“The One-Two Punchline” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 3 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“The One-Two Punchline” | Novella | Written by McConnaughay | 3

3.

Saint Bazaar was a franchise-owned supermarket with chains found throughout all of Maharris. For the most part, it was a simple, straightforward store, carrying groceries, clothing, and any other thing you could imagine, things Jimmy would not have been able to identify the purpose for, let alone the brand.

The most peculiar aspect about Saint Bazaar was its name, derived from an archaic word for a large shop and a religious claim. The restaurant’s logo even had a bright yellow halo over the words, and it seemed blissfully unaware in the irony of calling itself holy and bankrupting thousands of mom and pop stores over the years. Then again, maybe you became closer to God when you destroyed things, either that, or merely more like him.

The overnight shift was not bad; that was Jimmy’s experience, at least. It offered a laid back, quieter day to day, and offered him a schedule that went well with the other interests he had.

He exchanged pleasantries with his coworkers, as he always did, and eventually became saddled in with the day’s tasks. The store was so often a mess, and on days when they were not up to their eyeballs in freight that needed stocked, that meant they needed to zone up the store. For the uninitiated, a zone was a fancy pant’s term for a very straightforward objective. When items sell, the other items on the shelves needed to be realigned and moved forward.

I was thinking, maybe you need some type of gimmick,” Darren said.

They had been adjusting aisles together for a couple hours now, but, honestly, Jimmy had become so caught up in his thoughts he had completely forgotten he was zoning the opposite aisle as someone else.

What am I, a prop comic? Maybe I will start doing magic tricks in between lines, see how that works out,” Jimmy jested, nearly shattering a jar of pickles while he did.

Thankfully, for some reason, it was embedded in his mind to punt anything he dropped, like he was an action figure having his button pressed, and, because of that, he caught the jar in between an aisle shelf and his legs.

Maybe you could start playing a character, become like Detective Cleanup,” Darren replied with a shit eating grin on his face.

Saint Bazaar had online training courses every employee had to complete. First, during orientation, and then, routinely throughout the year. If you had ever attended high school and saw a student do a speech with a projector where they uncomfortably regurgitated the information they ripped from the internet, that is about what you could expect during some of the videos they were forced to watch. Some videos, however, had a reoccurring character, a very goofy, cringe-inducing character named Detective Cleanup.

With a sepia filter and generic western music, Detective Cleanup dons a brown smock and a cowboy hat, lurking the outskirts of the aisle ways. On some occasions, however, it is time for action! The pudgy Saint Bazaar employee has discovered a spill! As the music becomes more dramatic, zooming in on his squinting eyes and his hand, he withdraws his weapon of choice – a gaudy handheld terminal used for scanning items in the store.

Jimmy laughed as he recollected the man and his ham fist, over the top performance, “That will put asses in seats.”

I would watch it,” Darren assured. “Joking or not, you remember him. That is the thing, whether it was funny or not, if you are remembered, that only helps your chances to be remembered when it counts.”

Jimmy said nothing in response to him. It was not the worst of ideas, but, if he had the choice, he wanted to succeed on his own merits, no silly gimmicks or tricks, only from what came naturally within him.

As they continued, Jimmy saw a customer enter at the other side of the aisle. A feeling of white hot warmth pierced his chest as he recognized him – it was Dalton, laughing as he and a few blurry, unfamiliar faces chatted amongst themselves.

Jimmy bowed his head down and continued working without saying a word. He was not certain why he cared as much as he did.

Most of his friends at The Laugh Track already knew he worked at Saint Bazaar. That was not exactly breaking news. Everyone worked somewhere when the night club shenanigans ended, unless they were a headliner. That was how life worked, and yet, as Dalton’s voice became louder, Jimmy’s anxiety worsened.

Eventually, he did the only thing he could think to do. He stood to his feet and turned his back to him, walking out from the aisle and venturing somewhere else in the store.

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