When I was in high school, I worked at Norwalk Book Shop. It was a great part time job; I was surrounded by books, the work was engaging and straightforward, I got to groove to the cool sounds of AM radio, and was often joined by a sister or two during busy times of year.
You know how some memories are distinctly sensory? I remember the smell and the taste of the coffee we used to make in the back room with that gross powdered creamer. I remember sitting back there to eat lunch, and grabbing a book to read off the stock shelves. There was a crazy old-school copier. What a funny, bizarre place.
One day I was working with Jane, and one of us had made a sojourn to the little market next door (by the way, Ellie will be sure to comment at length to supply the names and details for everything that I remember wrong. My brain is a sieve) Was it called Wall Street News? Anyway, it was our habit to have a little candy snack in the afternoons. So this one day, Jane and I were munching on our delicious, nutritious snacks when the phone rang. I set my last bit of kit kat down on the counter to answer the phone. I’m cool like that. “Norwalk Book Shop!” I said helpfully. I was a really helpful teenager. Then I proceeded to respond to whatever question or request or inquiry the woman on the other end of the line had for me.
As I spoke with the caller, something happened.
This something happened in slow motion. It was that shocking.
When it happened, I locked eyes with Jane and time actually stopped as the earth screeched to a halt mid-rotation.
Jane picked up the last bite of my candy - and ATE IT.
It was literally unbelievable. So out of character for Jane – she was the good one!
The resulting pause in the cosmos had but one reasonable resolution. We started to laugh. Jane cracked up – I can SEE her, bent over with her mouth full (bitch) and her eyes tearing up. My gut started to react, the laugh was bubbling up through my esophagus and I threw my head back to scream/roar/guffaw/erupt, and that’s when it hit me. I was still on the phone!
There was no stopping this eruption, I was done for. I tried to talk to the woman, but all I could muster was that breathy, trembly low-talk as the suppressed laughter pounded my brain and oozed out of my every orifice. I somehow managed to bring the phone call to closure. I was desperate to hang up and kill Jane. Just as I thought I was in the home stretch, the woman said:
“May I have your name?”
Oh shit, the gig is up.
Now Mr. Corcillo will know that I was being an idiot on the back phone, not giving the customer the respect or attention that she deserved. Those of you who knew Mr. Corcillo know what a threatening authoritarian he was. And I would have to face his wrath. I told the woman my name, and to this day I kick myself for ratting myself out instead of telling the lady that my name was JANE.
Remember that, Jane? You bitch?