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By Jody Rathgeb
Before I can see him, I hear him, over at the deli counter hassling Sherry: “That’s a wimpy slice. I want a dude slice, you hear?”
I pretend to get more register tape at the empty lane beside me, to get a look. Typical island tourist: baseball cap, bright print shirt, baggy shorts, hairy calves, flip-flops. Back at my station I give LaKida the signal: an airplane, elbows down. Checkers aren’t allowed to talk to each other unless it’s store-related. Mr. Collins is always watching.
This sign, which started out as American Airlines, became a customer type: American asshole. LaKida laughs but hides it quickly, since she’s in the middle of an order for Big-Ass Queen Bee, a local girl who used to work here but married up and won’t let us forget it. LaKida manages, though, to put her hand above her eyebrow, signaling me to watch him.
I’m at Express at a down time, so that’s not too hard. I see him tossing steaks into his cart, so I tell LaKida with a big imaginary bite, which I turn into a smile for the customer who suddenly appears.
Then the dude’s coming down the aisle straight toward me. As he rounds the corner, I check the finger and give LaKida our “not married” signal.
Then he’s out of my sight. And probably not coming my way, since I’m Express.
Next time I see him, the cart has lots of wine bottles added. LaKida sees it first and gives me the glug. I’m sure he’s stopping at her, but he keeps rolling.
“You been watching me,” he says with a crooked white-boy smile. I glance at his cart. Expensive meats and cheeses, snacks, wines, a case of beer. Looks like a party. An asshole party. More than 12 items, too.
He knows I’ve counted. “Come on, I’m spending plenty,” he says. “An’ how’s about you comin’ to my party? I got a nice villa for the week and I’m lookin’ for a few hot chicks to make it nicer. We be jammin’, jammin’ mon.”
“This isn’t Jamaica,” I say, patting my hand on the conveyor so Mr. Collins can see I’m working.
LaKida gives me the airplane. I nod and start scanning. Mr. AA keeps talking.
“Hey, Jamaica, Cayman, Turks, whatever. It’s paradise! And you’re missing out on paradise, standing there being all ‘I gotta work.’ Scanning. Taking my money.”
Why do assholes always have money? Like Queen Bee, now. Like Collins, driving a BMW while we can’t even take home the expired stuff here.
LaKida’s still giving me the airplane. I know, I know. But he’s holding out four hundred-dollar bills. I look at the total, which is only half that, and back at him.
He gives me a rich American asshole grin. In my side vision I see LaKida. I shrug her off. Smile. Take the bills.
“So where is this party?”
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