The Final Countdown: 28 Days Left

I have 28 days left in retail management, and I think I’m being thrown a crazy sendoff party. I’d like to present two vignettes from my past week. One, the tale of a young everyman, trying to find a way to make ends meet, interviews for a job. The other, a passionate relic of a bygone era sees hope for a continuation of his beliefs. Both, deeply funny, in an intensely depressing way. Now, with your permission, I present:

The Crapplicant: The Heywood Jablome Story

One Unemployed Man’s Journey into a Barnes & Noble

Only to Leave the Same Barnes & Noble Unemployed

A young man walks up in jeans and a drug rug. He’s tall, and heavily built with an expression that manages to combine apathy, malice, and wondering where that fart smell is coming from. Our heroic Cafe Manager approaches him.

“Nice to meet you! I’m Derek,” hand outreached, waiting for the customary response.

“Hmhmbubmle.”

“…Ok. Well, lets have a seat.” The handsome Manager shuffles through his papers, “I see you worked at Taco Bell and Cashwise before this”

“Yeah, I was in high school.” the Crapplicant grumbles defensively.

“Whaddya mean?”

“Well, I was in high school. Those were the only kind of places I could work.”

The Cafe Manager is perplexed by this statement. Had he offended the young man?

“… I was wondering if you liked working in food service.”

“No. Not really.”

“I guess we’re done here, then. Have a nice day.”

Fin

Willst du mein Freund sein?

Many months ago, when our Cafe Manager was still a Merchandise Manager, he stood at the customer service desk. An elderly man approached, smartly, but not expensively, dressed. He spoke with a thick accent.

“I’m looking for a book about Heinrich Himmler.”

The manager thought nothing odd about this request; a new biography on Himmler had been released the previous week.

“No, not that one, I’m afraid,” the man replied. “I’m looking for a different one. I left the information about it back at my office, though.”

That’s no problem,” the manager replied, having danced this jig before, “what can you tell me about it?”

The man began talking about the book, explaining how it used Himmler to show the social and economic climate leading up to WW2. He then explained why he wanted this particular biography.

“You see, this book isn’t put out by the Jew media. The Jews are a dirty people, and cannot be trusted.”

Needless to say, our fearless Manager was stunned. This customer was a Nazi. Not a, “Oh man, that guy is such a Nazi,” way. A real one. The Manager kept his cool, though. He realized that, if they found the book the man was looking for and had to order it, the Manager would now have the man’s name, address, and phone number. All useful bit of information for groups that track down potential war criminals.

Unfortunately, the search yielded nothing, and no information was collected.

-Present Day-

The Cafe Manager noticed the man standing at customer service, getting help from a bookseller. The Manager recounted the tale to the Cafe Server he was working with. After the man had been helped with his books, he came up to the cafe.

He put his book down on the counter to purchase it. It was Mein Kampf. The Cafe Server turned to the Manager, struggling to hold back shocked laughter. The transaction proceeded smoothly; the man didn’t drop more hard J’s, but did spout some interesting interpretations of the bible, then sat down to enjoy his drink.

When the man left, he left behind a gift:

A small twig, covered in sprouting buds.

The Cafe Manager put out a picture to the internet, asking for information. Some speculated that it was an oak branch, which are common in Nazi imagery and symbolism.

 

Is the twig a message?

Should the Cafe Manager try and track the man down?

Will the Manager see the man before he’s done at his job?

 

Only time can answer these questions. One thing is for sure though:

That guy is a Nazi.

 

You Need These?

My professional life reached a new low recently. As you may know from some of my earlier posts, I work in a bookstore. For some reason, bookstores attract the…what’s the opposite of the “cream” in cream of the crop? Well, what ever that is, it’s walking among the rest of the perfectly normal book-lovers.

This particular notch in my Olympian punishment belt was earned on the most recent Sanctimonious Saturday, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s named this thanks to the following conversation.

“Are you open on Easter?”

“Yeah, regular store hours.”

“Oh my. Well, I won’t be shopping here anymore.”

Now read that, like, a dozen more times.

My day already had an odd vibe, I had helped a woman with translucent pajama pants and flowery thong before 10am, and I was curious to see what the rest of the day would bring. Luckily, around noon, a very unique person returned to my store.

He had been in the previous evening, and asked for an ambulance to be called because he suspected that he was having a heart-attack. As he and a manager waited for an ambulance to arrive, he explained that this heart attack was probably caused by his earlier use of meth, cocaine, ecstasy, anti-depressants, and a few other medications. The ambulance eventually arrived, and he was carted off.

Now he was back, less than 24 hours later, and looking to make amends.

“Thanks for calling the ambulance, I feel much better today,” He told the cashier, who happened to be the same cashier from the previous night.

“Oh!” She said, surprised by the unusual resurrection before her. “I’m glad.”

The man then proceeded to take a seat in the cafe of the store, and begin reading some magazines. After some time had passed, I was grabbing some dirty dishes at the table next to the man. There were some unused napkins at the table, and as I was clearing them, he reached for them as well.

“Oh, did you need these?” I asked.

His outreached hand then began moving strangely, like he was trying to work out a cramp in every muscle in his hands and arm, and he made a peculiar face. A face that my wife, when I recreated for her later, described as, “very upsetting.”

It was at this time I noticed the large amount of opened pornography underneath his table and put the pieces together. Needless to say, this made me more than a little angry at the man. Realizing that my current emotional state would not lead to a good resolution in this matter, I called for a fellow manager to assist.

“Hey, our friend from yesterday just had an…episode.” The words oozed out of my mouth like sick, thick blood.

The other manager arrived quickly, we began questioning the man about his intentions with our store. At this point, a woman from a nearby table revealed that she was a nurse at a local homeless shelter and believed that she may have helped the man in the past. I, seeing that the situation was under control, went outside and said every swear word I know in alphabetical order.

Oh, I forgot to mention one thing: he had a bunch of nail polish jars on the table. They didn’t come into play, but I just thought it was weird.

The f-ing End

 

 

Bro Skater

I began skateboarding in 9th grade. One of my brothers bought me my first real board, and we would skate at the nearby elementary school parking lot. We had the Tony Hawk: Pro Skater demo that came free with a large, any-topping, Pizza Hut pizza, and fancied ourselves real f-ing thrashers.

One day, while rippin’ shiz up at Edison Elementary, my brother gets a great idea,

“Ok, I’m gonna get going on the swing, you toss me my board, I’ll jump off, and land. Easy.”

“Wait, throw you your board in the air?”

“No, while I’m swinging. It’ll be just like jumping off swings as a kid”

“…ok.”

My brother seemed convinced that this was a great idea. At this point, I could’ve said a few different things, all pointing to how this was a dumb idea, and likely to cause some form of injury. After all, there were a lot of moving parts (literally) to this plan: my brother on the swing, my questionable aim with a skateboard, him being able to catch a skateboard on a swing, and his timing of the jump. I’m the younger brother, though and caution isn’t our M.O. as a general rule.

So we put the plan into motion. He gets on the swing and builds up speed.

Actually, let me pause him there and set the scene a little better. I say elementary school swing set, but erase the image you have right now of a modern elementary school play-ground. Take out the rubber padding on the ground, spread down some nice gravel, raise the top bar of the up to 10 feet, and give the swings some metal chains with just a touch of rust. There we go.

Okay, he’s maxing out, head popping up over the top rail, and gives me the signal to throw him the board. I toss the board to him as he’s reaching the bottom of the downward swing and he snatches it out of the air. He swings up, and jumps off.

He jumps off at the very top of his arc.

Do you remember jumping off of swings? It was a fun physics lesson. Imagine the swing chain straight up and down. That’s the 90 degree point. For maximum distance, a kid should jump off at 45 degrees. Since he jumped off at the 0 degree point, he had no forward momentum or vertical momentum. This wasn’t great for him.

I watched as my brother rotated forward, and spread his arms into a swan dive, and hit the ground. He hit it hard. I saw him bounce off of the gravel.

It was a while before my brother could breathe without feeling pain in his ribs, but the memory of seeing the house across the street in the space between my brother and the ground as he bounced tickles my ribs to this day.

 

On a serious note…

I don’t watch the relatively recent string of comedy/dramas about young parents. Not that I think they’re bad, (truth be told, I haven’t seen more than the commercials) it’s just that I don’t want them. 

I feel that a show like that has no purpose. Parents know how tough being a new parent is and people who aren’t parents don’t care. I think the only reason someone would watch a show like that is for validation (a normal desire); seeking affirmation for the hardships they’re undergoing and a soothing voice to express their frustrations with humorous scenarios and slightly outlandish premises. 
I know how tough it is being a new parent. I know, and I have a damn good baby. I have been fortunate enough to have a perfectly healthy baby girl who smiles and waves when I come home, and giggles when I tickle her. But still, I know. 
I also know how having a child changed your life in ways you wouldn’t expect. Your life gains a seriousness and purpose you’d previously been uninterested in. Actions have consequences and your life is now guiding that of another. 
Beginning a new project in a time as tumoltous as this is difficult, and maybe a little foolish. I do not, however regret it. 
I began writing last year largely as a reaction to growing unsatisfaction with my job at that time. A quarter life crisis (maybe too strong a term) caused me to look for a way to live off of something I enjoyed, not just was decent at. I dove in, sending a few query letters to magazines and reading up about different ways to be a successful writer. I soon received a positive response from a regional magazine, and am happy to say that it has led to an article soon to be published (I’ll link to it when it is).
Then my writing needed to take a pause. There simply wasn’t room for it in the life of this young father. Perhaps, if I had started writing sooner I would’ve been able to support my small family with it, or at least had better habits in place. But as it was, I was forced to set it aside. 
It made me feel fickle, and a bit weak to stop. It was embarrassing to start something so public only to seemingly end so soon afterward. A few folks asked when I would post again, or why I stopped. I didn’t have a clear answer. 
I’m writing again, though. I’m still working a full time job, but a change of job positions now lets me write my own schedule, allowing my wife and I to get routine in our lives. Things are smoothing out. 
I don’t regret starting writing when I did because it was the only time I would, or could, start something like this. I don’t regret taking a break because people made me feel that my writing was something worth missing (some of it, anyway). I do not doubt that I will take missteps as I try to use my creativity for work. I have more projects rolling around in my head and many, most even, will be fruitless. That’s learning, I suppose. 
I thank you for taking the time to read this. Thanks to those of you who read my old posts, and thanks to those of you who asked when there would be more. And thank you for supporting me as I try to find my voice. 
I’d like to end with the parable of the twins. Twins are separated at birth. One is taken to Mexico and he’s named Juan, the other is taken to Iraq and he’s named Amal. The biological parents decide they want to arrange a meeting for these two twins some years later, so they invite both of the twins to meet them in France. The plane with Juan arrives and there is much hugging. However, when the plan with Amal lands, he isn’t on it. 
Distressed, everyon begins speculating on what happened to Amal. The father quietly ponders this for a moment, then says, “Now, now. If you’ve sen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”

Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activityis a crappy movie. Even crappier are the rest of the series. The crappiest are the spin-offs.


Paranormal Entity– Did you like Paranormal Activitybut wish it had worse acting and a little T&A? Well…”

Anyway, despite the crappiness of the first movie, it did provide one of the scariest moments in my life. The scene was after the credits, shortly after the movie was turned off. Oh, you missed it? That’s because it wasn’t in the movie. Here’s the story:

The wife and I watch Paranormal Activity in bed (in bed), and aren’t impressed. Once it’s over, we turn off the TV and engage in the usual bravado that follows any horror movie: this was too obvious, we saw that coming, what didn’t cause us to jump (even though some of it did) and the like. Then, we turn the lights off and go to sleep.

Then I wake up.

I mean I really wake up.

I wake up and know something is amiss. I feel it. All my internal alarms are blaring, adrenalin swat teams are rushing in, and blood is filling my muscles while I decide on fight or flight. I know what’s wrong; my wife is sitting up at the edge of the bed, and she isn’t moving. If you’ve seen these movies you know what this means. This is it. Tonight, one of us will die.

I wait.

She sits.

We keep his and hers baseball bats by the sides of our bed for security and I’m now questioning my next move. I could roll on to my right side, grabbing with my left hand, and roll back over with a backswing. However, reaching up with my right hand, although more awkward, would take less movement maintaining stealth and ensuring a surprise attack.

I wait.

She sits.

I begin reaching with my right, just to get it in my hand. Just in case. Then, as my fingertips graze the worn wood of the bat, she begins to move.

“Wha…” Is all I get out.

I’m lying on my back, left hand across my chest and right reaching up past my head when my wife springs fully on to the bed and climbs over me on all fours, screaming. She is staring into me, mouth a yawning chasm to hell releasing sound like bats filling the room. Paralyzed by her she-demonry, all I can do is yell back. Our voices rise, husband and wife, joining together and break the curse. Lightning flashes and my wife rolls over onto her side of the bed.

The room begins to reappear as the dark specter is lifted from our consciousness. We lay side by side. Drained. Alive.

“What the hell are you doing?” Words are a struggle as I catch my breath.

“I needed to use the bathroom and I didn’t want to freak you out.”