It was dusk. The cashier had left the store for her break. I was alone, enjoying a moment of respite from the screaming of hell spawn.
The door opened. In strode one of the most feared creatures of Retail Hell - the Soccer Mom. It was fit and lean, long-limbed in yoga pants. It entered, its feline footfalls muffled by its Uggs.
5 billion years of prey instinct overtook me, and I was gripped by terror. My eyes widened to the diameter of the tires of a monster truck. Slowly, cautiously, never turning my back on it, I retreated to behind the register counter, to at least have a defensive barrier between myself and the great beast.
I could hear it breathing deeply and rhythmically. It had recently drank its fill at the Starbucks next door, probably having just feasted on the soul of a barista. I could only hope its hunger was sated.
With all the strength in my ocular sinews, I forced my lids down to bring my eyes to as near normal size as I could. I understood I was in grave danger. I kept my gaze lowered, as eye contact can provoke a Soccer Mom, inviting a challenge for social dominance that no retail slave can hope to survive.
I spoke to it softly, gently, in a reassuring tone, "Can I help you?"
The beast turned its attention towards me, and approached. In its manicured claws, I could see an iPhone 5s. It had come armed with the most dreadful weapon in its arsenal. It strode ever closer, then pushed the screen into my face. I thought it wanted me to tell it where its favored brand of dog food was - typically normal humans show me a photo of a bag and ask where to find it in the store.
An iPhone and its capabilities are as novel to myself as a radio might be to a newly discovered Stone Age New Guinea Highlander.
My heart was beating like a Ginger Baker drum solo, because it demanded something I could not offer it - to redeem an electronic coupon. Our small business does not have the technology to process them. I took a deep breath and braced myself.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we can only accept paper coupons."
It raised its head, bared its bleached teeth, and glared at me like the death ray of a laser beam. Forgetting myself, I made eye contact with it.
I had provoked the beast. It began to roar like thunder.
"What do you mean? I pressed 'Print' right in front of your face, and you didn't say anything! Right in front of your face!"
I drew my lips back into an appeasing smile, hoping to defuse the attack. "I'm afraid we're a little behind the times here. I'm so sorry."
Its roar blasted into my face. I could feel the heat of its fury burning my flesh. "You stood there and watched me print it, and did nothing to stop me. Now I'm not going to be able to use it again! This is your fault."
"She's not in this evening."
Through its scornful smile it hissed, "I want her name…. And I want your name."
Knowing I was going to be killed and die on Monday morning regardless, I resolved to face my end like Spartacus. I lost my fear. I met its challenge. With a steady hand, I wrote the manager's name, and my own on a scrap of paper.
Smiling sweetly, I said, "Here you go," extending my unworthy hand towards it.
Its jaw dropped. I had startled it. It had expected me to fall on my back, expose my belly to it, pee, and beg for mercy. It stretched its head towards me on its cobra neck, then tightened its eyes into slits. "I'm going to take care of this with your manager. You can bet on that."
I met its glare serenely and smiled. "Please do whatever you feel you need to do."
The beast whipped its head backwards, its long blonde mane flailing the air like a cat-o'-nine-tails, and strode out of the store, then disappeared into its van.
Knowing that I have but 48 hours left to live, I am oddly happy. My spirit is quickened, enhanced. Colors seem brighter. Air is sweeter. Simple things, like a sip of cool water, or the birds singing outside, bring me joy, even quiet ecstasy. I look my last upon the good earth, embracing every experience. I will die Monday morning, but I will finally be released from my torment and toil as a retail slave.
--Polo-Necked Strip Mall Monkey