Slick Mitchell sat in his office, staring at the wall. He could hear Miles Longworth banging around in the office next door. Slick had no idea where Reeve Stockwell was, and he suddenly felt like his entire operation was going to the dogs. Sonny Brooks was skulking about like he was afraid of his own shadow. Miles was acting like he was losing his mind. Stockwell was so amped up on sugar, he shook like a recovering addict. Kitty Richardson was dressed in mourning black, blubbering over the loss of a pen. Mags Davidson was on a forced vacation, equivalent to retail Witness Protection, just to keep the poor woman out of harm's way. Barbie Baxter was due in at noon, and would be strutting about in a yellow hard hat, like Bob the Builder. The cashiers were raising holy hell because of the lack of supervision, the turkey vulture was crapping everywhere, and Partners in Paint had left seventeen angry messages about getting their stupid Slim Spin 5000 back, regardless of its present condition.
"I am completely screwed," Slick said to the empty room.
To top it off, someone was messing around in the Receiving Bay, and altering the security tapes to hide their activity.
Slick grabbed a scrap paper from the corner of his desk and scratched one sentence with an old blue Bic.
Dear Grandpa, I quit.
"If only I could," Slick said out loud.
Slick folded the paper up and shoved it into his pocket. It was a sentiment for another day. At the moment, Slick had a job to do. He had to figure out how to get his business back on track, get to the bottom of the security tape issue, and keep his people out of the nut house.
Penelope Ross and Bernice Lord were parked at registers twelve and thirteen respectively. Kitty Richardson was stationed at the front door.
Bernice shot her with a rubber band, and Kitty barely blinked.
"Is she dead?" Bernice whispered.
"Wouldn't she fall over?" Penelope asked.
"You would think," Bernice replied. "Kitty? You with us?" Bernice yelled.
"That is quite enough," Quincy yelled from the operator's desk. "I'm putting every line on hold and going on a scavenger hunt for that pen. This is absolutely ridiculous!"
Jack Goldman, Tommy's single loader, huffed and puffed behind a disabled motorized cart.
"What happened, Jack?" Bernice asked.
"Damn thing died again. I just fixed it last week," Jack complained.
Bernice shot Penelope a look, and Penelope nodded, and shut her light off at register twelve. "Jack, it's deader than heck in here. Bernice and I are taking a class in auto mechanics. Can we have a look at it? Maybe we can fix it," Penelope offered, batting her eyelashes.
"Look it. If you can push it back to the Maintenance Shop, you can do anything you want to it," Jack said. "I've had it with these darn things. They're nothing but junk."
"Kitty? Can we take this back to the shop and see if we can fix it?" Penelope asked.
Kitty stood stiller than a cadaver.
"She said yes. I heard her," Bernice said.
"I didn't hear a thing," Jack said, before walking away.
"I rather like her like this," Penelope commented, climbing aboard the disabled cart. "Can you push me, Bernice?"
"I guess so," Bernice whined.
The two passed by the paint desk, at a dangerous speed of about two miles an hour. Quincy crawled around on the floor along aisle six.
"I FOUND IT! I FOUND MELVIN!" Quincy yelled, and Kitty came to life as if she'd been hit by a defribilator.
"Melvin," Kitty wailed, grabbing the pen from Quincy's outstretched hand. "Oh, Quincy. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Melvin, my darling, I have missed you," Kitty said, hugging the pen to her chest.
"She is absolutely friggin' nuts," Quincy said to Valentine Jones, who nodded in total agreement.
"Where did Bernice and Penelope go?" Kitty asked, and Quincy shrugged.
"What were you, in a trance?" Quincy asked.
"I was meditating," Kitty said.
"Oh," Quincy replied. "Well, your girls are in the shop trying to fix a disabled cart. Actually-" Quincy said, peering down aisle six. "They're not quite there yet."
"Great," Kitty griped. "Barbie will be here in ten minutes. I guess I'll run register for a while. I'll let them tinker with it for a bit. Someone's gotta fix those carts, or we're going to have to get some pack mules for our aging customers to ride."
"Stockwell would love that," Quincy remarked.
Barbie Baxter arrived prompty at noon, donned her hard hat, and took position at the front door. Bernice and Penelope were back by two. They were both flushed from the exertion of pushing the cart back.
"Did you fix it?" Kitty asked.
"What's funny?" Barbie asked.
"Nothing," Bernice said.
"Girls, what did you do?" Kitty asked.
"We couldn't do a thing with it," Penelope said, and Kitty sighed.
"Great. I'll get on those mules," Kitty said.
"Mules?" Penelope inquired.
"Don't ask," Barbie said.
At three o'clock, the doors whooshed open, and Kitty went pale. "Dear God," Kitty whispered.
"What's wrong?" Barbie asked.
"It's my mother and my grandmother," Kitty said, trying to hide behind register thirteen.
"What are they doing here?" Barbie asked.
"I have absolutely no idea," Kitty said.
"Stella!!!" Ada yelled, and Kitty stood up. Ada was at Customer Service. She was dressed in Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, a black leather jacket, and thigh-high leopard print boots. She wore a blond wig, that hung to her waist. Kitty nearly fainted.
"Gran? Did you join a gang?" Kitty asked, and Barbie laughed.
"I found an old Def Leppard CD. I was just getting into the mood," Ada said, and Kitty groaned.
"But, what are you doing here?" Kitty asked.
"I was doing some head banging, and I knocked the lamp over. Helen dragged me down here to buy a new lamp shade," Ada explained.
"I could have gotten it," Kitty said.
"Helen says you have bad taste," Ada commented.
Kitty held her tongue.
"My feet hurt like hell," Ada whined. "You got one of those carts?"
"It isn't working," Kitty.
"It's plugged in," Ada said, toddling over to the disabled cart. "The light's on. I'm gonna give it a try," Ada said, climbing aboard.
"Bernice!" Penelope yelled. "Kitty's grandmother is riding the cart!"
"Run, Penelope!" Bernice hollered back.
"I thought you said it didn't work," Kitty said.
"We lied," Bernice said, as Penelope sprinted away.
"What did you do?" Kitty asked, sounding panicked.
"We just tweaked it a little," Bernice whispered.
"To do what?" Kitty asked.
"Go faster," Bernice mouthed.
"What?" Kitty said.
"We made it faster," Bernice admitted.
"Holy shit. That is my ninety-nine year old grandmother on that thing," Kitty shrieked. "How fast will it go?"
"We didn't test it yet," Bernice admitted.
"Oh dear, God. You're going to kill her!" Kitty yelled.
Kitty couldn't see the cart, but she could hear it. It sounded like an airplane taking off. Suddenly Ada rounded the corner. She flew by, squealing like a teenager, blond wig flying in the wind. Penelope was hot on her heels, but couldn't catch her.
"This is fabulous!" Ada screamed.
Reeve Stockwell stepped from aisle six, and dove for cover to avoid being killed by the Flying Bandit. "What the hell was that?" Reeve moaned. A pallet of concrete bags had cushioned his fall, and he arose looking like he'd been rolled in flour.
"It's Kitty's grandmother!" Penelope yelled, as she ran by.
"Dear God, someone just kill me," Stockwell roared, as he ran in the direction of the cart. He'd only made it about ten feet when Ada swung a u-turn and headed back toward Customer Service. Stockwell spun on his heel, and tried to outrun the speeding granny.
"I am going to kill every single one of you!" Stockwell screamed, as he sprinted past the line of registers.
Ada finally ran out of juice, and the cart pooped out in front of the tool department. Ada toddled toward her granddaughter. She'd lost her wig in aisle fifteen, and her silver hair stuck out as if she'd been electrocuted.
"I love this store. That was the time of my life," Ada said. "I am coming back tomorrow. Have my cart ready!"
"I quit," Kitty said. "Let's go home, Melvin."