My Life

Dispatches from the Wasteland: Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Note: Another snippet from my work-in-progress for NaNoWriMo (click here to read this story from the beginning), picking up a bit later than the tale in the preceding post, wherein I am describing my lovely and life-inspiring work environment in that Quik Trip store, circa 1986…


Directly to the right of our store was an odd, brown building. There were no recognizable windows in this building, just some very decrepit and old wooden siding, running the whole perimeter of the building. There were no signs to indicate exactly what type of establishment this might be.

But something was going on over there. At the back of the building was a small parking lot, holding perhaps ten or twelve cars. And it was always full. Always. I never saw anyone enter the building, or leave the building, but the cars changed all the time.

It was fascinating, in a way. But creepy in another. Seriously, what was that thing all about?

As mentioned, when you work in a convenience store, you develop mini-friendships. People open up after a while. So, I tried to do a little sleuthing concerning this mysterious structure.

Me: “So, what’s up with the brown building?”

Mack Daddy Yo: “That one over there? Hell, I don’t know. Ain’t got no clue. You?

Me: “Uh, no. That’s why I’m asking. Ever been in there?”

Mack Daddy Yo: “Me? Hell no. I’m not goin’ in there. My girl said somebody died up in there.”

Me: “Died? Really?”

Mack Daddy Yo: “Hell yeah. DEAD kinda dead.”

Me: “Wow, that’s some kinda dead alright.” (Yes, you pick up the lingo after a while, can’t help it.)

Mack Daddy Yo: “Sho nuff. Say, you got the new ‘Juggs’ magazine in? It’s the Double-D issue.”

Nothing further was gained from this conversation, other than the oddly-moist five-dollar bill I threw into the cash register, followed by Mack Daddy Yo racing out the door on a new vision quest. I’m assuming His Girl might know all about dead people in strange structures but she was most likely unaware of his literary endeavors.

On the other side of the brown death-building, once you crossed Admiral, was a porn store. A very popular porn store. Apparently, people came from miles around to peruse the wares. In fact, it was such a happening spot that, on the weekends, the porn store parking lot would fill up, and randy folks would start parking in our lot. (They couldn’t park in the death-building lot because it was always full, natch.)

Which meant that one of our weekend duties, believe it or not, was chasing off this wayward surplus of vehicles so that people who wanted to visit our store would be able to do so. That was a lot of fun, intercepting drunk and horny people, and trying to make them understand that they would have to move. This was known as porn duty. Me being the new guy, I usually got stuck with this thrilling assignment.

Me: “Dude, you can’t park there.”

Jerk: “Why the hell not? Who the hell are you?”

Me: “I work right here. If you’re going to buy something right here, that’s cool, come on in.”

Jerk: “You got any snatch mags?”

Me: “Well, nothing like you’re going to find over there.”

Jerk: “Then I don’t wanna go in there.”

Me: “Then you need to move.”

Jerk: “Who the hell are you? I can park wherever the hell I want. Hell.”

Me: “You need to move. Or I can call the cops. You want me to call the cops? I can do that. Seriously. Want me to?”

Jerk: “Oh really? Well, I can kick your ass. You want me to kick your ass? I can do that.”

(Keep in mind that I’m 20 years old at the time. I don’t look like I can kick a pebble, let alone an ass. Yet I’m supposed to be Mr. Tough Guy in charge of chasing off the drunken farmers who are determined to find pleasure in lewd publications. I don’t WANT to be this guy. I’m all for the release of sexual tension. Go Big O! But I have bills to pay and a job to keep.)

Me: “Dude, come on. I’m just telling ya what’s what. If I owned this store, you could do whatever you want, hump the gas pumps, knock yourself out. But I don’t own it. I just work here. And I wanna keep my job. You with me?”

Jerk, pausing for a second as he sways back and forth beside his car, then: “Yeah, I guess. But I wanna see some titties. I just wanna SEE some TITTIES!”

(Am I seriously having this conversation?  I graduated from high school with honors. I have two years of college under my belt at this point. And I have no desire to look at titties. Ever. But circumstances have led to me having this particular verbal exchange with some inbred yahoo whilst standing in the parking lot of a convenience store in the bad part of town. I really thought my SAT scores would have gotten me beyond this. My high school counselors lied to me. I hate them.)

Just as Jethro is about to cause some serious hurt, there’s the familiar whoop-whoop of a police car sounding a preliminary warning. The farmer turns and runs like a laxative just kicked in, leaving his car behind. Fine. We’ll have it towed in the morning.

The squad car that pulls into our parking lot is being driven by my police officer friend Justine. She’s the real deal, tough as all get out, and she doesn’t have a problem telling anybody to go anywhere. Therefore, I deeply love her, in a non-titty way, especially since I’m stationed here on the outskirts of hell. She helped me out a lot during my time in purgatory.

Like the night I was almost killed.

Okay, it never really got that far, but it could have. It played out something like this:

It’s fairly late at night for most people, but really just the beginning of Armageddon for this part of town, when all the crazies wake up from their drug-induced comas and go looking for kicks. I’m in the store all alone, trying to do the cigarette order for this week. This activity basically consists of me counting every single pack of every brand that we have in the store, comparing the totals to how many we had last week, and then determining how many I should order for the following week. This is not why I took Calculus in high school, but perhaps I’m whining a bit.

The door bangs open and in wanders some wild-eyed teenager who is clearly underage. He marches back to the beer section, picks up a 12-pack, then saunters up to the counter, all cocky and such. I immediately ask to see his ID.

(Side note: As mentioned, I’m only 20 at the time. I’m not of legal age to purchase alcohol, but I can sell it. Such was the twisted state of legality in Oklahoma in the 80s. Might even still be the case. I haven’t been there in a while.)

Stoner dude is not happy that I asked for his ID. He argues. I argue back. He calls me a variety of names that rhyme with buckhead and baggot. I don’t give in. He finally has had enough, shoves the beer toward me so that it falls on the floor at my feet, then stomps out of the store.

Great. Yet another confrontation to confirm that my life is a living hell. Wait, why am I complaining? This is Oklahoma. The angels in Heaven weep when another child is born here. I go back to counting cigarettes.

A bit later, as I’m stooped over and fiddling with some inventory on a lower shelf, I hear someone banging on the glass doors at the entrance of the store. Come on people, I’m busy here. Just open the door and come on in. I stand up and look toward the front of the store.

That wild-eyed, beer-negated teenager is on the other side of one of the doors. When he realizes that he has my attention, he raises both arms and places his hands, fingers splayed and palms forward, on the door, just above his head. Then his tongue snakes out of his mouth, and he licks the glass in one long, freaky trail of saliva.

At that moment, that precise pinpoint in time that I will never forget (trite, but true), I completely understood what the expression “blood runs cold” really means. This was so not right. I suddenly couldn’t breathe.

Then he peels his left hand off the glass, reaches down into the waistband of his pants, and pulls out a gun.

Which he then points directly at ME.


Click here to read the next bit in this series…


Originally published in a different form in “Memory Remix” and “The Sound and the Fury” in 2010. Modified considerably for this post. Fair warning about the promised continuation of this story: I’ve run into a bit of an inspirational brick wall with my NaNoWriMo endeavor (these things happen), so I’ve got to concentrate on that in order to keep my word count progressing. I might have to do a few re-posts of older pieces in the interim, but we will eventually get back to Tongue Boy and His Issues…


30 replies »

  1. What bothers me most about crazies is that they have absolutely no idea what they are going to do next. It is why I prefer psychopaths, at least they know what they are going to do and therefore are somewhat predictable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree completely. I’d much rather deal with established and known pathological patterns than the “spin the wheel” mess of folks who haven’t decided which way they want to twist….


  2. Okay, I’m not usually one to keep count of things, and I’m a ‘go with the flow man’ sort of person, but damned. TWICE now…..dude. You best be getting that novel PUBLISHED son. All these cliff hangers are wrecking havoc with my blood pressure. *breath in…deep slow breaths….breath out” Oh and EWWW! That the angel of death wannabee LICKED the damned glass. I’ve entered the 7-11s here abouts and I wouldn’t touch their glass, not without a haz mat suit and a huge bottle of lysol…. Ugh. Horrifying..

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, I do intend to publish this story arc, along with several others. If you’re keeping score and know all the intimate details about Bonnywood, this saga first appeared back on my “Memory Remix” blog, ages ago. It goes on for quite a while, so I’m not sure how much I’ll share here. (After all, I should save at least SOME of the mess for the eventual “Memory Remix” book.)

      Second, the Angel of Death Wannabee licking the tainted glass on the front door was more horrifying than the actual appearance of the gun. Not by much, mind you, but it was quite stunning…


  3. I laughed out loud at your porning lot story. Jethro running off as if his pants were full of poo, tough cop coming by, mysterious brown death building. But then you left me with MY blood running cold. I’ve been shot at, but I was paid very specifically for that. You, on the other hand, were a store clerk, “combat pay” or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love the “porning lot” phrase, might have to work that little prize into the story.

      But yes, I wasn’t fully prepared for some of the things that took place at that store. My mind simply didn’t grasp such until the things happened. I learned a lot, though, and I think part of that learning edged me toward a better appreciation of seizing the day and living your life…


  4. Brian, I am loving this sequence! Beinging a former Tulsalite, I am quite familiar with Quik Trip and the north side of town. So glad you survived those days to share these great posts with us. Puleeeze continue!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I turned up for work one day to find I’d missed an armed robbery by one hour. Retail sure is an eye opener. Mack Daddy Yo! Nicknames for regular customers, one of the fun parts. Or was that his actual name? 😉 Sounds like you really should have been earning danger money. Loved this and the subsequent instalments.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, I did have nicknames for most of the regular customers, because it WAS fun and helped me deal with the overall mundane repetition of the job. As for showing up after things had happened, I had, prior to Quik Trip, worked for another convenience store chain, doing “vacation relief”, which meant I was essentially on call all the time and could be sent to any store at any moment. I showed up at one store to find out that that guy who normally worked the shift I was covering had been shot the night before. Let’s just say that I spent the entire night with my eyes wide open and I never blinked…

      Liked by 1 person

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