the bells have jangled twenty-two times today.
it's 10:21 in the morning.
the green 7-up clock above the cigarette display case is about 7 minutes fast.
it reads 10:28.
there's a little patch of sun coming through the front window,
peeking in between the flyers and the advertisements and the lotto ticket station,
warming up the place on the counter where the mini peppermint patties used to sit.
the girl who works the afternoon shift moved them yesterday because they were getting too melty.
the man behind the counter now is thumbing through a book,
folding down pages when he sees something he wants to come back to.
it's a book about organic gardening,
which makes the man who just walked in to grab a pack of tums curious about this man behind the counter.
he doesn't ask any of the questions that run through his head.
he just pays, glances at the book again, and leaves.
the man behind the counter caught the look and took it as a judgment against him,
even though it wasn't.
but then the tums man is gone, and the moment is over, and the man behind the counter forgets.
there is a woman standing over the chest freezer with the ice cream treats.
she has been there for at least 9 minutes.
it's taking her a really long time to decide.
she opens and shuts the freezer twice without getting anything out of it.
then she pivots abruptly, grabs a pack of honey-roasted peanuts off the endcap, and plunks it down by the register.
the long-delayed decisiveness surprises the man behind the counter,
and he laughs.
she doesn't notice his laughter because she gets distracted by the thought of the bill she forgot to pay, so she stays silent when he laughs and she pays and leaves.
the man behind the counter caught her silence and took it as a judgment against him,
even though it wasn't.
but then the peanut woman is gone, and the moment is over, and the man behind the counter forgets.
the door jangles again, and a lady pokes her head in.
she tries to talk to him while still standing outside so that her words flow in at him while the smoke from her cigarette flows out toward the street.
he hates cigarette smoke, but he likes her eyes and her round shoulders.
as she has done every day for the last 21 days he has worked,
she smiles a huge grin at him and starts their conversation with, "hey darlin'."
she's trying to find out whether he has any virginia slims 120s yet.
the man from behind the counter isn't from around here and thinks "hey darlin'" means she's attracted to him,
even though she's not.
but then the virginia slims lady is gone, and the moment is over, and the man behind the counter forgets.
the 7-up clock is ticking loudly, and he can smell the grape blow pops.
they are giving him a headache.