Previously on Escape to the Food Court: Lunch Time:
“CREEEAAAAK! The bed pressed down on my head. Poop! Now what? Either she gets off the bed or I suffocate! My only ray of hope was that her incontinence would strike and she’d have to run, or someone worth avoiding more than finding me came along.”
I heard something rolling across the floor, and then four plastic wheels pulled up outside my bed.
“Hi, I’m looking for a dining set?”
“Okay, a dining set?” My boss’s gulp shook the bed.
“Yes, a modern oak—”
“Let me find a salesperson.”
“I didn’t see anyone around—can you please help me?” This ought to be interesting.
“Okay. Are you sure you didn’t see a girl…? She was coming out of the office.” What? No! Don’t tell her that!
“No, I didn’t see anyone—why can’t you just please help me? I don’t have a lot of time!”
“Okay. Yes. The dining sets,” and with another creak, the bed was lifted up, releasing my head. I heard her cla-clunk away while the customer rattled off all her specifications like an auctioneer above her baby’s squalling.
“I want oak, one hundred nineteen by thirty-eight by twenty-five and two fifths meters, oblong, one forty-seventh of an inch veneer over premium particleboard, two leaves, five chairs plus an armchair, mustard yellow memory foam upholstery, thirty-six by twenty-two and three fourths by eighteen and two sevenths of a foot. Oh, and it has to be French oak…”
I backed myself out from underneath the bed and wiped off the dust and curled-up dead ants. I resumed my journey through the cemetery of clearance recliners out into the domestics department. From here I had a clear, easy path to the employee-only stairs. I ran between towel displays with my head down and reached my destination.
The walls of the employee stairwell were painted yellow, and the stairs were covered in brown vinyl. They were littered with dust, tags, and bird poop. The cable company came out once or twice a month to reconnect the service, and they usually left the roof door open, letting birds in. I started down but stopped.
“Tonight, when I get home, I’m heading straight downstairs. Can you bring the plums?”
I opened my mouth but the voice barked again suddenly. “No! Not the green ones! The plums!” I knelt and peered down the center of the stairwell. I could see just the top of his head.
“Yes, bring the leather, too. No, I already have the stickers. Just the leather and the plums.”
Why, it was that fellow from the ladies’ shoe department! I could see his distended belly peeking out from under the stairs. I wonder what he washed those plums down with to give him a belly like that?
“Well, I tried that the last time, but it didn’t work. I think it was too soon.” There was a pause, and he continued, “No, listen to me, it was too soon! He wasn’t ready. Just bring the leather and the plums.”
I stuck my head down further. Ah, yes, there he was, on his phone, striding back and forth with a broad smile across his unshaven face like a malevolent sloth. I knew there was some reason I needed to avoid him, but couldn’t remember.
“Alright, maybe Velcro isn’t such a bad idea,” he said in a low voice. “Yeah, bring that too.”
I tiptoed down slowly and just made it past him out into the handbag department when—
“Hey! Wait just a minute there!”
I kept walking and turning my head about, as though I were looking at the bags.
I stopped and turned around, and tried to look surprised. There was a checkout counter on the other end of the department, where some red-faced customers were lined up holding purses.
“Hi. How are you?” I asked with the nonchalance of one browsing handbags. I took one down and tested the zipper.
“How am I? How didn’t I get paid last week?” Oh no! That’s what it was! I forgot to submit his timesheet!
“Why—well—Are you working over here?” I asked. “I think those customers need some help down there.”
“Did you hear what I just asked you?”
“What? You didn’t get paid?”
“No! Not a penny! Don’t you people know what you’re doing?”
“Well… I am surprised you didn’t get paid…” I said, and put the bag back. “Someone dropped the ball somewhere. I am so sorry. I intend to look into this as soon as I come back from lunch.” Why does he want it so bad anyway? What, to buy some plums?
“Yeah, well, this isn’t acceptable. This is the fifth time this’s happened. You need to do something about this.”
“No, sir, you’re right, it isn’t. And I’m going to speak to the person in charge of this.” I started backing away.
“Hello?” someone yelled from the other end. “Is someone gonna help us?”
“Oh—look—they need some help. Thank you so much for taking care of them,” I said and ran away.
“Wait–you hold on a second!” he called, but I kept running.
“Excuse me!” another customer screamed.
“Alright, I’m coming!” he hollered to the customers.
Naturally, after all of this, I had to go to the bathroom, which was in the men’s department, not far at all. I was almost there when I heard a cash register drawer fly open, but there were no customers standing at the counter. Flooded with fear, I stumbled behind a rack of sweaters and peered out. Why, there was no employee standing there either. I started to get up when I heard some crumpling and jingling.
I quickly crawled into the middle of an H-rack full of winter coats. I peeked out between two of them and had to stifle my own shriek. There were coins scattered all over the floor and a woman was squatting behind the counter.
While I watched, she reached up and grabbed a fistful of cash out of the till. I couldn’t see her face from the drawer, but she was stuffing her bra full of the bills. Why, I bet it was that new trainee with the beady eyes. Even I could tell she was a thief!
A hand slammed the drawer shut and the woman got up. “Pooooop!” I whispered.
Why—how ever could this be!–It was my boss!
To be continued….
For September Scene Writing Month #sepscenewrimo