This article was last modified on February 18, 2006.


The Cashier Returns

Madeline knelt down and before her she spotted something small and inviting. It was a mushroom, delicate and silver-striped. She plucked it from the earth and put it in her apron to take to the market. But upon reaching the market, she was struck from behind, bluntly on her headpiece. Amid the daze, she heard word she would have her legs broken if she was seen again, so Madeline gathered up her wits and took off.

Madeline ran from the market and entered the first place she found, a small convenience store with a Shell logo in the window. She hid behind the cashier’s counter, but within moments the manager came from the back and spotted her. “Young lady, what is that in your apron pocket?”

“A mushroom, delicate and silver-striped.”

The manager laughed at her innocence. Who could find beauty in this world? In a mushroom, no less. “Young lady, you’re a breath of fresh air. How would you like it if I set you up with a job in my store?”

Madeline blushed, “Surely, you’re joking. Why would you want me?”

“I never joke,” replied the man. “I am offering you a job this very instant.” He went behind Madeline to the cash register and showed her how to open the till. This register was quite old, from the Depression, and had to be opened by crank.

Madeline turned the crank over and over, and was quite elated with the prospect of a job. But unknown to her, the marketplace hoodlums had struck her much harder than they anticipated, and she suddenly collapsed to the ground and died. The police were called to the scene and wrote up a report based on the manager’s story. The lead officer took the manager aside and asked him for a contribution of fifty dollars.

“Why should I give you fifty dollars?” asked the manager.

“Don’t you want this murder to quietly disappear?” explained the officer. He had something of a crooked smile upon his lips.

The manager went pale with fright. Certainly he had no involvement in this woman’s death – he hadn’t even bothered to learn her name yet! But the police these days and in these parts, he could hardly hope to prove himself. “Alright, fine. I’ll pay,” he said handing the officer money from the cranked-open till. He glanced below it at the new cashier, crumpled on the floor like a discarded tissue. “But you must take this dead cashier out of here. Right this instant!”

The afternoon manager came in and had heard the whole thing. He was young, with a Slavic bloodline, and a knack for sarcasm. “No, officers, this woman on the ground is not a cashier at all. She was never really hired, not really. She’s just a girl who happened to be turning the crank on the register. The real cashier is standing right behind me, just starting her shift now.”

The lead officer had since left, and his deputy remained behind to clean up the scene. “It’s really all the same to me who is or is not the cashier,” he offered. “We were told to remove a cashier from the premises, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.”

The deputy reached out to grab the afternoon cashier, an older woman with a full bosom. She was startled and lay down behind the counter, huddled up against the cooling corpse on the tile floor. “I won’t go,” she stammered indignantly.

“And why not, you silly old hag?” asked the deputy.

“You — you plan to bury me alive!” she replied, and hid her face in her breasts.

The deputy called another officer intothe store and together they tried to peel the heavy-set cashier from the floor, but they simply couldn’t lift her. Between her kicking and screaming, they could not budge her.

“Grab her by the legs!” called the afternoon manager, chuckling to himself as he lit a splendidly blended Doral brand cigarette.

“No, not the legs,” pleaded the morning manager. “That old woman may be nothing to you, but she has been like a mother to me since my own mom passed. Tragic, really, dying from consumption. Lifting this woman from the legs would expose her woman parts to the world, and for that I must protest!”

“Yeah, do you hear him?” said the old woman. “Don’t you dare expose my rear end or woman bits! I have my dignity!”

The deputy nodded, and with his assistant they dragged her out of the store by her underarms. The manager looked out the door just in time to see them heaving her body into the trunk of a squad car with a dull thud. The deputy sealed the trunk, and the two officers drove away to a destination unknown.

The morning manager turn to the afternon manager, who was still puffing away on his full flavored cancer stick. “Get this shit hole cleaned up, we have a business to attend to.”

The afternoon manager pointed his cigarette at the girl o nthe floor, her mushroom still pressed firmly in the pocket of her apron. “But now what are we to do with this dead woman?”

“Dios mio!” said the morning manager. “Mein Gott! We have made a mess of the entire situation. In my panic, I had forgotten she was ever here. What are we going to do with this dead woman?”

“And worse, who are we going to have operating the cash register?” mused the afternoon manager.

The morning manager grabbed his hair and covered his face with his palms in anguish. He let out a muffled cry, knocking over the Little Debbie snack stand with his fumbling. “Mon dieu… what has happened here today is monstrous. A complete and utter abomination.”

“Yes, monstrous. An abomination,” nodded the smoking man in seeming agreement.

The morning manager’s face lit up as he twirled his mustache in one of those comical “eureka” moments. “Ha ha ha! Why was I so perturbed a moment ago? I know exactly how to handle this situation. We will simply prop this beautiful corpse up against the wall on a stool. The common man is so much the fool, they will never even realize who is sitting behind the counter. And best of all, we will not have to pay her.”

The two men hoisted the dead weight on to a stool, and leaned her back to conceal her in the dimly lit corner of the room. The afternoon manager pulled a cigarette from his pocket and placed it between her lips. The cigarette quickly fell out, but with a little wacky glue it more than ably remained still on the second attempt. The morning manager pulled the mushroom from her pocket and placed it in her hands, as if she were cradling an infant kitten. Perhaps this was how Madeline would have wanted to be remembered.

The casual observer would certainly think that the new cashier was very much alive, except for the sickening green pallor that was slowly spreading underneath her skin. One eye was open looking off into space, the other closed. Lividity was setting in, rigor mortis soon behind it. But for one day, she was good enough.

“Never mind the bullocks,” said the morning manager. “She’ll be fine.”

But would she be fine? A small mob of people were pounding on the door, very upset that their shopping had to be delayed. Why had the store been closed? Two old women were quite irate. One of the women, carrying herself as if she were royalty, was wearing a fine silk coat and shouted obscenities in the direction of the store. She shook her purse in a raged convulsion and kicked at the door with her heel. The other woman was possibly a vagrant, as she had turned a soiled pillowcase into a hat of some sort. She, too, was cursing in the direction of the store. “Dmitri, open the blasted store, you stingy old swine!” The manager’s name, it should be said, was Dmitri.

The manager opened the door wide and grinned in such a cartoonish way, he could have been Willy Wonka himself opeing the gates of the chocolate factory. Most of the patrons who pushed through the door were there for beer. Light beer, domestic beer, imported beer. Amber bock, red beer, brown beer. Cheap beer, expensive beer, beer that could be smuggled out underneath a jacket. The public clamored in for beer. The old woman, however, simply wanted her morning newspaper. And as she approached the cashier, her jaw dropped — and so did the morning paper, opening to a story about the growing war machine in Latin America.

“Good Lord,” she managed to say. “Holy… holy goats.”

The vagrant woman had only wished to use the restroom and she was soon behind the first old woman at the counter. She stopped dead in her tracks on the way to the exit, could not speak and stared at the young woman propped up in the corner. The afternoon manager was across the room, silent and watching every move of the morning manager. The morning manager, positioned between Madeline and the cash register, stood motionless waiting for someone else to make the first move.

The royal woman nudged the afternoon manager. “Who is that you have sitting behind the register? Surely that is not Agnes.”

The afternoon manager remained silent. He was at a complete loss of words.

The morning manager was unable to break the silence. He could also think of nothing to say.

But at just this moment, people were running from all directions, gathering in a crowd on the street. Maids and butlers gathered around, small children in tow. The old ladies left the store to join the masses. A crescendo of whistles began to blow. Something scandalous was happening only a few yards from the store!

The morning manager and the afternoon manager exchanged glances. They had been prepared to stand silent in their stations until evening, possibly even all night. But someone amid the crows announced a rumor — old women had gathered en masse to hurl their bodies out of a window on Peking Way. Nobody was quite sure why, but the carnage was sure to be remarkable. The crowd outside the store thinned slowly until no one was left within several kilometers. They had left the scene to find good seats on the sidewalks of Peking Way.

Also try another article under Poetry and Fiction
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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