Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2255540-Retail-Revenge
Rated: GC · Short Story · Dark · #2255540
Customers can only dish so much attitude before retail workers break…everything…

         The brisk mist danced around Brandon’s body and tickled his face as he opened the door to the dispensary. Spring had officially come a few days earlier, but any hope for comfortability was still weeks ahead. He entered the building and pulled the door shut, the vibrant green of the new leaves beyond the glass mocking his mood. He locked the door, then turned and walked behind the display cases to the cash register. He reached into the drawer underneath it and pulled out the money to count, but as he flipped through the cash, his eyes went to the windows looking out onto the drab parking lot as rain collected in large puddles. He sighed, dropping his shoulders.
         There’s more to life than just this, he thought as he recounted the money. He finished and placed the money in the drawer, shutting it as the cardinal-red Malibu of his coworker scurried into the spot next to Brandon’s car. He rolled his eyes before twenty-four year old Dilton walked into the medical marijuana dispensary owned by his parents. They owned much of the land in Redwater, Oklahoma, and the businesses they didn't outright possess paid the Lewsons rent.
         “What’s up?” Dilton asked as he walked through the front room and pocketed his door keys.
         “Hey,” Brandon said. They’d never spoken to each other of their personal lives, hadn't connected in a friendly way. Maybe it was the age difference between them, but there was a generational block between them. What could a forty-year-old gay guy have in common with a twenty-four-year-old? What would they really talk about?
         Brandon flipped on the overhead lights and powered up the fluorescents inside the cases displaying the instruments and tools. The room awakened, and just before they were to open, he practiced his smile a couple of times. He would be wearing his mask, of course, so nobody would see his expressions, but they would sense his smile through his eyes and voice. He could feign a good mood for a few seconds at a time today.
         When it was time, he walked over to the front door with his keys, but Dilton failed to lock it when he’d entered. As Brandon opened the door and peered outside, he saw an older dust-covered white Taurus pulling into a parking spot. He sped behind the counter, slipping his mask over his face and standing at the check-in station. He waited in front of the register and shifted his weight from one leg to the other and back, watching the woman behind the windshield as she talked on her phone. She was animated, bursts of energy infused into whatever her conversation may have been, and when she finally stepped from her dented four-door, she slung her ragged purse strap over her shoulder. She did not remove the sunglasses when she entered, nor did she attempt a smile.  
         “Hi, there!” Brandon greeted. “Welcome to The Green Man! Have you been with us before?”
          She snorted an assortment of noises while Brandon cocked his head, waiting for an answer. She dropped her purse onto the case, her keychains and collected chachkies slamming onto the glass. She was the only one of the two who didn’t seem to notice the clamor.
         “Yeah, I’d say so,” she said as she laughed in big, fake breaths. She sighed with melodrama as she rummaged through her nest of a bag. After what felt like too long, she pulled out her wallet matching the purse in its wear. She sighed again when she opened it and dug out her identification, tossing it onto the counter. Brandon grabbed and slapped at the piece of plastic as it slid across the glass and onto the carpet.
         “Sorry ‘bout that,” he said as he bent over to retrieve it.
         “It just figures,” she said, her tone rising as high as her hands she now waved in the air for emphasis. “You must be new.”
         “No.” He looked at her face. The clawed scabs oozing red pus around her lips and on her cheeks told him why she kept her sunglasses on, the familiar features resulting from years of meth usage.
         “Then how do you not know who I am?” she asked
          He declined to answer, looking instead at the name on the i.d. How was he supposed to know who she was when she didn't know his name? He checked her into the system, then turned to make sure Dilton was ready. The youth was standing in the doorway, leaning and smirking at the phone in his hand. Brandon returned the license to her and prepared the smile behind his lips.
         “Okay,” he said, “I’ve got you checked in, and I think -“
         She passed him as he was speaking, in the dispensary and laughing with Dilton. Brandon sprayed his hands with disinfectant, rubbed them together, then reset the iPad to be ready for the next check-in. He pushed this woman out of his mind. He wouldn’t let this one horrid creature ruin his day, no, sir.
         “Have a good day!” he chirped as she walked by counter on her way from the dispensary. She looked up as she passed, snarling her lip. She walked into the morning rain as the wind gusted wisps of her dry, stringy hair only to slap her in the face with it. She dropped into the seat of her car, and Brandon dropped the smile behind his mask.
         “She’s always so nice,” Dilton said from the dispensary doorway.
         “I couldn’t tell,” Brandon said. “She wasn’t pleasant up here.”
         “She’s one of my favorite customers,” Dilton said down to his phone as he turned to retreat into the dispensary. No doubt he would be sitting on the stool behind the counter, messaging girls he thought he could accomplish.
         “I’m sure,” Brandon said to the empty room. He walked to the enormous windows overlooking the parking lot and stared out. The stores on the other side of the parking lot were opening, cars pulling up to the vapor store as workers went in to put in their eight hours. They were bigger, and they grew intimidating beards. Surely they didn’t have to put up with people’s crap.
         He looked toward the highway and dropped his head to the glass. Wearing gray sweats and a pink shirt proclaiming “I’m God’s Girl!” was Michelle Sellers plodding her way across the parking lot. Her clothes were too small, and the rain made them heavy as they clung to her body. Her hair was soaked, and her face was pulled inward, her brows furrowed and lips pursed.
         “Hey!” Brandon said when she came in, the door chime alerting him of her presence inside. “How have you been?”
         “Believe me, you don’t want to know,” she said. Now that she was near the counter, the odors of putrid body and soured rain dominated the small space.
         “Okay,” he said with still breath. He slapped at the keys on with his fingers as he put her name into the system.
         “Ugh, I just got out of the doctor’s office,” she said. He looked up from the screen, bit the inside of his cheek, then continued checking her in. “They literally wrecked my day when they told me I have psoriasis of the liver.”
         “Psoriasis?” Brandon asked as he blinked. “Do you mean cirrhosis?”
         “I think I know what they told me I have!” she said. She looked around the room, her voice shrill enough to make dogs scream. “Are you a doctor? Are you sufferin’ from psoriasis of the liver? Are you gonna die like I am?”
         “You know, you wouldn’t have to apologize if you just took a minute to consider other people are fightin’ battles you don’t know nothin’ about!” she said. She stared at him, her horror cemented by her look. He waited for her to go back into the dispensary, to leave him alone.
         “Check and see if I have any points to spend,” Sellers said.
         “We haven’t done the point system in a year and a half. I’m certain you don’t have any.”
         “I know I do!” she said. She raised her eyebrows for emphasis, her eyes darting from his to the keyboard and back.
         He sighed, keeping the physical smile on his face. He bit his bottom lip, but the smile stayed while he tapped on the keyboard. As he suspected, she had none.
         “No, I know I have points here!” she said.
         He flipped the iPad around. She could verify for herself that he was correct.
         “I know I have points somewhere,” she said as she crossed her arms like a toddler. Her face was drawn up as tight as the end of a laundry bag, and her skin was turning red. After what could have been days, she turned away from him and walked into the dispensary. Dilton greeted her before succumbing to a coughing fit. Brandon smiled. Michelle was now in the back, expelling all her ailments to Dilton.
         Brandon sprayed the counters with glass cleaner while he listened to Michelle’s conversation. She probably didn’t have any friends. She was telling everyone her problems, begging for attention she wasn’t getting elsewhere. If she was anything at home like she was here, he could understand why.
         She came out from the back and left the building with gruff words, but the odor lingered. He took the disinfectant and sprayed it across the room. Even with the coating of the spray, Michelle Sellers was somehow lingering. He passed through the room and stopped in front of the immense window. The precipitation was easing up, now only sprinkles as the finer drops created less rings in the puddles. He could see Michelle walking along the highway, and he wondered what her hovel must look like.
         Nope, he thought, I’m not lettin’ people ruin my day. Who knows? Maybe everyone else from here on out will be in better moods.
         “Hey, I’m goin’ out to my car to smoke,” Dilton said as he crossed the room. The door chimed as he went outside and dropped into the seat of his Malibu. After a few seconds, Brandon spotted another car pulling in front of the dispensary. He hurried around the counter to his spot and waited for the customer and Dilton to come inside.
         As soon as the man got out of his eighties’-model Silverado, Brandon’s stomach dropped. He couldn’t remember the man’s name right off the top of his head, but the way this old man shuffled across the sidewalk was familiar. His white hair puffed out from under his red hat, and his overalls and muddy boots suggested his day began before Brandon was even awake.
         Behind the counter, Brandon watched as the customer made his way up to the door. The old man pulled on the door, but it closed. He tried again, and this time, the door budged a little more, exposing a gap between the metal and the frame as the wind whipped up and grabbed the door for him. As Brandon started back around to help, the old man finally made it into the building while looking for someone to make eye contact with.
         “You know,” he started out, his drawl as slow and chilly as the morning, “when I go into other dispensaries, they help me when their door is hard to open. Let me guess, you need my card?”
         “Yes, please,” Brandon replied as he stepped in front of the iPad to check the man in. As he stood waiting for the man to dig his identification from his wallet, he glanced outside to see if Dilton was on his way inside. He did not see his coworker.
         After struggling for what could have been hours, the old man flicked his card down onto the counter and turned to look outside while Brandon typed his information into the system. It only took a couple of seconds, but Brandon typed slowly. Dilton should be making his way inside.
         “It looks like Dilton is busy right now, but he should be with you in just a few minutes if you’d like to look around up here,” Brandon said.
         “I didn’t come to buy crap up here,” the man said. “I came to get my medicine.”
         “Okay, then, Dilton will be with you shortly.” He broke the man’s stare and began digging around in the drawers under the counter. The displays were full, but maybe if Brandon appeared busy, the old man wouldn't pursue with his attitude.
         “Do I just need to go somewhere else?” the old man snapped. He raised his bushy eyebrows, impatient to wait around for the person he needed help from.
         “No. Come on back, and I can help you until Dilton gets inside.” They walked back into the dispensary, the man barking out his order as Brandon worked assemble the man’s requests. Once he was sure the man had completed his list, and the items were rung up and bagged, he told the man his total.
         “Did you get my discount on there?” the old man asked as he dug around in his wallet.
         “What discount do you usually get?” Brandon asked. “There’s no note here on your profile.”
         “I get the military discount,” the man said slowly.
         “I can’t give you the discount until I have your military card on file,” Brandon explained. “If you have your card, I’d be happy to-“
         “Not everyone in the military gets a card! I want my discount!”
         “Sir, it’s company policy that I-“
         “I want the goddamned manager!”
         “What’s happening?” Dilton asked as he walked through the door.
         “This little punk won’t give me respect!”
         “I won’t give you a discount,” Brandon said. “There’s a difference.”
         “Why don’t you go back up front?” Dilton instructed Brandon. “I think I just saw someone else pull up.”
         “I just didn’t-“
         “I’m so sorry about that,” Dilton was telling the old man. “He works up front. He doesn’t know what we do back here.”
         The two men laughed as Brandon made his way back to the front of the store to greet the next customers coming in. Behind his mask, he forced a smile.
         There were two people getting out of their car, an old woman and a younger man. He met her at the front of the car and they walked in with her on his arm.
         “How’re y’all?” Brandon asked once they were inside. They didn’t answer. The man flopped his identification on the counter, and the woman began perusing the displayed items on top of the counter. Brandon input the man’s information and directed him to the back as the old man was coming out.
         “Have a good weekend!” Brandon said.
         “Blow it out yer ass!” the old man commanded as he left.
         “My grandson is showing me all this,” the old lady said, oblivious to the encounter. “I’ve never done anything like this before.”
         Brandon looked at her, mouth open behind his mask. He wanted her first experience to be informative, without anxiety. He wanted her to feel the warmth of someone reaching out to another in the spirit of learning, but he wasn’t sure he could fake a good mood much longer. He was afraid to open his mouth for fear of sarcasm assaulting her senses.
         “It’s fun to learn about,” he finally forced after a few minutes of awkward silence. His body already felt tired, drained from trying to be what customers and employers wanted just to realize he wasn’t sufficient, Brandon managed to not escape whatever feces of anger the old monkey in the red hat had thrown at him.
         “So, how does this work?” she asked as she looked to him through her thick glasses. “Do you just put the...stuff...here? And then where do you smoke it?”
         “No, ma’am,” Brandon said, struggling to keep his voice from sounding strained. “You wouldn’t want to use that to smoke from. That’s a scented-wax warmer. You can’t get benefits from it other than a nice aroma of lavender and coconut when you walk by it.”
         “Lil smart-ass,” grandma said under her breath.
         “You know what? I’m gonna be over here, and if you need anything, you just let me know.”
          He rummaged through the drawers, rifling and pilfering as he looked at everything while seeing nothing. He was running thin of nerves and kind words. Maybe it would just be best if he kept his mouth tight.
         “You ready, grannie?” the younger man said as he came from the dispensary.
         “Let’s go blaze up,” she replied, a haughty glance at Brandon as she and her grandson left the building.
         “What...was that?”
         “Everybody has been in such good moods so far,” Dilton said from the doorway behind Brandon.
         “Have they?”
         “If you have a problem with your job,” Dilton was saying as he brought his phone up to check for unread messages, “you can talk to dad about it. He’ll be back tomorrow.”
         “That’s not what I’m saying!” Brandon said, his voice rising higher than he intended. He began explaining what happened from his point of view, but it didn’t seem to matter; Dilton had migrated back to his seat in the other room.
         Forcing a quick exhale, he snatched the glass cleaner and the rag from the table behind the counters and began wiping the glass down, cleaning and polishing to burn off this frustration. He looked up and groaned as the next customer walked in.
         “Ugh, I just came from the doctor’s office,” Michelle Sellers was saying, “and they told me I have psoriasis in my liver!” She blinked up a tear. Brandon was still, the towel in one hand and the cleaner in the other. His eyelid twitched, a minute spasm in the corner.
         “Oh,” was the most he could manage without continuing the conversation.
         “Look, and see if I have points to spend here,” she said, running her hand through her wet hair.
         He placed the bottle of glass cleaner down on the surface of the counter with ease, dropping the towel on top of the spray nozzle. We wiped his hands on his pants, his fingers sweaty as he clenched his teeth.
         “You don’t have points,” Brandon said, his opened mouth just a sliver. “I already know you don’t have points. You already know you don’t have points. Are we really gonna do this?”
         “I’m so sick of your attitude-“
         Whether he heard the end of her sentence or not, his hand reached out and grabbed her wet, slick hair. He wrapped the excess hair around his palm and made a fist, and then he slammed her head into the glass of the case, the sound of the shattering shards far away. As he watched her stumble to try and stand, a question as abrasive as a Brillo pad scoured into his mind: was he watching more in horror or amusement?
         Michelle pulled her head from the new hole in the top of the case, blood-streams lining her face when the flecks of glass shredded her skin. A couple of the chunks protruded from her skin, obscene monuments.
         He tapped the back of her head twice with his knuckles, watched as her head wobbled back and forth, and then his fist met with her nose. Her honker was pummeled, the cartilage snapping and separating from her skull. She opened her mouth to yell, but she gasped instead, her mouth filling with blood and clogging up her throat.
         He grabbed the back of her hair. She brought her arms up, a feral beast on the defensive, but he had caught her off guard, and she had no strength in her confusion. He snapped her head back and catapulted it forward, her forehead bouncing from the corner of the cash register drawer. The thought of her cranium fracturing into the thick steel surged his adrenaline, and as she waved her arms and pushed away from the register, she knocked everything from the counter onto the carpet. There were blood droplets in the air, and then they landed on items as if she was marking her territory.
         Or maybe he was marking his.
         He pushed her back, and she fell into the incense display. She knocked it over, spilling the small table next to it holding the ambience candle. The cardboard of the display was now burning, moving into the wood housing the jars with their sticks of incense.
         Brandon walked from behind the counter and kicked Michelle in the side of the neck as her arms continued to flail. The smell of the incense was growing, Egyptian Cotton with Patchouli and Sandalwood mixing with Dragon’s Blood, resulting in an air-depleting ozone of cologne.
         Michelle rolled from the display to the floor, then grabbed the trash can and toppled it over. While Brandon laughed at her, she hit his knee with her fist, surprising him with pain. He stepped back to avoid any further blows from her fist, tripping over the fallen trash can. She grabbed his foot and then his leg, pulling herself up his body to fight him. He thrust his hand into the trash can and pulled out the first thing he could hit her with. The emptied water bottle crumpled up as it was shoved into the side of her head, and she growled as she lost her grip. She was grasping, grappling for anything, and when she snagged the lid of the trash can, she assaulted him, a serpent-like striking on his wrists as he held them up to shield his face. As often as she punched, she was losing steam.
         He grabbed a handful of burning incense, a fiery mixture of Serenity with Opium. He jabbed the wooden ends as hard as he could into her left ear. When he tired to pull them out, they insisted on staying in her brain. She let out a squeak, and then she slumped over him, a human incense-holder. As the smoke billowed up to the ceiling, Brandon pushed her off him and screamed down at her corpse.
         “Do I?” Michelle was asking. Brandon blinked, bringing himself back from his fantasy. “Do I have any points?”
         “Give me just a second, and I’ll check,” he said as he moved to the keyboard.
© Copyright 2021 Rhymer Reisen (rhymerreisen at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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