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Spinning the Wax

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Some people told me not to work there, that it was a store for drop-outs, slobs, and bums. It was a seedy part of town, that I’d get mugged on my way to work every morning. I didn’t care. I loved that place and the people who shopped there, and they made it what it was. Sometimes though, I sigh because no one will ever know what it meant to me.

Elliot gave me the job right after school let out. I had hung out there every day anyway. Sometimes I even bought something. That record store downtown was my home. I had become good friends with Elliot over the years. He was a short, silver-haired man in his mid-to-late 50’s. He was the owner and the only employee up to that point. I noticed his condition about a week after I started working. He was doing thing differently than he normally did when I used to hang out there. He was always very particular about how things were (one of our most common arguments was about the differences between college rock and alternative rock). Never before had he even misplaced a cassette tape. Now losing things was becoming a habit and he would put things out of alphabetical order. When I pointed this out, he just mumbled, “Oh yeah, Emilia fix that.” Then he would go smoke. I didn’t mind that he wasn’t very talkative. He had never really been super-social. It was better if I did the talking for us.
I would say things to make him remember what he was doing, like “I think the new shipment needs catalogued or something like that. Sometimes I would make quirky observations so the atmosphere wouldn’t be so tense (I think he noticed that I noticed these incidents). But it didn’t help in the long run, the forgetfulness got worse, and now he was home sick about every three days. But he would still call every hour and ask, “Have you been robbed yet?”

I would just answer, “No but someone did knock over the new display case.” He’d laugh a little then hang up. I wanted to help him but didn’t know how. From then on, I made a conscious effort to only play light-hearted records, like The Breeders or something dorky like Devo. It didn’t help much. He would mumble about how he’d only play the music he wanted to hear in his shop. Downer music like Jefferson Airplane, The Smiths, you get the idea. Despite all the criticism he never changed a record I put on.

Working at the store was getting more hectic. Annoying college students would come in and constantly ask us if we had the new record from some cool, new independent band and turn up their noses if we didn’t because they were so much more cutting edge than us.

Between Elliot’s sick days and smoking breaks, I was alone most of the time. The people who used to come in and browse, the nice ones not the college students, had started to lose interest. I knew that part of their experience here was Elliot and that it just wasn’t as interesting with me, a lot of the people had more musical knowledge than I did and they were smart enough to shop here rather than Wal-Mart or Best Buy. At least I cared, but I couldn’t recommend things very well. I made many mix tapes that week, and the displays were rearranged hourly.

Elliot had decided to stay at the shop now and I really started to notice something was wrong. He would cough all the time and just sit there and not move. He wouldn’t speak for weeks at a time, and when he did it was negative observations, like “Don’t be stupid, don’t end up like me.” One day he asked me, “Do you think you could handle the store by yourself all the time?”

I wanted to be honest but I knew it would not be what he wanted to hear, “No, sorry, I really don’t think I could.”

He sighed then said, “That’s what I thought.” I could hear a hint of pure sorrow in his voice, and I began to feel terrible. I wanted him to know that I cared, but I knew it would be terrible to lie to him. I knew that the store wouldn’t last long without him. In the weeks that would follow there would be many awkward silences. Before I had done all the talking just to get a smile or a nod or some reaction out of him, now it was just me and the few die-hard customers we still had.

This silence ended. “Emilia?”

“Yeah”

“I’ve been thinking about my life, and I haven’t done much with it. This store is my greatest achievement.”
That hurt, because, one, I couldn’t manage the store, two, I personally thought it was a fine achievement.

“I wasted everything; I was so caught up in material possessions and drugs that I missed all the good stuff.”

“Really.” I said, listening intently.

“Here’s the worst part, I cared way too much about what other people thought. People said ‘do this and do that’ and I did. Now I don’t care at all, the truth is those people didn’t even matter in the long run. I just wish I had a conscious then like I have now. Hey, as long as I’m okay with myself that’s what matters, right?”

This was why I wanted to work for Elliot; he was good at stepping back and looking at the big picture. I, on the other hand was a distracted teenager who lived too much in my own head. I regret not saying how much this meant to me. Maybe that was what would’ve helped all along.

“Yeah, I agree with you.” That was all I said.

About two weeks later I came to work to see a note on the door, “Closed Permanently, Thanks for the Fun Times.” I would learn the next day from a phone call from his sister that Elliot had died in his sleep. I didn’t know he had living relatives. She said that I could have any album in the store I wanted. That if I wanted to carry on the business I could but if not he’d understand. I felt sick to my stomach; even though I knew it would happen soon I hadn’t exactly prepared myself for this. I realized I wasn’t helping the situation by being sad, just wallowing in my own self-pity. Elliot didn’t want this for me and that was at least something that was relaxing to me. At least he cared and that this didn’t have to be a weight I would carry with me.

I didn’t keep the business. I had too many feelings attached to the place and it wouldn’t be the same with out Elliot anyway. I guess dealing with the stress it gave me was a great lesson when it all boils down; there were times where I wanted to blame my problems on Elliot because it was easy. I knew what happened wasn’t his fault, and that he would have prevented it if he could. My only real regret is that I never express how much Elliot affected me or at least thanked him for his generosity in giving me the job. You can learn a lot from a person but sometimes they’ll never know it unless you speak up. Yes, I was a hard time but it really had an effect on who I am today, and that really what’s important.





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

SureShock_09 said...
Oct. 10, 2008 at 4:14 pm
Oh, Emmalee! This was awesome! Have you considered making a book of short stories? Or, if you wanted to, you should keep going with this story. Y'know, have the events leading up to Eliots' death and such. You're a great writer, and I hope to see more of your work!
 
Locke said...
Oct. 10, 2008 at 4:08 pm
Hey Emmalee. This was a pretty interesting read. First, if I can step in and give my thoughts. Good storyline, nice and kept together, not straying around like I tend to do at times if I'm not careful. Good. A few typos here and there, nothing about a few seconds of looking over won't fix. Characters are believable. Elliot is blunt, but I can see that was intentional, he has a point and a lesson to make. Thanks for the read and keep writing.
 
Beeb said...
Oct. 9, 2008 at 11:22 am
You are an awesome writer! Many people will enjoy this story. I am so proud of the risks you are taking.
 
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