Haunt season has begun, and will occupy a good number of my nights and weekends for the next couple months. With adding that to my day job, I don’t know how much free time I will have allocated to write very much of anything. That’s okay – I like being a monster. In the meantime, I have decided to post on this here blog not one, but two, unpublished stories from the gas station saga: Diary of a Third-Shift Zombie.
The standard procedure in case of a tornado was to kill the gas lines and take cover in the bathroom. Strong winds blew the doors open and it was rainy as hell, but that was just about it for the weather. Sadly, I had no choice but to continue cleaning the store.
There was quite a build up to the point when the storm actually hit. Customers came in telling me there were 74 mph winds in Indiana. Then it was upgraded to 85. It was only a matter of time before a tornado was heading straight for us. The sirens rang out as the storm picked up considerably. Kill the gas lines run for the bathroom, I thought about my escape plan hoping that I could enact upon it for I really did not feel like working that night. However, amid all the chaos a couple walked in. “How much is it for the 88 octane?” the man asked without even a greeting and acting as if Mother Nature had no intention of baring down upon us that very moment.
“Are these things fresh?” his wife interrupted shouting from over by the roller grill.
“$3.65” I said pretending not to hear her, choosing to take care of one customer at a time. I read off the giant sign in the front of the store that depicted the current gas prices.
“I said, are these fresh?” she asked again this time with conviction.
“Yes they are fresh!” I exclaimed.
“How fresh?” She asked incredulously questioning my integrity.
“I just put them on the roller grill like a half hour ago.”
“88 octane?” her husband asked again from the counter.
“$3.65,” I answered as calmly as I possibly could motioning toward the sign outside. I could almost see it rock as the winds picked up.
“And if I wanted to fill that blazer out there how much would that cost?”
Do I look like a calculator? I wanted to say but kept my mouth shut. There was a good chance the store could blow away at any second. Please, take me with you I plead to the gale outside for I really didn’t feel like doing the math.
“How much is it?” His wife interrupted again seemingly satisfied with my answer regarding the quality of the overly processed meat products.
“Two dollars for two.” I let out an exasperated sigh for the roller grill was also littered with various signs depicting the prices of each individual item.
“What if I just wanted one?”
“How much is it to fill up the blazer out front?” Her husband asked again slower and louder for better comprehension.
Oh God. The math. “Um-” My mind churned grasping at any number that would pop into my head. I had no idea how many gallons his blazer held. All I could think about was killing the gas lines and take cover in the bathroom. Even if there was wasn’t a tornado I was tempted to do it anyway. The sooner I got those two out of the store the better. I started to say a number, any number, “Thirr-”
“A dollar forty five? That’s ridiculous!” She interrupted again, there was a hint of outrage in her voice. “I’m hungry. Is the Burger King down the road open?”
Before we could even start the transaction, he turned to his wife to scold her, “we are not going to Burger King.”
“I’m the one that is driving.”
“How many times have I told you not to interrupt me while I’m talking.”
Tornado sirens wailed again competing with the bickering as it ensued. My only two customers paid no attention as the first of the rain began to fall. The lights flickered and the machinery beeped to combat the brownout. The door alarm chirped as the side door swung open in the strong wind. Kill the bathroom and take cover in the gas lines, I thought to myself over and over. Then in a brief moment of zen I closed my eyes and silently prayed to be spirited far away from this place on the wings of the tornado. I never got my wish and business continued as usual.
The icing on the package of glazed donuts clung perilously to the plastic in tiny creases right at the bar code. It was a struggle, a battle of wits and will as I tried to cash my customer out. I flattened the wrapper, flipped the thing over, and tried and tried at every angle. “I hope your hands are clean.” I heard the lady say faintly with a deprecatory tone in her voice.
“Excuse me?” I asked politely as I finally succeeded in ringing out her item.
“I said, I hope your hands are clean.” She repeated a little louder with a little more attitude.
“Don’t worry, Mam. My hands are clean.” On that note she left in a huff and I was grateful to see her go. Some customers rubbed me the wrong way. Chances were by the way she was dressed she was a nurse and would probably assault the package with an arsenal of antibacterial as soon as she got into work just to be safe.
The hours passed and I commenced with my shift. I still fumed over her remark. Where does she get off telling me how to do my job? Does she think I don’t know how to wash my hands? Is being a cashier is just so beneath her? “Wash my hands,” I grumbled aloud alone while I scrubbed down the cappuccino machine. Half of my job involved cleaning up after people. “I hope your hands are clean,” I repeated imitating her condescending voice and the way she seemed to look down her nose at me. Her thin lips twisted in a sneer. Then I could no longer hold back the rage. I retorted back too little too late all the things I could have said to her face if it wasn’t against company policy. “No lady my hands aren’t clean. They are absolutely filthy. I’m a fucking bio-hazard! I’ve been wallowing around ass deep digging through all of the trashcans. I’ve cleaned the mens’ room toilet without gloves on. Scraping shit off the inside of the toilet seat with my fingernails. I’ve even rubbed one off and touched every single one of these damned donuts in this godforsaken store! That’s right. I said masturbated! I’ve even- ” My litany was cut short for at that moment I realized a customer walked in and I wondered how much he heard.