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Such Is Life

by Dwan L Hearn about a year ago in comedy
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Episode 5

It's been days and I still haven't heard from her. No one has. She isn't returning any of my calls or my texts. Michelle hasn't either. She said that Venus left in the middle of the night or very early morning before she or Janet had woken up the next day. Her mom said that she came home and packed a bag and was going to be gone for a bit - to clear her head. Working overnights, I don't get to see her at work. Guess she hasn't been there. I'm concerned. Why would she just up an-

"So where do these go?" Mitch asked.

"What? Oh, sorry. Back in that corner by the gorilla." I replied.

Mitch, looking puzzled, "Why is there an inflatable gorilla again?"

I sighed. "Don't ask. It's just gonna be a thing to get used to.”

Mitch just kinda stared at me for an almost awkwardly long time. He nodded, shrugged, and pulled the power jack to the Gorilla Corner and dropped off the pallet of deceptively heavy napkins.

I called to Mitch to get his attention and pointed to where the power jacks were kept. He puts it where I told him and we walk together to the break room.

“Is 4am always the break time?” Mitch asked me.

“Honestly,” I told him,“I don’t know if Overnight has an official break time. I don’t normally work this shift.”

“Oh yeah that’s right! And about that, I wanted to say I appreciate you volunteering to work the late shift to train me”

“Oh no, it’s – wait, what did you say?”

“I said thanks for training me and working nights to do it. I know it is never easy shifting shifts like that and it throws off your sleeping patterns and all and I just appreciate it. That’s all”

Bewildered and confused, I just kinda looked at him. He thinks I volunteered? Why? Who would tell him something like that?

“Training’s no problem. I don’t mind that part.” I paused to yawn. “The night part is tricky. Who told you I volunteered?”

With a smirk and his head cocked to one side, Mitch answered, “ Oh, well, Daniel said ‘I’m going to put you with Zack. He’d just love to train a new guy overnight’ and I thought that was cool. The girls in the breakroom said you were pretty nice so I was excited I got to meet you that day”

I looked at him with what I felt was a blank stare but he is apparently good at reading between the lines.

“You didn’t volunteer, did you?”

I shook my head and gave an uncomfortable grin.

“You didn’t want to train me at all, did you?”

I see where this is going. “Dude, it’s not that,” I told him. “Honestly, I didn’t know anything until you said something. Venus said something about a schedule change but before you came up to me, I was clueless.”

It was so quiet in the room, I heard his heart drop. I continued, “But hey, I’ve really enjoyed the change of pace and you’re cool to talk to so I say it was a good call on Danny’s part.”

Mitch looked up at me and smiled, full grin, and finished his snack bar. I got up from the table, walked past the Crystal Idol, and stepped out in the hall to get a drink from the vending machine. I put in my dollar and heard a swirl and two thuds. I paused. The machine makes a swirl and one thud and the second one sounds close but not soda machine in the face close. Mitch came and joined me.

“When does the next shift come in today” he asked, glancing down at his watch.

I looked over to the clock on the wall. 4:14am. “Daniel should be here about five.” I looked around and heard a sound towards the sales floor. “Hey Mitch,”

“Hey Zack!” he comedically replied.

“Night cleaning left already, right?” I knew the answer but I had to ask. See, the way they schedule the overnight staff, Freightmates work until about 10 and the Overnight group, two stockers and two cleaners, usually come in before the store closes at 11. The cleaners restock carts and order materials, give the store a decent once-over, and they’re out by 3 or 3:30. Overnight stock organizes and preps the storefront from the early crowd. It should be just us until Daniel gets here in the morning.

“Yeah, they’re long gone. You okay?”

“Someone is here.”

Crime isn’t exactly commonplace in Kingston. Happens, but not often. Waterman’s has only been broken into twice before. The first time was when three homeless people broke in during a really bad snowstorm. When Waterman and the police responded to the alarm, no charges were pressed as long as the homeless people worked to maintain the store until the weather allowed it to re-open. Once the store reopened, two of the guys thanked Jim and went on about their business while the third, a young lady, still works here on the overnight cleaning crew. Her name is Kimberly and she’s one of the sweetest people in town.

As for the second time, it was a bit more complicated. Again, the weather, rain this time, played a part. There was a pretty heavy storm coming through the area and one of the surrounding roads flooded. A truck was cutting through Kingston. He hydroplaned turning the corner at Jackson Street and whipped the back of the truck through the big glass windows in front of the store. The truck had the most random cargo of monkeys. No, wait, lemurs. It was a truck full of lemurs! This is when things got weird.

My friend Kyle lived right around the corner from Waterman’s. I had a late shift that day and an early one the next so instead of going home, I just planned to crash at his place. We were in the middle of some weird horror/action movie with a homicidal six-legged panda bear when we heard the unmistakable sound of a truck crashing into the large glass windows of the store.

Considering how loud it was, not many people seemed to come out to see what happened. A few house lights came on and a couple people stood on their porches, but only Kyle and I actually went over to check on the driver.

The truck had hydroplaned, hopped the curb, driven through the windows, flipped over and eventually stopped after knocking over a bunch of shelves - about 40 to 50 feet inside. Kyle and I hurried to the driver who was surprisingly okay. A little banged up, but okay. I still had a box cutter in my pocket so I went to cut him out of his seatbelt. Some time in the midst of all this, Kyle appeared very distracted. I looked up at him and asked, “Dude, you okay? What’s wrong?”

With his attention as far away from me as possible, he managed to reply, “Someone else is in here!” in a loud whisper before walking away to investigate.

Moments later, as I’m helping the driver out of what was left of his truck, it occured to me that there were others in the store - the cleaning crew. I was content assuming that it must have been them that Kyle heard until I heard items crashing and Kyle yelling out, “YOU FUCKING ZEBRA MONKEYS!!!”

Thoroughly confused, I verbally asked myself, “Zebra monkeys?”

“Lemurs,” the driver corrected, “I was transporting lemurs.”

Even more confused, I asked him, “Why are you driving around a bunch of lemurs?”

“Rich guy. I don’t ask questions.”

Although the driver seemed fine, I handed him my phone to call 911 while I went to check on Kyle. Carefully stepping over fields of broken glass and climbing over mountains of toppled shelving, I made it to what appeared to be a battlefield. On the other side of the shelves, there was Kyle, quietly being cornered by the lemurs. Shouldn’t have been as funny as it was, but imagine turning a corner and seeing your friend fighting off about eight lemurs with a short broom sword, a dustpan shield, and a spray bottle of water as the secret backup weapon.

“Get back, Zack! I got this!” Kyle called out once he saw me.

“You sure about that?” I replied.

“Oh yeah! I’m luring them in!”

“Uh huh, Then what?”

He froze. I knew he didn’t have a plan and now he knew too. And, of course, it was then that they all just pounced on him at once. He dropped all of his weapons and curled up into the fetal position absorbing all the kicks, slaps, and stomps that the little “zebra monkeys” could dish out.

After a few minutes, the driver jumps in and gets most of the lemurs under control while the now responding animal control arrives and takes over with the rest of them. Kyle didn’t move from his spot for quite a while. EMTs checked him out and let’s just say Kyle won’t be joining me for Beer Night at the Kingston Zoo for maybe ever.

I look up to see Mitch staring at me. He just kinda stood there with his head cocked to the side. “You really do zone out a lot, don’t you?”

Before I had the chance to respond, the sound of a door slam grabbed our attention. “You heard that, right?” I said to Mitch.

Mitch verified, “The door slam?”

“Yeah! I’m not trippin’ right?”

Mitch looked down at my feet. “No, you’re not. Who would it be?”

“Could be Daniel, I guess.” I paused and thought about it. “Should be Daniel.”

“Cool. Let’s just go look!” Mitch starts walking towards the sales floor. He walked up to the doors, swung them open, and just went. He’s fearless in that ‘doesn’t know any better’ kinda way. He’s very ‘matter-of-factly about everything. Everything is black and white; clear vision. I like this kid.

Mitch and I walk straight for the entrance doors. Mitch seems excited to be suddenly thrown into an investigation. Me? I‘ll be honest, I want to be by the door in case we’ve got to go. Some things are worth dying for. Waterman’s isn’t one of them. I have no idea what I’m walking into. Kingston is such a random ass place. Why is Mitch so calm?

As we approach the doors, I put my hands on Mitch’s shoulder, prompting him to turn around. “Hey,” I started, “why are you so calm? We have no idea what’s out here.”

Mitch turned to me with the simplest and most calming smile. “How do you know it’s something worth fearing?”

I was speechless. I felt like all the muscles in my face were having a meeting about how we were supposed to feel. No decision has been made yet.

I checked the alarm panel on the wall to the left of the main entrance. The perimeter alarm had been turned off, but the doors itself were locked; probably re-locked. Someone was absolutely here. But where?

I was preparing myself to formulate a new course of action when I heard the sound of footsteps approaching. I reached out and pulled Mitch behind a nearby shelf.

I motion to Mitch to be quiet and point in the direction of the footsteps. With a nod, Mitch follows me around behind where the sound is coming from. We armed ourselves with a couple glass bottles and quietly came up behind our mystery guy.

We were ready to strike as the man reached the customer service desk. Well, I assume it’s a man. Anyway, wanting to hit him before he turned around, I looked over to Mitch and silently started a countdown, starting at three, with the idea of hitting him in the back. I don’t want to hurt the guy. I just want to stop him. My plan didn’t work out anywhere near the way I pictured it.

In our stealthiness, we weren’t able to coordinate key parts of the plan. For example, we didn’t clarify whether we attack “on one” or “after one”. I was planning on moving in “after one”. Mitch moved ahead “on one”. Also, we didn’t exactly clarify what “attack” meant. My plan was to hit the guy with the bottle across his back, between the shoulder blades. Just enough to stop him. Mitch had a different idea. He decided to confront the man and turn him around. He turned the man around just in time for me to see myself hit Daniel right in the chest.

After my bottle made contact with Daniel, his hand made contact with his chest, and then he made contact with the ground. We threw down our weapons and helped Daniel to his feet. Not surprising, he pulled away from us and took a moment to gather himself.

Pre-emptive strike! I figured I'd apologize first before Daniel had the chance to yell at me for hitting him with a bottle. “Dude, I’m so, so, so sorry!”

“What the hell were you thinking?” Daniel tried really hard to push through the pain and speak through his teeth.

“Did you just get here?” Mitch asked kinda suddenly.

“In fact, I did. I went to the bathroom first.”

“Restroom,” I interjected. Judging by the looks on their faces, I should probably - ummm - ‘Outerject’? Yeah, I’ll go with that.

Daniel turned to Mitch, “How do you work all night with him?”

Mitch turned to Daniel, “He’s not that bad. Really knows his stuff.”

I looked at Mitch and smiled, mouthing the words Thank You. I turned to Daniel. He wasn’t smiling. Suddenly, neither was I.

Mitch continued, “So you came in and went to the,” he paused and looked at me, “restroom, right? So you haven’t been in the back yet?”

Daniel looks confused yet intrigued, “Not yet. Why?”

Mitch looked at me, glanced towards the backroom, and then back at Daniel. “Zack and I heard a noise in the backroom. Should have just been us, but we both heard it and came out here to investigate. Neither of us thought you’d be here yet so you can see why we reacted the way we did.”

Daniel seemed to understand. “I suppose.”

“I’m really sorry,” I finally said sincerely.

All three of us turned our heads to the sound of the backroom door slamming shut. I felt a chill wash over me and back down my spine. I’ll admit, I wanted to go explore the noise, but my feet had an emergency safety meeting with my legs and they voted against. With a pat on the back, it would appear that Mitch has an overriding vote. Mitch walks straight to the back. Daniel and I follow.

As Mitch walked into the backroom, I tugged Daniel’s shirt and pulled him back.

“Hey Danny, listen - I really am sorry about earlier.” I pat at his chest where the bottle hit. He flinched. I stepped back.

“I’ll be honest with you, Zack. You’re a good worker. That’s why I wanted you to train my cousin, Mitch.”

“He’s your cousin?” I was surprised, but I should have known something was up.

“Yeah, he just moved back in with my aunt and needed a job. All that happened at the same time Waterman flaked. Anyway, you do good work, but you can be a real asshole at times. I’m starting to see why Waterman can’t stand you.”

“I suppose. Waterman has always had something against me. I don’t know what his problem is.” I look down at my watch to check the time. “You know,” I continued, “you could have called to say you’d be in early.”

Daniel was clearly annoyed by this. I could see it in the way his face scrunched up. “First of all, I don’t answer to you.” he said through his teeth. “And second,” he pulls out his phone and opens an app, “I did call you and texted you!”

I lean in to see the message closer. He did call and text me. “Hey! Look at that! You did! Nice phone, by the way!”

I thought about double checking my phone to see if I got the message, but that’s when we remembered we left Mitch in the backroom with a stranger. Hearing Mitch yell for us is a hell of a reminder.

We pushed through the doors. Nothing. We don’t see Mitch anywhere. I looked over to the right, near the gorilla corner, and noticed shadows. I tapped Daniel’s shoulder and pointed. We slowly walked in the direction of the shadows and saw Mitch backed up with a broomstick in his hand. He turned his head towards us and smiled. “Hey,” he yelled, “I found the guy in a broom closet! Some help would be great!”

At this point, all we could see was Mitch standing defensively with a broomstick. Daniel and I stood back waiting for Mitch’s opponent to turn the corner. We all passed a synchronized glance when the stranger came into view. Daniel and I just stood there in shock.

“Jim?!” said Daniel.

“Waterman?!” I said, equally confused.

Mitch, also confused, but for different reasons, looked over at us and asked, “Wait, you know this man?”

“That man,” I told Mitch, “is the owner of the store.”

Mitch went to lower his broomstick. Waterman, who was also wielding a broomstick, didn’t lower his an inch. Mitch raised his back up.

You could see Daniel shift back into manager mode. He ran between Mitch and Waterman and waved Mitch towards me. I felt like the right thing to do at this point was to just leave and let Daniel handle Jim Jr., but I couldn’t turn away.

You should see him, though! Holding that broomstick, he’s all hunched over like he graduated from the bell tower at Notre Dame. His clothes were dirty, worn, and seemingly the wrong size. I’m not even sure they were his. His hair was matted. He’s more so dragging his left leg as opposed to taking actual steps and his shoes, at least the shoes he has on, don’t even have laces. I don’t know where he’s been, but it’s clearly been a rough trip.

“Sir, what are you doing here? Why do you have a weapon?” Daniel is either concerned or confused. I can see him try to take the broomstick away from Waterman.

Waterman just gave Daniel a menacing wide-eyed stare and swatted at him. Wisely, Daniel stepped back towards me and Mitch. Waterman, as disheveled as he looks, appears to be laser focused and his targets are us.

Walking backwards, Mitch asked me, “Is this really the owner?”

“He is, but I don’t think he knows it,” Daniel replied.

Waterman continues to advance towards us. Jim Jr. is clearly not himself. His facial expressions grow more and more cynical with every step. I reached into my pocket and slowly pulled out my phone to see the time. Then I remembered I had a watch. Either way, it was time to go.

I tug at Mitch and Daniel and nod towards the time clock. “You know, I’ve seen a Waterman freak-out. I’m out!” Without taking my eyes off of Waterman, I walk over to the time clock, type in my employee number, and clock out.

“Good idea, Zack!” Mitch walks over to the time clock and follows suit.

Daniel looked back and forth between us and Waterman. He doesn’t seem to know what he should do next.

“Dude,” I said to Daniel, backing towards the sales floor, “it’s not worth it!”

Daniel doesn’t move. It’s as if he was making a full body decision and it was caught in gridlock; frozen.

“I gotta agree with Zack. Do you really want to spend all day with him luring in the shadows?” Mitch implored.

Waterman’s smile was ear-to-ear with blatant discontent. Whether it’s indecision or fear, Daniel will not move. He’s stuck in place. Mitch and I are by the backroom door urging Daniel to come with us and away from Psycho Jim. There's only maybe two feet between them.

Before I could continue to plead with Daniel, Waterman swings the broomstick low and clubs Daniel in the leg. Mitch and I can’t believe that Waterman really hit him. As Waterman goes for a second swing, I rush for him, tackling him to the ground, and Mitch runs to Daniel and pulls him out to the sales floor.

I got back to my feet before Waterman did. He didn’t even stand all the way up before he charged at me. I managed to side step him and I noticed that the broomstick is still on the floor. I’m reaching for it as Waterman turns around for what I assume was another attack.

He stares at me holding the broomstick and pauses. The stalemate lasts for what feels like forever. His eyes widened more than before. His breathing slowed and deepened. This is really strange. What the hell happened to this guy?

Just as suddenly as his attack on Daniel, a disarmed Waterman turns around and backs away. I’m not going to wait around for Psycho Jim to change his mind. I go out the backroom doors, meetup with Daniel and Mitch, and we head out the front door. Daniel locks the doors leaving behind a sign saying that we’re closed for the week due to an emergency. I do not envy Daniel for having to deal with all that.

Sitting in my car, I pull out my phone to clear my notifications from Daniel. I look through the phone and I have one missed call from Daniel and three from my mom. She never calls so early in the morning. There’s one voicemail from her last call. I call the voicemail service, enter the code, and play the messages. Nothing but static and rustling, like she pocket dialed me.

I delete the voicemails and notice another notification; a text. It’s also from Mom. I look at the message and now I’m worried. All the text reads is “Please Help Me!”

comedy

About the author

Dwan L Hearn

I'm just a regular guy that loves his pen almost as much as his family! Seriously, I'm a short story writer that loves music and horror movies.

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