Hard Concession


She’s a pimple faced girl. Vicious scowl. Anxious to get back to texting. “Only one alcoholic beverage per order. Rules.”

She’s explained it twice already. Once in mumbles. Once in a slow “get it through your thick head old man” delivery. There’s a sign about it somewhere in the cluster fuck behind her but I’m missing the movie and how complicated can two beers be?

“Bet there’s a rule about that fucking phone.”

“Nope. No rules about that.”

I grab her pink cell and throw it into the popcorn machine, planning to let that be the end of it but anger has its own agenda.

“Fucking freak!” Pimples frantically slides her finger along the greasy screen of her phone.

I tell myself to apologize. Don’t kill the bitch. She’s a kid.

“Okay. Sorry,” I say. I’m almost feeling remorseful.

“Fuck you asshole!” She reaches under the counter for a bottle of cleaner and sprays me in the face. Hits me in the left eye. Then she’s spraying her phone and wiping it on her leg so she can call someone.

Honestly, I can’t recall the tiny details that occurred between the shit hitting my eye and me going over the counter and choking the little bitch. I barely remember us wrestling around on the floor behind the counter, me banging her head or dragging her through a set of swinging doors into a storage room full of popcorn buckets and napkins and shit. Everything she kicks hits the ground and all the while I’m stepping on plastic and have my grip tight around her neck. Her face turns an odd color of purple and white.

I feel euphoric; like I want to run around hugging people, say kind hellos to strangers. Like I’ve just had the best sex of my life or fallen in love for the first time. I’m tempted to laugh out loud, high five someone. Pimple’s (Mary according to her star shaped nametag) cell starts vibrating that ummmm ummmm pause ummmm ummmm sound and breaks the spell of our perfect silence. That’s when I think of the trouble I could be in if I’m caught.

I pull Mary to a plastic storage cabinet where employees stash their coats and things. I shove her in and force the door closed.

When I stick my head through the swinging doors, there’s a thin elderly lady waiting to order. “There you are,” she says. She’s looking me up and down. “You work here?”

I can already see her testifying against me in court, her boney arthritic fingers heavy with her best rings, pointing at me, confirming that yes I am the odd man she saw behind the counter. I push my hand through my hair, smooth over my shirt.

“Yes Ma’am. They got me lifting boxes in the back.”

“They should hire more people.”

“What can I get for you?”

“I’ll have two red wines and a small popcorn.”

I look around to see if anyone else is around. Nobody. I fill her order, pocket her cash while I watch her walk down the hall and into one of the theaters. I watch the door, the other hallway, the bathrooms. Silence. As much as I want to grab myself two beers just to spite Mary, I don’t have time.

Halfway down the hall I’m wondering if I should run through the exit or go sit with my date, act like nothing has happened, be a part of the shocked onlookers as we are ushered past yellow police tape and local news crews, my date clinging to my chest to hide her face from the horrors of Mary’s body in a black plastic bag and I comfort her so gently she’s bound to fuck me later.

I’d whisper, “What did I miss?”

She’d lean into my ear, breath warm and minty, and say “the volleyball floated away.” Her eyes would look like she’s cried a little, her mascara slightly smudged.

“Sad,” I’d say.

“No beer?”

“Nobody there,” I’d say.

But I remember the old lady and I know my date doesn’t know my real name so I bolt through the exit into the bright light of late afternoon.

~ fin ~

Mel Clayton is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She is a North Carolina native but has lived in Arizona and Texas. Her most recent short story, “Double Check,” appeared in Needle Magazine, Volume 4. You can find more on her writings at www.melclayton.wordpress.com