$3.25 an Hour

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$3.25 an Hour

By Shawn R. Jones

White wings and lemon-yellow sun rays streaked the 1 pm sky as a salty breeze blew through the open glass door of the souvenir shop, tangling the wind chimes made of orange string and white shells.    Seagulls and I cried along with the lyrics to one of the most popular songs of that time, “Shout! Shout! Let it all out! These are the things I can do without!  Come on now!  I’m talking to you… Come on now!”

Teena, my friend and co-worker, adjusted cotton t-shirts on white plastic hangers, and slipped small souvenirs in the large pockets of her white sweater.  I ignored her and continued to sing against the wall in my over-sized gray sweatpants and t-shirt with a faded picture of ballet slippers, hoping the next few songs would get me through the next half hour to lunch.

Teena walked over to me. “Girl, you crazy.  You gonna get fired, singing all loud.”

“They ain’t paying me no mind.  They’re too busy flirting with the customers.”

Teena and I looked towards the cash register that sat up high in the middle of the narrow shop.  Two brothers, our bosses, were laughing with a group of women at the counter.

“So where are you ladies from?” the oldest brother, who looked like Bill Clinton, asked.

“Heaven, I’m sure,” grinned the younger brother, who looked more like a caricature of Bill Clinton.

The women answered in giggles and laughter.

Teena cocked her head to the side, looked at me, and said, “Look at them, all red…They need to stop.”

“Those young girls ain’t thinking about them.”

“Humph, think they ain’t?  They smell money.  Plus, Tim is kind of cute to be old, but Tom, he’s just a fool with his Gene Wilder hair.  And I don’t know why they hate black people because their heads just as knotty as mine.”

“How you know they hate black people?”

“Oh, believe me.  I know.”

“Uh oh,” I said, noticing the two bleached blonds who walked in with long black mink coats and white sneakers.  It was a common look for rich women who didn’t want their heels to get caught in the boards.

“I bet they’ll shut up now,” Teena said walking back to her spot in the store.

The minks sauntered pass us without speaking.  We might as well have been folded brown t-shirts on the yellow-painted wooden shelves.  They occasionally came in to see their husbands, our bosses. I thought they did themselves an injustice, not speaking to us.  After all, we knew more about their husbands’ secret lives than they ever would, and it bothered me that it didn’t matter what we knew because it reminded  me that we really didn’t matter.

I guess that’s why later that same afternoon, Teena hacked and spit in Tom’s soda from Roy Rodgers.

“Oh my God!” I put my hand over my mouth.  “And you stole from them earlier, too!”

“Girl, please, they ain’t gonna miss ’em, ” she used the straw to mix her saliva in with fizz from the Root Beer. “They shouldn’t charge so much for that cheap crap anyway.”

I felt nauseous as we walked down the boardwalk.  As Neena continued to fuss, I glared at the cup of soda until we got back inside the store and Tom took a sip.  My brown eyes were wide and watery as he smiled and thanked Teena for his drink.

Each time he sipped, Teena laughed dramatically.  I guess it was the first time she felt like she really mattered.


2 Responses

  1. Uzoma says:

    Geez! Teena is one heck of a character! I can’t believe she actually spat into her boss’ drink lol. Well, some people deserve more than that for the vices they bring to life. Thanks for the short story!

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