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Snow White and The Egotistical Wall Clock
Had you gone so far as to ask the clock on the wall for the time, it would proclaim in the proud tones of those whom know they’re the only ones with certain information that it was 11:35pm this evening.
Simply asking Jared the same question, you might get the muttered response that it was just a bit too late to be out and about. But, being the cashier at this 24-hour (and proud to be so) supermarket until twelve midnight, Jared didn’t have much choice but to spend his evening here tonight.
It was a Friday.
Jared knew this, not from glancing at the conveniently displayed calender in the break room with those odd cat pictures marking the months, but because he was looking forward to tomorrow. Put simply, Jared never worked Saturday mornings, for whatever reason - which was something he looked forward to, as he got to sleep in.
If there was one thing Jared hadn’t had a chance to do lately, it was sleep in. He’d even attest to the notion that he didn’t sleep much at all, these days.
Again, the poor boy had little to no choice in the matter of how he’d spend his evenings. Most every weekday, with the exclusion of Tuesday because those were the days he had to pick up Beth from her volunteering, Jared found himself stuck on the wrong side of the counter in the aisle 12, ten-item-to-a-customer line. Of course, just because there was a twelve item limit, that didn’t mean the customers knew it.
But, the customer was always right. And it was the young cashier’s solemn duty to serve them. It didn’t matter that they had five, six, or eighty-two items. . . . They came and he checked them out.
Tonight, Mrs. Grady, kindhearted bless her soul, was once again having issues with her coupons. Having trouble both finding the correct coupons, and finding coupons that were before their date of expiration.
As he always did, Jared smiled politely and endured the torture of his rather slow customers. But, unlike the rather complainy (a euphemism, actually, to describe her - not that Jared thought she was all that bad) Sus, Jared didn’t mind Mrs. Grady at all. He rather liked her. She was a young soul, he thought. Mrs. Grady still behaved in the manner of one whom had a lot to learn about living yet, she had the childlike wonder for simple things that so many people lacked.
And she must’ve been somewhere in her late seventies, or early eighties, Jared himself thought.
“Ah, here we are,” and Mrs. Grady finally handed Jared the coupon for cat sand she’d been searching for. In the split second that the two had their hands meet as one passed a slip of paper to the other, Jared couldn’t help but wonder why Mrs. Grady was always out this late. Most of the elderly customers he served stopped coming after 6pm.
So, he asked this question.
“Mrs. Grady?” Jared’s voice was laid back, and casual, as always. He sort of always whispered his words, his coworkers found, either not finding energy or need to raise his voice. No one could tell which way it was he walked on the matter, because he was very mellow, but not lazy.
“What is it, sweetie?” Mrs. Grady addressed our young cashier of nineteen years the way she always did. With a pleasant smile, her crinkly little beady brown eyes shining under the weight of her huge bifocals.
“Why are you always out so late?” Asked Jared, taking the money that was still owed after the coupon’s three dollar discount. “I don’t mean to pry,” which was a sentence he’d picked up from the elderly woman (“I don’t mean to pry, Jared, but are you ever going to cut that hair? You’d look so handsome without your bangs in your face half the time”). “But, it’s kind of late for a lovely young woman to be out,” - Mrs. Grady chuckled at this - “Don’t you think? Bad things can happen at night.”
“You slay me, sweetie,” she said. “When you get to my age,” she said. “People aren’t going to do anything to you at night that they wouldn’t do to ya at day. I don’t have money and I certainly don’t look it, so there’s no - what’s the word? - logical? - yes, that one. No logical reason for someone to go picking at me.”
“I see,” was all Jared said, eyes thoughtful. He was smiling only at the corners of his mouth, and Mrs. Grady knew he thought she was funny. That was a genuine smile on his face.
“Besides,” and she winked in an over-dramatic gesture intentionally, taking her receipt from him. She held his hand in her hands and let her saggy-skinned fingers linger there. “With a strapping young man like you to watch my back, it’s worth coming out at the witching hour.”
And she cawed a laugh at him, releasing his hand to let him know she was only kidding.
Well, half kidding. That Jared was a handsome young man, as she’d tell you. If only he’d get those hairs out of his pretty blue eyes . . .
Jared himself was shaking his head, bangs falling over his face, smirking as he looked down and turned the lightest smidge red. Blushing because never had he experienced any woman her age flirting with him quite so . . . So shamelessly!
“Goodnight, Mrs. Grady,” Jared said with a smile in his voice, waving to her turning form weakly to showcase that she had killed him. Chin rising, he shook away his hair and grinned at her with his eyes all a-twinkle. “I mean that, sincerely.” He said. “Have a good night.”
“And you as well, dear,” she smiled back at him, and watched him over her shoulder as she walked on over toward the exit. Casting him one final wrinkled smile, she head out the door and the echo of the welcome bell hanging in the doorway washed over the young man.
Yes, in his seven months working here (though he’d taken longer shifts in the last couple months) he’d come to very much like Mrs. Grady.
He released a contented sigh, and looked left. There she was again.
A girl with hair the color of a midnight sky - silky black and tied into a ponytail at the base of her neck. Could’ve been Snow White with such pretty pale skin and pink lips. Blue eyes fenced in by dark lashes searched the shelves for something to cure the munchies. She was also picking up some milk and eggs, grocery shopping again for the family, as she had explained to him many times during the small talk customers and cashiers often make.
Every time he listened with intent interest, as he found himself interested in the goings-on of all the customers. Maybe he cared for Snow White a bit more, though. Maybe.
Releasing another sigh, this time wistful, Jared subconsciously smiled in a dreamy manner at the thought that he’d get to ring up Miss Snow White tonight. He was a sucker for the dark blue eyes she had. One could suppose seeing this attractive young lady was a highlight of the work for him, considering she came in only maybe once a week.
“Excuse me,” two words that, when coupled with the tone their master applied, had the exact feeling of a demand for attention. The words lost their intended “politeness.”
And the young cashier did have to admit, that it was true, he was more interested in some customers over others. Such as . . .
“Mr. Cain, good evening,” Jared greeted the frazzled, middle-aged man with the pathetic comb-over and the dress shirt that was always just a size too small or a size too big.
“Enough pleasantries,” he scathed in the same manner one might say ‘cut the crap’ and he glared into Jared as if it were the young man’s fault he was here buying liquor for his alcoholic wife (as Jared had come to understand from the fragmented complaints, Mr. Cain himself wouldn’t touch the stuff anymore, but you know how it is with the wife . . . ! He wasn’t sure how he, at only nineteen, would know anything about the wife.). “Just ring me up if you’re not too busy gawking off into the distance.”
“Yes, Sir, of course,” Jared chimed politely, figuring Mr. Cain was taking his frustrations at home out on him. He pulled out what he called ‘The Gun’ (a handheld item scanner), to ring up the twelve-pack of beer before him. But, he stopped . . . “Sir, I’m going to call in my . . .”
Mr. Cain heaved a heavy sigh. “That’s right. You kids can’t ring up anything you can’t buy. Of course I get stuck with you. What a waste of time.” The last bit was grumbled under Mr. Cain’s breath.
Too bad he had a stage whisper.
Refraining from spouting what Jared knew his little sister would think was an awesome comeback (and he actually blamed his little sister’s influence on even coming up with the quip in his head), Jared managed to just press the button on his walkie-talkie that connected him to his superior. “Sus,” said Jared. “I need you to ring up an alcohol purchase.”
Such bluntness was afforded when working with Sus, who grumbled that she’d be there soon.
“I don’t even drink this stuff,” Mr. Cain complained, more to himself than anyone. “This is such a hassle.” Jared nodded. “But, you know how Dorothy is . . .”
Jared, in the trained way of one whom has heard it all before, tuned out the rest of Mr. Cain’s rant. Again, he refrained from speaking. Beth once theorized that she thought Dorothy, or Mrs. Cain rather, drank so much because she was lonely, what with her husband “working” all the time but actually cheating on her with his secretary. Beth was being facetious, and called her theory a cliche.
At least it made a bit of sense, Jared decided back then with a shrug.
When would Sus get there?
“Alright, what’s the problem here?” Sus, a spitfire with a bob of scarlet spring curls, strode with conviction toward Jared’s register.
“No problem,” Jared assured the older woman, whom was in her late twenties and single. “I just need you to ring this up.” He gave the beer case a light pat to emphasize.
“Alright, alright,” Sus huffed in her constantly-rushed-always-annoyed voice. “Mr. Cain, I know it’s you, so keep your ID to yourself.” With that questionable customer service, she rung up the purchase and the flustered little man (he was only standing at about five-feet-four-inches, Jared estimated) left in another infamous huff and complained, surely, about how much time of his had been wasted.
When he next refrained from something, it was making an irritated twitch of the eyebrow, Jared showing off to no one in particular what a model of self-control he was. He was sure his sister would’ve given Mr. Cain an earful by now. Yes, Beth was a fiery little one, and had no sense of speaking to adults politely.
“I swear I want to shoot myself when we have customers like that,” Sus muttered, and massaged the bridge of her nose.
Jared considered how he could reply.
Decided to stay silent. And became a little joyful inside. The young cashier knew soon Sus, whom acted as his boss (being a supervisor), would leave. This wouldn’t be any cause for happiness if Jared didn’t see that Snow White was on her way to his register.
Sus, please step away now . . . Was running through his mind as he smiled brightly back at the shy smile of Snow White. She made her way with measured steps. She held snacks and a case of energy drinks (she bought Rockstar energy drinks only, as Jared would explain to you himself).
Casting hinting glances at Sus, Jared willed the woman to just walk away and let him enjoy his few moments with Snow White.
There was an ostentatious sort of ticking in the background, and Sus looked up.
“Oh, it’s almost twelve now,” Sus mumbled, looking straight at the too-loud, overtly prideful clock on the wall. “Shift’s almost up, Jared.” She pointed this out, and Snow White was mere steps away.
“Yeah,” Jared acknowledged. Another hinting glance, a silent wish she’d disappear and leave him alone with his favorite customer. Jared said, “I’ll just handle this last customer and then collect my things.”
There was a definite tink as the clock struck twelve in a mocking tone.
“Nah,” said Sus. “According to that,” she pointed at the smiling face of the clock. “Your shift’s over. I just wish Joey was as loyal to work as you are, Jared. So, you know what? I’ll handle this one. You go on home, kid, you’ve earned it.”
Why did Sus decide on of all the nights she could be merciful to him, that it would be tonight? A night when he really rather preferred to work a little past shift.
Jared quite nearly gaped, but remembering something his father used to say about flies and catching them, he made sure to keep his mouth shut.
Of course, Snow White was already upon them, and Jared would get quite the verbal lashing from Sus tomorrow if he argued with her right now in front of a customer. Why would he argue with her? She’d wonder. Especially considering she was being quite kind.
That was the bit that made Jared want to kick himself.
“Thank you, Sus,” the young man managed to choke out and shot Snow White one final, casually kind smile and wondered if she sensed his tortured feeling at being ripped away from her company by the clutches of kindness. He supposed she didn’t, and removed his name badge.
Dejected, “goodnight, then, Sus.” He received a smile and a nod in response.
“Back at you, kid,” she said and greeted Snow White.
Jared decided to speak to Snow White, “goodnight, Miss.”
She smiled back and nodded.
Eyes narrowed at nothing in particular, Jared wanted to kick himself twice in the span of these five seconds as he turned away, just to keep from watching Sus have his moment.
But, like a few other things previously mentioned, Jared didn’t have much choice in the matter of whether he saw Snow White or not. He couldn’t start a real conversation with her, couldn’t ask her out to coffee. That would be awkward.
He was just that cashier that rung her up last week, where was the interest in going out with him?
None, he decided. There was no reason she’d want to go out to coffee, dinner . . . Nothing.
Oh, well. He sighed to himself, unbuttoning his uniform dress shirt a bit. He couldn’t control how much contact he got with Snow White, could he? With a slightly irritated untucking of his dress shirt, Jared took leave of his workplace.
It was Friday, and the clock couldn’t tell you that. It could tell you the time, but only Jared could say it was Friday.
Admittedly, he only remembered this because he never worked Saturday mornings. He was glad he didn’t, because that meant he could allow himself to sleep in tomorrow morning and, perhaps, he could dream, too.
Dream of Snow White, Mrs. Grady, and a clock way too big for its britches.