short stories ~ literary fiction ~ social commentary
copyright © 1999 - 2013
Icarus drew a deep breath, feinting a smile, which could not be detected as feinted. “You have yourself a great day, now. Thanks for coming by.”
“I will,” the customer snapped. “Now that I’m out of here.” She pushed her cart away belligerently, as belligerently as could be said a shopping cart is pushed.
“Hi,” Icarus greeted his next customer. “How are you today?”
The woman, holding well to her forties, dark attractive features with soft ochre complexion betraying a Southern European heritage, swiveled and bobbed like a loading dock crane, placing items from her cart onto the belt. She paused, rolled her eyes and said, “Oh, I shouldn’t say anything.”
Icarus stopped the dance of products across the scanner and leaned across the groceries, looking up into the woman’s face. “Tell me.”
The woman glanced away, returning her gaze to Icarus. “The girl on Customer Service is watching.”
Icarus glanced, then shrugged. A dark-haired girl some twenty feet away was leaning on the counter as if over interested in the interaction.
“Tell me,” he repeated.
Resolve took her face, her hand on her hip. “I shouldn’t say anything,” she repeated and added the caveat: “It’s not like me.”
Icarus stood, continuing the parade of products. “Just between you and me.”
“Is your manager black?”
“That’s an odd question,” he answered.
“The man over there in the green shirt, by the time clock. Is he black, or what?”
Icarus took a quick look, still finding the question odd, Donald obviously being a black man. “Yes,” Icarus answered. “But, he’s not the manager. He works loss prevention. Why do you ask?”
“He came up to the woman ahead of me in line and suggested she could get serviced quicker in that other line.” She pointed. “The woman said she was fine in your line.”
“Do you have your Price Plus card?” Icarus asked.
“I do.” She provided the card, amongst her keys.
“Thank you. And?”
“He walked away.”
Icarus shrugged. “Maybe he felt you didn’t look like the kind of person who would fully appreciate quicker service?”
She smiled at the subtle sarcasm. “I’m not the kind of person who sees racism in every action –”
“That’s been wearing thin on me, too, lately,” Icarus admitted.
“But,” Icarus agreed. “We don’t get any formal training in how to work the lines. I was told, when I open my register, to take the next person in line. I’ve learned to not turn my light on until I pick out who’s next in line considering how many registers we have. Sometimes, but not often, everyone is next. I don’t want the guy in loss prevention to have to try to break up a fight.”
They chuckled at the humor.
“It’s not security’s job to work the lines. I’m sure he has good intentions and means well, wishing to help out, directing traffic.”
“Then, you don’t feel his action contained a racial component?
“We’ll never know, even if we ask.”
“Even if we ask,” she repeated.