Getting Fired from Walmart by Ron Riekki
I wasn’t taking the job seriously enough.
I wasn’t taking the job seriously at all.
I’d replace green-colored milk.
I’d place Santa Claus underwear
on hangers as cheap as death.
I’d spend whole nights dedicated
to Duck Dynasty—the mugs
and games and books and beards
and glasses and Bibles and snakes
and condoms and notebooks
and rifles. There were so many rifles.
I’d watch the customers who’d come
in at midnight, 1am, 2, just
to look at the guns. They’d stare
for minutes, for an hour, eating pretzels
or sucking monstrous cups of ice tea,
enjoying the porn of it all.
Ceramic gnomes would be behind
them, watching, intensely, worried
that they might be shattered
in seconds. I went crazy in Walmart.
I went out with a cashier there
who always smelled like Christmas
tree. Used Christmas tree. Alleyway
Christmas tree. She was a tenth-grade
dropout and told me that tenth-grade
dropouts were twice as likely to have
their baby die as college graduates.
I asked her what baby and she said
hypothetical babies. She said babies
who hadn’t been born yet. She told me
this while sitting on the floor
in front of the Plantation black tea.
She ended up marrying a bottle boy,
a kid just out of high school
who was a decade younger than her.
When she was pregnant, she’d dress
in pink camouflage. I’d see her around
town wearing slippers on her way
to church. I’d go to work and talk
to the alligator toilet paper holder.
I’d tell it that a Masters in English
was like having a Bachelors in Morality.
It wouldn’t get you hired at anywhere
that gave you an ethical wage.
The alligator told me to fuck off,
so I did. I left. I stole a T-shirt
that said NO ROMANCE
WITHOUT FINANCE and I gave it
to my ex-. If you can even call her that.
She was a blimp at that point.
A Hindenburg. A Heisenberg.
A blurb on a chapbook that no one
will ever read. I leaned in to kiss her
and she punched me in the face.
I made a point to go back to the Walmart
at noon, with my face swollen
as an old television. And I looked up
at the security camera and smiled,
then slowly unraveled a middle finger
until it was fully erect
and I walked away forever.
Ron Riekki‘s books include U.P.: a novel, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), and Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His “Carol” was in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2012, The First Real Halloween was best sci-fi/fantasy screenplay for the 2014 International Family Film Festival, and “The Family Jewel” was selected by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler for The Best Small Fictions 2015.