I’ve worked at the video store for three months, and I know all of the customers already because everyone is a regular. If you aren’t a regular, you don’t come here. You go to Blockbuster and rent Blu-rays or DVDs. Only regulars still rent VHS.
Movie posters wallpaper the windows, so it could be January outside or June, but I wouldn’t know. Birds chirping, an old lady slipping on ice, a spider rappelling from the awning, I wouldn’t know.
My boss has all these rules, like no cell phones or anything resembling a computer. I write your number on my hand before work, because when I get sick of watching Lethal Weapon or Men in Black, I call you from the phone on the wall. It’s one reason I know how a leashed dog feels.
When non-regulars wander in, I count the beats until they stop smiling. They push backward out the door, eyes averted, sayonara, poof! From then on, we are a vacant lot. We are a field of brown weeds.
Today I call you and say how working alone is a drag. Your voice crackles and pops, and from the phone, a white noise rushing. Hello, I say. Can you hear me? Are you there?
Right here, says a man at the counter, a man I’ve never seen before. He’s standing right there and looking
right at me.
I hang up the phone and his eyes follow. I cross to the register and they track me still. I’m asking, Can I help you? Are you lost? At first he is a mannequin, his trench coat, his fedora, his eyes clacking from left to right, but then he walks around the counter and leans me up against the wall.
I’m going to take my time, he says.
I say, It’s been slow all day.
I should probably be offended, because let’s face it, he’s older and at least fifteen pounds overweight. But you’re gone from the phone, and his breath on my neck is a jungle. I smell large felines and photosynthesis and feel the tickle of a millipede. A siren sounds from somewhere outside. Or maybe from the movie playing. Either way, I prepare my mouth. I tell him, Please, please, please, turn it up.
Kara Vernor lives in Napa. Her stories have appeared in Wigleaf, Hobart online, The Los Angeles Review, Monkeybicycle, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere. She was a recent fiction fellow at the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference.
All rights reserved to Kara Vernor.