|Painting by Marion Rose|
The boss gave me an earful when I came runnin’ in five minutes after my shift began. As a punishment she sent me to bag for crazy Ann Marie, who, I swear, had perfume for blood and Chiclet gum for teeth. I hadn’t been there but two minutes before Mr. Williams and Trent walked up. “Lord, have mercy,” I thought. Ain’t nobody in Hampton County can git under my skin like them Williams. I looked down but I felt Mr. Williams’ beady eyes bore into my downturned head.
“Well if it ain’t Rooster’s boy…My oh my ain’t you a skinny rail of a kid... just like your daddy. If he ain’t ugly I don’t know who is. I used to think he had some sorta brains behind his ugly face but turned out he’s not just as cocky as a Rooster and he’s as dumb too.”
I bagged up those groceries as hasty and as hard as I could, I hoped to break everything inside. I wondered if the name Rooster was a simple as that, an attempt to insult my dad’s intelligence. Mr. Williams’ knowing voice grated against my ears. I slammed the last bag of beer and bread into his cart and cursed under my breath. Right across the lane was Big Al, staring mouth open in stupid contemplation. I could’ve jumped over that cart and pummeled his dirty white face into the linoleum flooring. Ann Marie snapped her gum as she ripped the receipt. “Will that be all Mr. Williams?”
“Yes, that’s all.”
“Have a good day.”
I wished for the courage to spit on that man’s new white sailing shoes. But, instead I simply looked down and when I looked back up he was gone. I glanced around and Big Al had vanished too.