I used to move stock from the back of the store to the front of it.
I would stock dry goods on shelves and perishable products in the coolers.
It was an after school job on the street I live on and was easy as heck, even easier stoned.
My fellow employees and I all enjoyed hating it together like kids in school,
My managers were like grown-up teenagers
And the customers’ teachers who asked us stupid questions got really mad
When none of us knew the answer, but usually at least one of us did.
I met my boy Lewis there; we bonded over old rock music and formed a band together.
One day while filling the orange juice cooler
Some really old dude dressed like a young dude came up close to me and grabbed my arm and asked
“Hey can I ask you something?”
And I said “sure, what can I help you with sir?” Kind of weirded out that he was grabbing my arm
But figured he’s old maybe he needs support or some other old person thing like that.
“What deals are on today?”
he asked and I replied
“milk I think, I don’t really know what else. I can get a flyer from the front for you if you want.”
And I tried to move away but he clung to my arm
And said “no, no, that’s OK. How long have you worked here for? I haven’t seen you here before.”
And I could tell he just wanted to talk
So I gave him quick offhand answers which were easy because all of his questions were about me.
My age, my school, what I liked to do on weekends – totally normal and not awkward questions like that.
Until he said “you know I really like you kid” and smiled like a hungry dog
And stared without blinking into my eyes like they were his food.
So I politely tried to defuse the weirdness of the situation by saying “ya, I like you too sir,
But I like hanging out with my girlfriend on weekends.” Even though she had just dumped me.
He slapped my shoulder and said “ha! Good for you kid. Keep having fun”
And walked away laughing all friendly-like.
I went over to the water section and told my boy Lewis while helping him stock the shelves
And we laughed about it.
I decided to just stay and help him, so I knelt down and stocked the lower bulk water packs.
Wouldn’t you have it that same really old dude came down the aisle with a cart this time and said
“It’s a Sunday, why aren’t you boys at church?”
And Lewis laughed and I said “I don’t believe in that stuff sir.”
And he said “you don’t eh?” and muttered low under his breath, “keep on your knees boy.”
I don’t know if he knew if we had heard him or not, but he walked down the rest of the aisle without stopping or saying anything
And Lewis laughed and to this day laughs when that little exchange is brought up.
© – Mike Ventola 2013
Photography by Andrew Capra. Click here to view more of Andrew’s work or to contact him.