Originally written to a writing prompt I issued, Initiation came to be as a nod to Clerks and Clerks 2, two of the funniest movies out there. Here’s the prompt:
Prompt: You are suddenly (and unexpectedly) thrust into the position of substitute—indefinitely. Give us the details. Do you survive or is your next wardrobe purchase a straightjacket?
Hope you enjoy the story. You are welcome to add your thoughts in the comments section.
“A Pauly Shore movie? Really? This is your idea of a fun night in?”
“Ok, come on! This is the funniest one!”
“I saw Encino Man. It was stupid. I also saw this guy on MTV before. That was stupid too. Let’s find something else… stop looking at me like that…” Cindy sighed. “Fine, but you have to let me pick the next time we go to the movies.”
“No deal.” Allen reached for the remote.
“You are such a jerk!”
Allen laughed. “I’m just playing. Fine, you can choose the next movie. As long as it isn’t some bizarre chick flick…”
“HA! No way am I agreeing to that. Quid Pro Quo, mister.”
“Squids grow what? Don’t use that fancy college vocabulary on me.”
“Funny. Very funny. You know, you could go back, since we’re on the subject.”
“Oh, here we go with this again.”
“You started it.”
“Fine, then I’m finishing it. I like working at the store. It’s a good life. Sure, there are some crazy people who come in, but it makes every day unique.”
“Ah, yes. Such a diverse and intellectually stimulating crowd you deal with.”
“Ha ha—ha ha ha. You should try spending one day down there. I bet you wouldn’t last a minute, even with that fancy degree of yours.”
“You don’t think so?”
Cindy stared at him defiantly. After an extended pause, she turned away from him and with half-attention, watched the figures on the screen move.
Five minutes in, she spoke again. “Ok. You’re on.”
“Huh? I’m on what? What are you talking about?”
“Pause this stupid movie.”
“Ungh. Ok. Let’s hear it. What is on?”
“You said I couldn’t last one day at the gas station…”
“What? It’s a gas station. Don’t make it out like it’s some fancy, high-end outlet store.”
“Whatever. We don’t even sell gas for one, and I will have you know that we are the only ones in town who carry Bernie’s Jerky and Papa Madori’s. It’s convenient. People come from everywhere to get that stuff.”
“Really? Papa Madori’s famous ‘heart-attack’ sandwiches? That is really something to be proud of.”
“People love ‘em. The closest place to here you can get them is in Lancaster. Nobody wants to drive all the way to Lancaster. We provide a valuable service to this quaint little hamlet. You betta reconize.”
“Wow. Very classy.” Cindy rolled her eyes. Allen just chuckled.
“Anyway. Like I said, you’re on. I will work one of your shifts. Then I can prove to you that it only takes a half-trained monkey to do your job.”
“Careful, now. There’s more to it than you think. You will hate it. In fact, you’ll probably get confused, cry in front of my customers, and run a bunch of ‘em off. These people are particular.”
“About who sells them their crappy, scalding hot coffee and day old crullers? Really?”
“Hey, we tried to get the guy to deliver five times a week. He won’t do it. You’re right though, that coffee is hot as shit. That’s actually why it’s so hot. You can’t tell that it tastes like shit after it obliterates your taste buds on first scalding sip. It’s kind of a perk. It’s also funny to watch sometimes.”
“Wow. You do remember the McDonald’s case, right?”
“We don’t have a drive-through. All covered.” Allen smiled as though he had won a major debate.
“You’re ridiculous. So do we have a deal?”
“Deal? Wait, where’s the deal part of this? What do I have to do if you actually survive a shift?”
“You have to agree to go back to school and consider getting a better job.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Now you’re scared! HA! I knew it.”
“No, I’m not scared. I just thought you were smarter than this. It’s a sure win for me! What do I get when I win?”
“When? Awful sure of yourself, aren’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am.”
“Don’t call me ma’am. Ok, IF you win, I will leave you alone about school and ask my dad to help you get the financing you need to just buy the damn place.”
“DEAL! It’s on! You are gonna loooooooooooose…”
“Yeah, ok. Believe that. I’ll pick up your brochures from Adams Community College on Tuesday.”
“What do I need those for? We have coasters at the store.”
Cindy cut him another playful glare.
“Well. In light of you not having the day off tomorrow, I guess we can finish this piece of cinematic mastery some other time. Work starts early, you know.”
“You’ve been getting there at 7 every morning, how is that early?”
“Ha ha! That’s what you see. You said a whole shift. Jack lives behind the store and has been opening for me every day this last month to make a little extra cash. The store opens at 5 am, sharp.”
“You little Tom Sawyer!”
“Hey, business is business. And a bet is a bet! Nighty-night darlin’!”
“Such a jerk…”
“Yes, ma’am.” Allen said with a smile.
The next morning, Allen showed her where all of the supplies were for the coffee and hot food counter and explained the various switches she needed to turn everything on. At first, he tried to stay in the back room to ensure he was close in case she quit in the first hour, but she prodded him to go somewhere and let her ‘show him how things should be done’. Jack stayed in case anyone bought beer so they wouldn’t get fined, but Allen went back to his house to take a nap.
He went back to the store at 10, only to find Jack sitting behind the counter with his feet propped up, reading a Playboy magazine. Cindy was nowhere in sight.
“What’s up man.” Jack said from behind the centerfold.
“Where’s Cindy? Don’t tell me she already ran off in tears. I figured she’d at least last through the lunch rush.”
Jack started giggling. “Yeah. I did too. She was cool, man. For a while, anyway.”
“What happened?” Allen’s imagination was rolling. He was trying to think of what or who might have run her out. There really were some crazy folks that came in on a daily basis. He thought.
“Ol’ Hammond was what started the whole thing, man.”
“Yeah.” Jack folded the centerfold back into the magazine and tossed it back in the rack. “Dude, this guy had to have been 80 proof this morning. He came stumbling in saying that he was here for his breakfast. Stupid drunk bastard walked right around the counter and helped himself to a chimichanga. I thought she was going to kill ‘em. I tried to take over, but old girl said she had it. I went to go grab the bat before she got to it and it was too late.”
“NO WAY! She didn’t hit him with the bat, did she?!”
“Nah, she passed it right up. Went straight into some ol’ Kung Fooey shit, bro. Craziest shit I ever saw in my life! Funniest too. That poor guy didn’t know what hit him.”
“No way! So where is she? Did she get arrested? I need to get down to city hall…”
“Naw, man. The deputy didn’t take her. Just Hammond. She went on about her business like it never happened. Even cleaned the glass case before restocking the food.”
“No kidding. Huh. Looks good, actually.”
“Yep. What got her was the Elder twins.”
“Elder twins? What’s wrong with them? What did they do… oh nooo…”
The Elders ran the pizza shop next door. They loved to prank people, especially new employees that the stores in the small strip hired. They called it their initiation. They’d been doing it since before they were teens. They were 21 now.
“Damn it! I forgot all about that! It’s been so long since we hired anybody, I forgot they did that crap! I still gag a when I smell baloney. Those bastards shoved a whole pack under my back seat cushions the day I started working here. The summer heat filled my entire car with that rotten meat smell.” He shivered thinking about it again.
“You think that’s bad? Remember what they did to me? Fire extinguisher under the bathroom door after ex-laxing my crullers in the break room. Man… cleaning the bathroom sucked after that, bro. I had to throw my clothes away.”
Allen was in tears. He remembered the day they pulled that prank on Jack. He came busting out of the bathroom, pants around his ankles, gagging on the fire extinguisher chemicals and letting loose every cough. Poor guy was a hot mess, he thought.
“How did they get her?”
“Daaaaaaaaamn. Pulled out the big guns on her, huh? Ouch…”
“Yep. One of ‘em stood outside acting like he was choking on smoke and yelling that his brother was still inside passed out. She never saw the plastic wrap in the doorway. They had to have used an entire bucket of grease on it. She was cov—ered.”
“Wow. They worked quick. She say where she was going?”
“Yeah. Said she had some extra clothes over at her parents place. Something about being too embarrassed to go straight back to your house covered in grease. I think she thinks you had something to do with it, though. Careful bro!”
“It’s all good. Hopefully she’ll have a sense of humor about it. If not? Well… I don’t know. We’ll just hope, huh?”
“True that, bro.”
“You got the store for a while?”
“Yeah, man. Go get your girl. Tell her I said sorry for not helping her get out of the plastic wrap, man. I was laughing too hard.”
“You’re lucky she didn’t pull a Van Damme on you!”
“Too hard to run when you’re covered in grease and plastic, bro. Helps I’m quick, too.” Jack winked at him.
Photo credit: https://painefully.blogspot.com/2011/04/reverse-prank-prank.html