Mathew Cole stood with an umbrella above his head in front of his parent’s freshly dug graves in the Santa Monica Cemetery. A light rain was coming down. His lawyer, Mr. Obanion, walked up to him.
“Mr. Cole, you will never have to worry about money again,” Mr. Obanion said to him.
“I never did,” Mathew said.
“You can do anything you want.”
Mathew was silent.
“Are you going back to school?”
“I am not.”
“Will you consider it later?”
“Do you need a ride?”
“Will you call me tomorrow? We still have paperwork to go over.”
“Well… When you are ready,”
Mr. Obanion walked away but Mathew stayed. When everyone was gone from the funeral he closed the umbrella and let the rain soak him. In the distance he saw a man standing on a hill in front of a single grave. The man was swearing at the grave stone and then started to piss on it.
Mathew was fascinated.
As he drove home through the rain he flipped through radio stations trying to find one worth listening to but then started punching the radio with his fist until it broke the skin of his knuckles.
He pulled over into a Ralph’s parking lot and started to cry. A woman banged on his window with a poster that said “STRIKE”.
“Don’t shop here! These people are bastards!” she yelled at him.
He got out of the car and went inside.
Mathew walked into the grocery store wearing a black suit, a black tie, and a white shirt. He was dripping water on the floor. He saw the help wanted sign and asked one of the assistant managers if he could apply. After being given an application he was shown to the break room.
He placed the job application form on the small circular table and began to fill it out with a dull pencil.
Drops of water occasionally fell down his face onto the application.
Heather, a young woman, nothing more than a girl with an excellent push up bra, walked in going for the fridge. She stopped when she noticed him sitting there, but just for a second before she continued going for the fridge. The freezer door opened with the cracking noise of ice.
A long sigh came from her and then she grabbed a frozen dinner out of it.
He continued writing without looking up.
“Nice suit,” she said.
He stopped writing but kept looking at the form. “Thank you.”
“What position are you applying for?”
“What job are you applying for?”
“Oh… But you’re so well dressed.”
He nodded and then went back to writing in the form.
“Except for your shoes,” she said.
He looked down at his black shoes. They had mud on the bottom, and a layer of grass clippings on that. A quivering smile spread across his lips, and he brought his feet together, pulling one heel out of each shoe, starting with the left, and ending with the right. Slowly, reaching down he picked them up with his right hand and then walked over to the sink in black wet socks.
Turning the water on with his left hand, he carefully washed the sides of each shoe, until they were clean and dripping shiny again. He put them back on the floor and stepped into them, wiggling his toes into each and pressing his heels down.
The squeaking on the floor would have made her laugh accept for the fact that she stopped breathing when he had stood up. He had reminded her of a wet puppy and she regretted not reaching out to touch his arm when he was at the sink.
He had not looked at her once during the entire time.
But when he did, he gave her a smile and nodded his head once before saying “Thank you,” and then stood up again with the completed form in his hand and left the break room.
She realized she still had the frozen dinner in her hand.
The General Manager, Mr. Arthur, was sitting at his small desk, covered in papers, a few cases of diet Mountain Dew stacked behind him. The resume was placed on one of the stacks of paper.
“You understand, because of the grocery worker strike, odds are this job will only be temporary?”
“I don’t mind,” Mathew said.
“Why? Let me rephrase that… Why do you want to work the night shift?”
“I have a winter before I need to do anything. I would like to stay busy.”
“Are you going to college after that?”
“But, you look so smart.”
Mathew looked Mr. Arthur in the eyes.
Mr. Arthur opened his mouth, then closed it and looked back down at the resume. He looked back up at Mathew again then down at the form for a second before pulling out a filing cabinet drawer and rummaging through it. Taking a new employee packet out, he quickly checked to make sure all the papers were in it before handing it across the desk to Mathew.
“In addition to all the other things I’ve gone over with you there is a mandatory drug test, before we can hire you and then random drug tests every few months. So be aware of that.”
“Take this,” Mr. Arthur said giving him a package with a urine sample cup. “Do me a favor and seal it tight afterwards, and wash the outside off with hot water. Sanitary, you know?”
Mathew nodded again.
Mr. Arthur cleared his throat with some force and stoop up extending his hand. Mathew stood up as well and they shook hands.
“Welcome to the team, think of us as a family.”
“Thank you. I shall go take care of this, and return it to you promptly.”
“Good, good… And ugh, your shift can start tonight at 2 AM. 2 to 10 AM.”
“I will be here.”
Mathew was in the bathroom stall, aiming the head of his dick into the urine sample cup, when he heard the voices of who he would later learn were Orlando and Clint.
“What the fuck! I don’t fucking say motherfucker that much. Fuck him!” Orlando yelled.
“I gotta admit man, you fucking say that kind of shit a lot,” Clint said.
“What? What the fuck do you mean?”
“I don’t know; you always say that.”
“What? What motherfucker do I say all the time?”
“Motherfucker, shit, fuck, bitches… Shit like that, you know.”
“Fuck you, fucking Judas, fucking Jesus killer. Selling out for money is what you are all about.”
“Why do you always have to swear?”
“My language is fucking poetry, yours is the language of dog shit and cock suckers.”
“Don’t make me snap you in half with my dick.”
“The fuck does that mean?”
Mathew could hear a stream of piss hitting one of the urinals. There was a chuckle.
“Motherfucker…” Orlando muttered.
“That fucking Chinese whore.”
“That FUCKING CHINESE WHOOORE!”
“What about her?”
“Oh man… She made my dick too hard again.”
“That yellow bitch rubs green jade stones all over my dick. Hard as a motherfucker.”
“You said motherfucker again.”
“Fuck you. Cunt! See, a white word.”
“Cunt is a white word?”
“All the shitty words are.”
“Green Jade? What the hell is that supposed to do?”
“Makes your dick hard, the fuck did I say!”
“So you can’t piss because you have a hard on?”
There was a groan and then a second stream of piss could be heard.
“Me love you long time,” Orlando said in a high pitched Asian accent followed by laughter.
They left without flushing, and without washing their hands.
Mathew started pissing into the cup…
After work Mathew drove home to an empty seven bedroom house in Bel Air. In Los Angeles, in order to qualify as a mansion in the city of Bel Air, a house needed to have at least ten bedrooms with ten bathrooms and a 6 car garage with a pool. His house, as it was his house now, in his name as of 10 AM that morning.
He parked the car in the garage with the 5 other cars, all in excellent to mint condition.
When he went in through the garage door to the house he made sure to take his shoes off in the laundry room.
He sat down to watch TV in the living room, taking his suit off and resting it on the chair next to the couch. The little robots came out in unison to clean his house. Sweeping, mopping, and making the general rounds.
He went to call for food, but heard the message of 186 messages. He hung up, waited a second, then picked it back up and called the family lawyer. He instructed him to go through all the messages and have them taken care of.
He set his cell phone alarm for 12:00 Midnight, and then placed it on the counter foot rest.
He laid down on his side resting his head on one of the couch pillows.
“Alright fellow slaves, it’s 2:01 AM, and we are no longer selling booze, so in the words of our illustrious former leader, ‘the customer, can go fuck himself.’ End quote,” Orlando said on the loud speaker.
Though the concept of distributive justice was never previously explained to them, they understood it on an instinctual level. Because there was only enough money to pay seven night stockers to do the work of twelve night stockers, it only made sense that everyone got one night out of the week to play DJ.
Orlando suffered from a unique form of chronic happiness combined with random hatreds and superstitions, one of them being the belief that if he ate spicy peppers every hour on the hour, he would increase his sexual drive. He had to steal two 8 ounce cans a day from Aisle 6 in order to maintain his regimen.
Music was now switched from the married pregnant women age 25 and up station to James Brown’s Sex Machine (1976).
Mathew stood in the loading dock, next to six other guys, two Mexicans, two African Americans, one being Orlando, the other being Marbles, one white guy named Clint, nothing more than a Meth addict, and a mentally handicapped man named Raymundo.
In front of them was the soon to be former night manager.
“…and I leave you with the great words of John F. Kennedy. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ Farewell.”
Orlando raised his hand. “The fuck does that mean?”
“That means I hate you, Orlando. I hope you die. Die on fire.”
“What the fuck?” Orlando yelled at him.
“Shut your mouth Orlando just shut it. Five fucking years I’ve had to listen to that gaping trench of mouth. I know it’s you that’s stealing the fucking Viagra from the pharmacy. We have two cameras in there, not one, but two! Because of your filthy mouth I called my wife a ‘cunt’ in bed once. You almost ruined my marriage. So fuck you Orlando you worthless piece of shit!”
And then the retiring Night Manager charged Orlando and punched him three sharp times before the rest of the night stockers could subdue him.
The General Manager had to be called at his home to come down from Malibu to the Beverly Adjacent Store #68 on Wilshire Blvd, which at 2:34 AM was only a 35 minute drive but was made exciting by all the drunk drivers on the Pacific Coast Highway.
By a stroke of irony Orlando had James Brown’s I Feel Good playing on the loud speakers when he arrived.
“And now that the grand dragon is out of here who gets to lead? Fucking Marbles?” Orlando asked him as he held a bag of frozen peas to the side of his face.
Everyone looked over at Marbles.
They called him Marbles because he read books, lots of books, all of them on the subject of romance. Since that kind of reading was obviously for faggots and pregnant women, or women intending to become pregnant, it didn’t make sense to them. Because Marbles, towering at 6’6, African American, 225 lbs. of almost pure muscle, 5.4% body fat, at the age of 56, was obviously not a pregnant woman. This was confirmed by the fact that he had a Puerto Rican girlfriend and a Korean girlfriend, who both attended the same church in Santa Monica.
“I don’t want to do it,” Marbles said.
The General Manager looked at Marbles, blinked once. “What?” he asked in a calm voice.
“I’m not going to lead these men,”
“Excuse me, lead? Did you say lead? It’s just a night shift stocking manager position. It’s not like you have to storm the enemy trench with machine guns blasting at you.”
“Still, it doesn’t suit me.
The General Manager looked at the rest of the stockers. Because of the chain of events set off by Orlando’s constant lawsuits, a policy of no firing and advancement based only on seniority, they had not trained anyone with the proper skills for the job. Orlando sat there with a growing smile on his face.
The General Manager looked at Orlando and smiled back.
“Well,” the GM said. “Because of seniority and our no discrimination policy that leaves only one possible choice.”
“Goddamn right it does,” Orlando said standing up and walking over to stand side by side with the General Manager. Orlando licked his lips ad chuckled evilly as he stared at what he thought were to soon be his subordinates.
“What are you doing?” the GM asked him.
“Let’s do this proper.”
“Alright you fucking savages, listen up!”
“Orlando!” the GM yelled at him.
“Don’t fuck up my groove man,” Orlando whispered at him.
“Sit down! I wasn’t talking about you.”
“Sit the fuck down! I wasn’t talking about you,”
“I’ve been here longer than anyone else.”
“No, you haven’t.”
“Motherfucker, I think I know how to count.”
“Raymundo has been here for six years. You’ve only been here for five.”
“So if you know how to count then you realize he’s been here a year longer than you have.”
“Then because he has seniority, and because we also have a no discrimination policy, then the choice is up to him whether or not he wants the job.”
“The Great White Retard? Raymundo? No, he’s seriously fucking retarded. I’m truthing it here, fat man.”
“Now I already told you about the fucking fat jokes, Oklahoma, New Orleans, or whatever the fuck you call yourself.”
“It’s Orlando, and no way is Raymundo getting the job. Seriously he is fucking retarded. Like medically man,” Orlando said.
The General Manager looked over at Raymundo, who was intently focused on separating a bag of skittles on the table as he organized them by their specific colors. “You want the job of Night Manager for the Stocking Department Raymundo?”
“Raymundo says Yes”, Raymundo said without hesitation or looking up.
“Fucking sold,” the General Manager said to the rest of them.
“No, fuck that,” said Orlando. “We should vote.”
“Thank God this isn’t a democracy.”
“Fuck yes it is. Alright, who’s in favor of me or the fucking retard for Night Manager?” Orlando yelled at the Stockers.
“This isn’t a democracy!” the General Manager yelled at him.
“How many for Raymundo? Raise your hands.”
Everyone but Clint and Mathew raised their hands. Even the Mexicans, who up to this moment Orlando had not realized spoke English, voted for Raymundo.
“No, you two don’t fucking count. You aren’t even legal. Put your hands down,” he yelled at them, but they kept them up anyway.
“Goddamnit, well how many for me for Night Manager?”
Clint raised his hand. Mathew abstained.
“What the fuck? Only one?”
The General Manager started laughing. Orlando stormed out of the stock room.
“Well, what do you think? Is that democracy in action or what?” the GM asked as he turned to Mathew with a smile.
“Do you think Buddha, on his death bed, before being reincarnated asks the question ‘Why the fuck does this keep happening to me?’”
To everyone else the GM responded with, “Yep, and that’s Mathew, the new guy… Fucking creepy.”
After the meeting they all went to their assigned aisles, except for Raymundo who went into the office with the GM to go over details. Mathew was assigned to train with Marbles in the back store room loading the pallets onto carts and dropping them off at each aisle for the workers to unwrap and stock the products on the shelf.
Marbles worked hard and he worked fast. Mathew became a machine trying to keep up with him. Lift, twist, stack, lift, twist, stack, lift, twist, stack, he would do it about 50 times loading a pallet before carting it down to an aisle.
The lunch break was at 6 AM. Mathew hadn’t brought anything so he picked up a deli sandwich wrapped in plastic inside a plastic container. He ate half of it.
No one really talked in the break room while they all ate. Orlando sat in the corner with Clint fuming at the rest of the workers. Occasionally the Mexicans would say something in Spanish to each other but would quite down when Orlando snapped his head in their general direction. Marbles read one of his Romance books.
At 6:30 AM they went back to work. Because the earlier meeting had gone over so late they had to work extra hard to get everything stocked and ready by 10 AM.
When Mathew stopped and realized how many tons of cargo they had moved he was amazed. Each pallet held 600 pounds roughly, and he had stacked 80 pallets. 48000 pounds equaling 24 tons. His body was sweating, and his muscles were stiff. He noticed his hands were shaking.
“You should get some gloves and a back support,” Marbles said to him. “And here,” he took out a travel sized container of Advil and opened it shaking out four pills. He took one and then gave the other three to Mathew.
“These aren’t Advil’s. These are Norco’s. It’s like generic Vicodin. Take one now, and then one every 8 hours. “It will help with the pain.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need these.”
“You will. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Mathew.”
Mathew held on to the three pills, which was fortunate for him because he could barely get out of his car when he got home. He made it into the kitchen and downed a pill dry while getting a bottle of water from the fridge.
Laying down on the leather couch he quickly dozed off before awaking around 4 PM twitching in pain. He took another pill, waited a minute, then said “Fuck it,” and took the third and last one. He sat there watching TV for 30 minutes before going to take a one hour shower and bath in one of the first floor bathrooms. After that he ate a bowl of cereal and then went back to sleep, this time upstairs in his own bed room.
He set his alarm clock for 1 AM and hit the snooze 3 times when it went off.
Made it to work with 2 minutes to spare, but he hadn’t shaved. No one noticed.
The next shift was even harder because it was almost exactly the same amount of work, but he started it with his body in twitching agony.
Now that Raymundo was the Night Manager for the stocking department he spent 45 minutes working an aisle himself, and then 15 minutes walking down each one with a clip board, making sure they were all doing their work. The only one who wasn’t, naturally, was Orlando, whose favorite pastime was to try chatting up the hookers that came in from time to time to do their late night shopping.
Aside from alcoholics and college students there were few other patrons at that hour.
Orlando paid no attention to Raymundo when he came up to him and the hooker he was talking to.
“Like a fucking red wood baby!”
“Oh yea, like I really need another hard dick after tonight.”
“Come on, what are you saying? You don’t want to because it’s going to hurt?”
“Nothing gets by you, does it, Orlando?” Raymundo said.
Orlando turned around.
“What?” Orlando said to him with his mouth open slightly and his eyes scrunching up a bit as he analyzed Raymundo.
“Raymundo said, ‘Nothing get’s by you, does it Orlando?’” Raymundo said.
“I heard what you said, I just can’t believe it. Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?”
“Raymundo is the new Night Manager,” Raymundo said.
“Stop that shit. Talk like a human being.”
“Raymundo is a human being,” Raymundo said.
“Fuck no, you’re some kind of brain damaged fucking retard. Fucking talking about yourself like that.”
“Raymundo is the new Night Manager,” Raymundo said.
“Fucking job could be done by a monkey,” Orlando.
“Raymundo says no. Raymundo says they didn’t give you the job.”
“You calling me a fucking monkey?”
Raymundo smiled a full mouthful of braces at Orlando.
“MOTHERFUCKER!” Orlando yelled.
The prostitute quietly walked away from the scene.
Marbles and Mathew had been listening to the whole conversation while in the aisle next to them. Marbles gestured for them to check it out. By the time they made it around, they saw Orlando hopping up and down yelling about bringing in his attorneys.
“I don’t give a fuck if you are retarded. You represent this store. I’ll fucking own you by the end of the week!”
Orlando was pointing both fingers and using wild arm gestures. Raymundo just stood there with the clip board.
Marbles walked up to Orlando. “Get more excited,” he said to him.
“Fuck that, I’m cool. It’s this retard that’s fucking being a dick.”
“Just go for your break.”
“I just had one,”
“Then have another,” not a suggestion.
Orlando huffed, and then walked away kicking an empty cardboard box but turned back one last time.
“It’s disgusting that they should be putting braces on retards. How long do they live anyway? 25 if that?” Orlando yelled at them.
“Raymundo is 32,” said Raymundo.
“Fuck you!” Orlando said and then left.
Raymundo stood there with his clip board, still smiling. Marbles looked at him. Mathew looked at Marbles.
“You all good, Raymundo?” Marbles asked.
“Raymundo yes,” said Raymundo and then he walked back to his aisle.
“Why don’t they just fire Orlando?” Mathew asked Marbles when they were back in the loading dock.
“They can’t. Not unless Orlando physically attacks someone.”
“He got called a bad word by a higher-up once. Since then he has been a legal battle with the company and they can’t fire him until it’s resolved. Policy they say.”
“Yea, it is.”
What no one knew about Raymundo was that in fact he did mean to call Orlando a monkey. For five long years Orlando had mentally abused and tormented Raymundo about being, quite simply, Raymundo. The fact was that Raymundo started at the same level of pay as Orlando, and had earned multiple five to twenty five cent raises over the past five years, and that Orlando had only received the standard five cent mandatory raise every six months, so that even before the Night Manager position Raymundo was making $1.25 more an hour.
This only fueled the abuse that Raymundo received from Orlando.
His solace was to seclude himself in the bathroom and begin writing poetry, a subject he had taken once at the local community center for six weeks the previous summer.
He sat down in the stall, locked the door and began to look through his portable dictionary to spell the words “lick o rice” and “tick o lish”. The process took on average ten minutes per word.
But now he was the Night Manager for the stocking department and things were going to change.
“Mr. Choc-o-late,” Raymundo whispered as he began to write things down.
Mathew ate lunch outside, feet dangling over the edge of one of the loading docks. This time it was a roast beef sandwich. The two Mexican guys came out with Marbles. One of the Mexicans took out a small bag of weed and Marbles got a pipe out of his car to pack it in.
As they smoked Mathew out, Marbles asked him. “You going to vote man?”
“I thought this wasn’t a democracy,” Mathew said.
“Not for Orlando, but for Obama.”
Mathew thought about it. “I haven’t been paying attention.”
“Well it’s next week. You registered?”
Marbles looked over at one of the Mexicans and said. “This is some good weed gentleman. Gracias my Amigos.”
The Mexicans nodded and then one of them asked Marbles a question in Spanish. Marbles listened and nodded his head. He looked back at Mathew.
“Carlos said you look sad, and he wants to know why.”
“I… I just am.”
“Cheer up man. Things are going to change for the better soon enough.”
They all started getting up but Mathew lagged behind a bit when he saw a white minivan spastically driving through the parking lot. It pulled into a parking space, cutting into the one next to it by two feet. It honked once and then the lights turned off. Mathew assumed a drunk but blinked a few times when he saw a portly young teenager with what looked like either blood or spaghetti stains on his white t-shirt stumble out panting. The child opened one of the side doors and began pulling black trash bags out. He struggled a bit but then got them all out and placed them in a shopping cart.
Too light for chopped up body parts he thought as he continued watching the teenager waddle the cart across the parking lot while trying to keep the top bags from falling off. At one point a fluid leaked out of one of the bags onto the kid’s shirt and he yelled “Goddamnit, Momma!” It wasn’t blood that leaked out. But something was wrong.
Mathew smiled as he watched.
Early that day, in the quiet city of West Los Angeles, 16 year old Harold Mums was trying to get a wheel barrel in through the back patio door of his single mother’s house.
“What are you doing with that wheel barrel Harold?” she asked him.
“Don’t be taking that through the living room! Harold! HAROLD!”
“Shut up, Momma!”
“Don’t be telling me to shut up! I’m your Momma!”
“I know you’re my Momma, Momma. Just leave me be.”
Harold scraped the wheel barrel around the corner going down the hallway towards his room, leaving a trail of dirt behind him.
“What the hell are you doing?” his baby sister asked when she saw him go by her doorway.
Harold banged the wheel barrel through his bedroom door knocking chunks of wood out of both sides of the door frame. His sister came out of her room and stood there watching him as he began throwing Gatorade bottles into the metal wheel barrow. Sweat already dripping down his face as he rushed to fill it up.
“Why are you getting rid of those?”
“Gatorade goes bad?” she picked one up.
“Filled with piss.”
“Gross!” she dropped it on the ground.
“Amanda! Goddmanit, I’m trying to clean this shit up. I don’t have time for these questions.”
“Mommy! Harold is saving his pee.”
“I’m NOT saving my piss!”
His mother ran down the hallway.
“Harold! Why are you saving your pee?”
“I’m not saving my piss!”
“Then why do you have all these bottles in here. There must be a hundred!”
“I hope so.”
“Why would you hope for that?”
“I need the money for COD 5,”
“A fish?” she asked.
“No Mommy, it’s one of his stupid video games he plays online with the Chinese kids.”
He stopped mid throw and gestured at his sister with a bottle of yellow piss. “Hey Amanda! Are you thirsty?”
“Harold stop it,” his mother yelled.
He finished filling up the first batch and wheeled it past them scrapping back down the hallway.
When he got to the back yard he began pouring them out one at a time into the grass.
“Oh Jesus Harold! Not so close to the house. Why are you doing this?”
“I told you Momma, I need the money. I can get ten cents a bottle at the grocery store.”
“Harold, I don’t think you can recycle them after you’ve peed in them. That’s unsanitary.”
“I don’t care! It’s a machine, it will never know the difference.”
“And why would you pee in them before this if you were going to recycle them?”
“I didn’t know I could recycle them.”
“But why would you pee in them at all? Your room is right next to the bathroom.”
“Because I don’t like getting out of bed at night! Ok? Are you happy?”
“Harold you can’t do this!”
“Stop yelling at me. Just let me be!”
Harold did not empty all of them, though. He would later be paid $60 for 60 bottles of clean non drug contaminated piss. Orlando bought the urine then sold it to his weed customers to help them pass their drug tests. He was a man of vision.
It was the same routine for the following three shifts. But the constant weed breaks made the grueling labor tolerable. The first weekend Mathew had off he spent it sleeping, almost the entire time.
Because of the way the shifts worked, the Monday shift was actually the Tuesday 2 AM shift. When Mathew pulled into the parking lot, he saw Orlando sneaking around slapping Obama bumper stickers on the back of everyone’s car. At first Orlando bolted but then stopped when he saw it was Mathew driving the car. His mouth opened as he looked at the make and model of the car.
“What the fuck are you doing driving a Lexus?” Orlando yelled at him.
“It’s my car.”
“What the fuck are you doing with a Lexus? You’re like what? 18? 19?”
“What the- How come you are working here then?”
“It’s a good distraction.”
“From what? Being rich?”
“Something like that.”
“Say… You wouldn’t want to buy some DVD’s by any chance? I got good deals.”
“That’s alright man.”
“Top quality, I even got porn.”
Orlando eyed the bumper of his Lexus.
“No,” Mathew said and then went inside.
For the rest of the night Orlando ran around the store making sure to tell all customers and employees that they needed to vote for Obama, otherwise there would be a race war. And yet secretly he believed that if Obama was to get elected that he would soon be assassinated and that it would be the true cause of the coming race war. He was very excited about it. He needed a new TV and nothing spells FREE like RIOT.
When Mathew finished his shift and came out he noticed Obama stickers both on the front and rear of his car. He sighed but was too tired to take them off.
He slept for half the day and woke up around 1 PM. He drove to a local middle school to vote. He tried not to think about Orlando as he voted for Obama. Yet again he went home and slept till roughly thirty minutes before his next shift.
When he awoke he did not turn the news on to find out who had won. But it didn’t take long to find out that Obama had won because of all the cars honking in celebration as he drove to the store.
The employees were as happy as the city of Los Angeles. Every one of them was already drunk. Even Raymundo was drinking on the job. He was on his third Smirnoff Ice. It really did taste like iced candy.
“Nothing sloppier than a drunk retard!” Orlando yelled in Raymundo’s direction.
Raymundo seemed not to notice but soon left the break room.
Marbles came up to Mathew and gave him a big hug. Mathew laughed for the first time in a week. Carlos’ wife had even shown up and they were dancing in the aisles.
But Mathew grew cold very quickly, so quietly he went out to the back of the loading dock. Marbles followed him out about five minutes later.
“I know it’s weird. It’s amazing!”
Mathew nodded his head.
“What’s wrong with you man?” Marbles asked.
“I don’t feel anything,” he said.
Marbles watched Mathews face, and then dug in his pocket pulling out a little jam jar made of glass that had been cleaned out. Inside were little shiny clinking packages wrapped in aluminum foil.
He took one out and gave it to Mathew.
“What’s this? More pain killer?”
“No Mathew, this, is ACID, dropped on a sweet tart.”
“Yea, take it. Suck on it slowly; don’t chew it up.”
“I don’t know about this, man,”
“I do. I’ve seen you working here for a week now, and I know the only reason why you are doing it is for pain. A rich kid like you, and don’t say you aren’t, would only take this job to feel the pain of manual labor. I’m guessing it’s because something real bad happened to you and that’s all you feel now.”
“Then why would I take this?”
“Because this is the one night, in American history, that you need feel everything at once. You need to experience this. You can’t be a turtle.”
Mathew held it in his hand for a second before unwrapping it. Then he quickly did and put it in his mouth.
“Tastes just like a sweet tart.”
“It is a sweet tart.”
“What’s it going to do to me?”
“Make your world beautiful. Come on.”
They went back inside, Mathew following, making sure not to chew.
He didn’t feel anything at first. About thirty minutes later he noticed he was dancing while loading crates of soda. Suddenly he exploded in tears and ran out of the back of loading dock and around to the front of the store to the parking lot to sit in his car.
The rain started coming down in fat drops. Mathew locked the door. He sat there shaking for a bit before turning the heater on. But the lights inside of the car made him feel like he was inside of space ship.
“Oh whatever the fuck you are, if there is something out there, and if is alive, or if you know that I’m alive… I’m asking you to make sense of this.”
He turned the heat off and opened the glove box pulling a gun out, a revolver.
“Mathew,” he said out loud to himself, in the car, as the sky began to fall with water. “Make a choice not to kill yourself, make a promise to yourself to get through this night.”
He unloaded the gun and played with the bullets in his hand. They felt like magic stones. He put them in his jeans pocket and got out of the car running back into the store the same way he came.
“I want another,” he said to Marbles when he got back inside.
“I’m on three myself,” he said to Mathew as he smiled and gave him another.
Mathew chewed the second one down fast. Tears started flowing down his face again but he kept working.
“How do you feel man?” Marbles asked a bit later.
“For seven days I haven’t felt anything but a cold want that grows in my belly to scream until I spit blood. But I’m feeling something now. What it is, I don’t know.”
Marbles laughed. “That’s the spirit.
The next three and a half hours was an explosion of the senses and emotions. Mathew realized that packaged food was quite possibly one of the most amazing things on the planet, especially in the candy aisle.
At one point Mathew wondered outside again, but this time he looked up at the stars, and saw Heaven the way it was meant to be seen. Orlando came outside and saw him standing there looking up into the sky. He looked up where Mathew was looking but didn’t see anything but stars. Taking a joint out he lit it and then gestured to Mathew to take it. Orlando never shared his weed. That’s how good of a mood he was in.
“Thanks,” Mathew said.
“You want some more of that good shit and I will hook you up anytime. Good prices too.”
“Tastes like mustard,” Matthew said.
“No man, this shit tastes like a seed or something. It’s good shit man. I let this little white girl with big titties suck my dick. I give her the privilege and she pays me in weed. White bitches!” Orlando laughed.
Mathew looked over at Orlando. “Mustard is a seed, you stupid fuck.”
Orlando actually believed he was so sexy, and that his children would eventually have children that had children that would invent a time machine to go back in time to the very beginning of time and teach early savage women the art of doggie style and possibly 69, though it troubled him that there was not proper hygiene back then, nor toilet paper. He spent five minutes explaining this to Mathew, and Mathew just kept looking at the stars.
“You feeling good now? This is the shit isn’t it?”
“I don’t know what to feel, but I’m feeling everything. I buried both my parents last week. Since then I’ve got baked, got drunk, and I have no idea what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. I am every fucking molecule in all the hearts of the universe. I’m not God, but Goddamnit I feel close.”
Orlando thought about it for twenty two seconds before saying, “I have an eight inch penis, when it’s flaccid, and when it gets hard the motherfucker’s a red wood.”
“…and I love your fucking music man. See you back inside.”
“Yea, you too man…”
Orlando watched as the kid walked away. He thought what Mathew had said for approximately eight seconds. “You love my fucking music? What, are you a fucking racist?”
At lunch he bought six different fruits and three different vegetables that he had never eaten before. He sampled each one slowly, first for color, then for smell, next texture, and finally taste. It was the closest thing he ever had to a religious experience.
Marbles sat next to him in the break room watching Mathew eat. He enjoyed the awe that came from the kid with each bite.
“What do you want to try next Mathew?”
“What’s it like to shower when you’re on ACID?”
“It is fucking amazing,” Marbles said.
“What about fucking? What’s that like on ACID?”
“Some people can’t do it. Some people can. Shit, some people rock when they are on it.”
They were laughing about it when the loud speaker came on.
“Raymundo,” said Raymundo into the loud speaker.
Everyone looked up from what they were doing.
“Raymundo, will now read his poetry.”
“What?” Mathew said laughing.
Surely it was a hallucination.
“Raymundo shall dedicate this poem to Mr. Choc-o-late,”
“Oh shit…” Marbles said getting up. “We need to stop this.”
“Prison Poem by Raymundo.”
They could already hear Orlando screaming “Who the fuck is Mr. Chocolate? Am I Mr. Chocolate? Is that who the fuck he’s talking about?”
As Marbles and Mathew ran through the store aisles so did Orlando. Over the loud speaker Raymundo read the following…
My name is O-Land-O.
I wish I wasn’t the color of thick molasses.
I wish I didn’t have to pay women to sleep with me.
They found Raymundo barricaded in the Managers office, using cans of diet Mountain Dew to brace the door shut. Orlando was on the outside kicking at it.
Hello there hun.
Wanna have a little fun?
Do you like fish?
Cause I smell fish.
Are you ticklish?
Would you like to lick my big black liquorish?
“Motherfucker I’ve never been to Prison! Fucking County maybe!” He grabbed a fire extinguisher out of its holder and began beating the door with it. “Not fucking Jail, there’s a difference!”
Carlos was laughing so hard he had started throwing up into one of the recycling machine receptor openings.
I’ll steal your government cheese.
And sell it for fleas!
Racists are made, not born, and Orlando had done an excellent job with Raymundo.
“Kill you!” Orlando roared between strikes. Marbles ran at him from behind and grabbed the fire extinguisher away from him. Orlando swung a fist back at him.
“Kill all you motherfuckers!”
Marbles backed up and got ready for a fight. But then the door opened to the office and there stood Raymundo with his clip board wearing a red bike helmet.
“Raymundo’s Ode to Mr. Chocolate,” he said to them all.
Orlando shook his head in disbelief.
Growing angrier with each word he yelled. “What are you wearing that stupid red helmet for your retarded motherfucker!”
“Raymundo’s bicycle,” replied Raymundo.
Orlando picked up a jar of tomato sauce from one of the aisles and threw it at Raymundo exploding it on the helmet.
And then without notice Raymundo charged Orlando smashing his red helmeted head right into Orlando’s face, blood and pasta sauce exploding everywhere. Orlando grabbed his nose as he fell back and Raymundo leaped on him. Orlando began hitting him in the side of the face so Raymundo bit him. Orlando pulled his arm back screaming but Raymundo wouldn’t let go.
“AIDS!” Orlando screamed in terror.
Raymundo let go and spit blood at Orlando and then bit again.
In addition to being a ‘biter’ and a ‘spitter’, Raymundo was also a ‘pisser’ and more importantly a ‘shitter’.
Five long years of shit he had taken, and now he let go as he wrestled with Orlando about the floor in the filth. The whole time Orlando screaming “AIDS!” as he struggled to get away. With one lucky kick to the balls Raymundo rolled back holding his crotch.
He began to cry, “Candy Sack! Candy Sack!” and the tears flowed.
Orlando was stumbling about covered in blood, spit, urine and feces.
“Rapist! He tried to fucking rape me! Rape!”
Marbles, Mathew, Carlos (who was now throwing up in disgust) stood well back. Orlando got to his feet, shaking and then ran from the store smashing past a few display cases on the way out.
“Wow…” Mathew said.
“Yea,” Marbles said.
“Fucking wow!” Mathew yelled laughing.
The rest of the night was filled with police report after police report. Though the entire staff had been intoxicated it was not technically a crime since no one had been operating a vehicle.
The tapes had been reviewed and Orlando was charged with assault and battery against a mentally handicapped person. Orlando would not be returning to the store as an employee due to the fact that he was currently wanted for questioning and had fled the scene.
The ACID wore off around lunch time and Mathew slept as well as he ever had. When he showed up for work the next day Marbles ran up to him with a paper in his hand.
“What is it?”
“I want to read this to you. It’s Maya Angelou. You know who that is right?”
“This is a quote from a TV interview about Obama winning,” Marbles cleared his throat before he began. “I’m so proud and filled, I can hardly talk without weeping. I’m so filled with pride for my country. We are growing up. My God, I’m so grateful…. I mean, look at our souls, look at our hearts. We have elected a black man to talk for us, to speak for us. We, blacks, whites, Asians, Spanish-speaking, Native Americans, we have done it. Fat, thin, pretty, plain, gay, straight, we have done it. My Lord, I am an American, baby!”
Marbles folded it up and put it in his pocket. He was smiling and sniffling a little.
“Tears of joy,” he said to Mathew.
Mathew felt it, and it felt good.
Though the assistant Day Manager was brought in to take over the Night Managers position until further notice, Raymundo was awarded employee of the year, even though there was another two months to go, by the General Manager and then the Regional Manager above him. Though another law suit was being filed against Ralph’s, the joy of never having to deal with Orlando again was emailed all the way to the president of the company, who took a personal day to spend with his family on Catalina Island.
Raymundo’s award was announced before the end of the shift, followed by cheers from his fellow co-workers.
Marbles looked over at Mathew as they were walking out to the parking lot at the end of the shift. “I’m going to miss you man,” Marbles said to him.
“What?” Mathew asked.
“You aren’t coming back tomorrow are you?”
Mathew thought about it.
“No,” he smiled oddly. “How did you know?”
“You look happy. I’ve never really seen you happy before.”
“Do you know what you are going to do?”
“Not a clue.”
“That’s the spirit.”
Marbles took out the piece of paper that quoted Maya Angelou on and wrote down his cell phone number on it. They shook hands and Mathew got in his dead parent’s Lexus, and drove away. He honked at Raymundo and waved as he pulled out of the parking lot. Raymundo waved back at him as he put his bicycle helmet on and unlocked his bike.
Raymundo now had a license plate on the back of his red bike. It read one word: