The Video Shack

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After Eve Ate the Apple She Saw that She was Naked

Chapter 2: After Eve Ate the Apple She Saw that She was Naked

Andy jumped when a door opened behind him. Until that moment, Andy believed the two of them were alone in the store. Not only were they not alone in the Video Shack, someone else had listened to their conversation about the previous night.

Andy had forgotten about the small room connected to the back of the Video Shack. The room was protected by two, swinging saloon doors. A hand-painted sign commanded: No Admittance Under 21.

The door still swayed on its hinges when Andy turned on his heels. A man in a shirt with a unformed collar and three buttons down the neckline stood for the briefest instance caught in the glaring shock of Andy’s eyes. He held a fragment of paper in his hand.

The stranger shuffled quickly to the counter to present the torn bit of paper to Dan. There was a number written on it in a lazy scrawl. There was something about the man’s frame standing before the counter and the crook of his neck as he bent to focus his full attention on the chipped, formica counter as though he were trying to make his body as small as possible.

Andy had only been in the backroom one time. He knew there were large, black photo albums that housed the cardboard covers of all the pornographic movies the Video Shack rented. Each title was assigned a number. The customers usually scratched the numbers on a sliver of paper provided in a small stack on the table. The number corresponded to the brown, plastic slip cases Dan kept concealed under the counter. Dan matched the numbers and provided the proper video to the interested party.

The stranger’s hand trembled as he waited for Dan to return with the appropriate box from the shelves below. The man seemed to continue to shrivel under Andy’s unbending gaze. Andy didn’t care about who rented those kinds of movies and who didn’t. It was the story that he and Dan were sharing that spooked him. He didn’t like that someone might have overheard their conversation. They must have sounded like lunatics, Andy figured.

Only the sound of plastic scraping other plastic rose from under the counter. The video cases had a grainy texture that when rubbed together caused a jarring sound. The grinding of the pockmarked cassette boxes crawled under Andy’s skin.

Dan popped up from behind the counter with three VHS cases in his hands.

The man was already armed with a twenty-dollar-bill when the selection arrived on the counter. He slid the money across the speckled laminate, hoping to rid himself of the transaction as efficiently as possible, and escape the watch gaze of minors.

Dan considered the money dumbly for a moment. The way his eyes roved over the greenback one might think the poor boy had just arrived on earth from a distant planet.

Dan explained, in the most sober tone he could find, that he was terribly sorry but the cash drawer refused to open. Since he arrived at the store an hour ago, he continued, he had been struggling with the drawer. He showed the man his massive ring of gold keys.

A flush climbed the man’s neck and colored his cheeks. He didn’t move for a minute as if the fabric of the universe was tethered to this simple transaction.

“I have a credit card reader?” Dan explained.

The man let loose a sound that had a primordial intonation that tied the collective languages of all human history to a single notion.

Dan had never seen anyone pay for a movie from the back room with a credit card. This was the kind of town where husbands went to work in the morning and returned home at night to a home cooked dinner on the table. A town where men mowed the lawn on the weekend with beer jammed in their back pocket while their wives balanced the checkbook at the kitchen table.

The man stared at the twenty dollar bill for several seconds on the counter but never said a word. He considered the clamshell case tucked under his arm. After a few moments, he fled the store. The bell above the door jangled. The hot, July breeze fluttered the money along the cheap countertop.

“That guy just left twenty bucks on the counter, Dan.”

“What’s he gonna do?”

“He just gave you twenty bucks for one movie. He could have just left the movie.”

“Sure, Andy. But he came all the way down here. Probably on his way to work or something. He committed to it.”

“The movies are ninety-nine cents. That’s it. Ninety-nine cents. He gives you twenty bucks.”

“Why do you think I have the keys out here?”

“What do you mean, why do you have the keys? You were messing around with those when I came in the door. The drawer is broken. You’re money stuck in the drawer?”

“That’s why I got the keys out, right. I got’em out so I can mess around with the lock.”

“What are you telling me, Dan? What are you trying to say?”

“I’ve got a bunch of keys. None of them seem to fit in the lock.”

“Are you saying there is nothing wrong with the drawer?”

“Nobody is going to pay for porn with a credit card, Andy. I don’t care who you are. That’s not something people feel comfortable doing.”

“The cash register is fine then?”

“A guy comes in the second after we open wearing a golf shirt and a sports jacket. Come on, Andy, the guy’s got a wife. He’s got a family. What does he do, he makes a b-line for the back room.”

“You’re saying this is some kind of scam.”

“A family man like that renting porn at nine o’clock in the morning he’s not going to put up an argument when I show him all my keys and the cash register doesn't open. The guy wants to get out of the store as fast as possible.

“I don’t know, Dan.”

The cash register rang open. The spring release clattered. Dan put the twenty dollar bill in the plastic slot. Then counted out nineteen dollars. He put the change in his pocket.

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