The Package

Wolves Hollow? That’s an odd name for a street. Is a hollow like some kind of name for a road, something fancy, Blues thought. Vito had found this AirBnB in one of the classy inner ring burbs. Drumming the solo to Rush’s Tom Sawyer on his steering wheel, Blues sat in his rusty 1999 Chevy Caviler waiting for FedEx. He looked at the nice stone house. There were two stories with big windows and shutters. There was a wraparound porch and the attic had those little Amityville Horror windows that always made Blues think those kind of houses were smiling to him. Blues surveyed the street with its daffodils and irises wishing he could walk up it, get a pricy coffee from the cafe in the town square and walk back to drink his coffee on his own sunny porch. In his mind, Blues was nodding his head to his neighbors walking along the street. A FedEx truck was up the block.
Crap, Blues sprinted to the stone house and walked onto the porch. Purple sweet smelling flowers were in a flower boxes. Blues tried to think of their name as he lit a cigarette and acted calm. The FedEx truck pulled up in front of the stone house. The delivery man, a hot chick actually, climbed the porch stairs.
Blues gave the hot delivery chick an appreciative look over and took the package. She gave Blues a thank you without making eye contact and was punching in info and climbing back to her truck in a fluid movement. Blues took two more puffs until the truck turned the corner. Overly casual, Blues sauntered over to his Chevy and pulled away from the curb. He flicked his cigarette out onto the pretty tree-lined street.
Blues was a delivery man, too. He picked up packages at ArBnBs and hotels. Seven or eight drops a week is easy money. He drove them home and took his cut and then delivered them to his boss Vito at Vito’s club or one of his girls’ places. Vito took his larger cut and sent the rest of the cash over seas. Blues didn’t know if it was an electronic transfer, or if Vito used foreign currency or cryptocurrency. Blue knew the money went to India or Indonesia or some place on the other side of the world. It wasn’t his business to know. Blues did know where the money came from but he didn’t like to think of the grannies and old dudes tricked and bullied out of their life savings. Thinking of his one hundred dollar cut per box, he pulled into his complex’s parking lot and spat nicotine on the tarmac. Blues popped gum in his mouth and sprayed the Axe body spray that he kept in his glove compartment on his hoodie.
Holding the package under his arm, Blue entered his home, his grandmother’s row house. He beelined for the basement, since Grandma had trouble with stairs it was the only room she didn’t visit.
“You too grown to speak,” Grandma said.
Blues rolled his eyes. “Good Morning.” He turned the basement door knob. She huffed. Blue ran over and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
“Your plate is in the oven. And you better quit smoking or get better cologne.”

Grandma pushed his forehead away from her. Blue took his package downstairs and then ran up for his breakfast, grits and eggs with bacon extra crispy like he liked it.
In the basement properly stuffed Blues carefully opened the package. His camera was filming because Vito didn’t trust anybody. Blues didn’t think of the scammed or the scammers. Blues thought about the new kicks waiting in cart. He was just the delivery man.
The moment he saw what the chest contained he wished he had never opened it. But it was too late now. Some times it was an envelop filled with cash, or a book with hundred dollar bills in the pages, or a foil-wrapped package. Once it was a bible with a note in a spidery hand asking for forgiveness. Sometimes the old people thought they were returning money given to them by mistake and they were rushing to return losing their life savings doing the right thing for the wrong people. Blues was the wrong people.
Today the package contained a small square metal chest. When he lifted the lid the sides flopped open revealing a camera and a GPS and a tag that read: Property of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Investigations. Grabbing the tracker, Blues ran up the stairs, ran out of the townhouse, ran from his Grandma’s startled questions, ran to not see the look in her eyes when he gets taken away again.

Toil & Trouble

“Hello I’m Erica Martin, welcome to Toil & Trouble. Are you currently in the province of Magical Enchantment?”
“Yes.” The voice was timid. The client fidgeted in his Norte Dame sweatshirt and khakis.
“So what brings you here, Eamon? Have you been in counseling before?” Martin asked.
“No, this is all new to me. My people don’t really ask for help. People always expect us to be happy. Unless they’ve watched those god-awful Leprechaun movies from the 90s then they expect us to be gold grubbing psychopaths. That was a rough time I tell you. No, I never saw the point in talking about your problems.” Eamon spluttered and fell silent.
“I’ve worked with many mythical creatures, your unique history can present many challenges,” Martin said soothingly. “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help or focusing on your feelings. Think of it as maintenance.”
Eamon raked his fine fingers through his coppery curls. “I don’t know how to begin. I’m just off. I don’t care about me gold. I haven’t visited the end of the rainbow in weeks. I’m restless. Old shoes hold no appeal for me. None of the old things in my life still to matter much. My world is gray.”
Erica Martin gave her client a warm smile. “Tell me about the new things in your life.”
“Well things being the way they are, crazy and upside down like, I thought I would take up some new hobbies. I tried bread making until I got sick o the sight of sourdough. Then painting, then throwing clay pots and finally,” Eamon shimmered nervously in and out on Martin’s screen. The counselor leaned in.
“I have taken up knitting. It’s just not done. If the lads knew what I was up to.”
Eamon flushed bright red from the tips of his toes to the roots of his head.
“Tell me what you like most about knitting. “
The sprite’s split in half from his grin. “O the colors you know. The reds and purples and gradients are to die for. I love cacophonous color combos when I make me socks. So much more interesting then cobbling a thousand old boots. My teacher Coleen favors natural colors. She wants to teach me how to dye me own fibers, don’t cha know.”
“You know your whole face lit up when you talked about knitting and Coleen.” Martin slipped on a pair of sunglasses to block Eamon’s green glittery glow.
“Coleen is a lovely lass. When she’s not keening she’s cheerful and cheeky,” Eamon said. He looked off in the distance turning over a memory of the banshee’s warm arms reaching around his to correct his Kitchener stitch.
Martin waited patiently again. Her wings swayed and she cocked her head watching the leprechaun’s iridescent aura. Martin took a sip of hot chocolate and listened to Eamon fall in love.

The Bird

“Okay now open your eyes,” Eddie said.
I uncovered my eyes, my stomach flip flopped with excitement. I saw a hideous beetle black eye staring straight at me.
I screamed, “Arghhh what the everlasting fuck! Why don’t you know me at all! Get away.” I sprinted to my bedroom shaking. Eddie gave me a parrot.
I hate birds. Not like they make me nervous or I find them icky. I hate birds. Ever since I was a kid I can’t take birds.
“Honey I’m sorry. So sorry, we met at the park feeding pigeons and I had a bird when I was a kid and you said you had a bird too.
My step mom had a bird not me. I mumbled to myself. I took a shuddering breath. I calmed myself and pasted on my happy face. The day I met Eddie a nasty vermin bird pecked at my shoe and I threw bread to distract it and then collided with Eddie with his box of popcorn. He was kind of hot and I wanted a meet cute so I didn’t tell him of my crappy childhood and laundry list of problems.
I took a deep breath and went back into the living room to pretend I liked Eddie’s gift. I was good at pretending.
I managed to pretend for two whole weeks. I called the bird Charlie when Eddie was around. The big green gold bird was sulky. It became to look seedy and unkempt.
One night when Eddie was staying over the bird screamed a frightened human scream. It scream every few days, then every day.
We took the thing to a vet. I was kind of hoping it was something terminal not painful or lingering just a cough twice and keel over illness. The vet did an exam while the bird tried to nip the vet’s fingers off.
“Feather loss could be parasites or infection but most likely it’s psychological, feather destruction syndrome. She’s just not happy,” the vet said stroking her head. A first I thought the veterinarian was talking about me and then I realized what a jerk I was.

That night I came clean to Eddie. I didn’t tell him everything but enough to let him know I’m not bird parent material. We talked and researched parrot rescues. That night after Eddie fell asleep I went to look at the parrot.
It eyed me leerily.
“I’m sorry bird. I tried, I really tried. We’re not a good fit.”
“What the everlasting fuck? “The bird hissed.
“You’re right. I didn’t try. I fake and hide my true self. I don’t like you because of my own issues. I took it out on you. I’ll make this right. I’ll work on me all right.”
The bird blew a raspberry at me and turned her back.
On Saturday we drove out to the parrot sanctuary. Eddie talked nonstop the way he does filling the silence. I listened and was super interested in whatever he was talking about.
At the sanctuary I didn’t know what I felt. The staff was very kind. I gave a donation to feel better. They let us tour the facility. Grey, white, acid green, carmine so many beautiful colors of birds cawing and flying in the aviaries.
“Can I visit?” I said suddenly as we were walking out. Where did that come from?
“Don’t you know me at all?” The bird said brightly stretching her wings.
On the way to Eddie’s car I could hear Charlie laughing. Then all the birds were laughing. A cacophony of phrases rained down on us on the way back to the parking lot.
“I’ll work on me. I’ll make this right.”
On the ride back I drove. Eddie tried to make small talk. I told him I was sad for me but happy for Charlie and I need some quiet time Eddie smiled and we enjoyed the ride home in silence

Milk & Cookies

With a booming rhythmic whine, the washer had shimmied halfway across the basement laundry room. Sam raced downstairs to investigate the racket, falling halfway down. Cold sudsy water from the slop sink sprayed his face while he wrestled the white behemoth back in place. Dripping wet and black and blue, Sam knew he was a loser. Sam had been a cute kid, charming and precocious. Next he morphed into good-natured , aimless teen stoner. After his fifteen minutes of college, Sam wandered from job to job, mostly sales, IT, restaurants and bars, until he got sick, lost his apartment, and ran out of sofas to surf. On his last fumes, Sam pulled up into his grandma’s driveway.
Most grandmas are like Mrs. Claus, rosy plump cheeks and cozy bear hugs. Nanny was less milk and cookies and more box wine and Pall Malls. Crowded to the rafters with pillows and paintings, rude knickknacks and cacti, his grandmother’s house always smelt of weed. After a tense showdown on the porch with Sam, puppy dog-eyed, holding his life in two trash bags, and Nanny, arms folded, blocking the front door, she let him in.
Since the bedrooms were filled with Nanny’s treasures, his grandmother made space for Sam in the side parlor. She set Sam up with an air twin mattress and a old timey storage trunk. At first Sam felt as if he was the unwanted roommate of a giant bird of prey. Gradually he grew comfortable with Nanny’s western saloon meets Woodstock decor. He got a couple of shifts as a bar back at The Squeaky Wheel started a course to be a bartender. Nanny introduced Sam to Bessie Smith and and Sam returned the favor with Cardi B. They bonded over Dateline.
He mopped the laundry room floor and carted the wet laundry outside. Nanny liked the smell of linens dried in the sunshine. She was getting too old to reach up and hang the sheets. Sam pulled the sheets tight with the wooden clothespins. Sam and his cousins used to zigzag through the laundry playing It. Touching the old padlocked barn door was home. Remembering when he was happy and hopeful, Sam looked over at the barn.
The door was wide open. Sam did a double take. Nanny was napping in her room. No one else was around for miles.
Concerned, Sam investigated. The first thing he noticed was fresh cold air blasting his face. The barn had a clean cement floor with drains. Well lit, the room was filled with wine racks loaded with liquor bottles. They were very nice liquor bottles.
There were bottles of Macallan and Dalmore single malts. Each one was rare, a collector’s dream. Sam cradled a lovely bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle 20 year old bourbon in his arms. He didn’t drink whiskey much but he knew this bottle went for $50,000 all day. His hands shook. There were foils of different labels, cleaned old bottles in drying racks, a hand crank sealer, and a brand new Apple MacBook Pro where someone was browsing eBay. A plate of homemade sugar cookies and glasses of milk sat on a lacquer tray by the laptop.
Sam had done a little hacking mostly pranks, but he knew a well constructed con operation when he saw one.
“I start with Glenfiddich bourbon or an Aberfeldy 16 and then create the taste profile from there. Luckily most wealthy jackanapes wouldn’t know a good whiskey from dog piss and are merely chasing the scarcity. I work in the grey market. The secret is never get too greedy or trust a complete stranger,” Nanny said leaning against her walker near the wall by the barn door.
“I want in.” Sam was giddy as a baby. “There are ways to sell online without leaving a trail. Let me show—“
“Oh Sammy, you’re already in. Why else would the door be open?” She slid the door shut.

HEA

The SUV inched through the night. Stu drummed on the dashboard. Ronnie watched for deer and killer potholes. They had only been dating for a few months and every day had been torn from a steamy romance novel. With Stu, Ronnie was a wallflower who took off her glasses loosened her bun and turned suddenly into a hot. When Stuart invited her to visit his parents she knew they were taking things to the next level.
“I hate these country roads. Quit clowning and navigate. Why do your folks live out here any way,” Ronnie said clutching the steering wheel.
“My girl is red hot,” Stu sang at the top of his lungs.
“Are you sure this is the right road? I’ve never been tout this far.”
“Your girl ain’t diddly squat!” Stu managed to sing even louder. He gyrated in the passenger seat snapping his fingers.
Ronnie kept one eye on the death road but glanced at Stu again and again. Stuart was beautiful, no not just beautiful, perfect. Flawless skin, terrific abs, and unbelievable bright blue eyes, Stu flashed Ronnie with a dazzling smile. Ronnie’s Stu stroked her lush thigh.
“Turn right here sugar plum.”
Ronnie pulled up to the gate of the darkened warehouse. Whistling rockabilly, Stu hopped out of the car and unlocked the gate’s padlock with a titanium key he always wore around his handsome throat. Ronnie stood by her car frozen in fear. There were stacks of dirty mannequins, piles of torsos and legs, a storage container of blank eyed heads.
“Aren’t you coming with me Veronica? There is so much more I could show you.” Stu extended his perfect arm to Ronnie. “Don’t you love me?”
He was even more beautiful under the moonlight. She remembered his lips, his eager hands, their nights together.
“Oh hell no!”
Ronnie climbed back in her car and locked all her car doors. Gravel sprayed from her tires as she peeled off. When she was a girl Ronnie never played with dolls. Ronnie never asked for dolls. Ronnie didn’t play with dolls because she knew they turned alive at night. She knew two things never trust a doll and know when to leave.
On slowly stiffening legs Stu walked back to the derelict building. His sexy shoulders slumped as the sound of his lovely girl’s car fade into the night. The warehouse doors opened. His family of plastic and plaster welcomed him home with unmoving outstretched arms.

The Wolf Inside

It was the worst kind of day to be lost and alone on a mountain, thought the human side of Schuyler. The wolf inside him stirred in its sleep. He inhaled. The air smelt sweet and crisp as a fresh apple. The girl was sweet too. Sweet and sweaty, the girl had been walking in circles for hours trying to find the switchback trail. Schuyler could tell she was an inexperienced hiker despite her large backpack. The weather was cool and growing colder but the girl wore a light jacket and carried no phone. Schuyler inhaled again, deeply with his mouth slightly open curved into the Flehman response. When the wolf was near Schuyler’s eyes went colorblind seeing only black, white, and red but his sense of smell mushroomed.
His brain exploded with scents: tangy clumps of wild onions, the spiciness of mountain laurel, the wintergreen of yellow birches and most refreshing the absence of other people. There were no other humans on the mountain except the girl, she smelled of warmth and weakness, of lavender vanilla body wash, and she was . . . ovulating. So not a girl, she was just a petite woman. Human Schuyler felt a tug in his brain, something was missing. The wolf inside licked its lips.
Noiselessly, Schuyler climbed down from his treetop lookout. He leant against a tree trunk, rested his cap over his eyes and waited for night. He wondered what brought her to his mountain, his hunting grounds. It had been hard for him at first when the familial curse came upon him. As a kid he loved reading gothic horror Poe and Sheridan LeFanu. But when he changed Schuyler didn’t fret over his lost of humanity like a gothic hero. He didn’t question or cry. He accepted himself, itself fully. The wolf had to be fed.
Schuyler used his wits to feed his wolf. He stalked the red district and homeless encampments taking prey that no one missed. Empty streets and isolation, the pandemic had been a blessing. He could work remotely and hunt at his leisure. Schuyler bought a cabin nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains and expanded his territory. He transformed in a apex hunter in city and country, across jurisdictions, with multiple victim profiles. No one would connect the dots. Another tug in his brain, why was she here? Why was she alone? Was she an artist seeking a muse? Soothing a broken heart? Schuyler listened to the girl setting up a tent; he scented her peanut butter carob granola bar; he imagined the taste of her skin. In his dreams Schuyler bumped into the pretty women at a coffeehouse; her auburn locs pulled into a ponytail; her smile as she laughed at his jokes.
At the first cricket’s chirp, Schuyler awoke. The sun was setting. Schuyler stripped. He didn’t want to ruin his Adidas. The wolf inside surged outside. It ran. It was triumphant. The wolf felt her heat, smelled her flesh, heard the steady calm beating of the female’s heart. It charged through the shrub jaws open. And there she was standing in a long red cloak with a taser and a long handled axe.
The pain was excruciating. The human inside of Schuyler realized at last what had been missing was fear. She was alone, apparently lost, and cut off from the world but the woman had never not once reeked of fear. Human Schuyler wrestled with the thought that the woman had tracked him, had hunted him, had set a trap using herself as bait. As the axe rained down, the wolf/man howled.

The River Comes Home

Shelves of antique cameras, a row of blind eyes, kept watch over Ina. The old photographic equipment and sepia images were all props, bits and odd pieces that Stefan had purchased for the photo studio to appear cultured and artistic. Ina looked back to her desktop. She didn’t have time for Stefan’s nonsense of missed deadlines and unfinished plans. Ina had started working at the studio to be a photographer and instead spent all her time as an overworked assistant. She massaged her temples, trying to push past the tiredness. She had to finish this restoration tonight. There was still the framing to do and Meemaw’s birthday party was Saturday afternoon.
Ina studied the old original photograph. On her screen she carefully manipulated the image removing age spots from its background. The woman in the photo was a relative, a family secret, a series of hushed whispers, Ina had heard since she was a child.
The woman—a girl really only 17 when this photo was taken—in the photograph worn a prim velvet suit, a rabbit fur muff, her head bare. Ina had researched Helen. From family whispers, Ina knew Helen as a hick, a jail bird, an escapee, a murderess. From bound newspapers and microfiche and a long afternoon with Uncle Alvin, Ina knew Helen was raised on the river, the White river in Arkansas. Pixel by pixel Ina transformed the image, bringing it to life. Helen was her grandmother’s aunt and scandal or no Meemaw loved Helen.
Ina knew the velvet suit was burgundy and paid for by the people on the river for Helen wear to court. Ina camouflaged a crack from the original and knew Helen had caught the rabbit herself and the fur muff held her pearl handled .23 caliber gun. Helen killed the man who murdered her daddy and assaulted and murdered her mother right in front of her. She killed the man who was about to be found innocent of murder because city folks didn’t much care about what happened on the river. She shot him in open court.
Ina looked at Helen’s tiny hands, the turn of her chin. In Helen’s face Ina could see the faces of all the people who lived on the river, lived off the river collecting mussels, hunting and fishing, taking care of each other on the river. Orphaned and banished from her only home, Helen fought her entire short life. She fought reporters who twisted the truth for a good story, bosses who took liberties, wardens who took everything. Ina looked at Helen’s photograph. Ina smiled with pride. The shop rear door opened and Stefan bustled in.
“Working late, school project?” Stefan brushed against Ina on his way to the light board. Ina hunched her shoulders.
“I finished the Wilson job and cleaned up the proofs for the dance school,” Ina said.
Stefan came up behind her chair, resting his large hands on her shoulders. “Thanks for finishing up for me. I left my laptop at home and I’ve been running behind all day. Let me take you out to dinner as a way to say thank you.”
Ina wriggled out his grasp. “Please Mr. Moray I need to finish up.”
“Ina you work too hard. You need to relax. Who’s the country bumpkin?” Replaced his hands on her shoulders and stroking down her arms, Stefan peered at the monitor.
In her mind the old cameras dripped water, river water. The sounds and smells of the White river filled the studio. Ina thought of the milky clay river that ran from Arkansas to Missouri and back home to Arkansas again. Ina reached for the letter opener and clenched it tight. She wrenched her shoulders from her boss’ hands.
“Watch your mouth, she’s my people.”

Fancy a Game, Love

With a thin cigar between her lips, Klara sank back in her rocking chair. Ruefully she glanced over at her long neglected knitting basket. Carols her angora winked at her and rolled over in the basket. Klara returned to her tablet. The world was going to hell in a hand basket. In her realm the Massacre of the Flyers had rocked her community to its core and stretched her troops in search of the assassin to the farthest reaches of Winterland. Summerlyn, once lush and verdant, had been ravaged by intentional forest fires. Security experts at Spring City had uncovered a bomb at their city hall and now the entire metropolis was under martial law. And Autumn Falls was what—a complete mystery; the island continent has gone completely dark, no news, no broadcasts, no calls, no emails, no emissionaries returned, all drones shot from the skies. The world of magic was under attack and the world of humans had become an ongoing Dumpster fire.
Klara dialed Bojangles again reassured just by the sound of her brother’s voice on his voicemail. She had to believe her little brother and season realm he led were okay. A slight noise drew her attention. Her husband, with a twinkle in his eyes, entered the study with his portable chess game.
“Fancy a game love.”
Klara motioned her head toward the large cuckoo clock on the mantle. “Isn’t three o’clock a little late to play games,” she said.
Kris looked a little confused and then he began setting up the board on her desk.
“Puddly posh, it is much too dark for three at this time of year, my dear. That old clock must be daffy. I thought some chess would soothe your nerves,” Kris said. He lined up the chess pieces.
“My Santa, I didn’t mean to bark at you.” Klara crushed her cigar in a plate of cookies. She walked to her desk and kissed the top of his bald head as he lined up the pieces in order. Kris had been drifting further and further away from her each day. The last few years had been very hard for them both. She tried to keep his deterioration from others for his dignity and for their protection. A weak unprotected king is key to losing the game. Klara said her thoughts out loud.
“Remember your old days as a chess whiz,” Kris said with a chuckle. “No one could touch you.”
“One being came close.” Suddenly Klara understood. Magic was out of balance. The workshop was underprotected; the realms were fighting internal problems and no longer working together. Only someone from the inside, someone high up could orchestrate this level of upheaval.
Klara stepped over to the globe on her desk and idly spun the known world. Slyly she looked at Kris, the Santa Claus, the beloved myth and Kris Kringle, the ambitious wizard she had loved and trusted since she was in pigtails. Klara reached beneath her desk for the hidden drawer with her blade.
“No one’s going to believe you, Twist and turn, boil or burn, still no one is going to believe you,” Kris sang in a sweet merry tune as he deftly twirled Klara’s bejeweled dagger with his left hand.
“Fancy a game, love.”

Pink Snow

We rode on the backs of arctic hares. Our mounts were incredibly fast blazing through the snowy landscape. My cheeks burnt cherry red by the stinging snow my eyes raked the horizon.
Crystal, our commander, raised a hand and stopped. We all stopped. I tried to calm staccato of my heart.

My mount, the youngest of all the hares, caught something in the air and bristled in fear. Cinnamon threw me an icy glare as my brethren in arms looked away. Shamefaced I quieted him and myself.
Our eyes followed Crystal as she charged ahead. We waited for what felt like years. The whole snow globe world held its breath.
A short whistle followed by two long low whistles shattered the glass. We spread out into a six point formation and we moved forward. No birds no wind the frosty forest was quiet as a graveyard.
My breath snagged in my throat. Pink snow greeted us. Deer legs and heads ripped asunder peeked out from the fresh new fallen snow. This was no wolf no bear this was personal. The truth was written in the unholy hoof prints in the blood tinted snow. Snowdrop jumped into the carnage. He sobbed as he held the hand embroidered harness reading Vixen. She had been a second mother to him.
Instinctively I climbed down to go to my friend. I reached a hand to stroke his long white hair. But I felt the admonition of my fellow warriors and mounted my stead again. This is not the time; this is not our way. Vengeance then grief, justice before forgiveness this is the elven way. I checked my crossbow to hide my own bitter tears. Snowdrop collected himself tucking the harness into his armor vest. After checking his rifle, he mounted and waited with a face of stone.
Crystal surveyed the scene, Cinnamon on the comms updated headquarters and Jingles read the killer’s tracks. Blood would be spilt.
“Forty clicks due East ma’am,” Jingles said to Crystal, his eyes twinkling with incandescent rage. Gravelly our commander nodded and the old elf sprang on to his hare.
Drawing her blade and lowering her metal mask, Crystal let loose a battle cry into wintry forest. We all knew why Rudolph shouldn’t play reindeer games. Yes blood would be spilt and then we could grieve the love loss. We leapt as one into the silent night.

Drugs & Co.

“Dude, all I know is what I know. When I opened up all these shampoos and conditioners when knocked to the floor. The grocery aisle was trashed. Maybe Becca and Marasol did roller derby for Christ’s sakes. I don’t know. I didn’t close. I came to this. I didn’t close,” Jon said one hand on his hip the other holding a dirty mop.
“Stow it, stop repeating yourself. I just want answers not excuses,” Jeffrey hissed.
Jon slung the mop out of its bucket almost missing his manager’s loafers. He mopped quickly.
“Just cart the damaged stock and clean up as fast as you can.” Mumbling to himself, Jeffrey skirted around customers for the safety of his office. “Must I do everything myself.”
“Thanks for the support, Jeffery. It’s a pleasure to serve you.”

“What’s the deal? What went down last night?” Jeffrey pounced as soon as Marasol entered the staff room. Marasol hung up her parka and slipped into her Drugs & Co royal blue polyester vest. “The restocking was only half done. Crap was thrown all over. I was working all morning.”
“Becca closed on her own last night. You know how Becca’s been the last couple of shifts. Well I was real worried about her last night. Her eyes were swole from crying and Jamie was blowing up her phone like crazy. I told her to leave early go to her mom’s while Jamie was still at work. But she let me leave early because my baby is getting over an earache…..” Marasol said. Her voice trailed off as she watched her manager’s red angry face.
“I didn’t ask for a Lifetime movie. We have damaged inventory. The store wasn’t properly closed. I have to fill out forms for this. I’m accountable for your screw up. If you can’t handle your job I can find someone else who will.” Marasol folded into herself and stepped back.
“They need me on checkout.” Marasol slipped away to the front of store.

“What’s the tea? Why is Jeffrey’s panties all in a bunch?” Yvonne’s pretty hazel eyes glittered with the hope of juicy gossip.
Marasol was lining up bottles of rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizers. She stood stretching her back and dusting off her hands.
“Maybe he’s afraid he might actually have to do some work. Mira estoy preoccuidad, like really worried about Becca. She’s not answering my texts. I hope she’s at her mom’s place without her phone charger.” Marasol headed to the stockroom and Yvonne followed.
“Didn’t you know they don’t speak,” Yvonne said. Marasol froze in place.
“No talking not no more. Something happened last summer. I heard her on her phone a lot. After Becca came out the closet her mom was cool with it at first but then her mom moved in this new guy and now there were problems or something. Her mom dropped off Becca’s backpack at the store in August I think.” Yvonne examined her fuchsia French tips. “Didn’t she tell you? I thought you were tight.”
“No she never— I didn’t know. But I’m sure she would let Becca come home, right. That’s her mom. Family comes first. At least for one night. I told it would okay to take a break from Jamie for a few days to get her head right. I told her I knew what it meant to be in a bad situation, to not feel safe in your own home to not trust the one you love, but she said ‘if I don’t make it work with Jamie it would be like I wasted three years of my life.’ Her mom would take her in, right,” Marasol said, her chin quavering.
“Prob.” Yvonne said with a bored shrug.

Will handed the customer her shopping bag. “Have a good evening.” Will flashed a friendly smile that flashed off when the store’s door slid stuck. “I can’t believe Jeffrey called me on my day off. I’m not the assistant manager. I’m not trying to be the assistant manager for free.”
Yvonne flipped through Glamour magazine. “Becca pulled a no call no show. She got into with her girlfriend or something. It is what it is.”
“I don’t get paid assistant manager money,” said Will.
“And Marasol left early about something. Did you hear what Marasol told Jeffrey to do before she left?”
“So I shouldn’t be expected to work assistant manager hours,” Will continued.
“Seriously you could hear them arguing in pharmacy. I don’t know if Marasol is being a drama queen or if something serious—“
“What is this Where’s flipping Waldo? No offense but women equal drama and I don’t do drama. Becca isn’t here, her girl isn’t hereMarasol isn’t here, I’m here, and I have to close the damn store by my damn self on my day off.”
Yvonne rolled her eyes and flicked through the magazine.
“Why don’t you stop playing with the magazines and mop the shampoo aisle. Jon did his usual piss poor job there are dark specks splattered—“
Yvonne shoved the magazine she was reading upside into the rack and walked away. “Don’t give me orders. “Member you’re not the assistant manager.”
Customers lined up, annoyed by the chatter.
“Hello welcome to Drugs & Co. Did you find everything you needed?” Will smiled brightly as he loaded the shopping bag.