my coworkers and i commented quite frequently on the fineness of our clientele: the three-hundred-pound women donned in halter tops and skimpy knit shorts debating whether to purchase the lays or the ruffles potato chips, torn between coke and pepsi products, uncertain of how many of each to buy; the young mothers with their two carts crammed full of food for feeding their eight children, all of whom seemed to be under the age of five, hardened women who paid for their purchases with stacks of w.i.c. cards, and yet they had cash for cigarettes; the good ole boys coming in on sunday mornings who magically appeared at the cash registers two minutes before noon with their twelve packs of coors or bud light, eager to load up their coolers and get on the lake; tired, handsome men in white shirts and black slacks who just wanted to get home from their work day but whose wives added one more thing to their honey-do lists.
they’re all the same in the line. they watch the screen to make sure they’re charged ninety-seven cents for that can of green beans instead of ninety-eight.
we’d go out to our cars on our lunch breaks and smoke our cigarettes and drink our colas and complain about you. sometimes we did this at the taco cabana across the lot. for an hour. every day.
one the off-chance we got tired of talking about you, we talked about each other.
the first sentence of this story, which is about fifteen year-old amelia and twenty-one year-old chris, goes like this: “i’m writing a play,” says chris, leaning over the counter of my cash register. “it’s called death of a customer. needless to say, it’s set here” (p. 2)
what i liked: it looked as though he was going to walk out without saying goodbye or merry christmas or anything.
at the last moment he paused at my checkout, threw the flowers down on the counter and muttered, “those are you for you, youngster. merry christmas.”
…they had a coles staff purchases seal on them and a sticker that said reduced for quick sale.
after work i walked home hugging my flowers with a queer fluttery excitement in my chest (pp. 12-13).
“fishing off the company pier,” as i have overheard chris refer to it, is a common practice among the part-time staff at coles. bianca, for example, is twenty-three and has been going out with andy from canned goods, age eighteen, for some months… i imagine he just does what he is told. they must both get something of the relationship–i just have no idea what it is.
“sex,” says chris when i ask him. “they both get sex” (p. 16).
he refers to his long-standing crush as the kathy virus, as it seems to take a relapsing-remitting course… kathy is dark, pretty, small–elfin even–and completely uninterested in chris. except, strangely, when the kathy virus is in remission. then she bombards him with a campaign of arm-touching… bow-tie adjusting… and leaning over his register giving him her undivided, head-cocked-to-one-side attention. an immediate relapse of the kathy virus invariably follows.
that kathy needs a can of reduced-for-quick-sale spam pegged at the back of her head (p. 17).
i imagine him at university… talking to girls. grown up girls at university. girls who can go drinking with him after class. girls his own age who he could confidently introduce to his family and friends. girls who know how to dress and wear make-up. girls who have had sex. girls who study the same texts as him. girls who stand a chance in hell (p. 20).
“do you think, youngster, do you think that’s anyway to behave when you are a guest at someone else’s house? …didn’t your parents teach you any manners? …i should call them and tell them how out of control their daughter is. drunk and disorderly at fifteen! …look out, world, here she is, ready to polish all your dining room tables with her back… he wears baseball caps backward! and you let him put his tongue in you!” (p. 70)
and to add insult to serious narcisstic injury, young amelia went and hooked up with that mid-teen power tool jeremy horan. i had her billed as the antidote to daisy from the great gatsby. i thought she represented the ultimate triumph of good over evil… all he had to do was pour her a few generous glasses of wine and put in an hour of conversation… if someone like amelia goes for someone like jeremy horan, we may as well all pack up and go home… amelia is going to rue the day she let that boy’s tongue anywhere near her (pp. 117-118).
what sucked: ultimately, it lacked. i liked amelia well enough. i liked chris… in the beginning. toward the end, i was kind of tired of’m both.
but then, i should probably be reading big girl books as opposed to those written for adolescents. i wanted something fast, which it was. i wanted something cool, which it wasn’t. not completely.
having said all that: the parts that were entertaining did so well enough. it wasn’t awful. but i wanted it to be so much better than it was.