Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Cedar Rapidian Sorceress Just Says Yes to Lipton

Travis - J. Smith

     It's been eighteen months and nine days since you began working the graveyard shift at the Texaco just off the interstate across from Wendy's. The position is part-time, usually weekends, specifically Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights; it supplements your day job -though not monetarily- as a freelance editor and columnist, mostly pop culture analogies for riveting tales of international realpolitik. While the microwavable burritos and seemingly endless supply of carbonated beverages are a nice touch, the time involved is the biggest draw, as the position better enables one to stay away from local drinking establishments such as the Red Lion, located just two short blocks from this Texaco station. What's more, the time spent stocking shelves, signing early morning delivery manifests, and smoking cigarettes merely for the sake of taking smoke breaks is time spent away from the wife - the woman who, incidentally, was the driving force behind the asinine intervention which led to you taking this job in the first place. Long story short, you prefer to think of this as Eoin time.
     Another draw is the people. Working the graveyard shift provides a person with the opportunity to observe the zaniest of individuals at their absolute wackiest, fellow employees included. On Friday nights, you're joined by Denny Hughes, a guy so consistently strung out that he puts the clientele to shame, and when he isn't on the phone with one of his transient girlfriends, he's busy chatting up whichever girlfriend sees fit to stop by, sometimes both at once. On Saturday nights, Tom is your copilot, and though he's never divulged his surname, which is somewhat odd, you've witnessed him put a rowdy drunk dressed up as Santa Claus into a debilitating choke hold, so you're content with not asking.
     This is Thursday, however, and all things considered, Thursdays are relatively hassle free, so you work alone. Last week, sure, you had to call the cops when a Ted Nugent lookalike began duking it out with an Asian-American version of Sigourney Weaver over the last hot dog, but alerting the police had more to do with the combatants refusing your conciliatory offer of a corn dog on discount than genuine concern for the poor man's Ted Nugent, who ended up getting his ass handed to him before the police arrived on the scene. Pretty tame compared to the weekend, and you'll take what you can get.
     Even so, you can't help but feel as if you're about due for a head-scratcher. For starters, it began to rain roughly fifteen minutes ago, which is odd because the KCRG TV-9 forecast called for clear skies throughout the weekend. This is nothing to complain about since fewer people patronize the establishment during such weather, but still, it's pretty weird, made all the more peculiar by the onset of rain coinciding with you having pressed play on the CD player. The Bends, Radiohead's second studio album, arguably the band's finest release. Fake Plastic Trees, fourth track, probably the best song of the album. Someone approaches, walking in the rain without an umbrella; someone you've met before; a walking, talking head-scratcher if there ever was one.
     The first time you encountered Megan Erickson, shortly after you began working here, you threw up one of those wonderful microwavable burritos, but you hadn't realized it was her because she was several shades of messed up. The only thing you perceived at the time was a woman wearing nothing but a translucent poncho, which was perplexing enough, though itself not vomit-inducing - having seen more than a few naked ladies in your day, a flash of flesh scarcely puts you in a state of unease. No, it had more to do with the fact that a good portion of her skull was cracked and partially caved in, while one of her goddamn eyeballs drooped from its socket, to say nothing of the bones protruding from several parts of her body. She offered no words that night; simply limped to the beverage cooler, removed two bottles of Budweiser from a six pack, and staggered out, back to whichever nightmare whence she emerged, leaving nothing but a streak of blood as proof that you hadn't imagined the whole thing.
     The second time she came in, a Friday night, she received a complimentary fountain drink, mostly because she looked as though she'd been hit in the jaw and throat by a heaping helping of buckshot, which isn't something that you were prepared to view, let alone discuss, and neither was Denny. Subsequent visits have been less disconcerting, and you've even seen her outside of work, usually at parties, but that doesn't make it any less bizarre.
     She looks relatively normal tonight, albeit drenched by the downpour. Sopping wet and decked out in an urban camouflage print tank top, charcoal cargo pants, and to state the painfully obvious, hair dyed blue, white, and red like some kind of screwed-up Bomb Pop granted life, she waltzes into your favorite Texaco station with a smirk etched upon her face; surrounding said smile, somewhat washed away by the rain, is a smear of maroon that runs down her chin. Not knowing what to say, you ask Erickson if she's been blowing the Kool-Aid Man.
     "Pretty much," she responds, not stopping as she makes her way toward the beverage section. "And I'd say that Fake Plastic Trees is an overrated Radiohead song, but then you'd opine that the same could be said for Let Down, and I'd hate for this to get ugly, Eoin."
     You inform her that while you're willing to acknowledge the greatness of Let Down so long as it's part of the Holy Trinity that is Exit Music (For a Film), Let Down, and Karma Police, Fake Plastic Trees remains the end-all, be-all of Radiohead singles.
     "Yeah, yeah. Say, do you guys carry any drinks that are, like, all natural and shit?"
     Off the top of your head, you report that Texaco carries Lipton Iced Tea, 100% natural, in a variety of flavors, your personal favorite being the green tea, because it's your job to know these things. She returns shortly thereafter, places two bottles on the counter, hands you a credit card, requests a carton of Marlboro Menthols, full-flavored, shorts, and begins gulping down some tea. You glance at the card.
     "Is one carton going to be enough, Rodger McCormick?"
     She laughs that grotesque, almost hyenic chuckle of hers. "Good point. Give me two. No, wait. Fuck, give me four," she says before finishing the first bottle of tea.
     "You do know that this store has surveillance cameras, right?"
     "I'm counting on it, actually," is all she offers up before downing the second bottle of tea. With tax, the total comes to $243.35 and she signs for it gleefully. "So the thing about all-natural products is that, well, they don't agree with my digestive system."
     Not quite sure how to respond, you set upon the task of bagging the cigarettes appropriately, deliberately ignoring the retching noises coming from Erickson's direction.
     And then she pukes all over the floor. You feel as if you should've seen that coming, and if you hadn't become so desensitized to her antics over the past few years, you'd be inclined to take it personally. "Really, Megan?" She wipes her mouth, takes the bag from your hands, and walks out the door with the same smirk she came in with. You sigh, shrug, and grab the mop.
     Like most dachshunds, some people just want to watch the world burn; if anything, such people are at once somewhat predictable and utterly mundane, for being an asshole is nothing new, and this job is a constant reminder of that sad truth. As you begin mopping up Megan's mess, however, you find yourself reminded, albeit uncomfortably, that the Cedar Rapidian Sorceress, as you've taken to calling her, appears entirely disinterested in watching the world go up in flames. In contrast, she seems to enjoy performing magic tricks that people will never forget, and what reminds you of this is the detached head and mangled shaft of a penis within the puddle she left behind, to which you add this evening's microwavable burrito.

Passion Pit - It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy

No comments: