RETAIL THERAPY: A WAL*MART STORY - KEITH RAWSON
The wife’s kicked me out of the house, at least for tonight.
The wife’s having a dildo party.
I ask her, “What, my cock’s not good enough for you?”
She laughs and tells me to get the hell out.
I’m okay with this, I’m not a party person, especially if the party involves a bunch of middle age women stroking and fawning over a bunch of rubber and glass phalluses.
The wife is a party person, she loves being apart of a crowd; mixing and blending, being a part of multiple conversations.
I have a hard enough time keeping up with a conversation with just one person, let alone three or four.
I do as she asks and head to the Chinese restaurant down the road that I like but I can never get the wife to eat at.
It’s a popular place, lots of couples and families slurping hot and sour soup, noshing egg rolls and pork lo mien. I’m the only one in the restaurant who’s eating alone. This is something else I don’t have problem with. Most people I know hate eating alone. They always need someone else there to acknowledge their presence. Someone to compliment their exquisite manners or admire their chewing technique.
Other than the wife, I don’t eat with other people.
My co-workers at the day job all think I’m stuck up because I’ll never tag along whenever they all go out to lunch. No one’s ever told me they think I’m a snob, but I work in a small office and I hear the whispers, it doesn’t bother me.
I ordered Kung pao chicken and a couple of pork dumplings as appetizers.
Normally I’m a slow, measured eater, but I’m shoveling it in tonight like I haven’t eaten in days, weeks.
I finish up, leave a twenty spot on the table even though my bill’s only eleven dollars and head out the door like my ass is on fire.
I’m in a pissy mood, I have been for weeks.
Don’t get me wrong; the life I’ve established with the wife is a good one. I’m living the big FAT American dream:
Massive credit card debit
Driving luxury cars that we can’t even remotely afford.
But we look good.
We feel good, except when the credit card bills come in the middle of the month and the wife chews her fingernails to the quick and turns herself inside out—at least until she shreds the bills and goes on a shopping spree.
Like parties, I don’t do shopping sprees.
What’s got me so antsy isn’t my big FAT American life, but my life before.
My life before was simple and satisfying.
It was strictly cash and carry. I owned a car, but the type of wreck you could buy for seven hundred bucks from a private owner no questions asked and abandon at the side of the road when it stopped running. I had no identity, no fixed address. I either slept in whatever jalopy I was driving, or if I was lucky enough, I’d meet some woman, some girl at a bar who was impressed—and drunk enough—by my tattoos, my bad boy stories of rural county jails and prolific drug use. More often than not, I would have a place to sleep for a night, a week, a month or two, but eventually I’d get bored, pack half the contents of whatever woman’s apartment I was staying with into the trunk of my car, drive over to the closest pawnshop and head out of town.
The wife started out as this type of woman.
Just another convenient piece of ass at some nameless bar that played the music too loud and charged too much for draft beer. But for some reason, I stuck around. It wasn’t like the wife was a spectacular lay or anything like that; she was just another drunk girl at a college town hole in the wall. She was nice, though, not the usual trust fund girl. The wife was working her way through school and I didn’t have the heart to rip her off.
She let me stay three months rent-free; I started to feel bad that I wasn’t contributing; she said she didn’t care, but I got a job all the same.
Seven years later...
...sitting in a cube, ignoring office gossip, driving a leased Lexus, vacationing in Cabo...
I don’t miss the old life.
Most of the time.
When I do miss it, I go and do my own version of retail therapy.
With my version, I never end up at the checkout counter with a hot little credit card clutched in my greasy fingers.
I end up cruising out the front door, my cargo pants stuffed with merchandise, ready to bolt if I set off an alarm.
It’s not the same as cleaning out some broad’s apartment, or kicking the shit out of a college kid for his beer money, but what I do now are forgivable crimes; the kind of transgressions that if you get caught, all that happens is you get ticketed along with a stern lecture from the cops. And if you’re smart, you carry fake ID and the ticket the police give you is just another piece of paper to be wadded up and thrown into the ever-increasing pile of trash in the backseat of my car.
I start off the night at my local bookstore. We come here often and my purchases here are my largest contribution to our debt. I’ve always loved books, the weight and feel of the pages. I use to spend hours in the libraries of whatever town I’d end up in after I outlasted my welcome. A library is one of the best ways to judge a new community. You see how a city’s population treats its bums and drunks, how they interact, what they read; if you notice people checking out more DVD’s and videos than books, you know you’ve hit the jackpot; you know you’re dealing with a bunch of easily taken hicks. The downside with this kind of population is that they’re quicker to react with wholesale violence if they catch you in a scam.
If you notice more books flying off the shelves, chances are your dealing with a far more liberal community. Intelligent, forgiving human beings who turn the other cheek as you rob them blind.
I like the liberal cities far more.
I end up leaving the bookstore, not wanting to shit where I sleep and head across the street to the local big box monstrosity and stroll into Wal*Mart. I never come to Wal*Mart and whenever I steal from them I almost feel like a folk hero; like some guy hippies will write bad acoustic jam songs about. The liver spot in a blue vest whose name tag reads, Ralph, fisheyes me as I step through the smudged automatic doors and gives me a nice long view of his tobacco brown dentures. The greeter was Wally World’s half-assed version of security. Cheap bastards, like this old fucker, could stop someone from pushing a cart full of flatscreen televisions out the front door if it was coming at him full speed? I’m not a smash-and-grab kind of guy, there’s no art to it. Not that stealing is any kind of art form, all it is is taking stuff off the shelf and sticking it in your pockets and hoping no one has an eye on you.
I head to the pharmaceutical aisles first. I walk with a purposeful stride and slightly annoyed wrinkle creasing my forehead. If you walk into any store with this kind of expression, with this kind of attitude, it warns people away from you. It lets the world know you’re on some short, annoying errand that’s interrupting your day; the look is especially effective with store employees. The last thing a retail employee wants is to catch an earful of shit from some fucker who was sent out by the wife to grab a box of tampons or a gallon of milk. It also lets me have free reign over the contents of the store.
I pocket every sixth item I pick up. I grab watermelon-flavored condoms, bubblegum-flavored toothpaste, mint dental floss. The pharmacy aisle is a cakewalk. Most stores expect and accept a certain amount of theft, especially when it comes to medicine and food items like candy bars and even if staff sees the theft go down, they’re typically reluctant to stop it. I decide I need more of a challenge and head to electronics. The electronics section of any department store is the most difficult to steal from. I’m not looking to grab a Blu-Ray player or anything like that, but CDs and DVDs are a bitch to carry out because of all the security markers retailers stuff in the packaging.
I do the same as I did in the pharmacy aisle; the little shit working the service desk has his head buried up his ass and texting a mile a minute. I head to housewares and start getting a little daring. I start stuffing everything I pick up into my pockets—spatulas, bargain basement cutlery sets. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and stood face-to-face with a middle-aged man with thinning sandy blond hair and glasses. His high forehead was a geodesic map of sharp blackheads. He wore the requisite blue vest and an enormous smiley face name tag pinned to his chest.
HI MY NAME IS STUART!
“Sir, can I see what’s in your pockets?” Old Stuart’s voice is a squeak, full of fear and regret. I give him an eyeful of my ten thousand dollars worth of veneers and say:
I worm my right hand past my wallet and keys and palm my stiletto. My movements are smooth and practiced; I pop the six inches of Mexican steel and press the point into his flabby stomach. I’ve never been caught shoplifting, but I’ve rehearsed this exact scenario dozens of times in front of the bathroom mirror. I don’t sink the blade into Stuart’s stomach; all I do is press the tip past the layers of cloth and prick the skin of his soft belly. My smile feels like it’s tearing in half as I watch his bottom lip quiver, a silvery line of drool making its way down his weak chin.
“How do you like what I got in my pocket, Stu?” I ask. “This is what you wanted to see, right?”
He’s starting to cry. Not big shuttering, beg for his life gasps, but only a trickle, a tear or two clustering in his eye boogers.
“Answer me, Stu. This is what you wanted to see?”
He nods his head, slack-jawed and weak.
I stared down at my hand, it is steady, but Stu... Stu’s a quivering bowl of Jell-o. He’s shaking so bad that he’s managed to nick up his stomach; a patch of blood is seeping through his shirt.
“Here’s what’s your gonna do, Stu. You’re gonna stand here and count to 120 and then back to zero again. Do you understand?”
He gives me another palsied nod.
I snap the blade back into the hilt, turn and I notice Stu’s standing in a syrupy miniature lake of piss. I think about saying something pithy like, ‘Clean up on aisle 16’ or some such shit. Instead, I head back to the entrance.
BIO: Keith Rawson is a little known pulp writer who lives in the alkaline desert wastelands of southern Arizona with his wife and very energetic three-year-old daughter. His stories have appeared in such publications as Plots with Guns, Pulp Pusher, CrimeWav.com, Bad Things, Powder Burn Flash, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp and many others. You can find him most nights dicking around on either Twitter or Facebook, or stroking his already over-inflated ego at his blog Bloody Knuckles, Callused Fingertips.