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The Written Word, Reaching A Limit, Then Breaking Through

Reaching A Limit, Then Breaking Through (The First Movement)

No Comments 11 October 2011

Each time he pulled back the handle of the deli slicer, I watched his rhuematic elbow brush up against his hip.  Silently, I observed the way his eyebrows reacted and knew faithfully that he was a miserable little prick.  He just had that look to him. Distant.  Arrogant.  Mechanical.  Nearly-broken. Regret followed him everywhere he went.  Not a look that scared me, per say, I just knew that I shouldn’t piss him off because he controlled the lunch meat.  And lunch meat was somehow holding my life together.

He was a stout man, with an undefined, squat quality rarely seen since the Paleolithic period.  I could imagine the mats of curled hair that forested his back.  I tore a number from the red machine, this time 36, which sealed my fate in line behind an elderly woman with her eye on roast beef prices, and a young mother juggling two unruly minions.  The old woman’s indecision and price-needling gave me time to watch the man behind the deli counter.  He began to fume as she haggled, a red blush of anger began to show through a face that had been five o’clock shadowed since the day’s first coffee break. If his complexion were a white shirt, that shirt would have to be trampled in dirt for a few hours then gently massaged over a piece of used coal to get the look right. Not to mention his jagged, insect-like teeth jutted out, spewing sadness and half masticated food.  Not that he would ever do this, but if he ever had a zen moment and bent down to smell a flower, the poor plant would wilt from the sheer grandiosity of his grossness.  A miserable little prick.

He was the bane of my existence every week. He made my visit to the deli counter as awful and uncomfortable as humanly possible. I’d try to time it right so I could get the other deli guy, but there seemed to be some type of cosmic magnetism driving us together. Every single time he waited on me. And he REALLY let me know he was waiting on me. I can see him now, just finishing up the previous order putting both elbows on the counter, head hanging down, and exhaling a sigh that must have contained the weight of the world.

“Next”, he’d cough as he looked up in some type of desperation and anger.

I used to say ‘hi’ and try to be nice, but I sensed that just agitated him more, so now I just go right into my order.

“ A pound of the Shaw’s roasted turkey breast, the one that’s on sale”, I’d say.

I don’t know if this was by design or maybe he just had some immense build-up in his ears but he never heard anything I said the first time.

“What!” he’d bark as he turned his head and made that cupping gesture around his ear.

“The Shaw’s roasted turkey breast, the one that’s on sale, a pound”

“You’re going to have to be more specific, I’ve got a lot of turkey breast here”, he’d snap.

“The Shaw’s roasted turkey breast…… the one that’s on sale….a pound”

The only acknowledgement I ever got was when he would waddle off grumbling, half nodding his head. This was on a good day. There would be some days he would ignore me completely. If I ran into the market within a half hour of closing?  Forget it.  I’ve literally stood no more than 10 feet away from him while he was packing up for the night and he wouldn’t even look in my direction. I didn’t want to speak up either. Those deli counters are high and you really can’t see behind them. I sure as shit didn’t want to find out what he’d do when he was out of my eyesight with the right motivation. So I’d just walk away dejected and without deli meats.

The Second Movement due out Friday and brought to you by I Love Sweater Vest Inc.


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