“Trey is always late, every single shift, and I want to go home. This is bullshit!” Michael says to his girlfriend on the other end of his blackberry earpiece, raising his voice with the length of his speech.

            It’s 10:23 and Michael’s shift ended twenty-three minutes ago. He is waiting on Trey because he is the only one in the store, and despite his feelings toward Benny, leaving him with the responsibility of the place most of the time, he was too responsible to leave it unmanned.

            “Hey, how’s it going?” Michael asked the next customer who entered the store. He watched him browse, continuing now just to his girlfriend, who lived over a thousand miles away, “every time someone leaves someone else comes in so I can’t even take a cigarette break.”

            “I know, honey, but I’m sure Trey will be there soon. You know he’s always late. I’m just sick of Benny taking advantage of how hard you work. He knows you’re not just going to leave, and not just because it’s a felony,” Brooke said trying to calm Michael down.

            Benny is the owner of the 7-Eleven branch where Michael works. Benny had encouraged Michael to jump through the hoops it took to get to the title of “Shift Leader” shortly after Michael started working there, seeing his potential immediately. Michael complied without any sort of hesitation despite the pathetic wage bump, because he didn’t enjoy being told what to do, and he knew he’d be mostly in charge of himself if he did what Benny asked.

            Michael’s work ethic was remarkable. He took everything he did in life seriously and believed that if you wanted something done right then you better do it yourself. He also had a remarkably explosive temper, which Brooke was used to, and sometimes scared her, though the thousand plus miles in between them of distance helped with the fear.

            “So, you have the booze, and the cigarettes, want to go for all three and get some lottery tickets?” Michael jokingly said to the customer now at the counter. Brooke had overheard him say this many times and not only found it not funny, but also a little rude, but explaining to Michael why the first time he used the line was fruitless, and it became a favorite of his instead.

            Brooke heard the customer laugh through the phone and ask when the Powerball was. Michael told her and she bought one of those. Brooke was always astonished at how many people gambled, not in a judgmental way, just in an “I had no idea,” way. When she asked Michael if it was a Florida thing he said he highly doubted it, but lots of old people liked to gamble and there were plenty in his location.

            When the customer had left, Brooke asked, “How come you only use that line with the female customers Michael? You don’t feel like making men laugh too?”

            “Oh stop, she was like 60 years old, you get so jealous it’s incredible,” Michael replied.

            “That’s not an answer,” Brooke replied.

            “Hey, how’s it going?” Michael said to the next person to enter the store, letting Brooke know she wasn’t going to get an answer better than that.

            “As soon as this customer leaves, I’m going to try calling Trey again, and then if he doesn’t answer I’ll call Barb. If Barb doesn’t answer, then I’m going to call Benny,” Michael sighs to Brooke. “Then I’ll call you right back, babe, okay?”

            “Whatever you need, babes. I hate that you’re there when your shift ended so long ago and you have to be back so soon tomorrow. You need your sleep. It’s 10:32 now.”

            “Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll be fine. I’ll talk to you in a couple minutes. I love you!” Michael concluded waiting for the traditional, “I love you!” reply before disconnecting.

            Seriously though, where the fuck was Trey? Michael flipped through his Android phone to find stupid Trey’s stupid number and pressed the “call” button. As soon as he did he heard it ring, surprising Michael, because no matter how many times it’s happened, we never expect to hear the sound of the phone we are calling.


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