If American Horror Story connects the seasons, is it still an anthology? Lately, I’ve had a hard time deciding what to talk about. I feel like writing Halloween stuff, but didn’t want to overload you with ghost stories. For my style, that pretty much leaves something embarrassing or scandalous so I thought hey, let’s do both.
I’ve told you about the western store I worked at and mentioned a pervy boss, he played a role in The Incest Cliche. The 2+ years I worked there are a rich tapestry of Dixie Drama at its finest, but today we will focus on the owner.
The only background you need is, Crook was fed up with my being jobless. I had to adult long enough to venture into the world for work. Applying online was a luxury for few, I had no clue where to begin. During a morning smoke with my neighbor, I explained the dilemma, hoping she could recommend how to proceed.
“Actually, I heard that little western store, the one across from the mall, was hiring. Do you know it? I think it’s called Giddy Up.” She said.
“If it’s not a restaurant or open past dark, I’m in.” With the world experience of a 19 year old, I clearly knew what I wanted from life.
I drove to town, found the store, and cursed my nervous pit stains as I walked in, arms tightly clinched. Approaching the counter, I saw a portly, older gentleman who suspiciously resembled Trump without the bleached wig and spray tan. Let’s call him Don, he was the owner. Don sat at a table with two women, both appearing close to my own age. Full disclosure, I can’t judge age. At all. If I ever guess, please understand I’m probably wrong. In this case, Sara and Jane were 10+ years my senior.
Sara was the manager, and Jane read magazines until closing when she did money stuff. Before we dive too deep, please understand, I have nothing but respect for my coworkers. They were mostly good people making the best of bad situations. Finding a good job in a small town is hard, we do what we must to feed our family. That being said, Don was a disgusting pig and deserved everything he got.
“Can we help ya?” Don asked with a head nod to Sara.
“Hi, my neighbor said you all were hiring, I wanted to fill out an application.” No stutter, it was a miracle. I directed my question to Sara as she approached the counter. She looked to Don for guidance.
“Nawp, I dunno where they heard that, but I can barely afford these two.” Don answered, waving his hand between the women with his best good-ole-boy accent. “You can leave your name and number if you like. We’ll give you a call if anything comes up.”
Sara passed a pen and sticky pad across the counter. Knowing this interaction was the southern way of saying ‘we don’t know you so we’re giving you the brush off’ I wrote my information with a smile and left quickly. Technically, I applied for a job. After sending Crook a highly exaggerated text about my fantastic interview, I drove home to recover. Tv told me it can take weeks, possibly months, before one is actually hired. Imagine my surprise when the very next day, not an hour after Crook returned home, my phone rang. In ye olden days, it was common practice to answer a number you weren’t familiar with. I knew I was doomed the moment I answered.
“Hi, this is Jane from Giddy Up.” After routine pleasantries, she got to business. “We hoped you could start tomorrow, we open 9-6 Monday through Saturday. Could you be here by 8:30?”
Crook was grinning like the Joker. I clearly had no choice. But tomorrow?! “Oh, absolutely… thank you so much. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I answered with my best fake, happy voice.
One of my OCD traits forces me to arrive a minimum 30 minutes early. Sara was the first to show at promptly 8:30, and wasted no time approaching me. “We don’t open til 9, sorry.” She pointed to the store hours, clearly posted on the door, and walked away.
“Right, I’m the new girl, they told me to be here at 8:30.” I called after her, awkwardly trailing behind.
She paused in the middle of unlocking the door, looking me over closely. “They did? You sure?” She sounded confused, but I often misunderstood sarcasm.
She must be joking… “Haha… yes. I am sure.” I smiled, hoping it appeared genuine.
Spoiler Alert: she wasn’t joking, I was hired by accident. They genuinely didn’t like the look of me, but Don loved the pretty, single mom who brought her baby to apply shortly after myself. They considered her hired, but Jane mixed up our information. Several months later, after learning I wasn’t purposely offensive, they admitted the truth.
Don arrived shortly before 9, searching for his new eye candy. When he found me in her place, he was puzzled to say the least. “Uh. Morning. Ladies…” Before he could say anything untoward, Sara came to the rescue.
“Mista Don, this the new girl… member? You told Jane to start her today. She was earlier than me, we off to a good start. Ima finish showing her around.” With that, Sara led me on the grand tour. Without realizing it, her words translated into ‘I know she’s not the one you wanted, but I’m sick of opening alone.’
I would soon learn Don only hired women. Two kinds were employed; the Workers ran the store, helping customers, loading feed, etc. The others were… I’m sorry, there isn’t a delicate way to say they were his whores. Sara pegged me for a worker. I knew I had to work harder than others to compensate for my personality quirks, but had I been aware of the Worker or… Non-Worker… situation, I would have arrived at 8 to reorganize the outdoor plants.
You guys know how it is when a new person starts work, you can’t trust them. Everyone is on their best behavior, you won’t truly meet them until they drop their guard. Same sentiment from the new person’s POV, you’re surrounded by strangers, you have no idea who they really are. It’s like navigating a field of landmines, one wrong step and you’re dead.
I made several wrong steps, but Sara was desperate for a third Worker. Jane didn’t wait on customers, and only worked the register if the rest of us weren’t available. The third, Stephanie, also worked at a grocery store; she could only work a few hours before closing. It was she who first trusted me to explain how Don came to own the store. Or she just couldn’t resist good gossip any longer.
“Believe it or not, this store use to stay busy. There was no sitting around the table gossiping all day, no ma’am. Carey would roll over in her grave if she could see it now. She started this place from scratch, almost lost it a few times too, but she treated everyone like family. People were loyal because they knew she would take care of them if they fell on hard times.” Stephanie stacked boot boxes by size as we unpacked the new shipment. Her smile faded as she continued, “We couldn’t believe it when she passed. She was always a little sickly, but we had no idea how bad it really was. Even her sister, (Kay) Don’s wife, didn’t know. She passed two days after they admitted her to the hospital, she was 57.”
I have deep respect for the dead and grieving, but I’ve never mastered properly expressing those sentiments. I memorized several condolences, but always mess up the delivery. “I’m sorry to hear that.” I was careful not to look away from my task.
Stephanie continued, more concerned with telling the story than my response. “Now Don is running the store straight into the ground. He thinks we’re too stupid to notice his little cash bucket under the register. Thinks we don’t know what those girls really get paid for.” She nodded to the companion giving Don his after-lunch neck massage.
I decided to take advantage of her chatty mood. “I’ve been wondering why Kay stays with him. Why doesn’t she just take the store away?”
“That poor woman is clueless, but she’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. No one has the heart to tell her the truth. She’s never been with another man, I doubt she would know how to leave even if she wanted to.” Stephanie shook her head sadly, and sighed before continuing, “Besides, he’s only had the money and freedom to do it for a few years, I doubt anyone would touch that nasty man before then.”
“You have a point there.” I admitted. Kay genuinely is a kind soul, I hope Don dies many years before her. She deserves a fair chance at genuine happiness. Even if she’s still ignorant of his affairs, I’ve seen how he speaks to her; it’s not okay. “How many side chicks does he have anyway?”
The way her head cocked to an almost 90 degree angle coupled with how wide her eyes grew seemed to say, “a lot.” Regardless, it was a very informative chat.
When you spend three years working in a restaurant/drug mart, you think you’ve been fully desensitized to the various evils of the world, but not so. Somehow, this kindly, old man cheating on his sweet, little wife seemed far-fetched. No matter how obvious their office tryst, I couldn’t see it as more than a silly coincidence. Even when you think you know, being told and seeing are two very different kinds of knowing.
I could tell you a book’s worth of anecdotes involving Don hiring a new playmate and the various resulting ventures, but many will come out in other stories. Besides, I still don’t understand what length you guys prefer in a post. Today, I want to focus on the one I found personally traumatic. Oh boy, this is harder than I thought. Ok first, let’s get the time he propositioned me over with. Due to my inability to judge sarcasm or social interactions, I repeated what I’m about to share with several others after it happened. All were unanimously agreed, I did not misunderstand this one. Unfortunately.
Within 6-8 months I was fully accepted and nested at Giddy Up. Don possessed a prescription for Xanax, and being a shady guy himself, was aware I knew how to take/sell them in bulk. He must have been particularly lonely one day when we were alone. One minute we were pleasantly discussing NCIS, the next he was setting his bottle of Xanax on the table.
“That’s nice… what? You need to sell some? I asked, confused.
“Yea, I guess so.” He didn’t sound very excited about it.
I assumed he stole too much money from the store. Normally he saved Xanax for special whore candy, it wasn’t surprising he would be upset to part with them. “Alright, well how much do you need? If it’s the full 90, it takes 4 of your Peaches to equal one Xanax bar. I could get $90, but that’s about it.” Best he would get at least.
“Oh, I don’t need money.” He said
“What else would people possibly… eww… dude, gross, be serious. You want the $90 or not.” I wasn’t capable of taking such a notion seriously. If I had, I’m sure I would have been speechless. As it was, I wanted that Xanax and hoped insulting him would end his joke.
“No, you’re not listening. I don’t want… Money.” He said it slower that time, each word almost it’s own sentence.
Joke or not, no drug was worth indulging that line of conversation. “Dude, that’s gross, there aren’t enough drugs in the world.” I walked away before Don could say more. To avoid tainting my experiment, I relayed our conversation verbatim without saying who said what until the end. No one was surprised, but upon hearing Don’s role, Jane changed her answer to “you just misunderstood, I’m sure he was joking.” but her heart wasn’t in it. Jealousy can blind the best of us.
This next part is the whopper, but if I can survive it without removing my own eyeballs, I can relive it long enough to share with all of you. It was New Years Eve, we had no customers all day, so we found various shenanigans to pass the time. Don was running errands, (whores) and therefore unlikely to make an appearance. If you’ve read Weird Science, you know I have an… inquisitive mind, if you haven’t, you need to know I enjoy taking things apart.
For some reason, I was fascinated with the roof at that time. For several weeks I fantasized what it would be like to climb into the ceiling. I had a theory it would exit into the warehouse, possibly providing access to the wide, metal beams and roof. Why the idea of walking across a 20-30ft drop appealed to me, I can’t say, but the compulsion was overwhelming.
With a 4ft ladder placed on the dressing room bench, a flashlight, and broom, I was finally ready to test my theory. Moving a panel to the side, I pushed the broom through the opening. If a spiderweb touched me, it would be game over.
“No way she’s going in there… is she?” Liz asked Sara. Liz was my age, and a real cowgirl. She was a Worker and good friend, but unimportant. Nowadays she’s a nurse, and happily married with two sons, so don’t worry about her.
“She dumb enough to get in. How long until she falls is the question.” I heard Sara’s answer, but was too busy to engage in their foolishness.
“What if she breaks something?!” Liz exclaimed, cringing as I prepared to stick my head through for a real look.
“If she break herself we call 911, if she break the store we tell Mista Don she did it behind our backs.” Sara answered simply.
“Hey! If you break something are you gonna say we let you?” Liz was talking to me now.
I couldn’t tell if it was a serious question, but either way, it was distracting. “Nah, you’re good. I’ll say whatever you want as long as you let me focus.”
“But why are you…” Liz started to ask, clearly not listening.
“I said long as I focus!” I snapped, testing my weight on the wall. I knew the flimsy ceiling panels couldn’t support my weight, they were held in place by skinny metal racks and wire. If I didn’t locate support beams or follow the wall, I wouldn’t be crawling anywhere. Aside from a few giggles and gasps, the girls remained silent.
After a few moments testing the dressing room walls, I decided it was time to go. I situated myself like a bird on a perch, shining the light through decades of cobwebs and dust. “Guys, I think it really does go all the way to the warehouse! I can see really far, and I think I can see sunlight at the end!” I was excited, but the dust was already effecting my allergies. I had the nose itch of a first time codeine user and couldn’t stop rubbing it.
“I wanna see!” Liz was standing atop the ladder, eyes scrunched, looking through the dust we disturbed. “I think you’re right! That is light down there!” She was excited too, caught in my moment.
“I want to see if I can make it across, see how this wall connects over there? I think it’s the chemical room, it looks like I can follow the wall to where that metal starts on the other side.” I pointed, wanting Liz to confirm she saw the same thing. The more we moved, the thicker the air filled with dust. Even with a flashlight it was difficult to see. “Pass the broom up, please.”
Liz passed the broom, and we struggled to maneuver it through the wires. It cleared what it reached, but I had much less space than anticipated. If I weren’t a tiny woman, I wouldn’t fit past the opening, but I was providing too much entertainment to quit. The wires made excellent broom holders, but were otherwise the most difficult obstacles to overcome. It felt like several minutes passed as I struggled to crawl a few feet, but I focused on keeping my weight on the wall.
“I wonder how far I’ve come.” I leaned over to lift a panel. Anxiety paired with a lack of fingernails exacerbated the simple task. The frustration was coming on strong, but I doubled my efforts and finally pulled it askew. “Hey guys! I’m already over the office! Have you ever seen it? It’s just a desk, computer, and futon. Who doesn’t have a desk chair?” I called out, pleased my adventure would have two purposes. The office was always locked, even Sara and Jane were denied access.
“What did you expect? He doesn’t need a chair, I bet he only watches porn in there.” Liz laughed, but stopped abruptly. Sara was telling her something but I couldn’t hear the words. I dropped the panel, not thinking. It landed askew, leaving a wide gap into the office exposed. Before I could try to fix it, Liz screamed for my attention, “Shit dude, don’t move! Don and his current pet just pulled up, we gotta hide this mess! Don’t talk no matter what!” Her head was gone before she finished speaking.
I hoped they were joking, but doubted it. She was terrified, and the clumsy sound of removing the ladder was unmistakable. I heard the door buzzer followed by several minutes of silence. I was too afraid to attempt fixing the crooked panel. The office was rarely used on a normal day, if I risked movement now, I would likely fall through the ceiling. Waiting for Don to leave was the wiser choice no matter how you did the math. I laid flat, unmoving, and stared into the office, letting a daydream carry me away before a claustrophobic panic set in. Without the distraction of impressing Liz, the walls were closing in, pushing out my precious oxygen. I like that shade of green on a futon. I want a futon.
As the fire in my lungs extinguished, I noticed sounds of laughter and keys. More specifically, keys being used to unlock a door. No way, if he sees me I’m dead. Did they tell on me? Did he think it was funny and now he’s going to screw with me? He’s going to see the ceiling the second he opens the door, I’ll kill them both for this.
The door swung open, I held my breath, waiting. Softer giggling reached my ears and confirmed the betrayal. I gritted my teeth, formed the angriest face possible, and prepared to be caught. But I wasn’t. Instead, I saw the Pet lead Don into view. By his penis. She had a firm grasp oh his erect member, through his slacks, and used it to guide him to the futon. Sara and Liz definitely hadn’t betrayed me.
You know how you can’t look away when you see something horrible? This had the same effect. Plus I was too chicken to move. One sound, any reason for one of them to look up, spelled my doom. There was no chance they wouldn’t notice the large, open gap in the ceiling. I’m not trying to give my audience nightmares. I would very much like to use the word ‘fans’ one day, and I feel like a blow by blow (no pun intended, but it is accurate) would be a step in the wrong direction. Instead, I will FF past the use of a dildo hidden in the desk, and skip to their departure.
When they finally left, I remained completely still. Eventually, Liz returned, calling out to me. “Hey! Oh my God, what happened?! Are you okay?” By the tone in her voice, I felt they already suspected what I saw.
“I need to get out of here right now, I’m not joking, I don’t wanna play anymore, I’m done, I gotta get out.” I repeated a mixture of those phrases in one long, run-on sentence as I shakily replaced the crooked ceiling panel. After checking several times to be sure it sat correctly, I began the difficult process of turning around. Not falling off my perch required focus, I continued ignoring Liz as she berated me with questions.
As I came down the ladder, I saw Sara and Liz’s facial expressions, and knew mine was worse. I stuttered out every painful, disgusting detail, gagging several times in the process. I only told it once, after which, I began protocols to erase the memory entirely. Some things, not even bleach can clean. Needless to say, I never crawled into the roof again.
The Pet ‘worked’ at Giddy Up a few more weeks, but she felt so ostracized by the other girls, she quit. Don called a staff meeting and gave a long lecture explaining his disappointment. “I expect better! You aren’t children anymore. Pet was a sweet, caring person, just trying to support her little girl! But you all made her feel so unwelcome, she quit! Do you understand how horrible that is? I can’t even look at you right now.” He turned to leave, paused, expecting us to trip over ourselves with apologies, but no one stopped him. Little did we know, the store would be closing forever by that time the following year. Turns out, prostitutes are expensive.
He always pouted when he lost a pet, but we were far past indulging his delusions. Don was the worst kind of predator, truly believing we were clueless to his hobby. His complete faith in our stupidity was insulting, it took all my willpower to remain silent. I knew I was incapable of a convincing sympathy act, and stopped trying after this ordeal took place.
If I’m wrong and should have written the gorey details, let me know, but I feel like the majority of you would be happier without. Hubby had a few days off recently which makes writing impossible, but for my next story, I was hoping to try something new. So far, I shared a few spooky stories from my hometown, but I have been wanting to try my hand at a real scary story. Something that makes you nervous to look outside and gives you chills. If it sucks, it can go into the future psychologist pile, if not, maybe I can finally break 300 followers! Either way, I’ll take it.