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The Remainders

By Matthew Arnold Stern All Rights Reserved ©

Drama

Chapter Six: Reseda

The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful. We got a new shipment of Easter chocolates because Easter ended. For the start of baseball season, we got a shipment of wiffle balls and oversized plastic bats for the toy aisle, baseball night lights where the red paint wasn’t exactly painted on the stitches, and blue caps that were supposed to look like Dodger caps, except the L and A were screen printed side-by-side. I stocked those next to the real Angels caps with the real Angels logo because nobody around here likes the Angels.

I also had shopping cart duty. I went out in the parking lot to gather our carts and made sure I didn’t accidentally get the carts from the supermarket next door. The worst part was when someone stuck a cart between two parked cars. I had to be careful not to scratch the cars as I pulled out the cart, even if the car had faded paint, half the rear panel scraped off, a missing front bumper, and bungie cords to keep the trunk closed. Those were the people who complained the loudest if they got a new scratch on their precious ride. I then had to insert the carts, one into the other, into a long line and push them to the front of the store. And I had to make sure I didn’t go too slowly and hold up waiting cars. Or have the carts veer into the back of a parked car because a cart had a stuck wheel. It was hard, annoying work, and I was glad to step back into the cool, air-conditioned store.

“Do I really have to piss in a cup?”

I turned to my side. Sitting on the bench just inside the front entrance was this young woman. I looked at her. She seemed annoyed.

“I said, do I really have to piss in a cup?”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Oh.” She looked away for a moment. She then looked at me again. If she were embarrassed, she didn’t show it. “I mean, do you have to take a drug test to get this job?”

She pushed her brownish blond hair back over her shoulder. She wore a short blue dress. It seemed a little baggy, drooping at her shoulders with folds of fabric hanging on her chest and sides. It seemed a size or two too big for her. She had nice legs, though. I’m not supposed to pay too much attention to how women looked when I’m working, but she had these deep-set pale blue eyes.

I had to ignore them and answer her. “No. At least I didn’t have to take a drug test.”

And that was a big relief to me when I applied. I didn’t see the “This is a drug-free workplace” sign until after I turned in my application. When I saw it, I was sure I was fucked. I hadn’t taken drugs since I got to Reseda, but I hadn’t been here long enough for the drugs I already took to get out of my system. My friends used special mouthwashes and drinks so they could turn out clean on their drug tests, but those were $45. I heard apple cider vinegar worked too, but I didn’t have the money for that either. Fortunately, Ngoc hired me anyway. I didn’t have to piss in a cup.

Ngoc was heading towards this woman. I knew it was time for me to get back to work.

“I gotta go,” I told her. “Good luck.”

She nodded but didn’t smile.

I headed towards the toy aisle. It was a mess. A bunch of kids must have run wild there while I got the carts. I glanced back to the front of the store. The woman stood up and shook Ngoc’s hand. The dress was too big on her. It slid down as she stood up, hiding the shape of her body. She did have nice legs, though.

I went back to picking up the toys.


"Excuse me, Dylan?”

I stood up and turned to Mrs. Cimino.

“Do you know where I can find facial tissue?”

“It’s on aisle three. We just moved it.” I said, “I’ll show you.”

I walked to the aisle with Mrs. Cimino following right behind me. When we got to the shelf with the neatly stacked no-name facial tissue, I picked up a light blue box and handed it to her. It wasn’t just because I wanted to be a gentleman. I didn’t want to spend another ten minutes redoing the display.

“Thank you, Dylan.”

“You’re welcome, ma’am.”

She smiled. “I thought about our talk the other day, Dylan, and I’d like to give you something. Something I feel you need.”

She tucked the box of facial tissues under her arm and reached into her purse.

“This saved my life.” She pulled out a paperback book and placed it in my hands. “Have you read this?”

I glanced at the cover.

“No. I haven’t.”

“You should.” She smiled.

I stared at the cover again. Face Time with Jesus by Dr. Steven Dimity, with my stepdad with his perfect hair and self-satisfied smile staring back at me.

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