Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 18 - Hickory Dickory Dock - What's up With Sonny's Clock.

One day later, Tommy's Tool Town looked better than ever, with some minor exceptions.  The paint had virtually vanished.  The professional cleaning crew had performed magic over five aisles, while the Tommy crew slept off their Coors Light.

Willie Dennison had supervised the entire cleaning event, and slept in his station wagon, surrounded by Pabst Blue Ribbon cans.  Willie was a madman with a broom, who occasionally smelled like a brewery.  No one coveted Willie's job, and therefore forgave him for his indiscretions. 

Slick Mitchell was the first one in the door.  He deposited his briefcase in his office, and walked the perimiter with a flashlight.  If the lights had been on, which they weren't, or if the flashlight had been properly directed, which it wasn't, Slick Mitchell might not have stepped in a puddle of bird goo in aisle nine.  But he did.  He tracked it through aisles ten and eleven.  Thankfully, Willie Dennison was due back in at noon. 

The pterodactyl had been properly identified by animal control as a Turkey Vulture.  Turkey Vultures were on the protected list, which meant that Tommy's couldn't take any unnecessary measures to rid themselves of the creature, such as having Reeve Stockwell shoot it with a staple gun.  They'd have to live with it, until the bird could be trapped.  If not for the bird goo, and occasional screeching, it wouldn't have been that much of a hardship.

Tommy's opened at 6:00 AM, per usual.  Kitty Richardson was first in.  She was dressed in black.

"Morning, Kitty," Slick said, and Kitty gave him little more than a passing glance. 

"What's up with her?" Slick asked Quincy Warner.  Quincy looked half asleep, probably because she normally worked nights, and had still been at Bitsy's at 2:00 AM. 

"Kitty's still mourning that damn pen.  If I find it, I'm going to stab her with it," Quincy whined. 

"I'd prefer you didn't.  Besides, if you find the pen, she'll probably snap out of it," Slick said.

"Good point.  My brain's a little pickled this morning," Quincy admitted.

Amber Martin strolled in five minutes late.  "You should get a new watch," Slick Mitchell said.

"You know, I never understood why people get gold watches when they retire.  Maybe if they got them when they were hired, they'd be on time," Amber remarked.

"I'll take that under advisement, Amber," Slick Mitchell said. 

Valentine Jones stood at Customer Service.  She looked at the schedule and frowned.

"You all right, Val?" Slick Mitchell asked.  He was beginning to understand why Stockwell had a sugar problem.  One needed a vice when managing the front end.

"Why isn't Mags here?  We were supposed to go to the Chinese buffet for lunch today."

"That buffet is skanks town," Quincy commented.  "I was in there a couple weeks back, and this squirrel runs out of the kitchen.  True story.  The cook comes running out with a net.  I asked him what he was doing, and he said, 'don't worry.  Squirrel not dinner.  Squirrel pet.'  I ain't never goin' back there."

Slick Mitchell walked away.  He had successfully dodged the question about Mags Davidson.  Mags was on vacation for a week.  Slick had gotten a message last night while half in the bag at Bitsy's.  If Tommy's had another injury before the renewal of their comp insurance in six days, the company had threatened to cancel their policy.  Slick Mitchell couldn't take any chances.  Barbie Baxter agreed to take on an extra shift to cover for Mags, but only if she could wear a hard hat, just until the bird was captured.

 Slick strolled through the paint department.  The transformation was remarkable.  JT Bueller had come in early to remove the charred remains of the Slim Spin 5000, and replace it with Tommy's aging train wreck of a paint mixer.  The remains were headed for the dumpster.  Partners in Paint had been banned from the store for life.  JT was just returning from the dumping when Slick passed by the paint desk.

"Miles Longworth is out back farting around with the dumpster again.  That guy's got a serious screw loose," JT commented.  "Don't mean to be disrespectful, but is he a hoarder?  Does he dumpster dive or something?"

Slick wasn't sure, but he decided it was time to find out.


Miles Longworth stood by the dumpster outside Tommy's receiving bay.  He wore his wife's rubber gloves, and held the envelope of money in his hand.  He had to get rid of the damn thing.  There wasn't any place he could hide it.  He couldn't hide it in his office, or anywhere in the store, and he certainly couldn't hide it at home.  His wife had some crazy sixth sense when it came to her husband.  No matter what Miles tried to sneak into the house, his wife found it.  He couldn't get away with anything.  He once ate a Big Mac at 11:00 PM, while she was away at her mother's.  He'd ridden his bike in the direction of the glow of golden arches, paid cash, and had burned the wrapper in the outside burn barrel.  She's still known he'd broken the "no food past 9:00" rule.  She either had nanny cams or was a psychic medium, or in her case a "large" because she didn't miss ANYTHING.  No.  Keeping the money at home, even for a short time until he could return it safely, was not an option for Miles.

The store was open, but the sky was still dark.  He couldn't imagine any thugs prowling around, not with Tool Towners in neon around every corner.  He'd picked the perfect time to shove the money back under the pile of crap where he'd found it.

At least he thought he had.  Until JT showed up.

He'd lied to JT, and he'd looked like an idiot in the process.

"What are you doing out here?" JT had asked him.

"I'm sneeking a cigar.  Don't tell anyone," Miles had said.

"Where is it?" JT had asked.

"Where's what?" Miles had responded.

"The cigar?"

Miles hadn't answered.  He'd offered to give JT a hand hauling the carcass of the Slim Spin 5000 into the dumpster.

JT had walked away shaking his head.

He thinks I'm an idiot. 

He's absolutely right.

Too late, Miles had remembered the cigar in his pocket.  He'd lit it, and had taken a few puffs while JT disappeared into the receiving bay door.  Miles waited a few minutes to see if JT returned.  He didn't.  Miles knelt down on a plastic Tommy Tool Town bag and began poking around in the debris with the first two fingers of his pink-gloved right hand.  The money was in an envelope, tucked under the side of the bag.

He never heard Slick Mitchell approach.

"What are you doing?" Slick asked.

Miles froze. 

"Saying my prayers," Miles said.

"Seriously?"  Slick Mitchell forced himself not to laugh.

"What?  A man can't pray?" Miles asked.

"What are you praying to?  The Palmolive Gods?"  This time Slick couldn't control the laughter.  He practically burst with it. 

"Look it," Miles said, holding his pose with his right knee on the envelope, beneath the Tommy bag.  "Can we just forget this happened?"

"I might be willing to do that, on one condition," Slick said.

"What condition?" Miles asked.

"Get yourself some help, man.  You're getting weirder by the day."

"You couldn't possibly imagine," Miles mumbled. 

"What was that?" Slick Mitchell said.

"You've got a deal," Miles replied.

Slick Mitchell walked away.  He wouldn't forget what he'd seen, and he figured JT was right.  Maybe Miles got himself into some Freecycle club or something.  Maybe he was dumpster diving.  Tommy's had a policy, what goes in the dumpster, stays in the dumpster, and Miles knew it as well as the next neon-clad guy.  This time, he'd let it go, but if Miles didn't straighten up, Slick was afraid he'd have to fire him.

Slick pushed the thought from his mind.  He needed to get busy.  Sonny Brooks had the day off.  Slick had to review some of the tapes in a random check, and report to Corporate Security.  Everything had to be checked, double checked, and triple checked, and all roads led to Slick, especially since he'd recommitted to playing an active role in the day to day operation of the weirdest retail store in existence.

Slick settled himself into Sonny's office.  He reviewed the tape from the day before.  It was like the Amityville Horror.  Paint cans flew everywhere.  He saw Stockwell get clocked with a gallon of blue, and he tried not to laugh.  He failed.  He was still chuckling when he noticed a tape was missing.  Whether or not he was a manager, and basically the top guy, because of his last name, Slick wasn't inclined to go through anyone's desk, or poke around anyone's office unnecessarily, but he had to find the missing tape.  If there was something quirky on it, and he signed off on it, he wasn't fit to work for Tommy's, regardless of who his grandfather was. Slick finally found the tape.  It was buried beneath fifteen Dunkin Donuts cups in the left file drawer of Sonny's desk.

Slick popped it in the player.

He watched for only a few minutes, checking the clock from time to time.  He was hungry, and tape review was boring as heck.

He glanced back at the tape in time to see a coffee cup vanish.

"What the hell?" Slick said out loud.

He rewound the tape.

The same thing happened.  His eyes had not been playing tricks on him.

He rewound the tape again.

The third time something caught his eye. 

He watched the tape a fourth time, zooming in close and slowing it until it moved frame-by-frame.

The cup was there one moment, and gone the next. 

Or so it seemed.

It wasn't the cup Slick Mitchell watched.  It was the clock on the corner of Sonny's desk.  It was barely visible unless one zoomed in on it, and he was surprised he'd even caught it.  In the frame with the cup, the clock read 1:42 AM.

In the next frame, at which time the cup seemed to mysteriously vanish, the clock read 3:22 AM.

A single question ran through Slick Mitchell's mind.

What happened in his grandfather's store between 1:42 AM and 3:22 AM, and who didn't want anyone to see it?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 17 - The Aftermath

Sonny Brooks watched the mayhem on the monitors, from the comfort of his office.  He could hear voices coming from the Receiving Bay, which didn't frighten him.  The voices belonged to Tommy employees.  Sonny normally couldn't hear the voices, because Sonny normally kept the door shut.

Sonny no longer kept the door shut.  If Tommy's had a ghost, Sonny wasn't taking any chances he'd be closed in a twelve-by-twelve room with one.

Sonny had seen the paint pandemonium from the beginning, from lock-and-load, to paint cans flying.  For this, he was grateful.  If he'd begun watching from the middle, as cans took flight, Sonny might have thought Tommy's had a poltergeist.  Tommy's didn't have a poltergeist.  Tommy's had J.T. Bueller, who wasn't skilled in how to properly load the Slim Spin 5000.

Sonny Brooks made his way to the front end, and the situation looked far worse in person than it had on camera.  Paint was splattered everywhere.  Customers and employees alike were covered with paint. 

Mags Davidson was propped up in a chair at Customer Service, with an ice pack on her head.  Sonny wasn't terribly surprised.  Reeve Stockwell hadn't actually witnessed the debacle, but nonetheless, had not escaped harm. 

Stockwell had been running toward the Paint Department when the last can took flight.  The can had launched itself from the Slim Spin 5000, flown like a rocket down aisle eight, and had knocked Stockwell out cold.  He was found, ten minutes after the smoke dissipated, in a puddle of a Midnight Surrender, Navy Blue, Interior Flat. 

He'd ruined two shirts since he walked through the doors.

Stockwell sat next to Mags, holding a matching ice pack.  Sonny found him huddled over a circular waste can.

"You all right?" Sonny asked.

"Wishing I'd stopped before the second fritter," Stockwell said.  He was covered in blue.  He looked positively green.

Barbie Baxter had taken cover behind customer service.  She was paint-free, and seemed to be organizing the triage unit.  She had her head in a first aid kit which hung on the wall.

"I've got another ice pack.  You ready for a refill, Mags?" Barbie asked.

"I'm good," Mags said.

"I'll take it," Stockwell offered.

Quincy Warner had also come out of the nightmare relatively paint free.  Her injuries consisted of a ruined manicure which she whined about incessently.

"I just had these done.  Someone is going to pay for this.  Where is that Partners in Paint idiot?"  Quincy complained. 

Everyone ignored her.

"What the hell is Kitty doing?" Sonny asked.

Kitty Richardson was covered in paint, and crawled through the wreckage, muttering as she moved.  Sonny strained to hear what she was saying.

"She's looking for Melvin," Mags said.  Barbie rolled her eyes.

"Who the heck is Melvin?  Is that a customer?" Sonny asked.

"It's her pen," Barbie said.  "It's her absolute favorite.  She hangs on to that thing like a woobie.  Sometimes she talks to it."

"That's insane," Sonny said.

"That's Kitty," Stockwell said, fighting to break his replacement ice pack.

Kitty continued to crawl through the wreckage.  "Melvin?" she called.  "I can't find Melvin.  Melvin?"

"When the EMT's get here, you might want to have them check her out," Sonny suggested.

Kitty plopped down in a puddle of paint and sobbed.  "Melvin," she wailed.  "I'm sorry, Melvin."  The hysterics were reminiscent of Castaway, when the remarkable Tom Hanks lost his best friend, a volleyball named Wilson.

"Melvin!  Melvin, I'm sorry," Kitty carried on, and Stockwell covered his ears.

"Pickle," Stockwell said.

"Pardon me?" Sonny said.

"We're in a real 'pickle, Dick'," Mags said, and Barbie, Quincy, and JJ Patricks, who no one had noticed until that moment, laughed.

"What are you talking about?" Stockwell growled.

"That's from a movie," Mags commented.  "I just like saying it."

"Pickle," Stockwell repeated.  "The safe word is 'pickle'."

"And this is significant how?" Mags asked, incredibly astute for someone who probably had a concussion.

"Pickle is the word I say right before I kill Kitty," Stockwell groaned.

"Melvin!!!" Kitty, who had resumed crawling through puddles of paint, yelled again.

"Pickle," Stockwell hollered back.

"What do we do?" Mags asked.

"I say we let him kill her," Barbie said.

"Don't even think about it," Sonny commanded.  "Imagine the amount of paperwork."

Before Stockwell could murder his right-hand gal, Willie Dennison, Tommy's maintenance manager, appeared with a mop and bucket.  He stood surveying the mess, and scratching his head.

"You all right, Willie?" Sonny asked.

"I think now would be a good time to resign," Willie said, and everyone understood.

Slick Mitchell emerged from aisle seven, looking like a rainbow had exploded in his close proximity.  He helped Kitty to her feet, and the two descended upon Customer Service. 

"Did you find Melvin?" Quincy asked.

"Shut up about Melvin," Barbie whispered.

"PICKLE!" Stockwell screamed.

"How hard did he get hit?" Slick Mitchell inquired of his fellow manager, Reeve Stockwell.

"It's just a bad day," Sonny Brooks said, and everyone agreed.

"Well, I'm about to make it a heck of a lot better," Slick announced. 

Most of the customers had cleared from the store.  Several were being seen by the EMT's parked out front.  Others were being assisted by Miles Longworth, who was in charge of the day's incident reports.  Corporate was going to fire them all when they saw that impressive pile of paper.

"In an unprecedented move, I have decided to close Tommy's Tool Town for the remainder of the day.  I have advised Willie Dennison to coordinate a professional cleaning crew to take care of this mess while the rest of us sleep," Slick declared, and everyone perked up a little bit.

"We could go to Bitsy's," Kitty said.  Kitty was still weeping softly.  She swiped at her eyes with her sleeve, and didn't seem to notice the smear of red paint she deposited on her left cheek.

"Bitsy's it is," Slick said.


Two hours later, the crew of Tommy's Tool Town filed into Bitsy's Bar.  Most of the crew was still covered in paint, which had dried while each completed an incident report, and waited for a clean bill of health from the paramedics.

No one required additional care.  Not even Mags.

Bitsy's was relatively dead, as one would have expected for a work day afternoon.  The bartender looked up when the crew walked in.

"Holy crap," the guy said.  "You folks okay?"

"We just finished paint ball," Mags said.

"I thought they had suits for that," the bartender remarked.

"They were all out," Stockwell said.  "We played anyway."

"Talk about taking one for the team.  What can I get you?" the bartender asked.

"Pitchers of beer, and two of everything on the appetizer menu," Slick said.  "It's on me."

"Let's play pool," Barbie suggested.  "Miles, you play?"

"I'm gonna take a stab at some Quick Draw," Miles said.

"I thought you were giving that up?" Stockwell asked.

"Not today, I'm not," Miles replied.

Stockwell walked to the bar.  "You got anything sweet here?" Stockwell whispered to the bartender, who looked up when he heard pool balls.

"Excuse me, miss.  Is everyone dry?  I can't be having you folks getting paint on Bitsy's pool table.  She'll have my balls, no pun intended."

"We're all dry," Slick said.

"Man, you really got hit," the bartender said to Slick Mitchell.  "Didn't you try to defend yourself?  You got them cataracts or something?"

Slick Mitchell walked away.  Stockwell held his ground.  "Remember me?" Stockwell said.

"Yeah.  What'd you want?"

"I'm flexible.  Maybe a donut or something?" Stockwell asked.

"This is a bar, buddy.  Does it look like we have donuts?" the bartender quipped.

"Nevermind," Stockwell mumbled.

Ten minutes later, a waitress appeared with several plates of appetizers.  Two pitchers of beer stood empty.  Slick Mitchell was refilling cups from the third pitcher when a train roared by, sounding a hell of a lot like a Slim Spin 5000.

Seventeen Tommy Tool Towners took cover.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 16 - The Slim Spin 5000

Reeve Stockwell surveyed himself in the mirror.  He looked like an idiot.  The Garanimals shirt was in the trash, and he wore a Tommy's Tool Town, neon green shirt, which was two sizes too small.  Pickins were slim in the Tool Town closet, and the tiny shirts were the only remaining size.

"Good grief, I look like 'The Situation,'" Stockwell moaned.  The shirt was THAT tight.

Without the abs, he thought.

Stockwell's phone rang.  It was Kitty calling.

"Yea?" Stockwell barked.

"Animal Control is here," Kitty said.

"So is Mitchell.  Call him," Stockwell said.

"Slick is here?  I haven't seen him," Kitty said, sounding ditzy.

"Yes.  So is Longworth, at least he's supposed to be.  That new paint company is demonstrating their revolutionary paint mixer."

"Sounds stimulating," Kitty said.

"Like watching paint dry," Stockwell retorted.  Then he hung up.


Kitty dialed Miles Longworth.  She didn't want to bother Slick Mitchell.  Kitty liked Slick, thought he was a heck of a nice guy, who was simply born into a family that would some day become gazillionaires.  It wasn't Slick's fault, anymore than it was Kitty's, that she had a family tree that had maybe taken a few too many spins in the middle of a tornado. 

Longworth didn't answer.  Her call bounced back to the operator's desk.  Quincy, "Q" Warner, sat at the desk, with Tommy lights bouncing off her turquoise locks. 

"Operator," Quincy sang.

"Q, it's Kitty.  I was trying to get Miles."

"I'll page him for you," Quincy offered.

"Miles Longworth, please call Kitty Richardson at extension 992," Quincy sang through the Tommy paging system.  "Oh, jeez.  Is it 6:00 yet, man do I have the cramps.  I hate this time of the month, I'm like a maniac," Quincy whined, unaware her words were still blasting through the Tommy speakers.

Kitty's phone rang.

"Miles?" Kitty said into the handset.

"No.  It's Stockwell.  Tell Quincy to take a Midol, and remember to hang up the phone, thus disconnecting herself from the paging system, before ranting about her female problems."

Kitty laughed.

"Don't laugh.  Just talk to her," Stockwell quipped, before hanging up.

Kitty dialed Miles again.  This time he answered.

"What?" Miles said.

"That's a rude way of answering the phone," Kitty said.

"I wasn't aware I'd answered.  I was trying to send you to voice mail," Miles said.

"How kind of you," Kitty complained.

"What can I do for you?" Miles asked.

"Well, the paint people are here, and so is Animal Control.  They are going to set several traps to catch what they assure us is NOT a pterodactyl."

"And this is going to take how long?" Miles asked.

"They didn't say.  They're back there now.  Nichole is showing them around," Kitty said.

"Well, have her head toward the Paint Department.  I want everyone available to be on hand to watch this demonstration.  By agreeing to beta test this Slim Spin 5000, we have the opportunity to have it in our store for almost no cost," Miles explained.

"You working for them now?" Kitty asked.

"Don't be smart.  Have Quincy page it out, but stand over her," Miles suggested.


"So you can shut her phone off when she's done.  I don't need to know she has cramps, or that she had tacos for lunch, or that if said tacos give her the trots, she may have to ask to leave early," Miles complained.

"I'll mention it to her," Kitty promised.

Partners in Paint, the inventors of the revolutionary Slim Spin 5000, were setting up their paraphernalia in the Paint Department.  A crowd was gathering.  Decorating with paint was all the rage, and Tommy's carried hundreds of colors, from multiple vendors.  The Slim Spin 5000 could spin multiple cans of paint simultaneously, in less than half the time, and was guaranteed to mix paint properly, every time.  In a word, the machine was the Mercedes of the painting industry.

Slick Mitchell made some announcements and introduced the Partners in Paint demonstrator.  The pterodactyl screamed from the back of the store.

"Seems our store appeals to multiple species.  Animal Control is on the scene to remove our guest without harming him," Slick Mitchell explained. 

"I like turtles," Bernice Lord said, from just behind where Kitty stood.

"Behave," Kitty said, barely turning around.

J.T. Bueller, Tommy's own paint specialist, pulled five gallons of top-shelf paint from the bowels of his department.  He prepared each can to take a ride on the Slim Spin 5000.  One by one, the demonstrator loaded the cans. 

"Prepare to be amazed," the demonstrator said, sounding like he was David Blaine.

Ultimately, everyone was.  The Slim Spin 5000 was almost soundless, nothing like Tommy's current operation, which sounded like a freight train had derailed, one department over.  The cans spun at a rate of speed that made everyone take a step back.

"That's it, folks!  Want to see it again?" the demonstrator asked.

No one really did, but Tommy's employees, and customers alike, were basically nice folks, so everyone humored the guy.  Either the demonstrator really loved paint, or he'd been sniffing some.  He was incredibly excited about spinning paint cans.

J.T. did his thing a second time, and the demonstrator walked him through loading the machine.  When J.T. was locked and loaded, the demonstrator pushed two buttons, and stepped back.

"Here we go," the demonstrator said delightfully, and Bernice clapped her hands and jumped up and down.

"Bernice.  Stop," Kitty chastised. 

It didn't take long to figure out that something had gone terribly wrong.  The Slim Spin 5000 was no longer soundless.  It sounded like a washing machine stuffed with too many pillows, and the crowd backed up another foot.  The demonstrator looked like he might faint, and J.T. took cover under the paint counter.

One by one, the paint cans ejected from the machine.  Paint flew everywhere, dousing the crowd with every color of the rainbow. 

Slick Mitchell's clothes were ruined.  In a moment, his look had transformed from Maxim to Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.  He moved frantically, tracking paint all over.  He looked dazed.

"What the hell is happening?" Slick moaned. 

The paint was still flying.

Finally, the Slim Spin 5000 stopped with a thunk.  Plumes of smoke rose from its wreckage.  The mayhem calmed, as the crowd surveyed the mess.  Miraculously, everyone was accounted for, and nobody seemed to be injured.

No one noticed Mags Davidson.

She'd taken a nasty hit from a full can of Daisy Shimmer - Interior Satin.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 15 - Something Wicked This Way Flies

Reeve Stockwell looked over the report on the desk in front of him.  It wasn't so much the offense, but the date of birth of the offender.  A ninety-nine year old woman called in a bomb threat, and showed up in a prom dress to answer for her crimes. 

Stockwell shook his head.  Yesterday had been a hell of a day, and he was about due for a good one.  Tommy's had been open for almost eight hours.  So far, so good.  No one had called in sick, no one had called in a bomb threat, and miraculously, no one had been injured, although Mags wasn't due in for another five minutes.

Stockwell's phone chirped on the desk in front of him.  For the first time in days, he wasn't afraid to answer it.


"There's a pterodactyl in the Kitchen Department," a shaky voice uttered.

"I beg your pardon?" Stockwell asked.

"There's a pterodactyl in the Kitchen Department," the voice repeated.

"Now, look it, less than twenty-four hours ago, we had a bomb threat prank.  Pterodactyls are extinct.  Get a life."

And Stockwell hung up.


Nichole Deans was crammed into a custom cabinet, half a store away from Stockwell's office.  Her miniskirt was shoved halfway up her back, and her butt was getting seriously numb, but she wasn't going anywhere until she figured out what the hell she had just seen.

She'd suspected for hours that something wasn't right.  It wasn't intuition, so to speak, more the feeling of being watched.  Then she'd heard it, a screech from just above her, the volume of which was loud enough to get her attention, but not so much that it alerted anyone else to her present predicament.

What the hell was that thing?

It would be different if she worked in a zoo.  In a zoo, no one would think much of something flying on by, as one did one's paperwork, but Tommy's wasn't a zoo, not literally, and no flying thing belonged inside its walls.

Stockwell had hung up on her, and she could hardly blame him.  She would have probably done the same thing.  Maybe it was a security issue.  Nichole punched in three numbers and the phone rang twice.


"Sonny, there's a pterodactyl in the Kitchen Department," Nichole whispered.

"Bernice, stop making prank phone calls, and stop shaking the cans of Coke and putting them back.  Customers are starting to bitch about our sodas being flat."


"Shit," Nichole Deans whispered.  She dialed three more numbers.

"Kitty Richardson."

"Kitty, don't hang up," Nichole whispered.  Kitty didn't.

"What's wrong?  Why are you whispering?" Kitty asked.

"There's some freaking prehistoric looking bird in the Kitchen Department," Nichole said, sounding stressed.

"You don't say," Kitty said.  "Where are you?"

"I'm inside one of the displays," Nichole said.  "I'm hiding."

"Did you call Stockwell?" Kitty asked.

"Yeah.  He told me to get a life," Nichole whined.

"He's cranky.  His fritter dealer is on vacation.  Hang on, Nichole.  We'll come get you," Kitty reassurred.

"Hurry.  I have to pee."

"We will," Kitty said.

There was a thirty minute overlap daily, when all three front-end managers were present.  Kitty hung up the phone, and rounded up Barbie Baxter and Mags Davidson, who had just arrived.

"Girls, let's put Valentine Jones at the door and go to the Kitchen Department," Kitty said.

"Why?" Barbie asked.

"Nichole said there's some kind of prehistoric bird back there," Kitty explained.

"Jeez.  That doesn't sound like anything I want any part of," Barbie said.

"Come on," Mags chastised.  "Don't be a wimp.  I'll go if you will," Mags said to Barbie.

"All right, but I'm not going without protection," Barbie said.

"Like a condom?" Mags asked.

"No," Barbie said, giggling.

"Then what?" Mags questioned.

"Do we still have those hard hats in the closet, the ones the kids from the middle school wore on their field trip?" Barbie asked.
"They were in there last week," Kitty said.

"If we can wear those, I'll go," Barbie said.

"Deal," Mags said.  "I'll get us some flashlights."

Five minutes later, Valentine was stationed at the door, and Kitty, Mags and Barbie set out, in their yellow hard hats, to rescue Nichole Deans.  Each held an enormous orange flashlight.

Stockwell was patrolling the perimeter when he saw them out of the corner of his eye.  "What in the name of hell?" Stockwell muttered.

Reeve Stockwell made a split-second decision to pretend he hadn't seen them.  He didn't know what they were doing, or why they were wearing hard hats, but today, he just didn't want to know.  He was on a mission.

Meanwhile, Kitty, Mags, and Barbie arrived in the Kitchen Department. 

"Nichole," Kitty whispered, and ten feet away, a kitchen cabinet door inched open a crack. 

"In here," Nichole said, her voice soft.

All three girls crouched by the cabinet.  Mags was the first to speak.

"How in the sam hell did you get in there?" Mags asked.

"I have no idea, but if you guys stand guard, I'm going to try to come out.  If I don't, I'm going to wet my pants."

Barbie, Mags and Kitty stepped back, and Nichole practically exploded out of the cabinet. 

"Jeez," Barbie said.  "That was amazing."

Nichole laid on the floor, panting.  "I think I'm permanently crippled."

Something screeched overhead.  Kitty was still crouched on the floor.  Mags and Barbie hit the deck like soldiers.  Barbie's hat came off, and skittered across the floor.

"Shit!  My hat!" Barbie yelled.

"What the hell is that?" Kitty whined.

"I told you," Nichole said. "Oh, God.  If I don't go now, I am totally going to pee myself."

"Go.  We'll cover you," Mags said, from behind a cabinet door.

"What are you gonna cover me with?" Nichole hollered, inching toward the Ladies Room on her belly.

The thing screamed again, and Nichole rose to her feet, and took off like a Kenyan in the last leg of the Boston Marathon.

"Guess she got the feeling back in her legs," Barbie said.

Something flew by the three, and Barbie screamed like a teenager at a Justin Bieber concert.  Ten seconds later, Kitty's phone rang.

"Who is screaming?"  The caller was Stockwell.

"Barbie.  There's some flying creature in the Kitchen Department," Kitty explained.

"Good God in heaven, what next?" Stockwell groaned.

"Don't ask me, I couldn't make this shit up," Kitty said. 

"I'll be right there," Stockwell said, before hanging up.

Stockwell stomped through the store like a four-year-old boy, who had been denied a Tootsie Roll Pop at the checkout in the local shopping mart.  He'd had it, absolutely had it.  He grabbed the first thing he saw, a monster staple gun, and held it to his chest.  He arrived in the Kitchen Department in less than four minutes.  Kitty, Mags and Barbie were all crammed underneath Nichole's desk.  Two of them were still wearing hard hats.

"Get out of there," he roared, holding the gun like a madman.

"What's that?" Mags asked.  She was the first to stand.  She brushed Tommy dust from her bottom.

"I grabbed the first thing I saw," Stockwell said.

"What are you gonna do, put up flyers?" Barbie asked, rising to her feet.

"Have you seen this bird?" Kitty practically sang, and Stockwell glared at her.

Before another word was spoken, an enormous bird took flight from top stock.  All four looked up.  The thing was magnificent and horrifying, and Stockwell dropped the staple gun.  It hit the floor with a clunk. 

"What in the name of God was that?" Stockwell said.

"That was a pterodactyl," Barbie said.  "I took a class on prehistoric animals as an elective, my last year of college."

"I thought they all died," Mags said.

"We get stock from all over the world.  Maybe there's some out-of-the-way place where they aren't extinct," Stockwell surmised.

The bird made another pass, releasing an enormous stream of bird goo as it did.  The stream hit Stockwell's shoulder, and ran down his back.

I never liked this shirt anyway, Stockwell thought.  Damn thing looks like it ought to have a Garanimals tag in it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 14 - Ada MacKenzie - Move Over CSI

Mags Davidson screeched when the phone struck her.

"What in the name of all that's holy?" Mags yelled, rubbing her shoulder.  A young woman holding a smoke detector, inhaled sharply, and Mags apologized.  "I was praying," Mags explained.  "I am very religious."

"Is it okay to pray here?" the customer said.

"I think so.  No one's mentioned a separation of church and home improvement," Mags explained, and the customer smiled.  "I am sorry.  Sometimes my mouth just runs away on me."

"Apology accepted," the customer said.  "Are you all right?"

"I will be.  Right now I'm trying to figure out what hit me," Mags said.

"That gentleman over there threw a phone.  That seems dangerous," the customer said.

"Why it does, doesn't it?" Mags said, suddenly remembering the caller on line one.  "Miss, if you don't mind, I'm going to have Wilton ring up your purchase over at register twelve," Mags said, shuffling the customer in the direction of Wilton's station.  Mags found the phone by the front door.  It had bounced off her shoulder, and skittered another fifteen feet.  "Were you looking for this?" Mags asked Stockwell, who hung his head in apparent shame.

"I was," Reeve Stockwell said. 

"Well, good news.  No one called while it was sailing across the store, hitting me in the shoulder, or laying on the floor."

"I am sorry I lost my cool," Stockwell said sheepishly.

"Lost your cool?" Mags asked.  "Look it, I know you're my boss, and I am supposed to respect you, and all that other mumbo jumbo, but you just threw a friggin' phone at me, and what irks me even more, is that it's distracting all of us from the fact that there is a bomb in the store!" Mags said, looking suddenly panicked.

"There's no bomb.  It was Kitty grandmother on the phone," Stockwell explained.

"Ada?  No shit," Mags said.

"Language," Stockwell reminded her.

"From the phone thrower," Mags chided.

"In fact, I need to deal with Kitty.  Two police officers are on their way.  Please let them know the threat was a prank, and call me when they arrive.  I'll deal with them," Stockwell told Mags.

"Shall I say anything to them?" Mags asked.

"I'd rather you didn't."

"I'll just chat them up.  Maybe ask a bit about restraining orders and the likes.  Just in case the phone throwing isn't an isolated incident."

Reeve Stockwell walked laboriously toward his office.  He wondered how many more days he could take like this.  He paused at his office door, knowing Kitty was inside.  He chose not to delay the inevitable, opened the door, and stepped inside.

Kitty was staring at the wall.

"Am I fired?" Kitty asked.


"I'm not?" Kitty said, making eye contract.


"Why not?"

"Technically, this is your first offense, and in reality, it's not even your offense," Stockwell said.  He felt calmer in his office.  Perhaps it was knowing the king size bag of Reese's cups were in his desk.

"My first offense?" Kitty asked, her voice soft.

"Yes.  Kitty, you equally delight me and drive me to the candy aisle in the CVS across the street, but being a pain in my ass is not necessarily against policy.  Tommy's Tool Town is pretty much a melting pot of diversity.  Everyone here irritates me from time to time.  You're just at the front of the line."

"I'm not sure what to say."

"You may start with anything that might give me a clue as to why Ada would call in a bomb threat," Stockwell said.

"She likes to hear about my days here.  Let's just say, I'm the Helen and Ada whisperer.  The more I talk, the less they scream at each other.  It can be a regular throw-down with those two," Kitty explained.

"And we're getting to the bomb threat?" Stockwell asked.

"We are.  Gran watches a lot of crime shows.  She and Helen could process a crime scene better than any CSI ever trained, although they'd probably kill each other before any crime got solved.  Last night, over the Stouffers they fought over for thirty minutes, I told them about the bomb threat training.  Gran got the idea to test our skill, in the hope that, if she called, Horatio Caine would come."

"And who is this Horatio person?" Stockwell asked.

"He is on CSI Miami."

"A television show?"

"Yes," Kitty whispered.

"Your grandmother is a strange woman," Stockwell commented.

"You cannot even begin to imagine."

"Kitty, if anyone else told me this story, I would think they'd gone completely nuts.  From you, it's almost believable."

"Thanks.  I think," Kitty mumbled.

The phone on Stockwell's desk chirped and both he and Kitty stared at it.

"You gonna get that?" Kitty asked.

Reeve Stockwell picked up the phone, and put it to his ear.  "Stockwell."

Kitty could hear a loud voice through the phone.  She stared at the floor.

Reeve Stockwell hung up.  He stared at Kitty.

"What?" Kitty asked.

"I'm afraid your worlds are about to collide.  The cops are on their way to pick up your grandmother.  Sonny needs to interview her.  He has to create a report for Corporate."

Kitty went completely pale.  "Oh, no.  No, no, no, no, no.  This cannot be happening."  Kitty began to rock in her chair, and Stockwell felt something that bordered on sympathy.  "Oh, shit.  Oh, no," Kitty mumbled, repeating the words again and again.

"Kitty.  You all right?"

"Nope.  No.  No way, not even close.  Please, Reeve," Kitty begged.  "Please don't let them do that.  My grandmother cannot come here.  I come here to be safe, and to see Mags, and everyone else.  I am happy here.  I am not really all that happy anywhere else.  I'm happy when I write, and I'm super happy when I eat Count Chocula before bed and have that dream where Johnny Depp awards me the Pulitzer, and then says, 'hey, Kitty, you going to the Vanity Fair party afterward?'"

Kitty carried on hysterically, and Stockwell just stared at her.

"My grandmother dresses weird, and yells because her hearing is bad, and she farts, and doesn't know it, because her hearing is bad, and sometimes when I go to the store, I pretend I don't know her.  She doesn't know I'm ignoring her, the sweet thing, probably because her peripheral vision took a shit about twenty years ago, and you can sneak up on her from two inches away.  Anyway, when people look at her, and believe me, they all do, I look at her, and do that thing, you know the thing where you take your finger, and whirl it around, like someone's a bit batty, or something, you know that thing, Reeve?"

"Kitty, have you ever considered talking with someone?"

"I'm talking to you."

"I'm your boss, not your therapist."

"I know," Kitty whined, afraid she might cry.

"Oh, for crying out loud.  Don't cry.  Here," Reeve said, going for the gusto.  He reached into his desk drawer, and pulled out the enormous bag of chocolates.  That did Kitty in.  She bawled like an acne-ridden teenager who hadn't been asked to the middle school dance.  "Kitty, don't.  Please don't."

"I am just so touched that you'd share them with me," Kitty whimpered.

"Don't be all that touched.  It was selfish.  I was just hoping you'd shut up because I have absolutely no idea what to say to you."

"Aw, shucks," Kitty said, gaining some control. 

"Put some in your pocket, kiddo.  Let's wait outside.  I don't want anyone to think I actually did kill you."

Kitty followed Stockwell to the door.


Lucie Goosie and Bernice Lord had arrived while Kitty had been holed up in Stockwell's office.  Both ran to her side.

"Are you okay, Kitty?" Lucie asked.

"Of course.  Kitty is always okay," Bernice said.

"Thanks, girls.  I'll be all right."  Kitty walked to the front door, and looked outside.  A cop car pulled up.  Two deputies exited, and one opened the rear door.  Ada MacKenzie stepped out, and Kitty gasped.  "Mother of God, give me strength."  Stockwell watched her from twenty feet away.  Kitty turned.  "If you ever really wanted to kill me, now would be a really good time."

The doors whooshed open and Ada staggered in, accompanied by the two deputies.  Kitty could tell they were trying not to laugh.

"Sweet Jesus," Stockwell said.

"Oh, my.  Hello, dear," Ada said, toddling to where Kitty stood.  Ada took her in her bony arms, and Kitty looked over her shoulder to where her co-workers stood.  Their mouths were all hanging open.

"Grandma, what in the hell are you wearing?" Kitty asked.

"Isn't it fabulous?  I made it from your prom dress.  You weren't ever going to wear it again.  No forty-year-old woman goes to a prom, unless she's a chaperon or a pedophile, so I wanted to repurpose it.  Do you like it?"

Ada had fashioned the prom dress into something that looked like a tutu.  She wore her purple spandex pants, and pink sneakers.  An enormous parka, three sizes too large, protected her small frame from the intense wind.  The parka was unzipped and barely concealed an I'm sexy and I know it, tee shirt.

"It's lovely," Kitty said, wishing she could click her heels together and disappear.

"Good.  Because I made you one, too," Ada said.

"That would come in particularly handy if you're ever offered a role in the Nutcracker," Mags said, from two feet away.

"I think she's cute," Lucie Goosie said.

"She rocks," Bernice said.

"Oh, look at those Tommy shirts.  Everyone's got one, and they all match.  I'd love to have one of those.  I have some flowered slacks that would look hot with a Tommy shirt."  Ada nearly squealed with delight.

"Ada, if you give me your statement, I'll hook you up with a shirt," Reeve Stockwell said.

"And you are?" Ada asked.

"I am Reeve Stockwell."

"Of course you are.  I should have known you.  Kitty tells us all about you," Ada said, and Kitty blushed.

"And what does Kitty say?" Reeve asked.

Kitty took a deep breath.  She loved her grandmother, loved her like crazy, no matter what she looked like.  At ninety-nine, Ada had a good, long life.  She'd seen the Beetles, and Elvis, and Madonna, twice, in concert.  If Ada's ticker gave out right at that moment, before she said another word, Kitty would mourn like a good grand daughter, and all her secrets would go to Ada's grave, along with the spandex, the Hello Kitty collectibles (she wanted to be buried with) and the tutu.

Kitty wished the old woman dead, for a mere second, but long enough to know she'd be struck by lightening the next time the sky got angry.

"Kitty says you want to kill people.  I could profile you, if you'd like.  I've become quite good at it," Ada offered.

"Perhaps another time," Stockwell said, sending the death stare over the top of Ada's head, in Kitty's direction. 

Kitty shrugged.

"Let's get you to my office, take that statement, round up a shirt for you, and get you home before you catch a chill," Stockwell said.

That was the best idea Kitty had heard all day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 13 - Reeve Stockwell - A Man Gone Completely Mad

Reeve Stockwell's day hadn't started well.  Sonny Brooks and Miles Longworth had both called in sick, leaving Reeve Stockwell to do the work of three men.  Stockwell had been up until all hours nursing a Nutter Butter hangover, and wasn't all that interested in doing the work of one man.

Kitty Richardson arrived five minutes late, looking like Sophia Loren, in her huge sunglasses, and flowered scarf. 

"How about this wind," she'd remarked, rushing past Stockwell, in search of the closest terminal to punch in on Tommy's time clock.

"You're late, Kitty," Stockwell growled.

"Worth the wait, as always," Kitty replied.

"I should fire you," Stockwell yelled to her back.

"Fire me tomorrow.  There's a good movie on Lifetime," Kitty said with a wink.

"That woman is a certified nut," Stockwell said, and a customer turned and glared at him.

"Most apologetic, Ma'am," Stockwell said.  "I certainly didn't mean you."

"I didn't figure you did.  Likely meant the madwoman with the scarf, and dark glasses.  She looks a bit batty," the customer commented, and Stockwell smiled at her.

You have no idea, Reeve Stockwell thought.

"Well, dear, since you're right here, perhaps you can help me.  I've brought back this thing-a-ma-jigger here for Bert, my beloved.  Bert's got a bit of the gout, poor old fella.  Couldn't bring himself to come'a shufflin into your fine store in his bedroom slippers."

"Let's take it over to Returns, and we'll see what we can figure out," Reeve Stockwell said.  He grabbed the box, which he assumed held a saw, and walked along beside his aging customer.  The customer plodded along at a speed that made a tortoise seem like an over achiever, and ten minutes later, they stood before Bernice Lord, at the return desk.

"May I help you?" Bernice said, with her dazzling smile.  A large chuck of Twizzlers was lodged between her two front teeth.  Upon closer inspection, Stockwell saw a second piece, and was pleased to find his Tool Towners following the "no food" rule on the front end.

Reeve Stockwell sat the box on the counter, took a step back, out of the customer's peripheral vision, and tapped his teeth.

"Are teeth missing from the saw, Ma'am?" Bernice said, again with the Candy Land smile.

"I beg your pardon, young lady?" the customer asked.

Stockwell held up two fingers.

"Two teeth?" Bernice said, and Stockwell felt heat in his face.  He held up the two fingers and shook them wildly.  "Two words?"

"Ma'am, if you'll excuse us for just a moment, we'll have a little talk about how to best serve you, and we'll return in about thirty seconds," Stockwell said.

"It's all right, dear.  I could stand to glue my teeth back in.  I'm going to sneak a Snickers, since Bert's not with me."

Stockwell wasn't sorry to miss that, and led Bernice away from the return counter.

"Bernice, please remove the gobs of Twizzler's from your front teeth."

"Uh oh," Bernice whispered.

"Caught you.  If I catch you again, I will tape your mouth shut, so that you'll stop eating candy on the job."

"Why does everyone want to tape my mouth shut?  That's against policy.  What would people think?"

"We'll get you one of those masks from the paint department.  That way, no one will know your mouth is taped shut."

"They'll think I have Bird Flu or Sars," Bernice whined.

"I'll bet no one would bother you for a while."

Bernice perked up a bit.  "How would I talk to customers?" Bernice asked.

"I'll get you an Etch-A-Sketch."

"That's hardly a good use of time," Bernice remarked.  "I had one of those things.  Couldn't even draw a straight line with it.

"Show me your teeth," Stockwell demanded.

Bernice did.

"Much better.  Let's get back to work," Reeve Stockwell suggested.

In less than a minute, the two arrived back at the return desk.  The customer had glued her teeth in incorrectly, bottoms on the top, tops on the bottoms, and she smiled like something from a Fun House.

Bernice covered her mouth and pretended to sneeze.

God give me strength," Stockwell thought.  It was just past 10:00 AM.  He hadn't expected to be this irritated until early afternoon.

Bernice stepped behind the customer to retrieve the box.  She tapped her teeth, and smiled the huge smile.

Stockwell ignored her.

"Let's see what you have here," Stockwell said.  He removed the saw from the box, and set it on the counter.  The problem was immediately obvious.  The cord dangled by a thread.  It had been severed by, Stockwell was left to assume, the saw to which it was once completely connected.

"Ma'am, the cord is damaged," Stockwell said, and Bernice stifled a giggle with her hand.  Stockwell sent the young associate the death stare.  Bernice fell silent.

"Why, look at that," the woman said, the teeth clacking together furiously.  "Bert only cut one thing, and the doohickey stopped working."

"Looks like he might have cut two," Reeve Stockwell said, wishing someone would just shoot him.

"Well, it's guaranteed, right?" the woman asked.  Stockwell forced himself not to look at her.  He couldn't keep his eyes off the teeth.

"Well, considering that your husband-" Bernice began.

"Bernice, kindly call the tool department and have them bring a replacement for this nice lady," Stockwell asked.


"Please do as I ask," Reeve Stockwell said.  He accompanied Bernice to the phone, and whispered as he walked.  "I am taking a break for the next few minutes.  Unless there's a fire, a death, or a bomb threat, please do not call me," Stockwell ordered.

Famous last words.


Kitty Richardson ditched the sunglasses and scarf, and made her way to Tommy's front end.  Mags Davidson was already hard at work, directing traffic like a crossing guard.  The egg on the side of her head was considerably smaller.

"How's things?" Kitty asked, and Mags smiled through a pencil in her teeth.

"Not bad," Mags replied.  "JJ Patricks called out, so I sent Valentine Jones home to take a nap."

"Okay.  What does one have to do with another?" Kitty asked, trying without success, to connect the dots in Mags' story.

"Right.  Sorry, Kitty.  I was doing a hundred things at once.  Let me regroup.  JJ called out, so I sent Val home to take a nap, and asked her to come back in later."

"Val's the best," Kitty said.

"You got that right," Mags agreed.

"What happened to JJ?" Kitty asked.

"Her mother fell and landed on the Statue of Liberty," Mags said, and Kitty just stared at her with her mouth open.  "You catching flies?" Mags asked with a chuckle.

"How exactly did JJ's mother land on the Statue of Liberty?  Did she fall out of the sky?" Kitty asked, and Mags laughed out loud.

"Hmm.  That didn't come out right at all, did it?" Mags asked.

"Not at all," Kitty replied, giggling like a teenager.

"Okay.  JJ's mother's cats got into a box of mementos, and one of them was a Statue of Liberty, 'bout six inches tall, from the sounds of it.  JJ's mom tripped over the box and fell on the statue.  Guess she messed up her tail bone pretty badly."

"Jeez, what are the odds?" Kitty asked.

"Don't ask me, I grade on a curve," Mags reminded her.

Both women jumped when the phone rang.  "Can you run outside and grab me the paperwork from last night?" Mags asked.

"Sure thing," Kitty said.  "From which register?"

"The one with a bunch of paperwork under the counter."

"Gotcha," Kitty replied, heading back toward Customer Service.  "Hi, Amber," Kitty whispered, as she passed.  Amber held the phone to her ear.  She was as white as a sheet.

"B, b, b, bo....." Amber stuttered, and Kitty stopped dead in her tracks.

"Sweetheart, what's wrong?  Are you okay?  Are you having a stroke?" Kitty asked.  It wasn't possible.  Amber was young, half Kitty's age.  Amber pushed the red "hold" button on her phone and slammed the receiver down.

"Bomb threat," Amber squeaked, and Kitty felt her bladder grow weak.

"Sweet Mary, mother of God," Kitty mumbled.  "I'll get the manual.  Pick the call back up, and see if you can get the guy talking," Kitty said, her adrenaline pumping a mile a minute.

"Me?" Amber said.  "Why me?"

"Be brave, my child.  You can do this," Kitty said, reassuringly.

Amber picked up the phone.  "Hello," she said.  "I'm sorry I had to set the phone down.  My boss is going to help me to help you resolve this in a way that keeps everyone safe," Amber added, her voice trembling.

"Good, good," Kitty whispered.  "You're doing great."  Kitty was shaking as badly as her young associate.  Mags stood ten feet away, yapping up a storm with an older couple, who had just purchased their first appliance in thirty years. 

"Do you think the light stays on when you close the refrigerator door?" the older woman asked Mags.

"I don't know.  I suppose you'd have to experiment," Mags suggested.

"Perhaps our little grandson could test it out for us.  I've forgotten when he's coming next," the woman's husband said.  "Do you remember, dear?"

"I don't.  We forget everything nowadays," the woman said.

"Maybe you could set a video camera.  Might be safer for your grandson," Mags recommended. 

Kitty penned a quick post-it, and stuck in on Mag's monitor, out of site of the customers. 

Bomb on line one.

Mags went pale, and shuffled the customers to the door with a wave.

"What the....?" Mags said softly.

"Seriously.  Amber is on the phone with him now.  Call Stockwell," Kitty said, returning quickly to Amber's side.  Amber furiously made notes on a blank sheet of paper on the counter.  Kitty read the random words.

disguised as old woman

bomb in Stockwell's office

Kitty will know what to do.

Bomb made from instructions on Internet, using Goggle

Bomb concealed in Lucky Strike box.

"WHAT IN THE NAME OF HELL!!" Kitty yelled, grabbing the phone.  "GRANDMA!  IS THAT YOU?" Kitty roared into the handset.

"Hello, dear.  I just thought I'd call and give you a little practice."  Ada disguised her voice, but the Lucky Strike rattle was unmistakable.

"You can stop disguising your voice now."

"Good.  It's killing my throat."

"Gran, are you out of your ever-loving mind?  You cannot call in a bomb threat.  You cannot do that.  No matter how helpful you want to be, or how much you think we need practice, you cannot ever, and I mean, EVER, call in a bomb threat.  Do you understand me, Gran?"

Ada began to cry on the other end of the phone.

"Oh, jeez.  Don't cry, Gran.  Please don't cry," Kitty soothed.

"I don't have anything in my life.  Anything.  All I have is your mother, and umpteen pieces of nicotine gum, and ingrown toenails, and hairs where there shouldn't be any.  It all looks so interesting on the television.  You got me thinking with the whole bomb threat thing, so I went on Goggle and puttered around."

"It's Google, Gran.  Why on earth would you do such a thing?"

"I thought if I called, maybe Horatio Caine would come."

"Gran, that's a character on a TV show.  He isn't going to come for a bomb threat in the middle of nowhere in upstate, New York."

"It was worth a shot," Gran whined.

Kitty felt eyes on her back.  Angry eyes.  She turned around, and a fire-breathing Reeve Stockwell stood before her.  He took the handset from her hand.

"Hello, Ada.  Kitty will call you back in an hour," Stockwell said, placing the phone on the base with such calm and precision, Kitty felt her blood run cold.

"Are you going to kill me?" Kitty whispered.

"No, and that's not because I don't want to, because I do.  I just don't want to spend the remainder of my life in a six-by-eight room with a serial killer, who, no matter how unlikely, might piss me off more than you do."

"Okay.  Thank you for not killing me.  Every morning when I wake up, I'll think of you," Kitty said, and Stockwell stuffed his hands in his pockets to keep from strangling her.

"That isn't making me feel any less like killing you.  Go to my office. NOW!" Stockwell demanded.

Kitty did as ordered, without saying a word, in a manner so unlike Kitty it was frightening.

Reeve Stockwell pulled his phone from his pocket, and dialed a number he'd committed to memory.  His call went to voicemail.

"Brooks, it's Stockwell.  Kitty's grandmother just called in a bomb threat to test our skill.  The cops are on their way.  I really don't care if you're shitting fire, spitting up blood, or have been infected with something that will most certainly kill me if I am exposed.  Get in here now!"

Stockwell ended the call, and threw the phone clear across the front end.

Amber Martin ducked.

Mags Davidson never got the chance.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 12 - One Man's Trash is Another Man's Nightmare

Sonny Brooks had worn the soles off his shoes revisiting the scene of the crime, again and again.  He'd left Tommy's briefly, only long enough to hit the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru.  He returned with a medium coffee, drank it so fast it nearly scalded his stomach, and rushed the cup back to Receiving.

He placed it on the desk of Cheryl Johnson, the receiving department's manager.

"Do not touch this," Sonny said, and Cheryl arched a brow at him. 


"I'm doing an experiment," Sonny said, his explanation not satisfying the curious clerk.

"About what?" Cheryl asked.

"Just leave the cup where I place it," Sonny demanded, and Cheryl shrugged.

Sonny Brooks returned to his office, by way of the men's room, and directed his attention to the monitor streaming in activity from Receiving.  He'd returned to the bay twelve separate times.  Cheryl Johnson stopped asking questions by his sixth visit, and figured Sonny had lost his marbles.

Sonny's legs and feet were killing him, and his investigation had provided zero results.  The cup never moved.  He had also made another important discovery.  Under no circumstances did the cup simply vanish.

What the heck was going on?

Sonny left the store at 4:00 PM, and headed home.  He'd enjoyed dinner with his family, and retreated to the living room while his wife headed upstairs for bath time with the children.  At 9:00 PM, Sonny's wife was tucked into bed with a Danielle Steel novel, and Sonny sat on the couch, with the TV dark, staring at the Dunkin Donuts cup.  It had been on the coffee table since 5:00 PM.  It had never moved.

"What secrets do you hold?" Sonny asked the cup.

The cup remained silent.


Two miles away, Miles Longworth sat in similar misery.  He had spent four hours hiding in his man cave with the soiled envelope in his pocket.  In the safety of the cave's bathroom, with the door locked, wearing his wife's pink flowered dish washing gloves, Miles had carefully removed the bills from the envelope.  It held more money than Miles made in a year.  Problem being - the money didn't belong to Miles.

"Dammit," Miles mumbled. 

No matter how badly he needed it, he couldn't keep the money.  It wasn't his.  He had no idea why it had been where it had been, or who had left it there, but eventually, someone was likely to come looking for it, and Miles was pretty sure it wouldn't be a Boy Scout or someone peddling religious writings.  It would be someone bad, and Miles began fearing for his safetly.

What the heck had he been thinking?

He had to take the money back to where he'd found it.

Miles tucked the money into the pocket of his robe, and tore up the stairs like a madman.  He returned the flowered gloves to where he'd found them, and furiously wiped at the envelope with a paper towel to remove any prints he may have left behind.

The paper towel shredded beneath his fingers.

"Truth in advertising," Miles mumbled.  The commercial showed one sheet of the world-famous towels cleaning up the mess of six toddlers.  Plain and simple, the paper towels sucked.

Miles chucked the entire roll in the trash, and laid the envelope on the counter.  He got the flowered gloves out of the cabinet again, slipped them on, grabbed the envelope, his car keys, and headed for the front door.


Sonny Brooks sat in his wife's Lincoln Town Car, outside the receiving bay of Tommy's Tool Town.  The car was mammoth, and needed to go to car heaven, but his wife loved it, so Sonny kept pouring money into it.  To justify the amount of money he'd spent on repairs, Sonny's wife would need to drive the car for twenty more years. 

Sonny sat in the dark, and flipped his flashlight on and off.  On and off.  On and off. 

No truck was due, and no freight was expected.  No night crew was present.  It was the perfect time to investigate, with one problem. 

Sonny Brooks was scared out of his wits. 

The world had gone mad for ghosts.  Every channel had a ghost hunting show.  Sonny wasn't wild about the paranormal.  He owned no paranormal investigative equipment, and had no desire to.  He didn't seek out haunted places.  He avoided them.  If Sonny saw a ghost, he was gonna need a clean pair of trousers.

"Please, let there be no ghosts," Sonny whispered.  Something picked at his brain, and he chuckled.  "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks," Sonny said, then shivered.  Sonny did believe in spooks, and suddenly the idea of investigating held no appeal.  Sonny turned the flashlight off, shifted in his seat, and reached for the keys hanging from the ignition.

Before he could start the car, something caught his attention.  Something in the dark.  Something that shouldn't be where it was.

A shadow man emerged from behind the dumpster.

Sonny Brooks screamed like a nine-year-old girl.


Miles Longworth crouched behind the dumpster.  He'd heard the scream, and he would swear, under oath, that his heart had stopped.  Miles was pretty sure it had started on its own, as he felt it beating in his head.  The sweatshirt he'd thrown on over the robe made him feel like he was being cooked, and he felt sweat beading beneath the hood he'd pulled over his head.  The rubber gloves made his hands itch like hell.  He couldn't imagine what he looked like. 

Halloween gone bad.  Halloween gone very, very bad.

A car roared to life, only a few feet from where Miles crouched.  Against his better judgment, Miles peeked out from behind his hiding place.  An enormous black car, the kind that transported bad, bad men, was parked in close proximity to the dumpster.

"Oh, God," Miles whispered.  "I don't want to die."  Miles feared death, but he also felt sick for his wife.  She'd have to identify his body, and she'd be royally pissed about the gloves. 

They were her favorite.

Be a man, were the words that ran through Miles' head.  With more courage than he'd ever mustered in his life, Miles stepped from behind the dumpster.  The wind caught his robe, and it flew out behind him.  He raised his arms, and reached for the sky with his pink-flowered-glove covered hands.  "The lord is my shepherd," Miles whispered.

Miles heard another scream, as the car lurched forward, then back, then foward.  Throwing gravel, the car fled in the opposite direction.

Miles Longworth fainted.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 11 - At Home With Kitty

There was a simple advantage to rising two hours prior to the crack of dawn.  Kitty Richardson was in her truck, in the Tommy parking lot, preparing to depart by 3:00 PM. 

Kitty wasn't in any hurry to get home.  Home wasn't fun.  Tommy's wasn't always fun, but it sure beat home.  Kitty turned the key in the ignition of her old Chevy, the truck roared to life with a pathetic growl, and the old beater backfired.

One row away, Penelope Ross hit the deck.  Kitty saw the girl drop in the rear view mirror. 

"You okay?" Kitty said, with her head out the driver's side window.

"Maybe I need to lay off the video games," Penelope admitted.  "I thought I was being fired upon."

"Sorry about that.  Charlie's on her death bed," Kitty said of the old truck.


"No kidding."

"See you tomorrow, Kitty."

"See ya," Kitty called back.  Penelope Ross got into her cute little red compact.  Penelope could afford the sweet little car.  She didn't have six ex-boyfriends who had all used her Mastercard.

Kitty's truck back fired again.

"Piece of crap," Kitty groaned.  Reluctantly, Kitty put the truck in gear and headed home.  Home was a single story rambler, with an in-law suite for an unmarried grand daughter, five minutes from the Tommy compound.  It was filled with latch-hook rugs, old TV Guides, Madonna posters, and endless grumblings. 

Stella Catherine Richardson, aka Kitty, spent half her life at Tommy's, and the other half taking care of her aging mother, Helen, and her fruitcake of a grandmother, Ada.  Helen was seventy-five, and acted ninety.  Ada was ninety-nine and acted twelve.  Kitty lived in hell.

Kitty pulled into the driveway next to a behemoth Buick.  Pink fuzzy dice hung from the Buick's mirror.  The Buick belonged to Helen.  The dice were Ada's doing.

"Mary, mother of God, give me strength," Kitty muttered as she exited her vehicle.  She scuffed up the walk to the front door, then let herself inside.

The kitchen was filled with smoke.

"Hello??!!" Kitty yelled.  "Does anyone realize the house is on fire?"

Family Feud screamed from the living room.  Kitty found it fitting.

"Something's burning!!" Kitty yelled, and Ada appeared in the doorway.

"Shit!" Ada said, shuffling along in her pink Chuck Taylors.  "We didn't hear you come in, dear.  We were arguing about how long to leave the brownies in the oven."

"Well, whoever wanted to take them out an hour ago wins," Kitty said, and Ada shrugged.

"That would be her," Ada said.

"My name isn't 'her,'" Helen yelled.  "It's Helen."

"They look okay," Ada said.  She had opened the door to the oven, and had mostly disappeared into the billowing smoke.  Only her pink sneakers were visible in the carnage.  Ada emerged with a tray of blackened brownies.

"They're not okay, Gran.  They're like a rock,"

"That's what the Fixodent is for," Ada said, and Kitty laughed.

"Why didn't the smoke detector go off?" Kitty asked.

"Oh, we always disconnect it when we cook," Ada explained.

"That might not be the best idea," Kitty explained.

Kitty let herself into the back of the house, into the wing addition that was Kitty's own private space.  Three dogs met her at the door, with noses in the air.

"It's okay, babies.  The old biddies were cooking again.  Fire's under control."

"We heard that!" Helen yelled.

"They've bugged the place," Kitty whispered.

Kitty let the dogs out the back door, into the fenced-in area installed to precision by Tommy's Tool Town.  Kitty checked her personal email, and the email account attached to a dating website for animal lovers.  There were no emails, and Kitty was grateful.  She'd had two dates in three years, and the last one had invited her over for dinner, then asked her to whisper so they didn't wake his mother.

Kitty sighed, and dealt with her despair like a normal person.

On Facebook.   

An instant message popped up.  It was Ada.

Ada:  Helen wants to know what's for dinner.

Kitty:  Arsenic chili

Ada:  I'll lay out the Maalox.

Kitty:  I love you, Gran.

Ada:  I love you too, Stella.

Stella.  No matter how many times Kitty asked them not to, they still called her Stella.  She heard her name called at all hours of the day and night.  "Stella!  Stella!  Stella!"  It was A Streetcar Named Desire, 24/7. 

An hour later, Kitty had dinner on the table.  Helen had opted for a Stouffer's Pot Pie, and Ada gobbled up a Mac & Cheese with her Wonder Woman spoon. 

"This is the best food ever.  Imagine, in my day, women slaved for hours over dinner.  Now it's ready in eight minutes, and it comes with its own bowl," Ada exclaimed in sheer wonderment.

"We didn't work.  Now women work," Helen griped.

"I have to work," Kitty said.

"Because you don't have a husband," Helen reminded her.

"Don't start, mother," Kitty said.

"Arlene's grandson is single again," Ada said, through a mouthful of noodles.

"He's been married six times, Gran," Kitty said.

"Maybe he's good at it by now," Ada said, and Kitty laughed.  "You know, it's really a shame about that lovely Stella.  She's such a nice girl, and when she wears a good bra and the Maybelline, she looks ten years younger, and she's very kind to the animals.  She's a good catch."

"I'm right here, Gran," Kitty said, and Ada dropped her spoon.

"I'm going bat shit.  It's the age, and the nicotine gum," Ada whined.  "I was a whole lot better off when I was on the Lucky Strikes."

"It's okay, Gran.  Everyone's mind and body wears out.  Look at Mom."

"Watch it, Stella.  I'll kick you out."

"You'll burn the house down," Kitty said.

"At least I won't have to vacuum this dump anymore," Ada said, and everyone laughed.  "Tell us about work, dear,"  Ada said, so Kitty did.

Kitty ran through her day, leaving little out.

"That poor Mags," Ada said.

"She's a hypochondriac," Helen said.

"No she's not.  She has the scars to prove it.  Besides, mother, a hypochondriac pretends to be ill, a hypochondriac doesn't pretend to get hit by a two-by-four."

"What's the word for someone who pretends to get hit by a two-by-four?" Helen asked.

"Bernice," Ada said with a wink.  "Did you really have to go over bomb threats?"

"We did, Gran.  It's a strange world we live in.  We have to be prepared."

"I miss the eighties," Ada said. 

"You're still in them, mother," Helen complained.

"I like the spandex.  It's flexible when I have the gas," Ada explained, defensively.  "Like now," Ada said.

"Speaking of bomb threats," Helen complained.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 10 - A Ghost in the Midst?

After what felt like a lifetime, Reeve Stockwell finished up with the rope customer, and against his better judgment, he decided not to buy a length for himself.  He could still hear muted laughter coming from his office.

"I am going to kill them," he mumbled as he walked.

Stockwell pulled the phone from his back pocket, and punched in three numbers.  Sonny Brooks, head of security, answered on the first ring.

"Brooks," Sonny said.

"Stockwell," Reeve replied.

"Brooks," Sonny said.

"Do not start with me today, Sonny."

"My apologies, Mr. Stockwell, how may I be of assistance?"

"You're still messing with me," Stockwell said, and Sonny laughed.

"I am.  What's up?"

"You in the middle of something?" Reeve Stockwell asked.

"Not at the moment."

"Great.  Meet me at my office."

"Something wrong?" Sonny asked.

"Kitty and Mags are in there with the cashiers.  They're going over the bomb threat procedures."

"Dear God.  I'll be right there."

Sonny hung up.

Two minutes later, Reeve Stockwell was pounding on the door to his office.

"Who's there?" Kitty called, her voice raw from laughing.


"Shit," Kitty whispered.

"I can hear you!" Reeve said, louder than he'd intended.

Kitty opened the door a sliver.

"Let me in," Reeve Stockwell demanded.

Kitty did.  Stockwell entered his office.  Bernice and Penelope were doubled over.  Lucie and Amber were blotting their eyes.  Mags had tears running down her face.

"I trusted you," Stockwell said to Kitty, who did her best to look regretful.

"I tried.  Really I did," Kitty said defensively.

"I should fire you," Stockwell said, and Kitty laughed, which only irritated him more.

"And who would you hire?  Who else could measure your insulin level just by looking at you?" Kitty asked.

"You are a pain in my - "

Stockwell was interrupted by a rap at the door.  He opened the door and Sonny Brooks stepped inside.

The room was small, ten by ten, and it was packed to the hilt.

"All right, ladies.  Squeeze together.  Incidentally, they can hear you laughing in the appliance department.  Come on, people.  Bomb threats are a serious subject, so much so, I've asked Sonny to help us out here."

"If any of you have had bean burritos in the last twenty-four hours you may leave now," Sonny said, and Bernice and Penelope both cracked up.

"I asked you here to help," Stockwell griped, glaring at Sonny Brooks.

"Reeve is right.  This is serious," Sonny said.  "We live in a strange and explosive world, where people often resort to violence to solve problems."

"You're quoting the video," Kitty said.

"How far did you get with the training, Kitty?" Sonny asked.

"We got to the part about getting the Cashier's Manual," Lucie Goosie said.

"That's the third line," Reeve Stockwell growled.

"Everything went to hell from there," Mags said.

"All right.  I've got to get back to the floor," Stockwell said.  "Sonny is going to take ten minutes to talk to you about what to do in the event of a bomb threat.  If one of you speaks, I will kill you."

"That's against policy," Bernice said.

"It's only against policy if I actually kill you, which I won't, if you remain silent for ten minutes," Stockwell said.

Reeve Stockwell left his office.  Sonny Brooks followed, leaving the office long enough to get the Cashier's Manual.  The front end was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.  Sonny returned in less than a minute.

"Bomb threat procedures are in each department's manual.  There are specific questions you should ask the caller.  Familiarize yourself with these questions.  For instance, ask the caller what the bomb looks like, and where it is.  Take each call seriously.  Kitty and Mags, please pass the instructions to each of your cashiers and have them initial the back once they've read them.  Does anyone have any questions?"

No one did. 

The explanation had taken less than four minutes.


The cashiers filed out of Stockwell's office.  Tommy's front end was in full swing, with customers lining up to pay for their purchases.  The cashiers dispersed, and Sonny strolled back to his office.

His stomach growled, and he anticipated heating up the massive bean burrito his wife had made the night before.  He'd pay for it for hours, but there was more than one advantage to having one's own private office.

Sonny swung by the break room, grabbed his lunch pail from the refrigerator, and nuked the burrito for two minutes.  He put it back in his lunch pail and returned to his office.

Safely inside, he dug into the mess like someone who hadn't eaten in weeks.  In three minutes, the burrito was gone.  He wished he had another.

He didn't.

Sonny settled back in his chair and popped a Zantac.  He had three hours remaining in his shift, and he settled back to review the security tapes from the night before.  Tommy's had an elaborate surveillance system, and Sonny had a trained eye.  He could watch several tapes at once, his eyes flitting from one screen to another, and Sonny rarely missed anything.

At 7:00 PM, the evening before, Penelope, Bernice and Lucie had performed the Macarena in the vestibule.  They'd done fairly well with it.

Mags was sweeping, with her back to the show.

At 7:30, Bernice and Penelope had filled the drink cooler.  Bernice furiously shook two cans of Coke and placed them in the front row on the second shelf, far right hand side.

Sonny decided to pretend he hadn't seen that.

"Damn kids," Sonny muttered.

Mags dropped two bottles of Diet Mountain Dew.  They'd rolled as if propelled by magic, and had come to rest in the middle of the electrical department.  Sonny wasn't all that surprised, and let that one go, too.

Just before closing, Penelope and Lucie had taken the trash and recycling to the receiving area.  Lucie had given Penelope a ride back in the cart, just past closing time.

Against store policy, but not worth the hassle.

At 10:10, Mags dropped a till that was mercifully empty.  Reeve Stockwell jumped so high his feet left the ground.  Sonny replayed the segment, which was just as funny the second time around.  Sonny laughed with vigor, and his stomach rumbled. 

He popped another Zantac.

Sonny watched the segment a third time, not all that surprised by Stockwell's reaction to Mag's clumsiness.  Stockwell had killed a King Size Butterfinger at 8:49 PM. 

The eye in the sky is always watching, Sonny thought, feeling a little rush of power.

For duty's sake, Sonny Brooks concentrated on the tape from the receiving bay.  No freight had been due in the night before, and Sonny grew quickly bored, watching an empty room.

One of the day crew had left a Dunkin Donuts cup behind.  There was one consistency in business.  Someone was always cleaning up after someone else.

Sonny reached into his desk for a peppermint.  The burrito was tearing him apart.  He kept his eyes on the screen in front of him, as he unwrapped the mint. 

"What the hell?" he whispered.

Sonny rewound the tape.

"No way," he said.

Sonny rewound the tape again, feeling his abdomen tighten in fear and confusion.

One minute the Dunkin Donuts cup was there.  The next, it was gone.  The cup vanished before his eyes.

The store had been closed.  No night crew was on duty.  No one entered the room.  Not a burgler, an animal, or David Copperfield.

"What in the sam hell?" Sonny said.

He watched the tape a third time.  A fourth.  A fifth.  His hand shook as he furiously pressed buttons. 

Sonny Brooks could draw only one conclusion.

Tommy's Tool Town was haunted.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 9 - In Case of a Bomb Threat

Promptly at 11:00 AM, Slick Mitchell opened the door of the training room and the Tool Towners filed out.  The video had been asinine, for the most part, depicting a dozen retail associates calmly handling the call of a madman.

Slick couldn't imagine his crew handling any threat to the Tommy store with such efficiency or calm.  Not that his folks were idiots, because they certainly were not.  His folks had wild imaginations.  Kitty Richardson would be busy penning a Pulitzer-prize-winning-quality article before the call ended.  Bernice Lord would be posting it on Facebook, and Penelope Ross would be taking videos of Tool Towners falling over each other.

Mags Davidson would probably be killed in the pandemonium.

Slick Mitchell could only pray that such a thing never happened.

He'd instructed each manager to go over the protocol with the associates in their departments.  He figured most of them would do all right, explaining the odd procedures to their staff.

What worried him was the three knuckleheads on the front end.  The front end was, in reality, the first line of defense in any retail warfare.  Customers were greeted by employees on the front end, upon entering.  Customers completed their Tommy experience on the front end.

Like Stockwell, Slick Mitchell adored the three ladies who comandeered the front-end staff, but he worried about their mental state, from time to time.  Mags was the most lovable walking disaster he'd ever met.  Barbie was adorable, more so because she carried herself in a way that suggested she really didn't know.  And, Kitty.  Kitty was a story all in herself, a story that was too farcical to believe, unless it was Kitty's.

Slick Mitchell got the occasional complaint about the front end, but nothing that was unique to Tommy's alone.  Retail customers were hard to please, and sometimes had ridiculous expectations.  Slick imagined cashing out on Tommy's front end was rather like going to the circus and leaving with a complimentary screw driver.  So far, so good.  At least they were smiling when they left, and how could they not, when every customer who set off Tommy's elaborate magnetic inventory security system, was met by Mags yelling "freeze." 

One day, some old lady is gonna have a heart attack, Slick considered.  He also considered that Mags probably knew CPR, although she wouldn't ever have the opportunity to use it on herself.  In a room full of random people, Mags would be most likely to need CPR.

Slick worried about how the bomb threat explanation was going on the front end, but he had to have faith in his people.  He knew the material, but he had to wonder how the dynamic trio would deliver it to their subordinates.


On the front end, the troops had been gathered.  Val Jones and JJ Patricks had been left to control the customers, and all other cashiers had been herded into Reeve Stockwell's office.  Barbie Baxter offered to supervise at the front door, leaving Mags and Kitty to go over bomb threat procedures. 

Stockwell unlocked his office door, and let everyone inside.  Slick Mitchell was on the hunt for Miles Longworth, who had not returned to the meeting, leaving Stockwell to manage the floor of Tommy's.  He had to leave Kitty and Mags unsupervised to deliver the procedures to their staff, which could ultimately cause more harm than an actual bomb.

"Don't mess this up or I'll kill you," Stockwell said, low enough that only Mags and Kitty could hear his threat.

"How could we mess it up?"  Kitty said.  "We'll just follow protocol."

"And you've done that when?" Stockwell asked.

"Trust us," Mags said, and Stockwell forced himself to look into her eyes, and not at the giant goose egg on the side of her head. 

"If there's ever been a time when I'd like to, this would be it," Stockwell said.  "Just don't let me down."

"No problem, boss," Mags said, closing the door in Stockwell's face, but gently.

"Can I go home?" Bernice asked, and Mags rolled her eyes.

"Yes," Kitty said.

"I can?" Bernice asked, incredulously.

"At 4:00," Kitty advised.

"That's when my shift ends," Bernice whined.

"And that's why you may leave at that time," Kitty replied.

"You're mean," Bernice complained.

"I am not," Kitty said.  "Gather round, gang, and let's talk about the exciting topic of what to do in case of a bomb threat."

"I like turtles," Bernice said, being obviously obstinate.

"Bernice, if you do not stop talking, I will tape your mouth shut," Mags said, although she was smiling.

"That's against policy," Penelope Ross said, defending her best friend.

"There is nothing in the policy against taping someone's mouth shut," Kitty advised.

"Well, there certainly should be," Lucie Goosman said.  Lucie Goosman, better known as Lucie Goosie, was a member of Tommy's younger generation, and was always quick to defend her co-workers.  Lucie loved everyone, and looked for the best in each person she met.  She probably thought it was wonderful that Bernice liked turtles.  She'd have never considered that quoting the viral You Tube phrase was Bernice's idea of being disruptive.

"I like......," Bernice said, smiling her dazzling smile.

"Don't even think about it," Mags said.  "Come on, guys, can we be serious for like five minutes?"

"Who, us?" Penelope asked.

"Yes.  Surprise us.  Pretend you're paying attention," Kitty pleaded.

"You know, policies and procedures date back to biblical times," Wilton Scott piped in.  Wilton enjoyed quoting philosophers, sci-fi movies, literary masterpieces, and had a factoid for every situation.

"Wilton, while we appreciate your endless factoids, now may not be the time," Kitty said with a smile.

"Duly noted," Wilton said respectfully.

"Can we talk about bombs?" Kitty asked.

"The thing about bombs," Wilton began, before Kitty cut him off.  "My apologies, Miss Kitty," Wilton said.

"In the event of a bomb threat, refer to the Cashier's Manual," Kitty read from a printed sheet in her hand.

"It says that?" Mags asked.

"It says 'refer to your department manual for specific instruction,'" Kitty read.

"Wow," Mags said, looking confused.

"We're supposed to go get the manual?" Amber Martin asked.

"It would seem," Mags said, furrowing her brow.

"Do we put the caller on hold?" Amber asked, and although she sounded serious, Bernice and Penelope began laughing hysterically.

"Thank you for calling about the bomb, please enjoy some music while we get the Cashier's Manual," Lucie Goosie practically sang, and Kitty and Mags joined in the hysterical laughter.

"This does not seem to be working," Kitty whispered, breathless from laughing.

"All right, gang, new policy.  If we ever have a bomb threat, we'll have Stockwell handle it," Mags said.

Reeve Stockwell was assisting a customer in aisle three, and had explained everything known to man about different kinds of rope.  He could hear faint laughter coming from his office, and he wondered if he should buy some rope for himself.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tommy's Tool Town - Chapter 8 - The Manager's Meeting

By 10:00 AM, Mags Davidson was on the mend, and sitting upright in the Tool Town Training facility.  The training facility amounted to a single room with cement walls, and four postage-stamp-size windows.  Metal folding chairs had been assembled around the rectangular table.  Mags sat in a plush rolling chair, in case she needed to be whisked away quickly for further medical attention.  Kitty Richardson and Barbie Baxter sat on each side of her.

"How's your head?" Kitty asked Mags, as the managers began filing in, each holding a neon Tommy coffee mug.

"It feels like I got hit by a two-by-four," Mags said.

"Can I ask you a question?"  Barbie said, smiling a dazzling smile.

"Sure," Mags said.

"How'd you ever survive your childhood, Mags?"

"Plastic bubble," Mags quipped.

"Did you ever meet John Travolta?" Barbie asked with a giggle.

"No, but I got his used bubble," Mags said. 

At that moment, Reeve Stockwell strolled in, carrying a liter-size bottle of Mountain Dew.  All three women groaned.

"You distract him, Kitty, and I'll grab the Dew," Barbie whispered.

"Too late.  He's killed half of it already," Kitty said quietly.

"He's making notes, and he has the shakes," Mags whispered.  "Look at him.  No, wait.  Don't look at him, he's looking at us."

"He hates us," Barbie said.

"He does not," Kitty said defensively.  "We just drive him nuts.  Besides, he only hates me, because I keep throwing his fritters out when he's not looking."

"I'll bet there are some seriously sugar-high wildlife specimens living by our dumpster," Mags said, a little too loudly, and all three women laughed.

"You three behave or I'll split you up," Reeve chastised from his position in front of the group.  Miles Longworth had taken the chair next to Stockwell.  He studied a folder open in front of him.  Suddenly he looked up.

"Did you say something about the dumpster?" Miles said, directing his question at Mags, Barbie and Kitty.

"We were making a joke about it," Mags said.  "Why?"

"I was just curious," Miles said, looking anxious.

"You got a body hidden in there, Miles?" Kitty asked, and Miles went pale.

"Why would you say a thing like that?" Miles asked.

"She always says crazy shit like that," Mags said.

"We need to talk about your profanity, Mags," Reeve Stockwell said, his voice firm.

"I want to know why they think I have a body hidden in the dumpster," Miles said, and Reeve Stockwell rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"This is why I hate meetings," Reeve said. 

"Seriously, why do you think that, Kitty?  Did you see something?" Miles asked.

"Miles, shut the hell up," Stockwell said, sounding seriously irritated.

"People please," Slick Mitchell said.  No one had heard him come into the room.  Everyone was busy swearing, and speculating about the serial killer tendencies of Miles Longworth.  The women put a cork in it, and Miles looked like someone who desperately needed to use the bathroom.

"I'll be right back," Miles said, and Slick Mitchell tossed his pile of papers on the table. 

"Make it quick, Miles.  We need to talk about sales, and watch a video," Slick explained.

"Is it Justin Bieber?" Barbie asked, and Slick threw her a look that shut her up instantly.

"I hope it isn't a video of me," Mags said, sounding forlorn. 

"You could have your own safety video," Kitty said, and Slick Mitchell starting gritting his teeth.

"That's the kind of stuff that goes viral," Barbie said.  "Too bad someone didn't get a clip of you getting clocked with the wood this morning."

"That's mean," Mags whined.

"I suppose, but look at that zombie kid.  He's gonna go to a job interview in fifteen years and someone's gonna ask him if he likes turtles," Barbie said, and everyone laughed.

"People, please!" Slick Mitchell said.  "Do you think it would be too much to ask to discuss some kind of Tommy business when we're assembled in this room?  When Miles returns, if he ever does," Slick said, looking at his watch, "we're going to go over some figures, toss around a couples of "atta boys," and watch a serious video about bomb threats.  Then, if you all don't shut up, I'm gonna plant a bomb somewhere so I can get a whole new staff.  Maybe I'll get people who are willing to talk about business in a BUSINESS MEETING!"

"Jeez Louise," Mags whispered.

"Is that a threat?" a voice sounded from the back of the room.

"Consider it a promise," Slick said, and the room grew incredibly quiet.  "Now I know you all think I just stroll around here for name's sake, and don't give a shit about this place, and Stockwell, if you say anything about my use of profanity, I'll drag my ninety-five-year-old grandfather down here and have him fire your ass."

Stockwell spit Moutain Dew on the table in front of him.

"Excuse me?" he said, and Slick looked at him.

"Just seeing if you're with me," Slick said.  "Lay off the sugar, man.  You're an important part of this family. I don't want you to wreck your car some night on a dark road, because you're reaching for a fritter."

"Thanks, I think....  You know, I bring a lot more to this store than thousands of calories in the form of high fructose corn syrup," Stockwell said.

"No one's arguing that.  I'd just like to see Kitty spending as much time training cashiers as she is keeping notes in the Stockwell food journal."

"That's uncalled for," Kitty said.

"I'm beginning to like meetings.  This is like the best one ever," Mags Davidson said.

"Mags, put a sock in it.  You could learn to watch where you're going.  You've single-handedly increased the cost of our worker's comp insurance by four-hundred percent.  Pretty soon I'm going to start docking your paycheck," Slick said.

"Take a chill pill," Mags said, and an audible gasp rose from the crowd.

Now look it, everybody," Slick said.  "Let's start over.  Let's pretend that Miles is actually here, and let's get down to business.  What I was trying to say before the sun hit Stockwell's Mountain Dew and I was distracted by dancing prisms, is that I sincerely care about this store, and the people in it, and not just customers, because a lot of them really try our patience.  I care about you, the Tommy family.  So much so that I am going to play a larger role in how this Tommy's is run.  We're going to look closer at policy, and see what works and what doesn't, and, Kitty, don't look so panic striken, you can still wear all your paraphernalia.

"Thanks, Slick," Kitty whispered.

"Wouldn't be Kitty without it," Mags said, and Kitty smiled.

"Let's break for five, grab some fresh coffee, and hopefully our donuts will be delivered by then, and we'll see what this bomb threat video is about.  I'm sorry I said I was going to blow up the store.  I was only kidding."

"Thank God," Nichole Deans said.  "I just redid the entire kitchen display area.  If you blow that up, I'll come back as a ghost and haunt you for all eternity," Nichole warned.

"I'll consider myself warned," Slick said.  "Incidentally, Nichole is tearing things up with her design ideas.  And, as long as she keeps up the good work, we'll stop measuring the size of her earrings."

"Thanks, Slick," Nichole said, with a satisfied smile.

"All right, let's break," Slick said.

Tommy Tool Towners scattered like cock roaches, leaving only a few choice players behind.

Nichole Deans remained, and stood typing a text message, with lightening speed.

Kitty waved to Nichole, who normally stood in the back of the room, probably because she couldn't sit in her mini-skirts.  Kitty and Nichole had become confidants in their passion for creating a better Tommy's, and often hob knobbed over how to keep Stockwell alive.  Kitty secretly coveted some of Nichole's earrings, and her design abilities.  Kitty lived with her mother and ancient grandmother, and wondered if Nichole could design a sound proof kitchen.  Kitty's life would improve immensely if she couldn't hear the two old biddies bickering as they argued over how to stack the dishes in the dish drainer.

"What happened to Mags this time?" Nichole asked, making her way to where the three cashier managers still sat.

"Beaned by some two-by-fours," Barbie said.

"Wasn't it a similar thing last time?" Nichole asked.

"Nope," Barbie said.  "Last time it was a toilet to the foot."

"Gotcha," Nichole said.  "I've gotta hit the girl's room.  "Don't let Stockwell near the donuts."

"We won't," Barbie, Kitty, and Mags said in unison.