Promptuarium: Down The Aisle
There is a little store around the corner from where I lived called Myrtie’s.
Before I tell you about Myrtie’s I will tell you straight up that you will swear you’ve been to Myrtie’s because there is a Myrtie’s in every single town in the world, swear to God.
But this is a story about my Myrtie’s.
The cashier working at the counter wears a light green smock with Myrtie’s stitched in red over the left hand breast pocket, the customers wear t-shirts advertising beer or a very happy looking Cheech and Chong smiling at you from their van or the band Foghat ( Slooowww Riddeeee ) and sometimes KISS, they all wear blue jeans with iron on patches that are curling at the edges and in their hands are six packs of beer or maybe a soda. Someone was always a dollar short and there was always an argument about that.
Myrtie’s walls are lined with coolers and the counter where the cash register sits is crowed with dispensers for cigarettes, packs of gum and breath mints.
The newest addition to Myrtie’s ( established 1949 ) is glass counter that used to be full of fancy lighters and cards of mood rings and butterfly yo yos. It’s empty now and Myrties uses that case to stash their non working telephones and aged dusty phone books.
There are a few shelves where you could buy bags of almost expired cookies, chips and beef jerky, but I wouldn’t recommend that because once I saw the door to Myrtie’s swing open and the top row of Chips Galore Cookies were moving and when I stopped to take a look at the rippling bag a chips a rat popped it’s head up. Saw me and it hissed.
Seriously, I’ve never had a rat hiss at me from a cookie shelf before, have you? It’s not an image you can get rid of and it comes back to haunt you- mostly when you are reaching for a cookie.
One day Myrtie’s closed down.
The coolers were lined up against the building’s outside wall in the alley and the shelves were stacked against the back wall in the store waiting for their turn to be taken out.
My Aunt Sharon told me that when she was a kid Myrtie’s used to sell penny candies and comic books. They sold ice cream and cigarettes and road maps and postcards too.
I can’t imagine that. She was right though, in one dark corner of the small store there is a spiner rack that may have held comic books and jammed next to it is one that could have held postcards.
They use the racks to stuff cleaning supplies on, which is funny because I don’t think Myrtie’s is the kind of store that cares about things like polished windows and rust free metal fixtures. There’s wads of invoices jammed in some of the slots too.
There’s a poster near the back door with a clown holding up a bag of peanuts.
He looks happy and even though clowns don’t creep me out the way they do some to some people, there’s no way in Hell I’d eve take a peanut from him.
And then a month or so later, Myrtie’s windows had been ( sort of ) cleaned and you could see into the store and there were the same grungy coolers were back and the shelves once again stocked with the almost expired food.
The cashier was wearing the same green smock and the customers were wearing the same t-shirts and the same patched blue jeans.
The clown poster was back, but to honest I’m not sure it had been taken down.
The rats were back too.
It’s funny, but I was relieved to see everything back in place.
As rule, I tried to not shop at Myrties. There were lots of other places I could buy Soda. But sure enough, I’d find myself walking through the door almost everyday.
I don’t like how dark it is, even though the windows let in the full sun and there were those long metal fluorescent lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling pumping out bright greenish light. I don’t like the empty faces of the customers, I don’t like knowing rats live on the cookie shelf and I don’t like the cashier becauses she glares at the customers like she wanted to climb across the counter and throttle them.
But every once and awhile I’d go in and buy a soda or some chips and I’d stand in line with the guys in faded rock and roll t-shirts and the girls who bathed in Babe perfume and wore Strawberry Flavored lip gloss. I’d stare at the floor until I got to the cashier.
One day the cashier looked a little less homicidal then usual and I said, ” My Aunt used to shop here when she was a kid. ”
She looked at me. ” Oh yeah? Is she here? ”
I paid for my soda and she reached into the register for change.
She looked over my shoulder.
” No, no. That was a long time ago. When Myrtie’s sold Penny candies and comics. Stuff like that.”
” But she’s not here, now? ”
I fought the urge to turn around and look. ” No. She died a few years ago.”
” And she’s not here? ”
I took my change.
She glared over my shoulder again. ” Good for her. Some people keep coming back
because they don’t have a freaking clue, you know? ”
I reached for my Soda. ” About what? ”
” That it’s time to move on. ”
I took my Soda and I didn’t turn around, why should I? I wasn’t going to see anything new or surprising.
All of the customers have my face-even the Myrtie’s cashier.
Instead I looked down at my faded KISS shirt and peeling knee patches and I said to Myrtie’s cashier, with my angry and scowling face glaring right back at me, ” I don’t know where to go. I just don’t know where to go. ”
Myrtie’s cashier looked right through me and I looked right through her and after a few minutes-
I find myself walking through the door into Myrtie’s.
Myrties is a store around the corner from where I lived and where I think I died when I was running across the street against the light.
I ran for it because I had seen my friends standing on the corner and I wanted to get to the other side of the street. I wasn’t thinking about speeding cars.
On that day, I was thinking about KISS ,the hottest band in the world, they were even better then Foghat and I knew that patched jeans were the height of fashion and girls wore flavored lip gloss.
So I get my soda and I get into line because I always do.
And I probably always will.