A short story in the genre of realistic fiction, my favorite.
I’ve got 5 minutes before the bus gets here so I skate down to the locally-owned convenience store a little down the street for a quick snack. It’s cheaper than the corporate stores, 7-Eleven and Shell. And this one sells those veggie chips I like because I can eat them in one sitting and not regret it.
There are two men and a woman huddled around the counter inside. There’s always someone working the counter here that’s older looking and indifferent about things which leads me to believe they’ve been working here a while and will probably be working here longer still.
Today, it’s a scruffy man behind the counter. He’s got a thick Turkish accent. He’s using his thick accent along with his sharp Turkish hand gestures to dismiss the woman’s advice on eating better. The woman looks to be around his age. She’s moving behind and in front of the counter–probably works here too. Or maybe she’s close friends with the place.
The 3rd solicitor is younger looking than the other guy, but still old and scruffy. He’s got a beer belly and the way he’s leaning on the counter makes it look like he should have a beer in his hand. He doesn’t work here. He’s here because there’s nothing better to do but laugh at the Turkish guy’s bad jokes.
“You know the song, stand by me?” asks the Turkish man. A rhetorical setup for a joke, but the acolyte eagerly begs for the bad punchline. The woman is seated behind the counter now, unamused.
“It should be stand behind me!”
“Oh you’re gonna get it!” the woman remarks. Her tone fits the tone of the jokester, but the look she gives him is dead serious.
The Turkish man makes sure not to let the woman cut his victory lap short. He probably doesn’t win often.
“Yeah! Two steps behind right?” says beer belly. Together they break out in boisterous laughter.
There’s a brief intermission. I’m buying chips now, artichoke and spinach, gross but guilt-free.
Outside the store, I hear the Turkish man break out in song.
“When the night has come! And the land is night,” he doesn’t know all the words and he’s getting impatient. “And the moon coming through the seas. Stand behind me! Stand behind me!”
The other joins. Together now.
“Behind me! Behind me!”
The woman is quiet, flustered from working, frustrated that her bully has a friend.
I put the chips in my book bag and head for the bus stop. It passes me by. I miss it.