Fred was recalling a job at Safeway when he was in high school.
“It was a pitiful job, especially when one of the housewives who came in regularly bought a 50-pound bag of peat moss or potting soil, and I had to load it in their station wagon. I hated that job.”
“Anyway, my friend Slinky and I had a little routine where we would comment on the customers after they checked out with their groceries, and when I wasn’t helping them to their station wagon.”
“One day a guy comes through and buys a pack of cigarettes, which didn’t really make sense because he had a pack rolled up in his t-shirt sleeve. His jet-black hair was slicked back, ending with a ducktail that was almost dripping.”
‘What a greaser,’ Slinky said as the guy walked away. ‘Yeah, what a greaser,’ I agreed, unable to come up with anything more descriptive. We laughed a bit and then looked up to the next person in line, who was a heavyset woman with an angry face.”
‘You two clowns think you’re pretty funny don’t you? Just a regular Martin and Costello. That greaser you refer to is my son.’
“I was shocked into silence. I think Slinky mumbled an apology but I just looked down at my feet. She stormed out and we felt bad, until Slinky said something about ‘Mom Greasy’ or ‘Greasy Mom’ and the snickering returned.”
“The next customer up needed help to her car, but thankfully not with peat moss. I got her loaded up, turned back towards the store and was face to face with the Greaser. ‘Think you’re pretty funny don’t you?’ he sneered.
“He stood very close, our noses almost touching. I could smell the greasy mix of cigarettes and what I thought was tuna. Then he pulled out a knife and pressed it against my chest. I saw Ma Greaser behind him and it made me sad that she would be the last woman I would ever see. Greaser popped my nose with his fist, then, he did it again, and once more, because he could. Then, from behind me I heard, ‘Springstead! Quit fooling around, we’ve got more customers.’ It was Mr. Porkinby, my boss. Greaser lowered the knife and asked what time I got off work. The three punches to my nose were not enough to amnesia all of my good sense and I told him, ‘Nine.’”
“It was actually six. I figured three hours should give me plenty of head start to get out of the country. ‘See you then,’ said Chicken of the Sea breath, as he walked away.”
“When I got home, mother told me Mr. Porkinby had called to tell me I was fired. I felt like doing cartwheels. Greaser would never find me now, and no more peat moss.
Jay Edwards is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist. Contact him at email@example.com