Click here to read this story from the beginning…
When last we gathered round the story campfire, I thought I had spotted Mr. Kim fleeing the anarchy of his beer emporium, wherein everything had hit the fan in an escalated manner…
Turns out, it was wasn’t Mr. Kim. Or Mrs. Kim. Just some guy who briefly looked Kim-like in the red glare from the stoplight, said vision accentuated by the escape-adrenaline coursing through my veins. Then I belched, one of those unplanned, surprise releases that can lead to Sister Helvetica whipping out her ruler during Catechism Class. My vision readjusted and I realized it was just some guy I had never seen before.
The light turned green. Mr. Not Kim turned left and headed towards parts unknown, presumably to a place where strangers in other cars did not belch and stare. I drove through the light and made my way home, where I slammed and locked the door.
I did not open said door for several days.
Eventually, though, life must carry on, especially when it comes to the procurement of adult beverages. I must admit, though, that I cheated on my Cool Breeze lover for a while, trysting in illicit abandon with a tawdry beer store in another neck of the woods. (His name was Lola. He was a showgirl.) But it wasn’t the same, unsatisfying in some way (perhaps the longer drive?), and I resumed my unhealthy relationship with the Cool Breeze.
As is a general rule with life, some things have changed and some things have stayed the same, with great conviction and stubbornness.
The parking lot is still a crap-shoot of unintentional suicide and grief. At any hour of the day, there’s a constant stream of drunken people trying to maneuver decrepit, illegal vehicles from one spot to another. You’re a fool if you don’t take this into consideration. This is not a place of sunshine and happiness. It’s a Nietzschean paradigm, showing the full flower of man’s evolution, although we still spend much more time viewing the dirty roots and not the lovely petals.
But surprisingly, the owner, Mr. Kim, has scaled back the action at the drive-thru. The Window of Death is not open nearly as much as it used to be. Most of the time, that window has a sad little sign blinking “CL SED”. (I’m guessing there’s a lawsuit pending.) To reinforce the shuttered status of the drive-thru, the staff has taken to dragging this big plastic barrel in front of the window during the down times, hoping the idiot inbreeds who can’t read will be able to surmise that they will actually have to get out of their car and enter the building if they wish to make a purchase.
This plan doesn’t always work.
The poor plastic barrel has become a focus of hatred for the low-lifes that crawl into this place. Some of them are running over the barrel and pulling up to the unoccupied window. And then they honk, like this is going to change the situation in any way. And look, there’s even a secondary sign in the drive-thru window that says “Don’t honk. We will ignore you.”
Of course, the barrel-killers aren’t the only people with a missing lug nut or two. Some folks do manage to park (usually wherever they want to or wherever their car chokes and dies) and make their way inside the building. This does not necessarily make them better than the lazy people honking in the drive-thru, they just have a different plan of attack in their apparent evil intent to crush the world with sheer stupidity.
We still have the issue with the customer restroom. Or in this case, the lack of one. Cool Breeze does not have a public health care option. You need to take care of your recycling activities at some other location. As mentioned previously, there are at least 27 signs posted around the store, fully explaining the situation, using giant letters on vibrant neon poster board. You can NOT miss seeing these things. Some of them are bigger than my car.
But people are still clueless.
Every single time I stop by for my usual order, it’s guaranteed that somebody is going to show their ass by starting an argument over the bathroom. Never fails. The employees have resigned themselves to this fate, and just cut off the whiners as soon as possible. “Look, you CAN’T use the bathroom. Do you want this pickled egg or not?”
Speaking of employees, Smudge is still there (the one with the colorful but primitive tattoos), and she’s still my favorite. We have festive discourses, gossiping about her co-workers and the crazed patrons who are often entertaining as long as all sharp objects are carefully hidden. (There’s always down-time at the register as we wait for Mr. Kim’s ancient credit card machine to fire up and start sending smoke signals to the bank for transaction approval.)
In fact, just the other day, Smudge shared something very interesting with me.
Mrs. Kim, the owner’s wife or mother or sister (it’s never been very clear, and I’ve never asked for any details) has a crush on me. Although this sounds very sweet and all, recent developments have led me to believe that Mrs. Kim has been studying a certain movie where Glenn Close did not get what she wanted, Dan. The initial conversation went something like this:
Smudge: “You know, the Kims think you’re something.” It appears that she is trying to suppress a grin. She knows more than she’s telling.
Me: “Really?” I quickly glance over to the section of the store where the Kims are usually found, bantering rapidly about one thing or another. Mr. Kim is not there. (He’s probably outside, standing the barrel back up or erasing the chalky outline of a body on the pavement.) Mrs. Kim is present, and she appears to be fascinated with an empty box, staring at it quizzically.
Smudge: “Yep. Mr. Kim always makes sure we have your beer, and Mrs. Kim always makes sure we have your cigarettes. She orders an extra carton just for you.” Smudge puts an emphasis on “extra carton” that makes it somehow sound carnal.
Me: “Oh? Well, that’s really great. I like them, too.” (Not sure why I threw out that last bit, since I haven’t really considered whether I like them or not. I only see them two minutes at a time, and usually they are wrestling a six-pack out of some minor’s hands or bravely guarding that damn ice machine that the unwashed can’t touch. Guess I was just trying to keep the conversation going.)
Smudge: “AND” (okay, here’s the big reveal) “Mrs. Kim really likes you. She likes the way you look.” Well, that gets my attention. Somebody likes my appearance? You now have my full attention. More, please.
Then Smudge kills my just-kindled flame of excitement. “She likes that you’re clean-shaven.”
Clean-shaven? Mrs. Kim is turned on because I use a razor? That is the least sexy thing I’ve ever heard. Hell, that’s not even worth a blog entry. I start to pout slightly. My self-pity is interrupted by an odd, high-pitched yelp from the Kim corner of the store.
We both glance over there to find that the corner is empty. Mrs. Kim has vanished. But it had to have been her yelp, sounded just like her. And the poor thing has always been very excitable, launching into a frantic panic at the slightest thing. Everything startles her. Noises. Loud voices. Air.
Smudge: “She must have heard us talking. She’s embarrassed.”
Great. Thanks, Smudge. Now they will never have my things in stock. I’ll have to start doing my marketing at the next-closest beer barn, “Bobby Joe’s House O’ Kegs and Corn Nuts.” I grab my beer and head out the door.
On my very next visit, I find out the Mrs. Kim has not been devastated by the revelation of her secret love. In fact, she has been emboldened and freed. She’s at the counter when I check out, and her face explodes with an enormous smile. Then she rubs her hands along both cheeks and then points at mine. “Smooth!” Then she cackles merrily and grabs the scanner wand thing.
Eventually, the decrepit register spits out the credit card slip, and she hands it to me for my signature. As I reach for a pen lying on the counter, she suddenly snatches it up and throws it on the floor behind her. “Dirty!” she screams, then races off to the side, grabs up an ornate carved box, flips the lid, rummages about, races back, and hands me another implement, presented with a startling flourish. “Special pen for YOU!”
Somewhat unnerved now, I smile weakly, scribble my name, then hand the slip and the pen back to her. She tosses the piece of paper aside, fondles the pen for a bit while staring at it lovingly, then gently returns the pen to her hope chest.
I don’t even want to know what her intentions are with that pen. I make my escape.
Next visit, when she sees me approaching the counter, Mrs. Kim practically knocks Smudge out of the way so she can get to the register first. She already has the lusty pen in one hand, and she has two packs of my cigarette brand in the other. She takes much longer than necessary to arrange the two packs on the counter, as if she’s preparing a sacrificial gift to Buddha, shoves her body up against the counter in such a way that her… twins… are proffered proudly, throws her arms wide open and barks “Give!”
God, I hope she’s talking about the 12-pack that I’m holding.
I glance at Smudge, who’s standing behind Mrs. Kim and is on the verge of wetting herself as she tries not to laugh. Hate her. She’s dead to me now.
I cautiously slide the 12-pack toward Mrs. Kim, making sure that I snap my hand away as soon as possible so that there’s not any accidental foreplay. Mrs. Kim then takes three years to complete the transaction, giggling and cooing and rubbing her cheeks the entire time. This is accompanied by some lip-licking and unnecessary garment adjusting. Finally, we’re done. Well, almost.
Mrs. Kim’s eyes light up even further. “I carry to car for you!”
“No, no, that’s okay, I got it. But thank you.” I clutch the 12-pack to my chest and start to turn.
Mrs. Kim is not deterred. “Free bag ice with 12-pack!”
“No, that’s okay. I have plenty of ice.” (Back at home, where my gay boyfriend is waiting on me, you confused little trollop.) “But thanks again!”
“YES! Free ice! I carry to car. Free!”
“No, really, I don’t need-”
“FREE!” Mrs. Kim then clatters around the end of the counter, throws open the little bagged-ice freezer, rips one of the frosty bags out with surprising ease, then trottles right past me, breathing heavily. “I carry to car. Come! We talk. Nice night!” Then she’s out the door, leaving a whiff of libido and complicity in her wake.
I turn to Smudge in shock. What the hell am I going to do now?
Smudge just grins.
Click here to read the next installment in this series…
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 04/08/10, eight months after the initial four parts of this series. Some changes made, mostly to clarify the action, such as it is. For those of you who have grown a tad weary of this saga, there is only one more installment. Hang tight….
Categories: The Stories