Giant Robot Store and GR2 News

(Art by spoon+fork.) Howard didn’t bother to show up to work on Tuesday.  Didn’t get a phone call, either. I wasn’t surprised.  It was just a matter of time before this would happen.  He’d been saying he’d be there for years, but losing the laptop probably soured that fucker.  He had enough money, anyway. Based on my years of working down at the shore, the people who show up late keep showing up late the whole summer, if they don’t get fired.  That kind of worker doesn’t have the initiative to find another job or to muster enough courage to quit. The diligent ones, the people who show up on time, are the ones who leave for good.  No two-week notice.  Their phone number and address aren’t good anymore.  Any personal stuff they had at the job was already brought home over time.  That’s quitting Jersey style. So Howard actually broke the mold — he was the slacker who actually quit. I was ready for my break in the afternoon when I realized I might not be able to take one.  The lock was in bad shape and I didn’t feel like jiggling my key in it for five minutes so I dragged a chair outside and propped it against the closed door behind me. I stepped into the hotel office. “Howard didn’t call here, did he?” I asked Mrs. Angrywall. “Nobody’s called all day,” she said, crossing her arms and slouching lower in her seat. “He didn’t come in today.” “And I’m certain you miss him deeply.” I scratched behind my right ear and said, “You know, if he quit, that means no more, ah, smoking.” Her eyebrows rose. “I see. . .” she said. “It’s probably for the best.  Every time I lit up, I was putting myself at risk for serious bodily harm from O’Keefe.  He’d probably get you locked up, too. Anyway it’s way too risky for me to find another dealer.” “It’s a shame.  I truly enjoyed our time smoking together.  Are you still able to get away for breaks?” “I don’t know.  I better call Michael Conti.” “Smoke backy?” “Huh?” “Er, regular cigarettes.  Do you smoke them?” “Sure I do.  It’s like drinking soda instead of booze, though.” “This situation calls for a carton.  I’m off to the 7-11.  I’ll meet you back at your stand.” I went back to the hamburger stand, found the phone number on a fridge magnet and called Michael Conti, my boss whom I had never actually met. Someone who sounded as sleepy and unconcerned as Howard answered the phone.  I had to wait a while as he went to find Michael. A deeper voice then said, “Yeah?” “Michael?” “Yeah?” “This is Sean, at the hamburger stand in Shore Points.” “Yeah, the pothead.” “That’s me.” “Is something the matter?” “Howard didn’t show up today.” “So spank him when you see him.” “It would be a little tough working here by myself.  I can’t do a good job when it’s...
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(Art by spoon+fork.)

When I staggered into work two days later Howard took a look at me and said, “You just lucked out big time.”

“Why? I’m not late.  Am I?”

“No, cops just left!  The Dotbusters came here last night and put posters all over the place!”

“Jesus!  Are the Angrywalls all right?”

“I don’t think they’re hurt.  Just some property damage.  The guy was pretty pissed off, yelling at the cops and all.  Like that’s gonna help, Apu.”

“I’m going to see if they’re OK.”

I put on a pot of coffee before leaving for the motel office.  When I got closer to the door, I saw two fliers wheat-pasted to the glass that both read: “Go Back to India Smelly Curry Motherfuckers — the Dotbusters.”

The office was empty, but I heard some grating sounds coming from the stairwell.  I found Mrs. Angrywall there, working with a butter knife on the fliers.

“Bloody cowards, all of them!” she yelled, her voice sounding huge and ethereal in the stairwell’s spiraling chamber.  “They put most of them in here where people in the street couldn’t see them.  They only had enough balls to put two up on the office door before running away!”

“Maybe you should get those two in the front first.”

“No!  I want to keep them up!  I want everyone to know that this is a business run by dots!  And that we smell!”

“Where’s your husband?”

“He went down to the police station to harass them some more.  They had the nerve to blame us for not staffing our office 24 hours a day!”

“I’m going to get a knife and clean off the front doors.”

“Sean!  Don’t!”

I left anyway and came back with a rusty old spatula I found under the hamburger stand’s sink.

Mrs. Angrywall sailed out with her finger pointed at my throat.

“Put that down!  Don’t touch that front door!”

“I have to get those fliers off!”

“Why do you need to get them off of there so badly?  You people put them up!”

“Don’t blame me, man!”

“Well there isn’t a chance in hell that someone black did it!  Only a white man would have the entitlement to tell us to get out of his country!”

“How do you know?”

“I know!”

“Well, anyway, there’s no point in leaving it like this.  If you let them vandalize your office, they win and they’ll be back to do something worse.”

I stepped around her to get to the door.  She grabbed my wrist.

“Don’t you dare!  You. . .you. . .motherfucker!”

I was shocked at her outburst and loosened my grip on the spatula.  She ripped it out of my hand and winged it.  We listened to it clatter on the concrete.

We both turned to the door.

“Why us, Sean?  Of all the hotels, of all the Indians in this entire state, why us!”

“Because you were here and they saw you.”

“Can’t they tell by the way this place looks that we haven’t got money?  Why don’t they go after the big hotels and the rich Indians who are prospering on the Jersey shore?”

“These Dotbusters, I bet they’re like high-school kids and they’re not too bright.  And the better hotels probably have an office open 24 hours with staff walking around.”

“You’re probably right,” Mrs. Angrywall said.  Then she ran her hands through her hair and shifted her feet.  “You don’t happen to have any idea who did this, do you?”

“I really don’t know.”  But Howard might, I thought.

She turned and walked away.

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(Art by spoon+fork.)

I was about to cross the street, far from the crosswalk, when I had to stop for a Jetta coming down.

It was moving just fast enough that I couldn’t cross the street but also slow enough that the driver wanted me to know he was holding me up on purpose.

I swept both arms to the left to suggest that the car speed the fuck up.  To my amazement, the car turned slightly and bared down upon me.  The sun was low and threw a glare on the windshield so I didn’t see Mrs. Angrywall in the driver’s seat until she was nearly on top of me.

“I thought it was you, Sean!” she yelled out the window.

“Hi, Mrs. Angrywall.”

“Can I give you a ride?”

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere in particular.”

“You’re just driving around?”

She smiled and shrugged.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” I said.  “I don’t want to piss off your husband.”

“It won’t piss him off.”

“He looked pretty mad last time I saw him.”

“That’s how he gets from time to time.”

“I don’t know.”

“He’s out of town right now, if that really makes a difference to you.”

I shook my head and came around to the passenger side.  I sat down and strapped myself in.

“Which way?” she asked as she let up off the brake.

“Go down to the third light, make a left.”

“Are you just going to go home now?”

“That’s what people do when they’re done with work.”

“No!  The Americans go out and have fun in tacky corporate pseudo-pubs!  Go down to Applebee’s or TGIFs!”

“I’ve never been to a TGIF!  That’s for yuppies!”

“Do you want to go now?”

“God, no.  What’s gotten into you, Mrs. Angrywall?”

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(Art by spoon+fork.) Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Roman Catholic Church I went to before my father freaked out, was also the place where I went to get my flu shot.  It was especially terrifying because Maximilian was killed by a lethal injection in the arm by the Nazis.  Who designated this church to give shots? My Sunday school teacher told me that despite how crass and crude the Italian race was, they hadn’t lost the True Religion, and that was to their credit.  The English had broken from God because Henry VIII was horny, she told me.   I was six. If you didn’t do the rosary everyday, you could lose your faith.  The devil was real and was always working to get between you and God. “Even I could lose my faith,” she admitted. “How could the devil get you?  You’re a nun,” I said. “When I dress like a nun as a matter of routine and not ritual, then I am lost.”   My father was a heavy drinker but unlike most alcoholics he was home a lot. He usually lay face down or up on the couch but he would get up to make coffee in the afternoons and to get the mail.  I looked forward to when I was old enough to drink and grow stubble. One day he got a letter from his brother in Ireland that told him that his mother had died.  He folded it up and put it in his back pocket. My mother begged for him to pray for his mother’s soul in purgatory, that we all should say the rosary together.  He refused.  She begged again.  I got scared when he laughed. “Her spirit’s in another baby right now,” he said.  “She’s being born again.  She doesn’t need prayers.” He woke me up that night, his breath stinging my eyes. “The entire Irish race is being punished.  We let the Christians pervert our Gods and smash our altars.  They built churches over our sacred sites.  This is where the troubles come from. ” I didn’t know what the troubles were back then, but I kept quiet.  I would have been stupid to ask him.  My father hated listening to anything–people, news or music. He had something under his coat.  He took out a set of cheap dinner knives, still in the cardboard holder.  The metal looked like tinsel in the light coming in from the streetlamps.  They must have come from the 99-cent store. “Boy, come with me.  We’ll throw knives in the water to celebrate grandma’s life!” I suddenly had a premonition as bright as operating-room lights.  My father was going to bring me down to the beach, stab me and cut my throat.  Then he was going to throw my body into a marsh.  I would be found centuries after my death, perfectly preserved like those bog bodies I saw in National Geographic. I rolled over and wedged my legs between the bed frame and the wall. “No!” I...
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(Art by spoon+fork.)

The only reason Mrs. Angrywall came fishing with me was because I promised her we would throw all the fish back, even the ones good enough for keepers.

We went out on a cloudy Monday afternoon to Island Beach State Park, pretty close to where I had hooked the squirrel.  When I was a kid, it seemed to take forever to bike there.  Now it was just a 30-minute walk.  Usually the best time to catch kingfish was dawn or dusk, but when it’s overcast or storming, they bite all day.

I bought some sandworms from a bait shack and had selected the two most innocent-looking hooks.  I bet those hooks couldn’t pierce the rough patch on my right heel.

Now I was really glad I hadn’t asked Howard to go fishing.  I had enough of his ass, six days a week.  But I hadn’t had enough of Mrs. Angrywall’s ass.

There’s something very innocent about walking with a woman when you’re each holding a fishing rod, even when you think she’s more attractive every time you see her.  What hidden intentions could you have? You have someplace to go and your purpose is clear: fishing.

It’s not like you’re sitting in a bar, spinning a wet coaster on its edge and wondering how many more drinks it’s going to take.

Mrs. Angrywall had found the center of balance on the rod and carried it daintily, as if about to twirl it like a baton.

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