Love and Grooming 1
By Lou Blodgett
I work one of those jobs that people say exist, but never find. They say: “You get on at ‘Zildy’, and it’s smooth sailing. You work your own hours and you’re practically your own boss.” Well, I do work my own hours, as long as they’re sometime between 3 and 9 am. I don the khaki and head on down to the Sooper Dooper to field vendor inquiries, because that’s when the alerts come into the system. Ten 16 ounce cans of garbanzo beans have been purchased, or stolen, and I have to confirm that. Or, five toilet wands go at once. (for some sort of era fusion LARPing?) The computer asks: “Is this right?” and I grab my scanner and re-inventory. Some of the Sooper Dooper employees come across me as I’m on my knees or up on a stool and ask me: “Can I help you?” and I already know them by name. They run back and check and are told “That’s Ben.” Then they come back, peer around a corner, and wish me ‘a good one’. When customers ask if I work there, I have options, but I always lie and say ‘yes’. I know where everything is. Some areas are more active than others. The laundry section is a strong-scented desert. The pet aisle is quite active, with many products and many varieties.
The pet aisle is the place that says:
“You must be made of cash.
Your puppy has the shits,
and your kitty has a rash.”
Gotta get it! And today!
The chew-toy shaped like Nixon.
I didn’t know a cat beret
was something I was missin’.
The every-woman accidental
glamour shot coincidental
nose-kiss the kitty transcendental
bright box-photo is a mental
message for professionals
in the kibble-bag processional.
She has to choose through market grubbing.
She’s featured there, glowing. Loving.
The cat’s below and she’s aboving.
As she feeds the kitty tuna hash.
Dressed in her office cas.
Less what’s inside, and more the mask.
The company will place their bets.
The question that I have to ask
is why they always use brunettes?
The meal worms don’t really smile.
They languish there in the pet aisle.
In the ‘frigerated fixture
they can be located.
‘Neath a smiley picture.
A worm all satiated.
But, you’re discriminating here.
Grab a box and look within.
Tilt the lid and take a peer.
The last thing that they do is grin.
“Do you work here?”
There in the pet aisle, I had the option, as always, to say that I was a vendor. Clarissa was long tall with feathery blonde on top which may have needed work, in the eyes of those who lack simple taste. She was dressed engaged casual, in brown slacks and paisley gauzy top. She held a plastic retail lozenge cupped, exposing shiny thumb-base.
“Oh, that’s one of those pet nail trimmers…” I said.
“…over there on the end-cap,” I pointed.
I stood and accepted the anti-theft impenetrable plastic lozenge full o’ product, looked at it, and kept talking.
“They have everything but a grooming room in this place. I’m sure it’s a pet nail trimmer…”
“Nope. I found it behind the toaster pastries, knew it shouldn’t be there, and started looking. I used to work in retail, and instinct took over. It’s a ‘Trimmer Of Nostril Hair Pour Homme’.”
‘I used to work in retail.’ A claim many can make. Both a mantle and a sentence. She plucked a miniscule tin from the cat food shelf behind us and hummed at the label with surprise.
“That’s French for ‘for men’.”
“D’accord.” I said.
She followed me the few short steps to Health and Beauty, and Clarissa was right. Sooper Dooper didn’t seem to carry the item. This called for further investigation, and Clarissa enjoyed watching me go through the high-level retail motions. She mentioned that she was considering going back to ‘retail’. I looked at the hook on the item to see if it had been hung. I even smelled it.
“None of that Health and Beauty smell,” I told her. She jutted her head forward and nodded appreciatively.
“Except for some background…” I swept my hand, referring to the aisle. She nodded.
“Well,” I said. “Instinct and training.”
I headed for the stockroom, and Clarissa followed, explaining-
We went through the maze of palettes full o’ product, and past brightly dressed workers who knew just what to do, and were doing it, and were assuming that Clarissa was with Zildy, like me.
As we passed the refrigerated entrance, Clarissa said,
“Seems pretty standard, but what are those?”
She pointed at a large fitting on the wall, of white enameled metal, with an orange glow within.
“I don’t know what those are,” I told her.
“Haven’t you ever asked, then?” she said, following me to the computer.
“Oh, no. Don’t ever ask things like that.”
Clarissa nodded complicity, and I scanned the item at my desk.
The computer balked at the bar-code scan, so I ten-keyed the number in. Nothing. The screen blinked, and in monochrome yellow, asked: “Did you find this here?” There was no need to answer.
“It doesn’t exist,” I told her. “We could open it.”
“Could it be dangerous?”
“That’s a concern,” I said.
We stood, peering at the plastic-armored item in my hand, and eliminated that option. For now.
“We’d probably need a pair of bolt-cutters…”
Clarissa looked at me, and I knew that with the next option, she would also follow.
“We need to take this to Peato.”
It seemed like the best option to her.