Feet First

Yesterday, my first full day in charge of the shop was a practise day. Got to have a practise day. I had a practise day to ease my way in. I didn’t really do anything, just tried to get my bearings and this entailed just looking through all the drawers in Enrique’s office.

Ha!

I mean my office.

Most of it was boring shit. Invoices and order forms and all that jazz. His bottom drawer was filled with drug paraphernalia so I was super careful looking through that one because Enrique probably has AIDS. I helped out in the shop yesterday too, something Enrique has never done and today I’m going to throw myself into the role. Do it properly.

When we closed I just put the till drawers in the safe. While I was trying to get to sleep last night I thought that maybe there was something I was supposed to do with the money. I know that at the end of each day Enrique usually counts the money and prints something off and looks confused. I suppose he tries to add something. Tally something up to see how much we’ve been stealing or something. Enrique never does a good job at it as he’s never caught me so I’m not stressing too much about it.

Stock is a more pressing matter. Not sure if I order stock or if it just turns up. The computer probably orders it. Again, let’s wait and see. Today I’ll find out what I should print out, count and order. I get that done and I’ll be able to relax a bit more and then think about implementing some ways to make absolutely everything better and not just a Slush Puppie machine.

I’ve worn my wedding suit as it’s the only suit that I own. I put it on and took it off about three times this morning before thinking, fuck it. When I left the house I sensed Enrique’s face pressed up against the little window in the side of the garage. I went to wave at it, at his face, but instead I raised my hand and instead of waving, I just held my hand up at the side of my face and kept it there until I was out on the road. Like a blinker. The guy must be a wreck because the shop’s his life. What does he think of me taking over? He must be devastated.

On the road, walking to work, I realized I’d made a massive mistake. I felt ridiculous. I was dressed like an idiot. There weren’t many people about, thank fuck, but I felt those that were out were staring at me and thinking, who the fuck does that guy think he is, wearing a suit? I nearly turned back and changed but didn’t. Couldn’t be late when I had the keys. Got to the shop and despite my attire I felt like a hero, just for unlocking doors and turning on lights. I put my finger through the hole on the keyring and carried the keys like that.

I took most of the money out of the till drawers and stuffed it in a cash bag and then put the drawers in the till and told myself, got to do that properly today. There’s probably a guide on the internet. I’ll check later on.

Paula came in a bit earlier than normal. I heard her come in. I hoped she wouldn’t laugh at me but I knew she would. She stuck her head around the door and said, “wotcha!”

“Wotcha!” I replied and watched the ripples roll around her face, making her eyes squint and mouth bulge. I smiled. Paula could keep it in no longer and exploded. I laughed too but I was angry. She was screaming with laughter. I laughed along. She couldn’t talk she was laughing so hard. I was still trying to laugh. Paula, deprived of the power of speech, started to point.

“Yeah okay, fuck off Paula.” I told her. She closed the door but I could still hear her laugh. I took my tie off, I’d thought it was a bit much.

Later Paula came back in. She was all laughed out. “Okay? How’s it going out there?” I asked her managerially. She said it was all going fine. “Cool,” I replied. That was the good news I’d been hoping for but I was suddenly worried about the milk situation. I don’t know what made me think of milk but I thought of milk. We had stores of everything else but milk, bread and papers. This was the stuff that arrived daily. The papers and the bread had just turned up that morning without me having to do anything but the milk? The milk was a no show. I know that milk usually came on a lorry – I’d often watched it arrive as I stood behind the counter in my old life – but I didn’t know if I had to summon the lorry. “How we doing for milk?” I asked. Paula said she didn’t know. She then sat on a chair. I turned the monitor away from her. I was trying to crack a password on one of Enrique’s folders.

“Have you seen him?” she asked.

“Yeah, he’s a fucking mess.”

“Poor guy.”

“Yeah.”

“This is good, eh?”

“It’s okay, so far. Milk though… just go and count how many milks we’ve got, will you, please?” I was trying not to be a jerk.

You go and count the milks!” The wretched creature retorted.

“Pretty please,” I said in an idiot’s voice. I was serious. She was taking the piss. She looked at me and saw I was serious and laughed. Footballers turned managers often say the hardest thing about becoming a figurehead for respect was putting that distance between people who were once your friends and equals. Now I knew what they meant. “Please, Paula.”

After a few minutes of being ignored she muttered swears and then went out to count the milk. I typed ENRIQUE into Enrique’s password prompt but it was wrong and I still had time to drink a quarter of a bottle of red wine while she was gone. I only meant to have a sip.

“Nineteen blue and seven green.”

“You sure?”

“Or the other way around.”

I wrote that on my note pad with arrows looping from one amount to the other for the ‘or the other way around’ and shook my head. Either way it wasn’t enough. Not for a whole day.

“Okay,” I was trying to formulate a plan. I tapped my teeth with my pen and waited for Paula to go away. Paula wasn’t going away. Why wouldn’t she go away? It’s not like she was any help. I needed time to think. “Is that somebody shouting for a sausage roll?” I asked. She got the hint and left and I drank more red wine. I was careful not to drink too much, just enough to allow me to focus.

Fuck.

The first plan I came up with involved somebody who wasn’t me phoning up Stan and finding out how milk happened. The problem with that was that I couldn’t phone up as it would make me look stupid. And if I got Paula to phone up she would have to explain what I was doing and the only scenario I could think of to explain me not phoning would also make me look stupid. I was trapped in the toilet, trapped in the store room, trapped somewhere. People who get trapped in places are stupid. And then I had an inspiration.

The plan I settled on was so simple I had to laugh. I just had to send Marcel to the Co-op, two miles to the south, to buy milk. Marcel is strong and could carry a lot. We would then sell it for the same price. It sounded too simple to work but I went through it all on my pad and no matter which way I diced it it all stacked up. I went out and told Marcel to come and get me when we had less than five pints of either colour milk. The next two hours were Hell. I willed people not to buy milk. I finished the bottle of wine but that was over a few hours and I was fine.

Then, while I was getting Marcel the cash the milk arrived. A mean Scottish man brought it. I’ve never been so happy to see a mean Scottish man and after that I was able to relax into the role for probably the first time. Then Paula came in again and tried to ruin everything.

“I’m going to lunch.”

“Nah, ” I said, instinctively.

“Why?”

“Who’ll cover the hot food?”

You?

“I’m too busy, mate. Up to my ears in…” I held up a single piece of paper that had two numbers written on it and waved it at her, “No offence.”

“Well then we need somebody else.”

I tapped my teeth with my pen again. The stupid ugly idiot was right. We were chronically short staffed. Three people running a shop that was open until whenever Spar shops closed? Ridiculous! Marcel only knew how to carry coal, he couldn’t open a till.

We needed to introduce a new character and fast. I twisted the pen in my hands and then told Paula to go and get Sean who up until now had been standing motionless in the stock room. Paula huffed again and went to get Sean.

“Yes boss?” Said Sean when he came in. Sean was great. Bit of a suck-up but a workhorse.

“You think you can handle the hot food counter?”

“Yes sir!” Shouted Sean and he clicked his heels and saluted. I saluted back.

We call Sean, Sean Penn, like the movie star. That’s because he always has a pen. You need a pen you just go and see Sean. He doesn’t let you keep it though. You can’t just put it in your pocket because Sean never misplaces a pen. He’ll want it back. Sean, thankfully, moniker apart, is nothing like a movie star. Movie stars tend to be all needy and demanding. Sean is short, fat and eager to please.

“Tell Paula she can go to lunch.” I told him. He was staring at the pen I was twisting in my hands. “This is mine,” I said and he nodded. “Tell Paula.” Sean tore his eyes off my pen and opened the office door.

“She’s already gone!” He shouted back.

“Fucker.” I muttered. The rest of the day went without a hitch. I surfed the internet. I wanted to look up how to cash up a till. To do a float etc. I’d learnt that word – float – but I got into an argument on a forum and the next thing I knew it was quitting time. I stuffed all the money from the till into the safe which was already getting full. In the shop Sean was brushing the floor.

“Good job, Sean!” I told him. Paula looked at me. “You too Paula.” Marcel looked at me, “fucking hell,” I breathed, these people were like movie stars. “Well done, Marcel.” Then I clapped my hands and told them I’d see them in the morning. I went behind the hot food counter which was spotless, thanks to Sean, and got a paper bag. I then filled it with Enrique’s heroin and locked up. As I started for home I looked back. The shop, my shop, looked beautiful, shining in the drizzle, lit by the security lights.

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