Here are my thoughts about and then the actual draft of a story I'm working on.
So check it out. I had this horrible experience back in 1996 when I was working at a Chevron station holding my freshly minted bachelors in English. It was a low point in my life. A wife, two kids and a part-time, minimum wage job in a foreign country. I was stressed.
I have carried this story with me since then. I told my father about it, but that's really about it. It was this confused, racist exchange that left me in an eternal introspective loop.
In Canada, African-Americans don't catch the racial heat. It is the East Indians that do. But because I am not your typical looking black man, the "old guard" miscategorize me all the time. They don't know what to do with me. At a distance I can look like a pissed-off Asian if the light hits me right.
So I was catching East Indian racial heat at this Chevron station. Actually, the description of the guy in the story is generous. The guy I was dealing with was cadaverous. His hands were yellow from nicotine smoke and his eyes were shotblood. I mean like blown vessels.
The police did arrive. What I learned from it all, is that someone can say whatever they want to to another human being and they can get away with it. What this old guy said to me was pure, vitriolic hatred. In fact, in the draft below, I steer away from most of it.
But here is the rub: After I wrote this thing out, and catharcized what I thought would have been a dark experience in my life the result of it was this: I was in a HORRIBLE mood the next day. It was as if I had lived out the existence of the clerk in the story I had written, and I was full of anger.
Hence the title of the blog.
This is the 7th draft in a goal of 10 short stories by mid-December. 7 drafts means I am behind the 8-ball. But I have ideas, so its gonna happen.
"That'll be five dollars and two cents sir." The clerk said.
"Here is five." The well-dressed, white, fifty-something, balding, pudgy man said, flicking a bill into the gutter below the plexiglass shield.
The clerk looked down at the bill.
"Well?" The older man asked.
The clerk had been awkwardly wondering if the older man was going to produce the two cents, or a quarter or something else to break. There had been an issue with the penny dish that used to be by the counter, so it was no longer, but that is a different story.
"Uh, I was figuring out the two cents, sir." The clerk stammered.
The clerk had literally been doing just that. The clerk was very precise with his register, and had prided himself on having perfect cash coutout numbers at the end of shift. To miss-key the $5.02 and only add five dollars to the register would make a little bit of a forgiveable deficit, but his numbers would be out. He'd had clean numbers for three weeks now. The clerk had been very, very precise and careful with the money. It was the only thing that he really had power over while working, the cash that he was in charge of. The clerk was bored with the job, and this was his one thing that he did that kept his brain occupied. His manager had even complimented andencouraged him on his stellar register work.
The clerk had to process the thought. He didn't have two pennies in his pocket, and he knew there weren't any pennies floating around in the back office.
The two pennies didn't matter, but they did.
All of these thoughts whipped through the clerk's head in a few seconds, but it was too long for the patience of the customer, who had steadily become irate.
"You. You sonofabitch. You people come to this country and you demand everything. Fuck you. I will not pay your two cents." The man sputtered. His face had turned red. There was more than anger in his tone. This was a man who had been offended to the point of committing assault, for some reason.
"I'm from America, sir. Listen. I just have to figure out the register for a second ok? I have been trying to run perfect numbers for awhile here, and you caught me off-guard." The clerk said. His voice was wavering. Stress was in the air.
"How about I come around the counter and kick your ass?" The older man said. "Oh wait, you're locked in there aren't you. Cheap son of a bitch. If I could, I would knock your teeth down your throat." The man growled.
"Sir, I am going to call the police." The clerk said. His voice was still trembling. The clerk tightened his fists and flexed his arms. He started to fumble for the wall-phone. The five dollar bill stayed in the gutter.
"Sure, call the police, you asshole." The older man hissed. He was leaning over the counter. He was slamming his open palms on the plexiglass barrier.
The clerk pecked out 9-1-1 on the touchtone phone, nervously. The phone was ringing, but no operator.
The man and the clerk locked eyes through the plexiglass, as the clerk listened to the phone ring three times.
"Asshole." The man hissed at him again. Then he turned, and started back up the candy aisle to leave.
The clerk gently put the phone down into its wall holster. He glanced out into the parking lot and only saw the Mercedes coupe that the obnoxious old customer had driven. The clerk stepped 4 steps to his left, opened the security door and entered the store area.
The man had lingered by the magazines at the door. Pompous. He had just put the guy behind glass in his place, and now he was going to look at magazines, because he could.
The clerk hunched, and crept purposefully up the candy aisle to the front door.
The clerk walked quietly up behind the angry old man. The overweight, suit jacket wearing man didn't notice that the clerk was behind him. He hadn't even processed the fact that the clerk had left the booth.
"Hey." The clerk hissed at the back of the older man's balding head with a bar of hair that evenly reached from ear to ear.
The old man flinched. Surprised.
The clerk didn't wait for the man to turn around. He swung a direct right punch into the center of the back of the man's head. Two inches lower, that same force would have severed the man's neck-string. The older man pitched forward. Knees buckled. He fell to his right. He fell away from the magazine rack and towards the door.
"Look at you now, asshole." The clerk said.
The older man broke his fall, sloppily, by landing on his right elbow. His head bobbed oddly as it recoiled from the sudden halting of his right shoulder. He rolled onto his back, looked up at the clerk. He sat up, and rested his hands, palms down on the floor. His face was a scowl of pain and hatred.
"You sonofabitch. Just you wait till I get back up." The man spit between clenched teeth.
"Then stay down." The clerk said, matter of factly. He took a bound in the older man's direction with his right foot. Using that momentum, the clerk brought his left knee, square into the older man's soft face. The older man had propped himself up with his two straight arms, leaning back. His legs splayed forward. The impact of the clerk's knee caused the man's arms to buckle and let his upper torso fall back. The man's head dropped straight back to the concrete floor with a hollow crunch, re-worrying the place where the clerk's fist had first landed. The irate customer was now unconscious.
The clerk ran back to the booth. He fumbled for the keys. He turned the knob and got back behind the plexiglass shield. Turning to his right, the clerk moved quickly to the back office. He fumbled for another key. He turned the knob. He stepped into the closet-sized office. The light was already on. The clerk looked at the dark monitors, stacked on top of each other. The security system still wasn't recording. There were Post-it notes and papers with notes and phone numbers all over the monitor station. It had been out of order for two weeks now.
The clerk breathed a sigh of relief and went back to his stool by the register. The clerk looked out into the parking lot and saw that a black and white police car had just parked by the empty Mercedes. Two officers were now making their way into the store.
The older man was still unconscious, on his back, by the entrance to the store. A pool of blood had formed around the back of his head.
The officers entered.
"Officers! That man at your feet was assaulted by a teenager. The kid was driving an old Chevy." The clerk yelled.
The first officer stood, looking around. Assessing. He stayed close to the man on the ground, but wasn't going to do the dirty work.
"There was a 9-1-1 call placed from here. Was that you?" The first officer asked.
"Yeah, I called. But I hung up." The clerk said.
The first officer then applied his attention to the second officer who was at the side of the unconscious man, squatting. He reached forward and took the man's pulse. With his other hand, he rifled through the man's coat pockets. He pulled out a medication bottle.
"Hey Leonard, this guy was on anti-psychotics." The second officer said.
The first officer nodded. Then he turned and started pacing towards the clerk behind the glass.
"What color was the attacker? Can you give us a description?" The first officer asked.
"White." The clerk responded.