a really hard time at the register. Barcodes are not working for her when she tries to scan them. And when she goes to type the number codes in, she gets a number or two wrong which brings up an entirely different product. Bacardi Dark instead of dark chocolate Snickers. Jujubes instead of a multi-colored umbrella. Ham in a can instead of People Magazine. The more she gets it wrong, the more flustered she gets-then the more she gets it wrong.
The Manager rolls his eyes as comes over to find out why her register is emitting a prolong beeeeep! “All you have to do,” he explains slowly as he take a bag of Doritos out of her hand and holds it up of her to see. “Is look at the numbers, and type them in.” He taps a few numbers. Doritos Kool Ranch appears on the screen. He steps back to let her take care of the next item, M&Ms.
The Young Cashier slowly pecks each number onto her keyboard. Her hands are shaking as she double checks each number, even changing a 5 to a 2. She tentatively presses enter.
Icy Hot Gel.
The Obnoxious Lady on the phone is talking at full volume.
“And then she said some bullshit like-” She is completely uncensored, using words like “fuck”, “shit”, “sonofabitch”, “asshole”. Children around her alternate between expressions of outrage and fascination. Adults around her stand frozen like proverbial deer caught in proverbial headlights.
They start by trying to give her mean looks. Totally engrossed in her conversation with her hands flailing through the air, Obnoxious Lady does not even notice them.
A man clears his throat loudly and even stamps his foot a little. The Obnoxious Lady laugh at the person on the other end and shouts: “You a crazy motherfucker!”
“Unbelievable,” another lady shakes her head in disbelief. Again, to no avail.
Even at the register, the Obnoxious Lady continues her profane diatribe. She pays for her items without even acknowledging the baffled cashier. She clutches her bad and rushes out the door. But not without one finally hoorah!
“That stupid ass cock sucking bastard is crazy than you!!!”
An Elderly Man looks very lost, and in fact he is. He has suddenly forgotten where he is. He realizes he is in some sort of super market, but he cannot remember why he came here. He stands at the crossroads between two aisle, blocking the passage of other customers who huff loudly as they squeeze past him. He hears a voice yelling over the mic. A man yelling at kid. A lady yelling at her phone. Everyone is yelling and yelling.
The Elderly Man picks a few things off the shelf, things he is not even sure he needs. A box of Cheerios. Some Pringles. A bottle of Windex. He doesn’t want to leave empty handed. It would be embarrassing if anyone know how confused he was. How lost he was.
So he buys the items he is not sure he needs, and walks out the door. But then he cannot seem to remember what his car looks like.