We know it’s a been a few weeks without a Writing Wednesday but we’ve all been busy doing a variety of things. But alas we’re back. Dave Dean has come back with a new (longer) short-story entitled “Milk Face”. Photograph: Warren Haas.
My last chance at any dough was the grocery store. The only way I could get cash was by getting scratch and wins with a gift card I’d gotten for Christmas. They won’t just give you cash back for the credit on your card, so realistically, if I got three tickets, the best I could hope for was 14 or 15 bucks.
When I got there, they were spraying the counter down with Windex and all the scratch and wins – the Cash for Life’s, Daily Keno’s, Instant Millions – had disappeared.
“Can I get a scratch card?”
I asked the lady wiping the counter. She looked up with the milkiest face I’ve ever seen. White computer paper with a couple drops of blood on it, grey-green eyes strained with registers and coffee.
“I think they’re away for the night?”
She turned to the girl who’s back was to her,
“Right? (Rachel? Pam? Lisa? Something like that)”
Something Like That said, without turning around, ringing another customer through.
“I guess, sorry?” asked Milk Face.
“Just my luck.” I joked, patting the clean countertop.
I thought that was clever but she didn’t get it and just went, “hehe.”“
I hadn’t even taken my hat or gloves off but didn’t want Milk Face to think I’d just shown up at the grocery store for scratch and wins. So glancing around at the produce – the cheeses, the hanging signs – I undid my jacket, and, acting like something I’d been forgetting had just caught my attention, headed for the beverage aisles to hide.
My sudden anxiety made me thirsty but of course, none of the drinks in the grocery store are cold unless they’re litres of milk or juice. After staring at and picking up then walking down the aisle with, then reconsidering and returning to it’s place on the shelf, a tin of lime green Gatorade powder, I grabbed a single blue, 710 ml one. I ripped the plastic off the stupid orange nozzle, unscrewed it, pulled the white tab back and took a good gulp. Warm Gatorade… not so much.
“I’m just gonna get this.”
I said to milk face, plunking my opened bottle down on the spotless, scratch and win-less countertop. She rang it through. I gave her my gift card and she ran that through too. Then she ran it through again. Then a receipt printed. Then she ran it through again and gave me a lovely, concernedly creamy gaze,
“Um, sorry? But,” she gulped. “Excuse me? But, umm, you’ve only got one dollar and eight cents left on this card. Hehe”
She handed it back to me.
“Ohhhh, shit. Really? I’ve opened this Gatorade.” I blanked, “Umm…”
She looked around at the produce – then the cheeses, the hanging signs – made sure Something Like That wasn’t paying attention, then took a quick glance further over her shoulder at the manager’s offices with the two way mirrors,
“K.” She said, “Don’t worry about it.”
“Umm, yeah. Just go, it’s cool.”
“Word! Thank you (and I almost said Milk Face)! Can I, like,” I turned around and looked behind me. “Can I get you something for that dollar-eight?”
“No! It’s ok!”
“Yes! Yes. Whatdya want? Snickers? What’s your favourite? A Mars bar?”
“No! Seriously? Get out of here!”
“No! Seriously! What are you having. A Snickers.” I put a Snickers down and gave her my card with a dollar-eight left on it.
“There. Have a Snickers.”
I walked through the sliding doors and out into the parking lot. The heat of a spring evening was raising the tar from the asphalt and the fumes mixed with my lukewarm blue Gatorade somewhere in the back of my throat, and I thought to myself,
“Next time I’m in, I’m gonna buy that girl a scratch and win.”