Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crappiest Job: The Prequel: Silly String and Gummy Worms

I nearly forgot about this job, even though it wasn't really a job because I was underage, worked for less than a day, and I didn't get paid. But it really shaped the rest of my working life, I think, when I look back on it.

A friend of John's family was opening a convenience store at the beach, building it from the ground up. John somehow got the go-ahead to come and work some mindless menial task, and was able to finagle a job for me as well. Just getting there was a task in itself. When I approached my folks about the possibility of working after school, they naturally shot that idea out of the sky. I was 13. What the hell did I need with a job? It was out of the question. But I wanted to work, and wanted a little extra cash to burn, so I crafted some elaborate, cockamamie scheme whereby I would ride my bike to school, which would explain why it took me so long to get home in the evening. I left early and biked a mile or so down the road to my friend Josh's house, stashed the bike in the woods and caught the normal bus into school. After class I caught the bus to the beach, where John and I were to begin our working lives. It was a flawless plan.

The gig was easy enough: we were stocking a store, which consisted mainly of opening boxes, removing the contents, setting said contents onto shelves or into coolers, breaking down the boxes, and throwing them into the dumpster. Easy. Piece of cake. I could taste that $4/hour already. I loaded a few shelves, ran a bunch of boxes to the dumpster, and all was going well. Until I went back and found John behind the dumpster.

"Check this out, man!" he said with pride, as he reached under the dumpster and fished out a giant tub of Gummy Worms for my approval. Looking behind him, I could see that Silly String was sprayed EVERYWHERE.

Now, Some interesting things to consider:

1) Things which are important to 13 year-old boys: Silly String and a giant tub of Gummy-Worms.

2) Gummy-Worms are important enough to a 13 year-old to:
a)steal, and
b)hide under trash, supposedly with the intention of retrieving and eating later.

Please understand, gentle reader, I had no intention of storing food under trash and then eating it. I only wanted to throw broken boxes into that trash and collect some cash. But John hijacked that meager dream.

And of course, as luck would have it, as I turned to walk away, leaving John with his Trash-Gummies and his no-longer-silly string, the boss came out through the back door.

"What the fuck is this?"

"Uhh, uhh... " John stutters and attempts to hide the tub, forgetting that part of his guilt is sprayed all over the alley behind him. The boss isn't impressed. He reaches under the dumpster and pulls out the Tub-O-Gummy, and grabs John by the collar of his t-shirt. Meanwhile, I'm going back into the store to keep working.

"Don't go anywhere, kid," I'm told. He's dragging John back inside, and now I'm guilty by association. We're taken back into the store, into the office. John is pushed rather brusquely into a chair. I stand in the corner.

The boss calls John's dad, tells him we're ready to be picked up right now.

The boss doesn't say much for the next half hour or so, and I keep trying to melt into the wall. It doesn't work well.

When John's dad shows up, Bossman follows us out to the car. He waits until John and I are inside, me in the back and John riding shotgun. He tells John's dad through the window, after the car has been started, what happened, how he found us both in the back, conspiring to rob him of his earthly possessions, how John had been caught in the act, red-handed.

John Sr bids his friend farewell, rolls up the window, watches him return to his store. He turns to John and pauses, observing his child for a moment. Then he punches John squarely in the jaw. His right hand rains down again and again against the boy, finding easy weaknesses in the meager defense his boy puts up. He is bigger, stronger. He beats the living shit out of John while I sit in the backseat watching, cursing and spitting. I'm terrified. For all I know, I might be next.

Afterward he drives me to Josh's house, John quietly crying and wiping blood from his nose, me holding the door handle the whole time, ready to bail and take my chances against fast-moving asphalt rather than those meaty fists.

Much like the timeI got caught shoplifting, I don't go back to that store for years. I never really liked Gummy Worms to begin with.

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