The melons lay in rows across the display case. As red men fly through the air, on wings of gold. Oh Lord, I beg of thee. Let my faith save me. Let my faith encompass me. Carson sent Marva to tell Hank to come to the warehouse office.
Why am I being called into the boss’s office?
How bad could it be?
Brown men run barefoot below, keeping up. Deliver me from what is about to happen. Hank slowly walked toward where Carson sat. May holy God place you in his tabernacle in heaven may there be a miracle cure, plead and beg until you snap.
Where you off to, Hank, said Wilson as Hank passed his machine.
Off to see Carson.
I don’t know, he wants to see me.
You must have fucked up again Hank””
I said you must have fucked up again. Why? You got a problem with that?.
Go and run along under them snapping snapshots. With a hatchet he pursued the thief whose pockets were jam packed with his hard earned money.
Hank finally stood before Carson’s high gloss desk.
Here I am Mr. Carson. How you doing?
I’m doing okay.
What can I do for you Mr. Carson.
Hank, said Carson””I know what you said about the other men in this place.
What’d I say?
Drain the camera of pictures when you’re done.
Hey, Hank! said Trudy from her packing table.
You old turnip faced bastard, she said.
Oh Trudy don’t talk crazy like that””
Did you pick up that new box of fishing tackle?
Trudy””I don’t fish””what are you talking about, what fishing tackle?
Oh, God. You don’t remember what you say to me from one day to the next””you know, you’re really ugly! But I’ve told you that before””but don’t you remember that fishing tackle you were buying new fishing tackle””
No! You must be thinking of someone else””
No! There’s only one ugly bastard in here who wants fishing tackle””
Trudy you’re nuts””
You do it to me, I’ll do it twice back to you. The apples lay in neat rows in the box. Empty cameras are piled in heaps at the electronics shop.
You said they’re all idiots and white trash who do nothing but talk shit all day. Is that right Hank?
I stand by what I said, Mr. Carson.
You also said the place is full of fools, said Carson, who act like boys instead of men. You say that?
Who told you I said any of these things Mr. Carson””
Never mind. It’s been brought to my attention is what matters and I don’t like it.
I’ll chase you down. Chase you down and get my money back.
Hey Hank, said Earl from his forklift.
You look like your face was rubbed with eggplant.
Earl God damn it Earl””
I’m gunning my engine! I can’t hear you! I’m gunning my engine!
Earl you’re a card.
Fire! yelled Earl. Fire! he yelled again as he drove off.
Zebras are great subjects for photographs. The walls will fall, and there will be many deaths.
Well? What do you have to say to that?
I stand by what I said, Mr. Carson””they’re fools, and worse.
Do you think I’m a fool Hank?
Well do you?
I””I don’t think you’re a fool Mr. Carson.
Of course not.
The Crucifix’s corpus is held on with brass nails through its hands and feet, it wears a crown of thorns, is nearly nude. Entirely nude bodies are also great subjects.
Donna stood beside her trash barrels and spoke.
Hank! You ought to drink Drano.
Drano. To clean out that big donut you wear around you under your shirt.
What do you mean? I don’t have a big stomach””
Yes you do! From all those donuts. Hah””
She laughed aloud and pointed at him.
Shrugging, he walked on.
It will leap out and get you. And then, no matter what your plans for that day might have been, they are over.
How about white trash? Do you think I’m white trash?
Well””why not am I not a fool, and not white trash, Hank?
You’re different, Mr.Carson.
Different from the others.
Bruce turned from his scale on the line and spoke to Hank walking by.
Your face is as red as a beet! What’s bugging you Hank?
You know what? You’re a real bastard””
Hank stood stunned.
And you’re a cornball, added Bruce””a real god damned cornball. A bastard, and a cornball.
Hank turned and walked away.
Tone up your muscles if you’re going to pose. Stand by what you say in the face of authority. The sweet corn lies jumbled in a heap in a big cardboard box.
I’m different than the men under me?
What’s different about me, Hank?
It’s the thing to do in this town. Go in guns blazing to get the money. King of the mountain’s a game for kids. Take them by force and hide them away, for ransom.
You’re not insulting, said Hank. You’re not insulting and rude.
My men are insulting and rude?
Always, Mr. Carson.
Elevate the monstrance with the golden sunburst holding the body of Christ that the nun said was priceless wagging her tongue in the cool church air.
Hey Hank, called out Jolly from his steel workstation.
Where you off to?
I’m going to see Carson””
You know, Juliet should be your name.
Juliet! Juliet the god damned junkie. And God, your breath””I can cut your breath with a knife””
What do you mean you can cut my breath with a knife?
What I said.
Hank turned away and walked on.
How are my men insulting and rude?
They say nasty things to me””
Can’t think of any can you Hank? What’s the matter.
I””I’m thinking. There’s so much””
Lions eat zebra after a short chase. That the body of Christ is in that wafer is amazing.
Hey, said Bobby from behind the line as Hank walked past. Is your name Leonard Bernstein? Is your god-damned name Leonard Bernstein?
Go sit on a bunsen burner, Leonard.
Hank stood there.
Go sit on a bunsen burner, cardboard-face. Ha ha HA!
Bobby, I’m glad I give you such joy””
Yes. You give me joy””ha ha HA!
Hank walked on.
Morrison died; who knows what Morrison died of? I can always get it by handing enough money over the counter.
Well Hank, said Carson””if there’s so much that they say you ought to be able to tell me some of it.
They call me names.
Yes. I would prefer not to say them.
It’s like there is so much they say to me it’s all just a big jumble””
You sound like a sick man Hank.
I said you sound like a sick man””
The tomatoes lay arranged in a cardboard box. No one knows what Morrison died of. The brothers who hate each other face off, brandishing weapons.
Thurston came up pushing a pallet-load on a hand truck.
Thurston, said Hank. I””
Your face is as red as a tomato””
Where you off to, trailer trash?
To see Mr. Carson.
Uh. Uhhhhh. Gee whizz, Mister Carson””here let me kiss your ass””is that why you’re going to see Mr. Carson””to kiss his ass?
I think you are, said Thurston.
Well, you’re wrong“”
The two men parted and walked on.
X-ray the men, one at a time, to see who swallowed the condoms full of coke. The brothers are bitter rivals.
Do the men pick on anybody else Hank””anybody else besides you?
Not that I can see.
Not that you can see? What does that mean?
I don’t see them picking on each other, Mr. Carson.
I only know that they like to pick on me.
A ciborium sits overflowing, it had been kept in the tabernacle under lock and key but now it will be manhandled by consecrated Eucharistic ministers.
Hank walked up next to Chris’ shrink wrapper and Chris turned to Hank.
What? My hair’s not red””
No, not your hair. Your brain. It’s dumb as a carrot.
I said cunt. You’re a cunt. Duh.
Oh Christ, said Hank, as he turned away and walked on.
Organ up the church by pressing the keys and pumping the pedals.
What’s so special about you Hank?
What do you mean””
I mean what’s so special about you that you are the only one who gets picked on?
I don’t know, Mr. Carson.
I just don’t know.
One is capable of shooting the other in the head. Shooting him dead.
Helen walked up to Hank with a small Tupperware container.
Here, she said, holding up the box. Have some.
Hummus. It’s hummus. Have some. Try some.
Right. Hummus, and a highball. That’s what I could use right now.
Highball, he said””I haven’t heard anybody use that word in a long time””
Oh, stop kissing up to me, you insect.
You’re an insect.
He turned from her and walked on.
Price the cocaine high, too high to be affordable. Something inside will just take hold and twitch that trigger finger, and it’s over.
What about the women on the floor?
What about them””
Do they pick on you Hank? Do you take insults from the women?
I find that hard to believe Hank.
Why, Mr. Carson.
The women have manners.
Eggplants are deep purple with stubby stems. Ratable! cried the councilwoman. The bullet will rip in and do its work and the life will drain out of him.
Walter came up to Hank next to tall stacks of white boxes.
Hey, watermelon face.
What’s up Walter?
Get a damned x-ray. You look sick, watermelon face.
Go to hell Walter.
Hank walked on.
Steinway makes great pianos that echo throughout the halls. It’ll happen all by itself. It’ll be as though the trigger will get pulled all by itself.
You haven’t answered me Hank. Answer me””
What’s the question?
Why are you the only one who gets picked on?
I think because I’m a cut above them, to tell you the truth.
A cut above them?
A Thurible swung stinking and smoking and burning the coiling incense fumes causing much sneezing and choking.
Redrup held a clipboard and checked a palletload of small brown boxes.
Hank came up.
Hey Romeo, said Redrup.
Romeo? Why Romeo””
I saw you kissing up to Helen.
I wasn’t kissing up to anybody. I””
You damned raider.
Right. You damned raider. You probably think you’re a damned star.
You’re crazy Redrup.
Same to you.
Hank walked on past.
Train the hair to go this way that way and it goes any god-damned way it wants.
Isn’t it sort of arrogant for you to think you’re a cut above the others under me?
It’s not arrogant if it’s true.
In what way are you a cut above them?
I don’t play grabass. I’m not white trash””
That trigger kills.
Benedetti stood by his level 10 checking station.
Hank came up.
You ought to be bulletshot, said Benedetti.
Go hide in the bushes.
Get out of my god damned country, Hank””you god damned communist you.
Right. Communist. Chew on that, Hank. Give it some thought.
Hank walked away.
Upset stomachs plague overeaters. I’d throw myself into a sea of flames if it would save your life.
Right. White trash””and assholes.
It’s wrong to talk this way Hank, you know. It’s wrong to talk and think this way.
I know but I can’t help it, because it’s true.
A bin of radishes graces the place.
Howell swung his staplehammer down onto an invoice tacking it to a box.
Cut your damned hair. What do you think you’re name’s Harry? Iggy?
God damn you Howell.
God damn you.
Prayer soothes the soul, quiets the mouth, goes to God, who’s a good listener. I’d throw myself into a sea of flames if that would save my son.
Before you said there was something different about me. What is it? What?
Come with me. Sacrifice””what does it mean to sacrifice all when in a hot frenzy? The priest dons his alb of pure white in the dressing room while saying the appropriate prayer, the kiss, the dressing room is by the vestibule. Potato the exhaust pipes for a joke.
Don’t just stand there tell me what””
It is necessary that the family be given up.
You’re the boss. You’re a cut above those assholes. You’re different. You’re great. You’re a cut above all of us, Mr. Carson.
Carson leaned back and smiled.
Oh? And what makes me so great?
You’re the boss, Mister Carson. You’re the boss, after all””they wouldn’t have made you boss if you weren’t great.
Optimum service provides optimum benefit, optimum satisfaction and optimum good will.
They eyed each other. A slight smile crossed Hank’s mouth.
Why would he give me a compliment like that? thought Mr. Carson“”must want something. Everybody always wants something””
Carson rose and pointed at the door.
Get back to work Hank””and don’t let them get to you.
Okay boss. I won’t.
photo: “James, I Think Your Cover is Blown” by Ludovic Bertron