Barry had a soft spot for Tommy ever since he stopped a shoplifter from stealing the life-size cutout of Mr. Spock.
Two years ago when the Star Trek convention had come to town, a fellow dressed like Captain Kirk had tried to make off with the giant paper doll. We thought he smelled a bit too much like Vulcan ale so we kept a close eye on him, after all how hard would a bald Kirk be to miss. He had asked Trudy, one of the girls stocking shelves where he could find duct tape, only it came out sounding like duck tape. She looked at him like he had three eyes, excused herself, and went to find Barry to inform him they had another Riverdale runaway on their hands.
Every full moon we could count on the crazies making their rounds. “Just keep a close eye on him Trudy, if he starts getting out of hand give me a shout.”
Now, Trudy was a bit of a prankster and decided to have a bit of fun with the fellow. She sauntered up to him slowly, with this quirky smile on her face. “Excuse me Sir, what size duck did you need that tape for?” I was in the next aisle putting together a display for Depends; I came dangerously close to breaking open a carton.
“What do you mean, size?” He was talking real slow like the batteries in his power pack had reached the critical stage and were about to need more juice. Up close the guy looked like he had gone through the replicator with a series of malfunctions along the way. His bald head was shiny, and waxy looking like someone had used his head as a demo for floor polish. The Captain Kirk outfit he was wearing was a good one, but he should have sprung for the boots that went with the costume. On his very large feet he was wearing those black and red-rimmed rubber boots most of us grew up with. He looked hysterical. Trudy turned her quirky smile into one of concern, and very innocently answered, “Well Sir there are three sizes of ducks in this neighborhood. The Goliath duck, the Crappy duck, and the Pewee duck, which of these do you need the tape for?” The poor guy stared at Trudy like he was about to heave, his face the color of day old dish water. He was literally swaying back and forth while trying to comprehend what she had said. He sputtered a few words quietly, leaning closer to Trudy than she had expected. “Why would I want to tie up dicks?” The Depends display I had been working on went for a spill into the main aisle, with me on top of it. Trudy completely lost it and bent over laughing so hard she split the back of her pants.
The scene must have looked surreal. A space explorer locked on to the wrong energy beam, a stock clerk in need of repair and a cashier swimming in over sized pads. Trudy began shirking with laughter, startling the dazed shopper. He jerked back quickly like he’d been jabbed with a cattle prod.
The poor guy, he wasn’t sure which way to go or what to do. He ran down the aisle towards me with this crazed look in is eyes, like he knew his number was up. If I didn’t take immediate action he would stumble over me, so I rolled under the day-old bakery cart.The crazed shopper ran towards the exit, bumping into other frenzied customers trying to flee the scene. People were screaming and yelling, unsure of what was happening. The check out closest to the door had a display of DVD’s, with Mr. Spock guarding it. The lunatic stopped abruptly, lifted the cutout from its perch and headed for the door. Tommy was just coming in and scanned the scene in the blink of an eye. The cane he carried shot out tripping the space fool, who landed face down on his fellow traveler. By this time, Barry was running for the entrance, not fully aware what was going on. The way customers in the store were reacting, he must have thought we had been robbed or the place was on fire.
It is a well-known fact human beings panic for the silliest reasons, or maybe I should say they panic for no good reason. One person starts screaming and everyone within ear shot thinks an ax murderer wearing old pantyhose has been stocking the frozen food aisle.
One evening on reality TV I watched a store video where the robber had pulled the pantyhose, legs and all over his face. The store clerk was so pissed she grabbed both legs dangling around his head, and hung on as tightly as she could. The guy had knotted the hose around his neck, wanting to make sure it didn’t fall off in the heist. Little did he know an angry cashier would nearly choke him to death.
All this ran through my mind as I watched the scene from my bunker under the bakery cart.
Brenda was the cashier nearest the exit and had a reputation for being less than friendly with scum who had the nerve to disrupt her daily routine. She had worked at the store for twelve years and wasn’t exactly your customer service specialist. Rumor had it she‘d worked as a guard in an all male sanatorium. Maybe that could explain why she had an obvious dislike for the off-duty interns who would occasionally shop in their work cloths.
When the guy began running towards the front of the store Brenda had been bagging cat food for one of the regulars. The commotion made her head shoot up, her eyes narrowing to an angry glare. Mrs. Minsky, the customer she was bagging for, was so panicked by the side-show she let out a shriek and fainted across the counter, her body almost instantly sliding off to hit the floor. Grabbing a can of chicken delight from the assortment on the counter, Brenda heaved it at the space intruder, missing him, but taking off Mr. Spock’s right ear. She scooted around her stall, wanting to help Tommy, but miscalculated where her customer had passed out. Her foot snagged on the strap of Mrs. Minsky’s purse, jerking the old lady to a state of semi consciousness. Brenda began spewing words we’d never heard before, and her disillusioned customer continued her trip into never, never land.
The local television stations had a field day with this one. Each broadcast had a different version of the events; We didn’t have to ask or even wonder whom they had been talking to. All in all Tommy ended up being the hero of the day, and our cashier from the storm troopers was the one using the duct tape to repair the space traveler’s ear.