Sunday, August 13, 2006


I am the only employee in the front of the store. This means I’m manning till and office. The store is almost dead. Jim shuffles in. He comes to the office counter, and his shaking hands produce a government cheque.

“I’d like to cash this.”

His voice is raspy and hoarse. He is wearing a dirty white shirt that has the top three buttons undone. He smells of B.O and rot

“Sure thing. Would you like to make a payment on your account?”

“I can’t. I’m heading out this afternoon on medical.”

“Ok. No Problem.”

We’re always supposed to ask people cashing government cheques if they’re going to put money on their grocery accounts. They usually do.

As I start to fiddle at the computer, Linda comes back from her break. I allow her to do the cheque cashing. She asks Jim the same question. He gives the same excuse.

I move back to the till. Jim takes his money and shuffles off down an aisle with a blue basket. He returns a few minutes later with his groceries. A bag of sugar, a carton of Crosby’s molasses, a bag of raisins, and five packets of yeast.

When anyone has liquor in town, they call it shot. The homemade beer they drink is simply called brew. It’s basically made in uncovered buckets. The ingredients are simple: water, yeast, sugar, and maybe raisins or molasses. Let it sit for a few days or a week, and drink it down. You can tell when someone has been drinking brew rather than booze because, as my boss put it, they smell like stale bathwater.

The other day we had a call to the store. It was a well-spoken woman on the other line.

“Hey, My plane isn’t flying out today because of the weather. Do you have any mouthwash or hairspray for sale at your store?”

In other words, she was stuck in town for another night and wanted to get drunk.

We only stock a non-alcoholic type of mouthwash. We only sell artificial vanilla extract. And we do not sell hairspray or Lysol in aerosol cans. That is just the way we operate up here.


Deb said...

The things you have learned in three short months, eh? .... and not one of them in any university course.

I hope none of the locals know about your stash of "real" booze!

Anonymous said...

As seniour parcelpickup manajor as well as emergency meat department and general merchandise replacement employee of our local altantic super store i find your stories true and heart warming. i do find the lack of stories of the younger, stonger, more hansome brother troubling and hope to here more of me soon.

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Bathtub gin-making is a prudent skill. Use it wisely.