Read Know Not Why: A Novel Online

Authors: Hannah Johnson

Tags: #boys in love, #bffs, #happy love stories, #snarky narrators, #yarn and stuff, #learning to love your own general existence, #awesome ladies

Know Not Why: A Novel (4 page)

BOOK: Know Not Why: A Novel
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We open at nine, but people aren’t lining up to
come in. This just leaves Kristy and little ol’ me, since Arthur
seems to have assigned himself to a lifetime of upstairsiness. Good
riddance, bro. She gives me the basic 411 about all things Artie
Kraft’s Arts ‘N Crafts. I find I’m starting to build up a
tolerance, too, where every time the name gets said, I don’t
immediately want to stab myself in the brain. Definitely a good
sign. This, this is gonna work.

But then at around ten Kristy pops out to go to
the bathroom, and while she’s gone, the bells jingle. I feel this
sudden, stupid rush of panic – because, to be perfectly honest, I
still know exactly nothing about arts, crafts, or any combination
thereof. I can barely figure out the difference between yarn and
thread.

I feel reassured when I see the person who steps
inside, though: it’s a pleasant-looking woman who’s maybe in her
early thirties. She’s holding the hand of an itty bitty little
girl. I suck at kids in general, but I’d guess she was maybe four
or five. Or three. Or seven.

I put on a smile. “Good morning. Can I help
you?”

As soon as I ask it, I realize that was pretty
dumb, because it’s not like I
can
help with anything. Oh
well. Too late to take it back now. Keep on smilin’.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, you can,” the woman
replies. She smiles back at me, and I discover that she doesn’t
have a very good smile. It looks stilted, and … weird. She strides
forward to the counter, the little girl trotting dutifully
alongside her, and I’m suddenly scared. She reaches into her purse
with her free hand and pulls something out, her motions jerky.
Oh, shit, what if it’s a gun?
I think. I don’t know what to
do with
gun-wielding lunatics
, what am I supposed to—

“I have a problem,” she says, slamming the item
down onto the counter, “with this
fucking
glitter glue.”

And sure enough, it’s glitter glue. Purple
glitter glue, to be precise.

“You do?” is all I can think of to say.


Yes
, I
do
,” Crazy Lady snarls.
She’s looking at me like I just uttered something horribly profane
in front of her child. Oh, wait,
she
did that. “I need to
make a poster for my son’s bake sale, and I have to bring it into
his class
today
. I tried to use
this
to accentuate
the
words
. It’s
terrible
. It’s runny and clumpy and
it
completely
ruined the whole
fucking
poster. Now
‘yummy’ looks like ‘gummg’. NO ONE IS GOING TO WANT TO BUY GUMMG
TREATS, AND I WANT A REFUND FOR THIS SHITTY BULLSHIT GLITTER
GLUE.”

Okay, crap. I so do not know what to do with
this lunacy.

“If I saw something advertising gummg treats,” I
say squeakily, “I would definitely be intrigued. I would check out
that bake sale. And I’m not a big bake-sale-goer by nature, so
…”

“Don’t be cute,
shopboy
,” the woman
spits.

“I’m not being cute,” I protest desperately.
“I’m just telling you … how I would … feel about this sign, if I
saw it. I really—”

“Give me my fucking refund
now
. I have
things to do today; I don’t have time for this.”

I stare down at the little girl. She’s twirling
her hair around one finger and glancing idly around the store, like
she’s not even interested in what’s going on. I wonder if she’ll be
nice enough to scream when her mother rips my still-beating heart
out of my chest.

“Should you be saying words like that?” I ask,
feeling some vicarious guilt even looking at the kid.

“Oh, so you’re telling me how to behave around
my
child now?”

“No,” I say quickly, “I was not doing that.”

“It sounded a whole lot like you were.”

“It looks like nice glitter glue,” I say,
because a change of subject is necessary, it’s
so necessary
,
man.

“Oh really? Why don’t you fucking try it
then?”

She is going to kill me.

“I would,” I yelp, “but there’s not really
anything I need to glue or glitter at the moment.”

She lets out a disgusted laugh. “This is
unbelievable.”

You’re telling me, lady.

“Let me talk to your manager,” she demands.

“I would,” I say, trying not to writhe in pain
under her gaze, “but, um, he’s having sort of a shi—crap—” But even
‘crap’ seems pretty explicit in front of a kid that little, right?
“—poopy day—” And yep, there’s me, twenty-two years old, possessor
of a pretty damn decent vocabulary, driven to say
poopy
.
“—and if I bothered him with this, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be
so happy—”

“Well, guess what? I don’t give a
shit
about what kind of a day he’s having, because I—”

And then Kristy comes back from the bathroom. I
want to throw myself on her in a way that doesn’t involve sex at
all; just sheer, blissful gratitude.

She, incredibly and miraculously, sorts it out.
It’s like watching a fairy princess at work. The woman gets her
money back, and she leaves. No blood is spilt. The kid doesn’t ever
even bother to stop twirling her hair.

“That,” I say, slumped against the counter, “was
fu—…ricking
insanity.

I look over at her, expecting some ‘I know, my
gosh, we’ve never had anything like that happen before!’ speech.
What I get instead is, “Not really.”

My blood runs cold. “What?”

“People can get really touchy about this kind of
thing,” Kristy says. She shrugs. “You get used to it after
awhile.”

I stare down at the offending tube of purple
glitter glue. That something so small could spark an ugliness so
vast …

“Okay,” is what I say. And what I think is,
What have I done??

Chapter Three

I’m supposed to meet Cora on my fourth day of
work. Kristy’s not working, and Arthur’s gone back to shaving and
having functional vision, so I’m in a crappy mood to begin with. I
didn’t take this job to spend my time selling people buttons shaped
like flamingos, you know? And I never really wanted to know what a
bead roller was. Now the mystery’s gone; overall, I’m feeling
pretty disillusioned.

And then I come out from the kitchen, forced to
tie my apron all by myself, to find that the store has been invaded
by crazy. Again.

There’s a girl dancing on the counter. And not,
like, a dainty twirl or two. Hell, no. Just watching this dancing
is like having your eyes sexually assaulted. It’s all boppy and
writhey and – ugh, thrusty, officially thrusty. And while I’m not
in any way opposed to this kind of thing when it involves, say, a
smoky dimly lit establishment and a pole, it just seems wrong at
nine in the morning on the counter of a store that sells all the
supplies you need to make a reindeer head out of a clothespin.

Besides, this girl isn’t exactly Patricia the
Stripper. Atop her head is an explosion of curly, fake-purply-red
hair. She’s wearing what looks like a ratty, violently bright green
bathrobe, except it’s got shaggy white fur around the collar and
the sleeves. It’s a coat, I guess, but I have no idea who the hell
had the grand idea to make it. I kind of wish I knew so I could
find and punish them. It’s like whatever crackpot designer is
responsible for
that
little gem went, “I’m seeing a glorious
fusion of limes and yaks! Limes!
Yaks
!” I’ve never really
had a serious opinion on an item of clothing, besides maybe the
apron, but this has officially earned my lifelong disrespect and
revulsion.

She’s also wearing combat boots, which leads me
to the swift, scary realization that this is maybe someone I don’t
want to fuck with. In any sense.

And the dancing? It’s not
to
any music.
The stereo’s off. She keeps mumbling stuff like “and one and two
and three and
step
and one and two and
pelvic
thruuuust
and one and two and
insaaaaane
”–

Recognition stirs in my decaffeinated, grumpy
brain. I’m not a creepy cult classic musical aficionado, but I can
recognize some Rocky Horror when I need to. Amber went through a
few months in ninth grade where she pretty much lived and breathed
all things Sweet Transvestitetastic.

I still have no idea what to think. This is what
I get for turning the sign from ‘closed’ to ‘open’ a few minutes
early and then going into the kitchen. Homeless nutcases
invade
.

She’s so into her countertop dance routine that
she doesn’t even notice me. For a few seconds I contemplate going
over, giving her some sort of stern “I’m sorry ma’am, but customers
aren’t allowed to perform lewd acts on the counter without buying
something first” talking-to. But then I look at her –
really
look at her – and she’s got her eyes closed and she’s swinging her
crazy hair and her hips around, and she squeals out more lyrics,
and it’s just, it’s frightening, I’m scared, I don’t want to deal
with this. And last I saw, Arthur was still in the kitchen.

Righto, Bossie McPhee. Time to put your man
boots on.

Sure enough, he’s there, taking a cup of tea out
of the microwave. He doesn’t look like a broken shell of a man
anymore. In fact, he’s more like the Arthur Kraft the Second
version of ebullient: well-rested and clean shaven, with nary an
under-eye shadow in sight. I wince an inward wince of sympathy for
The Mysterious Almost-Ex. So close to freedom.

“Hey, uh, Arthur?”

“Is there a problem?” He turns around. He’s even
bobbing his teabag in his cup in a way that’s cheery.

Get ready to get real glum real fast, sucker.
“Um, yeah. There’s a crazy chick on the counter.”

But all that he says is, “Again?”

It robs the proclamation of some serious
weight.

“Again?” I repeat, disappointed. And worried.
“What, is this like a regular thing?”

“Sadly, we’ve all been forced to get used to
it,” Arthur replies with a slight, wistful sigh. He takes a sip of
his tea, then cringes. “Oh, damn, still hot.” Conversationally, he
asks me, “Do you like chamomile?”

“What?” Is this
Arthur
not caring?
Arthur
? “Um, did you hear me? About the girl? On the
counter? Dancing?” And then, because I feel like I ought to really
convey the gravity of the situation: “
Thrusting
?”

“Just tell her that I would appreciate it if she
didn’t,” Arthur replies, without batting a (freakishly exquisite)
lash. “I don’t know that there’s any point in bringing it up again,
but it’s worth a try.”

“Worth a try?” I repeat disbelievingly.

“Mmhmm.” He blows on his tea.

Ohhhh,
come on
!

“Well, I think you should talk to her,” I say,
trying to choke back my heightening levels of pissedoffstity.
“You’re the boss. She’d probably listen to you if you asked her to
leave—”

“Hmm,” Arthur says after a few seconds of
deliberation. He is utterly unbothered. “I think you should be able
to take care of it.”

“I don’t know if I’ve been here long enough that
I’m ready to deal with that,” I reply, trying to sound cool, like
this isn’t something I’ll fight to the death. Which I will. It is
on
, Artie II. It is on like an on thing. “And if she’s a
regular … customer?”

“Oh, she doesn’t buy anything,” he tells me
airily.

“Right, well,
menace,
then,” I say
impatiently. “I think you’re really the one who should—”

“I’ve got to make a few phone calls upstairs,”
Arthur interrupts. “They’re somewhat important, but if you really
need help getting this situation under control, I suppose you can
come up and ask me later.”

“Or you could just take care of it right
now.”

Arthur makes a little face, this expression of
fake jokey contemplation. Who does this guy think he is today? “Why
don’t you take a swing at it on your own first?”

Oh, I’ll tell you what I wanna take a swing
at.

“I don’t know if—”

“Good luck out there,” Arthur finishes, and then
he takes his tea and his stupid good mood and abandons me.

“Chamomile sucks!” I shout after him. It’s the
only revenge I can come up with.

“To each his own,” Arthur calls back.

I cannot believe this guy. I think I might even
be feeling betrayed, for Christ’s sake. It’s just – this can’t
really be happening, right? Arthur Kraft the Second refuses to
fist bump
on principle. There’s no way, no realistic way he
can possibly be down with letting random people come in and gyrate
on the counter. He wears ties! He doesn’t discuss personal matters
at work! He’s the epitome of a stodgy-ass drag of a boss, and he’s
letting
this
slide?

Fuck him. Fuck him times infinity.

My brain strikes up the saddest song it knows
(
Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
by The Smiths)
and I head back out, each slow step bringing me a little bit closer
to – hell, who knows?

But then my gallows-walk is cut short, because
all of a sudden Lady Lunatic herself is heading right for me,
tromping across the floor in all her lime-and-yak glory.

I muster all my bravery and say, “Hey, miss, you
really can’t be back here.”

She stops like a foot away from me and crosses
her arms. She’s pretty tiny, maybe just over five feet. It doesn’t
stop her from being scary as hell. And, wow, here she is all close
up. I think she might have a nice face, but it’s really hard to
tell underneath all the piercings.

“What are you talking about?” she demands. Her
voice is low and throaty, sort of sexy-growly.

“This area’s for employees only,” I inform her.
My own voice, for the record, is at the moment quivery and
effeminate.

“Well, then it’s a good thing I’m an employee,
dumbass
.” She gives me a saccharine smile that morphs with
truly freaky speed into a scowl, then brushes past me.

BOOK: Know Not Why: A Novel
3.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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