Work has become the way by which we define our lives. If you are in a career comes with a high salary, great satisfaction, or perhaps fame, that becomes who you are. Think about it: When someone asks an elderly woman how her children are doing, she invariably will tell people what kind of job they’ve attained over time. For example: Johnny? He’s a partner in a law firm in Philadelphia. Sally? She’s opened her own pediatric practice in the suburbs of St. Louis. Billy? He’s the CEO of a financial company in L.A.
Meanwhile, if your job stinks, you still have to tell people what it is that you do. Your elderly parents, however, aren’t held to that rule. For example: Frank? Oh, he’s doing well I suppose. Calls every now and then. His job? Um. I think he’s almost done with school. Just a semester or two to go.
Such is life. In the social scheme of things, having a great job just means you get a topic you can blather on about, even if the people around you couldn’t care less. If your job stinks, you’re pretty much in social no-man’s-land when it comes to conversation starters.
My job fits that bill. It’s not that it’s embarrassing to be in your early thirties and working retail. Ok, on second thought, maybe it is. But, someone has to work retail, and I’ve found that I’m actually halfway decent at it. No, my sales numbers aren’t ever in the company newsletter, and no, my district manager doesn’t give me commendations, but I tend to get along with at least two-thirds of the customers, and the regulars know me by my name.
Retail management, meanwhile, is pretty much a revolving door. For instance, I’ve been an assistant manager at Book Barn for going on eight years. I’ve never been offered the store management position because my “numbers” have never been, according to my district manager, “store director material.” I might take offense to that if I wasn’t so thankful. We averaged a brand new store director every eight months before the company got rid of them. That kind of shelf life wasn’t too appealing.
My job title as assistant bookstore manager is, in truth, a little grandiose. My job was basically making sure that a bunch of college freshmen didn’t try to swipe cash from the registers and also straightening the bookshelves in the Kids’ section about eighty times a day. Other than that, basically registering a pulse was all that I did.
I wasn’t late to work that day, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I was since we didn’t attract a customer for an hour and a half. With all of the e-readers, our sales were down, which meant anger from the district management and panic attacks from the store managers. So, while I can only assume that my current manager – Scott, I’m pretty sure this one was called – was spending most of the morning hyperventilating into a paper sack, I took the dead time to dial home.
I wasn’t normally all that jumpy about a rash of burglaries. After all, my previous thoughts about Abner shredding a prospective thief limb from limb was amusing. But at the same time, what if a burglar saw them and got away? Or worse, what if Abner decided to chase him? That could lead to all sorts of awkward questions.
The phone rang for a very long time. It wasn’t surprising. After all, only Brax could actually answer the phone, and if he was in the middle of something it usually took quite a bit of coaxing from the others to actually get him to answer. Because of this, I’d disabled the voicemail, otherwise I would always get caught in the nefarious net of the voicemail.
After about sixteen rings, there was a click, and lots of heavy breathing, followed by a rumbling coo. Abner was doing his best to let me know someone was coming. I smiled. After a few more seconds, I could hear Brax in the distance, shouting “Tyake a messitch!”
“Ab, pull off one of his arms if he won’t come to the phone,” I muttered, winking and nodding at a passing customer that was frowning at my extended phone usage.
“Yais, yais, what eez it?” Brax hissed into the phone.
“I love you too, honey,” I said wryly. “Look, I just wanted to call to let you know about my conversation with the landlady.”
“I dun’t care about anythink the hag is saying. I very biz-ee.”
“Look, muttonhead, it’s important,” I retorted. “Someone’s been breaking into the apartments and stealing things. If someone tries to break in, it would be a problem if anyone saw you guys.”
“I am thinkink only prublem would be a thief tryink to ron from Abner before havink arms and lyegs plucked like lonely petals on flower.” There was a sinister humor to Brax that I could always somewhat relate to. The difference was the mere idea of Abner severely hurting an intruder was humorous. For Brax, it would be the actual act that would send him into peals of maniacal laughter.
“Be that as it may, I’d rather not anyone see any of you, so be on your toes.”
Brax sighed bitterly. “Yais, yais, we shall be cyareful, you have my promisink. Now pliz: Let me get beck to my worrk.”
I started to ask what Brax was doing, but the phone clicked off before I had the chance. I grunted and hung the phone back into the cradle. It didn’t matter, I suppose; Brax spent most of the time I was at work in the spare bedroom, or what he called his lubbratory. I could only hope that whatever he was working on did something to make him more pleasant. Or at least something that could keep Abner from shedding everywhere.
“Excuse me?” came a stern, elderly voice. I turned to face the woman that had been watching my phone conversation so disapprovingly. Her already wrinkled face was more sour than should have been humanly possible. “If you’re quite done with personal time, I was hoping that someone around here might actually be willing to help me.”
I repressed the urge to tell her how I would like to help her, and put on my best retail smile. “I apologize ma’am. Certainly, how can I help you?”