WELCOME TO $AVE-$OME-CA$H (A WORK OF FICTION IN PROGRESS). Written 2003, published at Facebook, November 29, 2010 as Welcome to Waldo’s World, rewritten 2011.
I called Jessi Southwood the next morning. It took some serious recall to get her number right, but when I did, we set up a practice session for Monday evening. Then I headed to another shift at $ave-$ome-Ca$h.
The Saturday after Black Friday is the official start of Christmas shopping. Ping Wu Hu, our store sales advocate, donned a Santa suit and made me wear a green elf costume. It got me away from the register, so I followed at his heels and handed out candy canes to the kids. He was euphoric, practically pirouetting after shouting “Ho, ho, ho,” to the customers and shaking their hands. Three hours later, he discovered that his right elbow hurt. He considered calling his sister Yan, the town doctor, but Jack and Bull Crapf over at foods suggested he use our brand-new diagnostic computer at the pharmacy. For ten dollars and a urine sample the computer tells you what’s wrong and what to do about it. So, Ping deposited ten bucks and poured a urine sample into the slot. Ten seconds later, the computer told him he had tennis elbow and it printed out these instructions: “Soak your arm in warm water and avoid heavy activity. Your elbow will improve in two weeks.”
Ping was happy with the result and we were amazed by the technology. Then Jack reminded Ping that his name means Duckweed. (Seriously. It does. I checked a Chinese dictionary.) So Ping went to his office to sulk and I returned to handing out candy canes until they were gone. I browsed the electronics department and considered what to put on my Christmas list. Meanwhile, Jack and Bull swiped the rest of Ping’s urine sample from the restroom garbage and returned later from their lunch breaks with some tap water, a stool sample from Jack’s dog, and a urine sample from Bull’s wife. They poured the concoction into the computer and received the following printout:
- Bull, your tap water is too hard. Get a water softener. (Aisle 9)
- Jack, your dog has ringworm. Bathe him with anti-fungal shampoo. (Aisle 7)
- Bull, your wife is pregnant. Twins. They aren’t yours. Get a lawyer.
- Ping, you duckweed … get a girlfriend or your tennis elbow will never get better!
I left for lunch break at one o’clock and passed Ping’s office. A sign on the door said he was giving interviews. I looked through the glass and saw that he still wore his Santa suit. He had four candidates inside, all guys, and all older than me.
I started to leave when I heard Ping ask, “What’s the fastest thing you know of?”
My answer had been hypothetical tachyons, so I stayed to hear their answers. The first guy replied, “A thought. It just pops into your head. There’s no warning.”
“Good,” Ping said. He turned to the second guy.
“A blink comes and goes and you don’t know it ever happened,” that guy said. “A blink is the fastest thing I know of.”
“Excellent,” Ping said. “The blink of an eye is a very popular answer for speed.” He then turned to the third guy who was contemplating his reply.
“Well,” he said after scratching his head, “out at my dad’s farm, you step out of the house and on the wall there’s a light switch. When you flip that switch, way out across the pasture the light on the barn comes on in less than an instant. Yep, turning on a light is the fastest thing I can think of’.”
Ping sounded very impressed with the third answer and probably thought that he had found his man. “It’s hard to beat the speed of electricity turning on a light,” he said.
Turning to the fourth and final applicant, Ping posed the same question.
The guy took off his NASCAR cap and scratched his bushy head for a moment. Then he said, “After hearing the previous three answers, it’s obvious to me that the fastest thing known is diarrhea.”
Ping’s jaw dropped but no sound came from his mouth.
“Oh sure,” the guy said. “You see, the other day I wasn’t feeling so good and I ran for the bathroom, but before I could think, blink, or turn on the light, I crapped my pants.”
I held in a guffaw that wanted to erupt from my throat. Ping, however, remained looking stunned. So did the other three applicants. I hurried off to the break room to share what I had overheard. I had a good laugh with one of the cart pushers there and by the time my lunch break was over, the fourth applicant had been hired.
“But he gave a lousy answer,” I said after I changed out of my elf costume and returned it to Ping.
“It was the best I’ve ever heard,” Ping said, disagreeing.
“Really?” I asked. “Better than hypothetical tachyons?”
“You’ll like him,” Ping said, ushering me from his office after instructing me to work the cash register near the exit door.
He was wrong. Randall Quincy Shelley, 27, hired as a seasonal helper until the end of December, wasn’t there because of the money (little as it was). He was there, in his own words to the police later that day, “to meet the guy who stole my girlfriend, Jessica Ann Southwood … the girl I’m gonna marry.”
He found me immediately outside the cash office where I waited for the hundred dollars for my register drawer. He never said a word when his right fist caught my jaw in a roundhouse and broke it.