Kitty Richardson stifled a yawn and fantasized about sneaking a triple shot espresso latte onto the front end of Tommy's Tool Town. She clutched her Vitamin Water, took a long draw and waited for something magical to happen. The ruby red drink was infused with dragon fruit, but Kitty experienced no fire-breathing pyrotechnics after the sip, and figured she'd been duped. She capped the drink, set it aside and inhaled sharply. She detected nothing, save the constant scent of Tommy dust. This relieved Kitty greatly.
Kitty Richardson was a stray animal magnet, and she collected feline and canine discards like people collected Hummels in the eighties and Apple devices several decades later Kitty was a gold medal winner in the 5:15 AM dog-log slalom, but this particular morning, she hadn't even made the qualifier, and had arrived at her old Chevy with a substantial turd stuck to the bottom of her right Chuck Taylor.
"Dammit," she'd muttered into the darkness. With no time to spare, and few options, Kitty hobbled toward her neighbor's lawn, unfolded his newspaper, cleaned the shoe, folded the paper, and shoved it back into the protective green liner. Kitty's neighbor always complained about the amount of shit in the news. No sense leaving the old fella disappointed.
Two hours later, without a hint of anything foul smelling rising from the floor, Kitty stood at the counter and stared at the schedule. It was like a game of air traffic control, scheduling was. Get everyone where they needed to go, when they needed to be there, and cover breaks and lunches, without creating an interruption in the rhythm of Tommy's. Kitty thanked God it wasn't air traffic control, or surely her planes would be crashing all over the world.
Kitty pushed guilt and the schedule aside, opting instead to leave it for Mags Davidson. Mags was the Schedule Whisperer. She waved a pencil, and abracadabra, the damn thing was done.
The phone clipped to the back of Kitty's Levis chirped, and she brought it to her ear.
"Where are you?"
"Locked in the ladies room," Mags said, sounding distressed.
"How'd that happen?"
"The doorknob came off in my hand."
"The cobbler's children have no shoes."
"What does that mean?" Mags asked.
"It means that only in the biggest tool store in the country would the ladies room have a broken doorknob."
"Don't say stuff like that," Mags suggested. "It makes you sound old."
"I am old," Kitty said. "Do you think I look old, Mags? I've been using this new cream, and it's supposed to be great, made this ninety-year-old look like a supermodel. It's not tested on animals, of course. Can you see a difference?"
"All I see right now is Ladies Room. Can you call someone?"
"Why? You don't have time to make your own calls? You're locked in the ladies room, what else are you gonna do?"
"Can you call someone to fix the door?"
"Maybe Dewie can do it," Kitty suggested. "He's good with tools."
"He is a tool, Kitty. It's not the same thing."
"I'm calling Reeve."
"Good luck with that."
The phone clicked and Kitty set it on the counter.
"Where's Mags?" Penelope Ross asked through a mouthful of M&M's.
"Locked in the ladies room."
"Bummer," Penelope commented.
"That's what I said."
"What did you think of the meeting?" Penelope asked.
"It was a lot like I expected," Kitty said.
"What do you think is wrong?" Penelope asked.
Kitty contemplated the question. Penelope was one of her favorite cashiers, young, willing, athletic, could climb a ladder like a monkey, and not worry about breaking a hip on the way back down.
Penelope loved Kitty's stories, perfectly embellished for story-telling purposes. It wasn't even nine in the morning, why not have a little fun with the youngster?
"Maybe it's a front," Kitty said, her over-active imagination getting an obvious hit of dragon fruit.
"A front?" Penelope said, lighting up like a Christmas tree. "A front for what?"
"I don't know. Maybe for something illegal."
"You could be right," Penelope said, her excitement contagious, and the increased volume of her voice gathering the attention of an approaching regular. "Oh, jeez, that's Mr. Keller. He's a nut job and he smells like moth balls. Do I have to wait on him?" Penelope whined.
"I'm afraid so," Kitty replied, sounding sympathetic.
"Why?" Penelope moaned.
"It's the very nature of customer service."
Mr. Keller stepped to the register, and slapped a bag of fittings onto the counter. "Good Morning," Penelope sang. "Will this be on your Tommy's card?"
"I'd like it to be, but I can't seem to find my card. I'm losing it, young lady. Last week I lost my teeth for three days. If I had to eat another one of those ridiculous Greek slimy yogurts, I was gonna gag."
Penelope laughed, as her fingers flew over the keys of her computer keyboard. "I can look up your account."
Kitty observed as Penelope gathered information with all the precision of a census taker. "I'll be damned," Penelope whispered, and Kitty gasped.
"Language," Kitty chided, as Miles Longworth strolled toward Customer Service. "Miles, do you think you can help us solve a debacle here?" Kitty asked.
"Of what kind?" Miles asked.
"The dead kind," Penelope said, and the customer grew pale.
"Mr. Keller, we seem to have a glitch in our system. Our records show your account is closed because you're deceased," Miles Longworth explained, almost letting his penchant for humor show. It was obvious he was trying not to laugh.
"You don't say," the aging customer replied. "I checked the obituaries this morning, and I wasn't in there."
"Let me call customer service," Kitty offered.
"I'll call Stockwell," Miles offered, slipping into the manager's office.
Two minutes later, Reeve Stockwell appeared, looking stressed. "Kitty, what have we got here?" Stockwell asked.
"You guys are trying to kill me," Mr. Keller explained, which wasn't entirely untrue.
"Miles?" Stockwell inquired.
"System says he's already dead," Miles explained with a shrug. "Where's Mags? She's masterful with the system."
"She's unavailable," Stockwell explained.
"Did you kill her, too?" the customer asked.
Reeve Stockwell groaned. It was gonna be a heck of a long day.