Monday, December 22, 2014

A blue Christmas at Toys R Us

November 29, 1980

“It must be the heat,” one of the customers said as I rang them up and they moved on.
The heat?
My bones ached from the chill even inside the store where I was working for the Christmas rush.
Something had made my pen explode in my uniform shirt pocket, leaving a rink of ink like a bullet hole just over my heart, spreading like a disease to my fingers and then my arm. I even left stains on the cash register keys and left my fingerprints on a number of boxes. I claimed when customers complained that it came off poorly printed labels until some smart assed lady accompanied by a crude dude noticed the stain on my chest and asked if I was bleeding.
“Sure, I’m of royal blood,” I thought, but kept this to myself, bearing the brunt of their abuse with a grin.
I tried hard not to blush, but by then the blue had blotched my skin here and there, and I couldn’t get the manager to give me a break long enough so that I could go to the restroom to wash it off.
He passed my station several times with a strange twinkle in his eyes as if he thought all of this too funny to have it stopped so soon.
This steamed me. And each time I looked back down at myself, I found another patch of blue, and that the circle on my chest left its imprint on my inner arm as if I was Gutenberg and had just invented the printing press, using myself as both press and paper.
I did my best to hide these blue abrasions, bending my wrist in unnatural ways, slumping my shoulders until I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
A lot of people looked at mere queerly. Most thought my whole act as amazingly funny. Some customers refused to move on immediately and would stand and stare and ask, “How come you have all that blue all over you?”
These were mostly kids so the concept of justifiable homicide would not have held up in a court of law.
Eventually, I gave up and started to boast about the pen that had exploded in my pocket, treating as if I had done it more or less intentionally.
Some of the people then came up with theories as to why it had occurred.
But not everybody was pleased.
One lady complained about the blue marks on the ears of the teddy bear she’d just purchased, and didn’t buy my claim that some of the bears came from the factory that way.
“It’s the humidity,” I said, trying not to look down at the poor stuffed creature and how I had marred it.
She pointed to my breast and its spreading circle and told me I was full of shit.
At that point, I told her I had to go to the men’s room, and flagged down the manager who was suddenly concerned about the hold up in the line, standing behind me to listen to my string of excuses.
Finally, he closed down my register and told me to go wash up.
“It’s the heat,” one of the customers said as I made my way away from my station.
But my ears and face were red with a blush that only made the blue marks look darker.
“Yeah, it’s the heat,” I thought.

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