Alabama-based writer Van Newell teaches at the University of AL in Tuscaloosa. He did an MFA at Columbia University.
I was twisting my hair, the ends of it, because I couldn’t find my hairband, and even though he’s the assistant manager, Doug called in sick, saying that he would be late getting in, being hung over from dollar margaritas at Sabor Latino. So I was stuck watching the store and with school letting out for the afternoon it was going to be Shoplifters ahoy, come ye who are heavy burdened with being broke come yon unto thy mall and unto Hot Topic. Our key demographic wears trench coats in early June because it’s hot and they want to show how me against the world they are.
Girlfriend comes in, more-goth-than-thou skin, hair cooked black and I thought to myself I bet she has The Craft on blue ray and DVD. But there is no one else in the store, and thusly a totally wrong time to boost anything, so she walks through our 400-square-foot store and no one else comes in the next twenty minutes and I’m almost to the point of telling her to just take something under five bucks because I was tired of scoping her. Then I reached that point. “Just take the bacon flavored mints over in the clearance section and go,” I said.
To further induce the lifting of shop, I bend down on one knee to tie my shoe so she can finagle something and she snaps forward, grabbing a pewter Insane Clown Posse necklace hanging from a stand and for dessert she takes my purse there on the glass counter.
But I’m after her.
Girlfriend hangs a right out of the store towards the food court and she’s quicker than I gave her credit. Rentacop Rob is standing there and I yell at him that my purse has been stolen and he takes flight after her, his poor man’s state trooper hat flying off, and we chase her down to the exit doors and there’s a dented Suzuki with the engine running that she hops into. The riceburner guns it and is gone before I can read the plate. I put my hands on my knees because I’m overweight and I haven’t run that hard since I had to for the Presidential Fitness test in eighth grade. Rob goes around the corner to see if he can somehow get a look at the plates from a distance.
It didn’t hit me until I passed the Sabarro that what really sucks is not that my purse was stolen but that the contents of said purse were gone. Have to call the credit card company and cancel that. Go to the DMV. Go get another social security card. Oi, this was starting to suck and then I come back to the store and I find it in the act of being ransacked. It was a total setup, the girl had been the bait and I had been the mark.
Three metalhead kids are in there and I go after the smallest and push him onto the ground. He wiggles away, but the other two are still there and I reach into my pocket and take my keys and arrange them in between my fingers like the YWCA self-defense class showed me and I start punching away because I know these unwashed losers, vaguely, cause they go to my high school and they’re too cool for school to give me the time of day but apparently they are not above thefting a Slipknot t-shirt.
And I get to draw blood, scratches on their forearms as they try to defend themselves. Rentacop Rob shows back up and tries to stretch his body out like a sumo wrestler to keep the rest of them running and tells me he’s got it under control. Call the cops, he says, as if he was waiting his whole life to say that. And I talk to the 9-1-1 lady who asks if I know her granddaughter because I sound like one of her friends and that’s West Memphis, Arkansas, for you and I tell her I’ve got to go.
Then Girlfriend shows back up and with something that looks like an electric shaver in her hand and she plants it right in Rentacop’s back and I hear a buzz and the poor jerk falls onto his stomach. She tells me to stay back, bitch, and I’m sure corporate’s policy is for bitches to, in fact, stay back, and I don’t own this stuff in the store and I don’t own a share of stock in the company but I want to have some fun and I throw a crystal Super Mario figurine right at her forehead and if it doesn’t get lodged into said forehead. She screams and goes cross-eyed but pulls it out and she starts to cry and charge at me and by now there’s a billion people around and then Doug shows up with a shopping bag from Foot Locker and he pulls her off of me. He barges in with his dick-a-swingin’ to save the day and bends over to tell all three of them there on the floor that they are under arrest.
Girlfriend does the right thing and she tases Doug and I feel my eyes grow large and bark out a laugh and I make a note to myself to write her a thank-you note while she is in juvenile detention. If she can get over the whole bloody figurine in the forehead, I bet we could become fast friends when she gets out.