Miles Longworth was a tall lanky fella. There were times this was a good thing. He could see above the crowd at sporting events and rock concerts. But, being tall and lanky came with a price. He whacked his head weekly on the behemoth chandelier of a thing that hung in his dining room, and he was easy to spot in a crowd.
He saw Harry Jensen eying him. Evidently Harry was moonlighting as one of the hosts of What Not To Wear, because the woman who stood beside her was certainly the week's unlucky contestant.
Harry waved him over, and the customer turned and made eye contact.
Miles had been made.
"Crap," he whispered under his breath.
"What can I do for you, ladies?" Miles said as he approached.
"I've got a stain," the poorly-dressed woman announced.
Harry Jensen rolled her eyes.
"I beg your pardon?" Miles replied.
"A stain!" the woman repeated.
"Seems to be blending well," Miles said. "I don't see a stain on you anywhere. Did you get your stain here at Tommy's?"
Harry Jensen starting trembling with unspent laughter. She steadied herself against a refrigerator.
"The stain isn't on me, it's on the carpet!" the woman barked.
Miles looked down at the cement floor beneath his feet.
"On my floor, young man, not yours!"
"Right," Miles quipped.
Harry stepped out of the customer's line of vision and covered her mouth. Her shoulders quaked.
"And how may I be of assistance with this stain issue?" Miles asked, as Harry Jensen grabbed her abdomen and doubled over.
"Carolyn died on the carpet and it left a stain," the customer said, prepared to repeat the story she'd shared with Harry Jensen.
"Good grief," Miles said. "Seriously?"
Harry Jensen nodded her head, as tears ran down her face.
"I'm very sorry," Miles said with sincerity.
"Thank you. That rug cost me a fortune. I need something to get the stain out, and something to clean the couch, preferably while Ralph is still on it. I hear the Rug Doctor is good. Does that work on Ralphs?"
"Ma'am, I'm terribly sorry, but I am not following you at all. You've got a stain, right?"
"And this stain is named Ralph?" Miles asked.
"NO! No sane person would name a stain!" the woman yelled, and Miles recoiled a bit.
"Who's Ralph?" Miles asked.
"Ralph is parked on my sofa. Carolyn's the dead one. She left the stain. Messed herself a bit during her passing."
"Sweet Mary, Mother of God," Miles whispered.
"You following me now?" the woman asked.
"Unfortunately, I believe I am," Miles replied. "Have you notified the authorities, or told anyone else about this body, other than our Harry, of course?" Miles asked, nearing the point of wanting to strangle Harry Jensen.
"Of course. They came right away. Dragged Carolyn off in one of those Hers vehicles."
"I think you mean a hearst," Miles whispered.
"Whatever. Anyhow, now I've got this stain, and I've got Ralph parked on my sofa. Old bastard smells like rotten garbage. Was hoping to get something I could clean the carpet with, the couch, and maybe even Ralph at the same time," the customer explained.
"Are you messing with me, Ma'am?" Miles asked. He could hear Harry Jensen laughing two aisles away. He was beginning to understand why Stockwell wanted to kill his staff.
"Why would you ask that?" the customer inquired.
"Because what you're suggesting is insane," Miles replied.
"That's rude," the woman whined.
"I'm sorry you feel that way, but I have no appliance, cleaning solution, or anything else in this store designed to clean dead body stains from carpets, whatever the hell might be on your couch, and people all in one shot," Miles said.
"You people are useless," the woman said, raising her voice.
"I'm sorry you feel that way," Miles said, not really caring how the woman felt. He just wanted her to leave.
"Is there anyone else here that might be able to help me?" the woman whined.
"I don't think so. Perhaps if you contacted a funeral home, they might be able to suggest something. They've got more experience with dead folks than we do," Miles said.
"Whatever. I'm calling the Better Business Bureau and telling them Home Depot sucks," the woman griped as she walked away.
"This isn't Home Depot," Miles said, but the woman was too far away to hear him. "Dear God above," he whispered, as he scanned the aisles around him.
He found Harry Jensen behind the appliance desk, on the floor, with tears rolling down her face.
"I hate you," Miles said, and Harry began laughing harder.
Ten feet away, a red-haired man-child popped up from behind a high-efficiency dryer.
"Good day, Miles," the associate said, in a thick British accent.
"What are you doing, Alejandro?" Miles asked.
"I'm an Alejandro in a box!" the boy announced, ducking down, and popping up again for effect.
Alejandro Heckinbury was an enigma. No one was really certain how the fair-skinned boy came to be named Alejandro. He had an accent for every situation, and was Tommy's move lovable associate. Mags was a close second.
"That's swell," Miles commented. "Did you need something?"
"Funny you should ask. Got a real crackerjack out front lookin' at the pickynick tables," Alejandro said, and Miles shook his head.
"Did she say anything about a stain?" Miles asked, wondering how the woman had gotten outside so quickly.
"Don't know anything about no stain, and this crackerjack is actually a lad," Alejandro explained. "A real redneck lookin' one, at that."
"Let's go," Miles growled. "I will pay you back for this," Miles said to Harry Jensen, who still couldn't speak.
Miles followed Alejandro through the store. The poorly-dressed woman was brousing the Rug Doctor display, with a very frustrated looking Barbie Baxter by her side. Barbie looked at Miles. Miles smiled and waved.
Spread the insanity! That was practically Tommy's motto.
Sure enough, an enormous man, in dirty overalls, stood beside the "pickynick" tables.
"Can I help you, sir?" Miles asked.
"Got an interestin' request," the man replied.
"It is that all right," Alejandro said, in a thick southern accent. Miles looked at him and he shrugged.
"What's that?" Miles asked.
"Well, I want to buy this here pickynick table, but I need to borrow, say...., four hundred pounds of stone to run a little test on it," the customer explained.
"Borrow?" Miles said.
"Yup. Just gonna borrow it. I'd like to run said little test right here in front of the both of ya," the customer said.
"I'm game," Alejandro said, sounding almost American.
"And what's this test for?" Miles asked, knowing he'd regret his words.
"Well, that would be for cousin Hilda. She done busted the last table. She copped a squat, the poor table gave out, and Hilda went a'rollin' right down the hill into the creek."
"You don't say," Miles said.
"I do say. Thank God the creek was there, or that old gal'd still be rollin'," the customer said.
Miles forced himself to keep a straight face. "What's the rock for?" he asked.
"Hilda, she be weighin' in about four hundred nowadays," the man declared.
"Sheesh," Miles said, before he could stop himself.
"She hits that potata salad hard, year round," the customer said.
"Sounds it," Miles said. "Have you considered a lawn chair?"
"You got a lawn chair hold a four-hundred-pound cousin?" the man asked.
"I don't believe I do," Miles replied.
"Then let's start haulin some rock," the customer requested.
Miles Longworth checked his watch. It was gearing up to be a long day.