I sat at my bench pounding out Gingko leaves, in silver, blistered by the nasal-nag pitch of Millie and her husband, Ira, despising each other while pretending to care.
The three of us sat in one fluorescent lit back room, detesting this triangle, while public radio droned for eight hours all day, every day. It was a replay of a prison scene from some movie that should have been made. It was the perfect scene for a murder or a hold-up. I was the top point of the triangle where focus was extended only when Millie or Ira gave me the give-me-a-break-can-you-believe-this-crap look when their eyes rolled in my direction after something was said by one that the other considered asinine.
A bell would ring every hour or so when someone would wander in to the shop, apparently amazed by the shimmer of depressed jewelry up front. Millie, the dominatrix, who ran this dead-end operation of marriage, silver and gold would put down her chisels and hammer, readjust her glasses and in a stony stupor wind her way around the work benches, part the curtain that separated us from the world and make herself known to the freak ass suburbia-blitzed hags who were torrid for a pair of Gingko leaf earrings to make their world complete.
Millie had a voice that called to mind a beach in Mexico I spent a week at. No sand. Just boulders and jagged rocks that you had to suffer over to get to the cold-ass water. She was frosty, anguished and jutting. I was always amazed when I heard the cash register jingle its tune as though some valiant seagull had raged in and grabbed prey in its gullet.
The drone of Millie's voice would bristle over the scourge of some political circle on public radio and Ira and I would keep tapping away at our Gingko pile, rolling, and pounding, rolling and pounding, a procedure that never trespassed the boundaries of their home. Images of Millie and Ira having sex was profoundly disturbing. Gingko leaves like liquid metal regurgitating out of various orifices was not a visual I wanted to hammer into my depraved memory bank.
My visions were of somebody in a black mask barging through the tinkling door just before closing and thrusting the nosehole of a handgun into Millie's face. I could hear her whimpering as she cleared out the refuse of whatever cash they accumulated into a bag for the half-wit burglar who could have walked three doors down and made a shitload more at Brodky's gourmet ice cream store with a line of people that never ended. But, still.
"Gray," Millie said, "I need you in the back room."
I had never been beckoned to the sleazy room in the back filled with all the crap they didn't want to look at.
Millie stared at me through thick glasses that no bottle opener could ever unleash. "Gray," she repeated.
"Yes," I let her know I was there.
"You have been such an asset to our business." Her right eyebrow arched above her glasses.
I hadn't expected this. I rarely got anything but, "It's time for you to pack up your things and leave," before this.
"Thank you, Millie." I answered.
She handed me a key to the store.
"We're so thankful that we've found someone who can take on any challenge set before him. You have a brain, unlike the other losers we've hired before."
Millie took off her glasses. "You know how to work metal." She stared at me intently.
I nodded my head and backed out of the room. "Thank you, Millie." I palmed the key in my hand. I'd already made a few copies on a lunch break. I nodded again.
Ira was hammering away when I came out of the back room. "Congratulations, Gray," he said.
I don't know what that meant. They hadn't given me a raise.
"Thank you, Ira," I said.
I was convinced that public radio and pounding out Gingko leaves made you less than a half-wit.
We sat back in our places and set to rolling and pounding out leaves.
At the stroke of 4:55P, Millie got up to lock the cabinets in front with her little key around her neck.
The door jingled as a late customer arrived. I already knew what he looked like. I heard Millie's muffled cries and the cha-ching of the cash register.
I took Ira to the back to show him the gold wire and silver square bundles that we needed to refill.
He filled in the order form for the next day. "Thank God we have you, Gray," he said as he slapped me on the back. "Nobody ever paid any attention to inventory before you."
I smiled. "Just a part of the job, Ira. You have way too much to keep track of." I wondered how his wife was faring out front with my friend, Trevor.
I prayed I didn't have to get a job at Brodky's.