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.