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The 21st Century

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Hacktreks 2

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Dreamscapes 1
Dreamscapes 2
Lifestyles 2

The International Writers Magazine
: Novel in progress Pt 2

If you missed it - Chapter One here

Summer On Cadillac - Chapter Two
Mike Blake

Rita Banks wasn’t a hard, whip-cracking boss; in fact, she was almost easygoing for all the pressure put on her from the head office. She worked hard herself on the morning shifts, which were some of the busiest, and she had a fun, wise-cracking way about her that brought out the best in her employees, and kept the regulars coming back. Word had it that she had slept with some of them.

Bar Habor Maine

The job itself – cashiering for the most part, with some shelf stocking, cleaning and sandwich making thrown in – sucked, with low pay for what was expected of you. Because it was “the season”, the business was usually steady enough to keep two cashiers busy, or one handling the register, while the other made coffee or sandwiches or stocked the cooler. You didn’t always have time for a break that, by law, you were supposed to get; and, often, it was all you could do to get upstairs and use the john, or wolf down a snack behind the counter.
            Still, the hours passed fast in this way (unlike the third shift, which crawled along after the beer cooler was locked at one a.m.), especially when I worked with Kevin, which was usually the case. Normally, we had the second shift - three to eleven; though I ended up working all shifts before the summer was over. You never knew when Rita was going to ask you to fill in for somebody, or pull a “double”. It was to be expected this time of year, especially as they were shorthanded (two people had quit early in July). I didn’t mind putting in the hours at first, but I told Rita that I wanted at least a couple of weekends off that summer; after all, I had come out to the island to hike and see the sights. I wanted to camp in some other places on the island. Rita agreed to this.
            “If you take care of me, I’ll take care of you,” she said. “I don’t want you leaving me in the middle of the season.”
            She knew that Kevin and I were good at our jobs, handling the money and the customers with no major problems. She liked the fact that she never got called at home for some kind of “emergency” on our shift, and that there weren’t any serious complaints about our job performance.
            There were some complaints (and I heard some of these myself) about Kevin, a black man, working at the store, and serving coffee and food in particular. A couple of the old redneck regulars bitched about it, although not to Kevin’s face; and there were even some assholes who wouldn’t come in the store if they saw him behind the counter. As far as I was concerned, they didn’t have to come in at all.
            Rita laughed at these bigots, not commenting on their opinions, for she knew that some of these men came in year round. And this town was too small a place in the wintertime to piss anybody off; she couldn’t afford to lose business.
            “See, I gotta live with these guys after you take off,” she said to me one day, without the usual grin. “I don’t want any of them spreading some kind of bad word about me and turning people away. If business falls off too much, I’m out of a job.”
            I saw her point. I knew she had nothing against Kevin, for she hired him. And Kevin told me himself that he respected Rita for that, for he knew that she could have easily passed him over for a white man, and not taken any criticism for it either.
            “Believe me, I know how some of these people feel about it,” he said to me one night after work, when we were relaxing with some cold ones. “I’ve seen that kind of thing all over. When I first came to Maine, I thought it might be different here, but I’ve learned enough since then. Gloria’s had people look at her funny because she’s with me. And I know some of her friends have said things. Hell, she was the same way until she met me. Now she jokes about me being the first black guy to ever hit on her, but …well, I guess it was how she was brought up. That’s what she told me. She said that her daddy wouldn’t like it at all if he found out about me. But I don’t care what her daddy thinks. Or any of those rednecks at the store. As long as I get my paycheck every week. That’s all I’m in that place for anyway.”
            I raised my can to that.
            “We’re not making any careers out of it, are we?” I said.
            “Hell no. After this summer, I’m throwing that dirty blue jacket in the trash where it belongs.” He laughed.
            “They look like something the Union forces wore in the Civil War,” I said.
            “Yeah, and haven’t been washed since then either.”
            The company wouldn’t allow us to leave the store with the uniform jackets. The jackets were supposed to be laundered regularly, along with the kitchen aprons and towels. Yet Rita was so busy with other things that this was just one more thing neglected.
            Some nights after work, Kevin and I drove somewhere on the island in his big old, rust bitten, yellow car, listening to his music and drinking beer. He liked the older rock from a few years before, which was all right with me. Aerosmith had made a comeback. Old Van Halen brought back memories, as did Rush and Z.Z Top.
            “Of course, being a Texas boy, I got to have some Z.Z. Top in my collection,” he said, grinning.
            I didn’t mind them or any of the others, as it beat Madonna or Mike Jackson, or the grunge sound that was just getting big. And it was before rap became the thing.
            We’d find somewhere to park, preferably high up with a view out at the water, and perhaps down at the harbor and all the lighted boats. Usually, Kevin had a joint to light up – some of Frank Doyle’s weed, which did the job if you smoked enough of it. 
            “I bet Gloria’s on her way to the store now,” he would always say, as we sat there stoned. “I’ll hear about it from Rick.”
            Rick was the third shift man, a very big man over six feet tall and close to three hundred pounds His big round face had an unhealthy, grayish complexion, and his long shoulder-length hair always looked like it needed a wash. And the big man could sweat too, even though he had the slowest shift and could sit on his ass half the time. Whenever he got near the grill or the kitchen, which it was his job to clean, his glasses steamed up and with his sweaty skin and slick hair it looked like he might have stepped out of the shower.
            I often had second thoughts about eating the cold cuts, as Rick often sliced the meat for the next day. He also prepared some sandwiches, and I couldn’t help but wonder about cleanliness. The big man’s slovenly appearance had caught Hemming’s notice too, and he and I laughed when the subject came up.
            “I only eat the sandwiches I make,” Kevin said. “It’s not just him. You ever take a good look at that kitchen area?”
            I couldn’t help but laugh.
            “Have I?” I said. “I wonder when that place was inspected last.”
            “Not since I’ve been there,” Kevin said. He had started the job about a month before me.
            “Apparently, they don’t get out to the island that often,” I said.

            On some of these nights, when we had plenty of beer, I’d return to Kevin’s apartment to watch a late movie, or listen to some more music. I think he really wanted me there as a buffer between Gloria and him, but I didn’t mind if I had a glow on. Sometimes, Danny was there, although he stayed with his mother on the mainland most of the time.
            “I went down to the store looking for you, Kevin,” Gloria always started things out with, her form of greeting.
            “You walked all the way down there?” He’d look at me and laugh, as the store wasn’t more than four blocks away.
            “Yes I did.” She’d pretend to be upset, but already we could see the curl of a smile at one corner of her mouth. She knew we were teasing her; and she also knew that she wouldn’t get anywhere in a serious vein, as we’d already had a few beers in us.
            “Are you high?” she’d ask, the smile growing, the green eyes wide, the thick lips showing some type of gloss.
            What a basic and lascivious animal, I’d think. And I knew Kevin thought along the same lines.
            Usually, he would be in higher spirits if Danny wasn’t around, and I couldn’t blame him there. You never knew what kind of mood the kid would be in at any time of the day, but at that time of night, tired after a full shift at work, it was the last thing Kevin wanted to concern himself with.
            “Some days he’s just fine,” Kevin told me. “He’s in his own world and you don’t hear anything out of him. Then other days he never shuts up and he’s a real pain in the ass.”
            “It probably has to do with the medicine he’s taking,” I said. “He probably misses doses.”
            “I told Gloria to keep an eye on that, to make sure that he takes it. Hell, sometimes I wish she’d take some of that stuff.”
            We both laughed.

© Mike Blake May 2005
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