Lucas, carefully going through the pile of CDs he was
receiving, could swear he heard his name. Shrugging, he went
back about his business with his usual, calm pace.
"LUCAS!!!!! Goddamnit where are you?!!?!"
Scratching his chin, the young store manager finally came
to the conclusion that someone, indeed his boss, Joe, was
calling his name. Shrugging again he continued with his
shipping duties. The door to the back room slammed open,
as Joe, restraining himself visibly, almost pounced at his
"How many times have I called you?" Joe asked, quivering
with anger. Pondering the question carefully, Lucas, finally
stopped looking at the ceiling and simply stated,
"I think I was aware of the last two times, but I'm not
sure before that, Joe. You may want to ask Gina or Mark,
they probably heard more; I wasn't paying much attention."
Joe, the store owner, and now a bright purple in color, shut
his eyes hard and tight... (think happy, think happy).
"Five times, Lucas. I called you five stinking times,
from right next door, though an inch of plywood we call a door.
Here on planet Earth, we generally respond when our names are
called by our bosses who have the power to ruin our life!!"
Fists clenched, veins were starting to show on Joe's forehead.
"Joe, no one person truly has the power to ruin another
person's life unless said person ALLOWS that person to. Do
you understand, Joe?" By this point, the new owner of Empire
Records, savior of lost youths, was seriously contemplating
using Lucas as a shot put. But before he could get
a word in edgewise, Lucas piped up, "I hope you've
learned something today, Joe, and I'm glad we had this talk."
The next sound to be heard by employees and customers in
the main store was the large crash of a certain night
manager being tossed through a door and into a set of
rather large drums.
Looking in the mirror, after washing off the dust of
countless compact disks, cassette tapes, and video equipment,
Debra ran her fingers through her very short hair. Water
dripping down her face and arms, she winced in pain as the scab
on her wrist let in a trickle of water. She'd been picking at
the stupid thing for weeks now, an old habit she never outgrew.
A lady bic she thought to herself. A wry smile came across her
supple lips as she hiked up her shirt; over her head. Topless,
she stood there, transfixed at what she had become. A month ago
she'd made a half-assed attempt to kill herself, shaved her head,
and suddenly found herself best friends with a girl she had
always despised. The small, silky hair under her arms smelt of
the baby-powder she used frequently. Her breasts, one part of
her she hated, were now wet from the water dripping down her
face. That time of the fucking month, she complained to herself
as she noticed that, though very firm, both ached and were
swollen. She looked again in the mirror, her arms crossed over
her chest, and tilted her head to one side. The glint of her
nose ring caught her eye and she smiled, remembering how much
getting that done had hurt compared to her "lady bic" episode,
as she now referred to it. So much had changed so quickly, and
Deb, for once, could smile and say to herself... "I'm happy".
Cory heard the words coming from the small studio in the
apartment she shared with her best friend and new love, AJ. She
managed a quick grin before she got to the door and swung around
the edge to find her love covered up to the elbows in paint. He
appeared to have been using his elbows as brushes, which Cory
couldn't exactly understand, but there was so much about AJ she
couldn't quite figure out... one of the reasons she loved him so
much. Skating up behind him on the slick hardwood floor, she
wrapped her arms around AJ and hugged him hard and deep. AJ
stopped, bowed his head, letting his long bangs fall across his
face, and took the love given to him by the person he'd sought
for over five years. Gently grabbing her hand, he ran his finger
over her soft knuckles and kissed her palm as he turned it
"What is it this time?" Cory asked playfully, still embracing
him, taking in the scent of his chestnut hair.
"Oh nothin'. Just this piece I'm working on for Abstract
Painting. I can't seem to make the colors fit like I usually
can. Shit! I wish I could just sketch forever... then I'd
always be happy with my work." He lifted his head to give one
last look at the stubborn painting before turning into Cory.
Still hugging, AJ asked, "So how's Bio-Chem? Still boring; is a
third major on its way?"
"Hey!" Cory yelled playfully, pushing AJ away with a big
smile. "I'm not THAT bad! It's just tough to figure out what I
want to do, Okay, 'Mr. I Always Know What I Wanna Do?'" She
grinned, as AJ, pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it at
his incomplete artwork. AJ laughed his subtle, wry laugh and
kissed her quickly on the lips.
"I'm just saying, Cory, do what you want to, not what you feel
you have to. Do I care what people think of my art? No. I care
what I think of it. It should be the same with you," he was
looking deep into her beautiful eyes, "do what YOU want, not what
your dad, or me, or anyone wants... only YOU are the one that
matters." Cory just stared at him as the seconds ticked by, her
arms around his neck, his around her waist. They kissed. Gently
at first, but the passion they felt for each other soon
overwhelmed all subtly. "You're wearing that blue flowered skirt
I hate," AJ managed to gasp between kisses.
"I know," Cory responded with a smile and another kiss. She
gently stepped back and undid the back latch, letting her skirt
fall to the floor in a crumpled heap around her delicate feet.
Her gleaming white panties soon followed as AJ slid out of his
jeans. Both stood there... watching each other, like one would
watch a sunset or a beautiful mountain waterfall. Then suddenly,
AJ spun around, grabbed his painting, through it to the floor,
and smiled. He slowly approached Cory, who was visibly trembling
with joy now. Kissing her so softly on the neck, he whispered in
her ear, "You know, I hear that acrylics make a great lubricant;
they're also easy to wash off."
Cory literally jumped on AJ, knocking them both on the large
canvas, smearing his work all over themselves. With a grin that
could only be matched by the lump in her throat and the tears
welling in her gentle eyes, she said to AJ, "Let's make a
painting we'll never forget, AJ." With a deep smile followed by
a sweet kiss, AJ replied,
"I love you so much..."
Chris looked over at the one thing he wanted more than anything
in the world and sighed. He'd been hired only about three weeks
ago and he was still incredibly nervous and shy. His shoulder
length dreadlocks bounced as he dipped his head to allow the
object of his deepest affection pass by his till, too afraid to
make eye contact. Why the hell do I always do this shit to
myself, the enigmatic young dark-skinned man thought. I always
gotta pick the ones who I ain't got a shot at. His self-pitying
was disturbed suddenly when he was bumped from behind. He
grabbed his till hard, knuckles turning white with fear and
excitement all at once. Oh my GOD!!! She's working till with me
today?? Oh shit, man!! I don't know whether to thank God or
curse 'im. Slowly, Chris got a grip on his situation and tried
his best to look like everything was Kosher. A view somewhat
reminiscent of a deer caught in the headlights of a Ford Bronco
at 3 a.m. He tried to smile casually (failing miserably), and
painfully... slowly turned towards his coworker.
"Hey Deb, what's up?" he managed to sputter out, well enough to
fool the young woman shoving her till in place.
"My fucking tits hurt, my scalp is itching like crazy, and I got
my damn rag!!! How're you, Chris?" Deb, not even looking at the
young black man when she blurted out the last answer he ever
expected, put her pale arms on either side of her till and looked
at Chris with a quirky smile, knowing she caught him off guard,
something she had begun to enjoy since he'd started at Empire
Records. Her little game had the exact effect of course, and
Chris looked at her quickly, twirling his head and leaning
towards her, sending dreads spinning.
"Deb," he said in a loud whisper, "aren't you gonna get in shit
if you let customers hear that stuff?" (Oh man, she CAN'T be
fired, ever, please). He glanced around quickly to see the woman
he was serving giving her a shocked stare. Chris simply shrugged
and smiled at the strange smelling older woman and handed her the
CD she purchased. With another glare at Debra, the old woman
proceeded out the door with a haughty shake of her long curly
hair. Deb just smiled.
"Thank you for shopping at Empire Records. Please come again
soon," Debra announced to the snobbish woman leaving the store.
Grinning, she turned back to Chris, "God, that is so much fun to
do, Chris. You should try it once in a while," with that she let
her low chuckle escape from her pale face and gleaming green
eyes... eyes filled with mischief, and love for someone. But
Chris knew that someone wasn't him, so that one look hurt more
than a scalpel through the sternum.
"Man, I gotta be in some kind of 'Twilight Zone'. My last job,
you even look at a customer wrong and your canned. Here, you can
almost tell them to fuck off and nothin' happens," he swallowed
the lump that had formed in his throat with that look. He ran
his hand through his hair and shifted in his red T-shirt to feel
a little more comfortable. Chris really was a sight. To the
average passer-by on the street, he probably looked like a
messenger from Hell. He wore his high-polished garrison combat
boots like a young child would wear a pair of slippers - as if
they were a part of him, not an add-on. His black BDU's hung
from his waist, well fitted to his muscular 6'1" frame, while his
afore mentioned red T-shirt sported lettering across it from one
of his favorite bands, with a skull, crossbones, and bleeding
cross for extra decoration. His long leather "duster"-style
trench coat sported patches and symbols from a dozen bands nobody
ever heard of. And that's the way he wanted it. Of course, the
coat wasn't on right now, so you could see the "W" shaped tattoo
on the inside of his left forearm... and the long, jagged scar on
his right arm, over the elbow.
But those who knew him, who looked past the combat pants, the
coat, the perpetual scowl, those few who bothered to talk to him
found the heart of a saint, the soul of a poet, and the mind of a
wizard. Chris pondered all this silently, in his own world of
pain and pleasures when the latter interrupted his thoughts,
"Who're 'Psychopomps' anyway?" Deb asked in a look that
actually resembled sincere interest. Jumping at the chance,
Chris had to stop his brain from going too fast for his mouth to
"Well, mmmmm.... they're this band I listen too..."
"I gathered that," Deb interrupted with a sarcastic smile, "I
mean where are they from? Would I've heard any of they're
stuff? Do they do show tunes?" Her smile was too much for Chris,
"No," he laughed softly, "they're from Denmark, they sing about
the shitty side of humanity in all its forms. But they really
suck now... so, yeah, I think they DO do show tunes he smiled at
Deb with a longing she mistook for mocking.
"What the hell are you so smug for? I got something coming
outta my nose?" she retaliated too defensively. Chris, dreads
swinging again as he looked back at his till, felt the old
familiar pain in his chest. He simply answered,
"Nah, nothing like that," he was almost shaking now, "I... I
just thought you were funny when you asked if they did showtunes
- and the irony that they probably do got to me is all." He was
painfully glad that a young guy came up to his till with several
compact disks and a couple movies, that'd keep him busy, for a
bit at least... let him forget. Debra looked at Chris closely,
scrutinizing his mannerisms, his tone, the shuffling of his feet
and hair. Shit... he was serious. Fuck I always do that!!!
Debra continued to chastise herself until several more customers
passed through both tills. Then the uncomfortable silence was
broken when Deb blurted out,
"H... hey I'm sorry, Chris, I didn't mean anything by that.
It's just that I don't feel that great about myself too much and
I tend to get really defensive. Kinda like a proactive defense:
attack before attacked," she was beginning to smile again as she
leaned over towards his till and tried to look under that mask of
dreadlocks and catch a glimpse of his eyes. She was gladdened to
see he was starting to smile... and when he looked into her eyes,
he even chuckled a bit. "Are we cool?" Deb asked seriously, her
nose ring flashing off the sunlight pouring in through the
"Yeah... we're cool," Chris finally answered, his bright white
teeth glimmering with his crooked smile. Satisfied, Debra
smiled, sacked him on the back of the head (why? Chris couldn't
figure out) and asked another question,
"So you like Industrial music, huh?"
"ARE you kidding me?!?!?!"
The conversation had been going not-so-well for some time now
and was starting to turn ugly.
"HEY! It was just a suggestion, Gina, so don't, like, flip out
over it and stuff, Okay?" Mark was getting more and more edgy as
time went by. His reddish brown hair was almost in knots from
pulling at it. Gina, dressed in a rather revealing red skirt and
black blouse, was equally frustrated. Proof of this could be
seen on the nails she had bitten almost down to the bone. She
turned away from, Mark and flipped back quickly, facing him as
they sat on the big couch in the back room,
"Yeah but the 'Buzzsaws'!?!?, come on!!!" She calmed herself
again, straightened her skirt along her lap, ran her fingers
through her straight, blonde hair, tilted her head slightly, and
said, "I still think 'The Clerks' is great. I mean, that's what
we all are! Plus it's less 'punkish' and more distinguished,"
she said in a tone of finality. As if to make her point that she
had decided on the budding new band's name, she threw her arms
over her chest, and crossed her legs, hard. Mark just looked
down at his shoes, shaking his head, and talked to himself,
"I can't believe she'd pick such a pretentious name!! Besides,
I'm the one who first came up with the idea! She gets to be lead
singer, too. Like, where is the fair play in this game!?!?"
Grabbing his poor hair again, he just held his head in his arms
and stared at the floor, while Gina, resolute on their new name,
just stared at the Hendrix poster on the wall with a pouty face.
Completely forgotten in the hoopla, was a young man in the
corner getting mighty tired of this stupid conversation. Warren
was another new addition to the staff, though not nearly as new
as Chris, and had already established himself a niche in this
strange family of workers. His real name is Randal, but due to
some rather strange events leading to his being hired (including
shoplifting, and shooting the store up with blanks from a real
gun), everybody called him Warren, and the name stuck. He knew
he was in trouble, though, whenever Joe screamed his real name -
so a dual identity had its upsides. Finally, having put up with
this for almost a half an hour, Warren, interrupted the silence
with a rather inventive idea.
"How about 'Dierex'?" He said in a monotone
"I-had-the-answer-all-along" tone of voice. The couch literally
jumped off the ground as Mark and Gina simultaneously spun around
and stared at him with wide-open mouths. "Well, it makes sense
don't it? I mean, we all hate him. He IS kinda the reason Gina,
Deb, and Cory bonded & he almost broke AJ and Corey apart.
Plus it sounds kinda cool, I think," he shrugged his shoulders,
and went back to labeling the flyers they had to put out front
for promo purposes. Gina and Mark turned to look at each other
"Hmm..hmm..heh..heh... Totally cool name, Warren!!!
Excellent!!" He leaped off the couched , grabbed the helpless
youth and lifted him in the air with a big hug, "Hmm... hmmm....
heh.. I knew there was a brain cooking in there somewhere!" He
finally let go of the flailing young store-rat, who hit the
ground hard, with his butt. Shaken, Warren wasn't prepared for
what happened next. All of a sudden, he looked up to see Gina,
the object of every fantasy he ever had since seeing her,
standing over him with a huge grin. She leaned down, helped him
up (well, lifted him up actually, he was too much on shock to
stand on his own) and kissed him hard on the lips.
"You are a genius, Warren!!!" She let go and he slumped back to
the floor in sheer bliss. He could even swear he saw little
cartoon hearts floating around his head.
"Our first song could be called 'Say No More.. EVER AGAIN!!!'"
Piped up Mark, now totally excited and acting somewhat like a
ferret on a double espresso. Gina grabbed his hands hard,
shaking them up and down repeatedly, blurted out,
"That'd be totally fucking awesome, Mark! We could get back at
the bastard in so many ways! So cool!!!"
The dead end turned into a blazing highway as the two band-mates
went on and on about names of songs, ways to kill Rex Manning,
who would sing lead on what song, and who they needed to join
their band. In their total state of ultimate excitement, they
forgot the small crumpled heap in the corner who had inspired the
breakthrough. Of course the "crumpled heap" didn't mind since he
was in his own world, sporting both the biggest smile and hardest
erection of his life.
*********************** end chapter one ************************
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