Life was certainly different for Eddy. At his mother’s insistence, he’d taken a part-time job at the local Walmart. He was immediately trained on the register, so he spent at least four hours a day standing on his feet and forcing a smile.
Does anyone else understand how difficult it is to say the same thing over and over to every person? Sometimes he’d switch it up. Instead of saying, “Hi, how are you today?” he might say, “What about this weather?” Neither question got a great response. Some people grunted and watched him take each item and swipe it across the barcode reader.
Worse, some people decided since he asked, he really cared. In the last four weeks, he heard about every type of malady. One woman even went into great detail about the color of her nasal discharge while she had COVID.
Eddy couldn’t wait for the holidays to be over. The hiring manager told him the job was seasonal at best. His last day would be New Year’s Day during the big sale.
How on earth can it get even busier? It’s only the week of Thanksgiving, and with all of these pre-Black Friday sales, people are absolutely nuts!
Of course, it was always better when his line was long and full of people. The four hours went a lot faster when he had a constant stream of customers. Otherwise, there was the side work each cashier needed to do unless they were constantly checking out people.
Straightening the impulse buy shelves was interesting. Too many people would think they wanted one item and change their minds. The first pick was put in the wrong spot. Then there were the pieces of garbage folks decided to leave behind – and where else? Stuff it in the impulse buy rack, right?
Eddy didn’t think he’d ever noticed how filthy groceries were. He constantly used the antibacterial soap at his register to wash his hands. At least every half hour, his palms felt grimy and sticky.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Eddy purposely wore one of his mother’s turkey pins. You see, she had an entire collection of holiday-themed pins. She had an entire jewelry box dedicated to them. There were at least three for every major holiday. Eddy chose her jeweled turkey with the Swarovski crystal plumage.
Everyone who worked at Walmart knew Eddy was gay. It was evident by the way he dressed, the way he talked, and the way he checked out the guys in the store. He didn’t think it would be a big deal if he wore the pin.
But he didn’t think about how the customers would react.
Customers didn’t notice what he was wearing under the blue smock with the yellow star. They didn’t notice how his eyes focused on a good-looking guy. No, customers only watched how fast he scanned their items and stacked them so they could bag their items.
His first customer of the day stared at the pin. When Eddy asked her how she was doing, she blurted out, “Isn’t that a woman’s pin? It’s pretty, but you’re a guy.”
Feeling the flush travel up from his chest to his cheeks, Eddy smiled and said, “It is pretty, isn’t it? It’s one of my mother’s favorite pieces. She thought it would be good to sparkle today.”
“Well, it’s pretty gay to me,” said the woman.
Eddy flashed his most charming smile as he killed her with kindness. Inside he was seething. What a bigot!
After she left the register, he considered removing the pin, but another customer was already placing their items on the conveyer. He didn’t want to call attention to the pin by removing it, so he just went to work.
“Hey, how’s your day going?” Each item beeped as it went from one side of his workspace to the other. There were grunts and cursing as customers tried to open the plastic bags.
The fake smile was pasted to his face, and Eddy worked as fast as he could. His legs were burning, and his fingers felt grimy, but there was no end to the line of shoppers. It seemed like everyone had forgotten something for the big meal the next day.
And then there was a familiar face.
Tom is in my line.
Eddy didn’t know how to act. Should he be embarrassed about the blue smock? Should he give Tom the same smile he gave everyone else? Should he show emotion in front of all these people?
Oh, and he looks so good. I wonder if I’ll be able to smell his cologne from this far away.
It felt like the two customers in front of Tom had hundreds of items. Eddy felt his fingers fumble and his face grow hotter with each item that didn’t want to scan correctly. He almost shouted when he had to call for a price check.
And all that time, Tom just stood in his place and smiled that winning smile. Just a slight show of the teeth and displaying those beautiful dimples.
Eddy’s mouth was suddenly dry. Just as he began to ask one of his stupid questions, Tom laughed.
“So, how are you today, Eddy? Looks like you got yourself a job.”
“Yeah,” Eddy sputtered. “My mom thought it would be a good idea. But really, I’m just trying to get through the holidays."
None of Tom’s items were being scanned. The guy behind him scowled at Eddy before he finally picked up a pair of socks.
“Where are you eating dinner tomorrow?” And as soon as the words came out of Eddy’s mouth, he realized he didn’t want to know the answer if Tom was eating at some other guy’s house.
“I don’t have any plans. I’m just going to watch the big parade and then some football. I suppose your mom has some big to-do planned, right?”
“Yeah, you know her. We’ve got about twenty-four people coming for dinner. She’s been baking all week.”
Eddy drew a big breath before he spoke again. He wanted to say it just right. “You know, if you want to, you could come and eat with us. There’s plenty of food …”
Watching the light flash in Tom’s eyes, Eddy knew he’d asked just perfectly.
“That would be great. What time should come? Can I bring anything?”
“Bring yourself. Dinner is at three, but feel free to come earlier. Then we can catch up …”
The dimples deepened. “I’ll be there around one, okay? Hey, that’s a cool turkey pin, by the way.”
Eddy watched Tom’s back as he left the store. His heart was full, and he didn’t even mind when the next customer in line bitched him out.
Life was good again.
…to be continued