So.

Got fired from Rite-Aid.

Kinda surprised, not gonna lie.

The Story: Every blessed year, my dad gets the same Father’s Day present from me: a homemade calendar made with pictures taken at his annual Crosley show. (Crosley Show: An afternoon with high fiber and no caffeine! Builds character and promotes healthy bone growth! Now with even more old men in hats! (But we are lying about the bone growth.) He loves this calendar more than is reasonable. He cries every time he opens one. Really. So one summery day, last week, I was at work making the 8 x 10 prints which were to be lovingly pasted onto white cardstock and turned into fresh tangible Father’s Day love. Rite-Aid was celebrating it’s Grand Opening (never mind the fact that we’ve been a Rite-Aid for…(counts on fingers)…nine months-ish now…and aren’t we still wearing the damn red Eckerd polo shirts? Yes we are.) and it was a very, very busy day on register. Friskies Cat Food was 20 cents a can, so was Starkist Tuna ( spot the difference, Mrs. Dibble! You can’t! You’re old and cataracty!), Tylenol was free with a coupon (yes, free), Wheat Thins, toilet paper, oven cleaner, lightbulbs, ant-traps, and other necessities for Western living were 99 cents each.  It was a madhouse. Customers were pressing their noses to the door at 7:00 AM, and they quickly overran the place when the doors opened a mere two hours later. For four hours I ran register NON-STOP. My fingers never stopped moving, my feet never left my rubber mat, my eyes never focused more than two feet away, for four non-stop hours. When I finally caught a break, I worked on my 8 x 10s. Since I would be working on the calendar at my folks’, I didn’t want to put them in a Rite-Aid envelope which my father would see and instantly investigate. I had a Target hiring folder with me, full of papers to read over lunch, so I stacked them in there as I finished them. I was called away repeatedly, which I tried not to resent, seeing as it was, in fact, what I was being paid for. I wasn’t quite done with them after lunch, but the store’s busyness factor had buzzed and doubled, so I abandoned the prints and rang out sullen customers for a few more hours. They are all archetypes and I hate them. ( Exhibit A: The Receipt Detective. Middled-aged, tight-fisted. Purchases a cart of groceries, toiletries, office supplies, and candles worth 150 dollars for $6.87 with the aid of coupons, double-coupons, rainchecks, and blatant lies, only to minutely examine her receipt with a vulture’s expression and demand 39 cents back for a minor error. She comes in like every Friday. Exhibit B: The Shut-In. Outside for the first time in an estimable 47 years. Cries, literally weeps for twenty minutes about being unable to afford kidney medication (which turns out to be for her diseased parrot), talks about the “deplorable vegetables” at her friend’s sister’s son’s wedding (she has pictures…would you like to see? Well you WILL.), and asks me where my parents got such an unusual first name for me. I am not wearing a name-tag. She thinks my name is Eckerd.)

After my shift was over, I gratefully escaped to the office, where I counted out hundreds of coupons, checks, receipts, rain-checks, and a wad of money the size of my head. I grabbed my stuff and left. The next day I came in for another shift, worked like an indentured Irish woman for another nine hours, and was preparing, exhaustedly, to punch out when the shift supervisor pulled me aside.

“Do you realize you took a bunch of 8 x 10’s home last night and didn’t pay for them?”

“Oh hell”, I replied. In my rush to get home, I had picked up my purse, keys, and folder and left without ever remembering I had fifty bucks worth of pictures inside it. On the camera, it looked like Heather Ackerman made a lot of photos, stuck them in an unmarked folder, and walked airily out with them. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how easy it is to get completely fucked.

They called me in two days ago. A fat Latino named Angel grilled me in the back room, demanding details, making me fill out forms and write explanations, all of which I did willingly. (Mostly because he implied that being “unwilling” involved cops, arrest, booking, court dates, lawyers, possible jail time and a $10,000 fine for committing petit larceny. And I could never work for Rite-Aid again. Um, boo hoo.) So I signed a little piece of paper that said I was a thief, intentionally robbed the store, and was now remorseful, all the while with John Proctor screaming in my brain “It is my naaaaame! And I cannot have another in my liiiiiiiiife!” I handled it maturely and bravely and calmly, until. Until.

Until.

He threw a little photo package onto the table I was seated at. “What’s this?”, he demanded. It was a small Rite-Aid envelope with my name on it. Inside, I knew without opening it, were about thirty wallet-size portraits of my sister Andrea. The man named Angel grunted at me.  “Looks like you make prints and don’t pay for them a lot, huh?” I was so frigging pissed. These prints weren’t even mine. My father had gone down to Rite-Aid the day before her memorial service to make copies of her last picture, to give away to mourning friends and family. Since I was home with Mom, Janet made the prints, and screwed them up twice before my dad finally paid and left. Instead of shredding the leftovers, Janet thoughtfully stuck them in an envelope and wrote my name across it. I found them when I came back to work, and although I didn’t want them or need them, I hadn’t thrown them away either. I couldn’t. Now here they were, thirty grinning faces of Andrea in this room, this place where I felt like my life was taking a sharp downward turn. I thought suddenly of telling my parents I was in trouble for theft – never mind the fact that I hadn’t done it intentionally. I thought of their faces as they remembered the years of phone calls from Andrea, some from police stations, or prison. And I cried. Oh, how I cried in front of that fat Latino. It took all my gasping breath to explain what these pictures were all about. He didn’t even have the grace to apologize. He had the brass stones to intimate that my “recent degree in acting” made it hard to “take me seriously”. Actors as charlatans…is it 1561?

My boss, a kindly father of a man named Jay, was called in to speak to me after Angel was done. I looked at him hopefully. He didn’t say a word. He just stood there, signed a piece of paper attached to a clipboard, and terminated me. They don’t call it “fired” at Rite-Aid. I was terminated because I violated company policy, and it didn’t matter one bit that I had rushed out to my car and returned the prints, still in the folder on my front seat, the moment I was made aware I had them. They don’t care. Four years of my life, the stories that started in those years, they are over. And I am so fine with this.

I never have to see Janet bend over in her khaki skirt again.

I have a job at Target, and it starts up in a month.

I spent the day with my dad, working in the carpet store by his side. I was afraid, I was halting, but I told him what happened. I told my responsible, grounded, financially secure father that I was fired for suspicion of theft. My soul was burning in my chest. He was quiet for a moment, then he leaned over his desk, looked me in the eye, and told me to send him my utility bills. “God gave you this time for a reason,” he said, “and I want to see you work on your book. You promised Andrea you would.”

And I cried.

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