Chivalry Is Dead
(© Bryan Way)
Molly stood leaning against the counter, her red
polyester shirt hung loosely around her limbs and her left hand was planted
firmly under her chin. She wasn’t pretending to be interested in the falling
snow; the remarkable thing about it was that it was one of the few silent forms
of precipitation and easily the quietest sort of storm. Snow always evoked
images of a carefree childhood full of sledding, snowball fights, and snow
angels; in reality, snow was more deceptive than any other form of
precipitation. It cut down visibility, made it impossible to leave the house,
and made the roads slick or unusable. Staring out the doorway, unable to make
out the outline of the gas pumps, it didn’t seem all that bad, but Molly knew
she was going to have to drive home at the end of her shift, and she hadn’t
seen a single salt truck.
It seemed as though no one ever
drove on Tuesday nights; it also seemed to be the one day in the week that
there wasn’t a truck parked outside with its occupant sleeping within. It was
consistently the one night that was boring enough to make her want more people
to come into the mini-mart so she’d have something better to do than stare out
the window at cars passing by. This night was different, because the snow managed
to be more interesting than the cars; this was most likely due to the fact that
something different was happening. Molly would often watch a car pass by and,
based on the make and color, determine the driver and passengers, their race,
their religion, their occupation, and where they were driving to get to or away
from. Tonight, the snow was deceptively calming. Her mind consistently
blanked as she stood and watched single clusters of flakes drifting to the
When she caught her vision
starting to go purple she refocused her eyes, stood upright, and stretched.
She hopped up, slid her slender frame over the counter top, and walked past the
refrigerators and snack racks to the women’s bathroom. Though the purpose of
this was to shake up the monotony of her regular schedule, she had done this
exact procedure at least three times a night every working night for the past
three years. She walked to the sink, washed her hands, and then stared at
herself in the mirror for thirty seconds. She first looked into her green
eyes, then followed them out and circled around her dark eye makeup, then
looked over her black hair. She faked a quick smile, then pushed two thin
locks of her hair behind her ears and walked out.
Like clockwork, she began walking
on the side of the mini-mart facing the windows, passing Bill. Bill was the
resident lonely gentleman who wasn’t quite old enough to pass for a lonely old
man, but he’d be there in a few years. He always sat in the last wooden booth
against the windows, far away from and facing the front door so he could
mentally compile data on everyone that walked in while going undetected. This
was only so he could give himself a chance to figure out if the person would be
willing to talk to him. As usual, when Molly made eye contact, Bill tugged on
the tip of his worn green baseball cap and politely grinned after swallowing a
mouthful of his turkey sub. Molly subtly smirked and waved, then walked back
towards the door and slid back over the countertop. Once there, she looked at
the cigarettes and returned to her prior position at the counter. Her routine
was finally punctuated by a deep sigh.
It only took the length of her
maneuver for it to seem like the snow had accumulated another inch. It wasn’t
falling fast, but it was thick enough that she couldn’t even tell if there were
cars passing in front of the store. Suddenly the phone rang and Molly leapt
out of position. She let her hand hover over it for a few seconds, long enough
for it to ring twice more, and then she picked it up.
"Harpursville Red Barrel, this is
Molly speaking, how may I help you?"
Her voice immediately got
quieter; though her eyes intensified on the blank countertop, there wasn’t
anything on it to look at.
"Jeff… are… weren’t you supposed
to be in at 10:00?"
"Yeah… it’s what now? 11:30?"
"Shit, I’m real sorry Mol. The
snow’s just coming down too hard, Alice can’t even get to the car."
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