It’s a Thursday night at the sugar shack, quiet
for the 5 to 7 hours, slow enough for me to
inventory, tidy and re-stock.
The day shift rarely covers all.
Like a morsel left for Elijah, the day shift–
my daughter, in fact–left me chores to do
like cutting up strawberries, cleaning up
counters coated sticky caramel or fudge, cherry
juice or chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups
dust, among the other jobs of smiling, wiping,
re-filling, lifting, swiping, shifting, and money-
tending, motions threaded into my days and
nights lo these past two years, 20 to 40 hours
a week, after the class room or with the lap top.
Thursday night, like most other nights of the
week brings in the small, smartly dressed
woman who does not like people, especially small
ones, their cackles and laughter reverberating
madly from tile floor to painted wood ceiling;
nor does she deign sanitary all those dotted
dried yogurt drips on the scale upon which
she weighs her nightly yogurt, always the same,
the half dozen or so rainbow pareils atop chocolate
obsession (her froyo choice and aptly so)
a lid and a bag. I get it all ready for her once
I spy her entry. Anxiety riddles her face so
that her smile forced comfort in my familiar
face transforms her, cracking ice panes.
She warms to me; I know her tics and peeves.
Following nervous Nelly, affectionately dubbed,
enter the Thursday night family four just out of
church (there are three nearby churches) who
each ask in turn, “Is there whipped cream tonight?”
We make it fresh here, liquid cream and the nitrous
oxide I am often tempted to inhale on especially
dreary nights of “what am I doing here and how
will I bear another menial, meaningless night?”
Until mop dancing, when all seems to flow, tears
and motion, two-stepping and sludgery, the end
near, a night almost over, near complete.
When then arrives the female version of
SpongeBob who plops down 16 dollars of
yogurt and toppings while complaining of
stomach pains, a gone gallbladder and
a boyfriend who does not even deserve the
two chocolate chip cookies she adds to her order.
“He’s so mean,” she says, shaking her head
so that the just-put-it-up-any-which-way bun
flops side to side, loose and threatening to fall.
Her appearance sparks a laugh and a text to
my day shift counterpart–my daughter–
who earlier remarked that she hadn’t seen quart-lady
lately and wondered if she was all right.
Quart lady once complained the tart machine freezes
up, protested so fervently about its unavailability
since tart was the only flavor she could eat,
given her gall bladder problems, prompting me
to move tart two machines down, thinking of her ire,
and when I proudly showed her on her next visit
the new location, which she herself suggested, she
smiled and promptly filled her cup with dulce de leche.
“Remember that lady made such a stink and then
didn’t even get tart after all?” my daughter laughed
just today, this afternoon, at our passing of the baton,
shift change. She too has loved and hated the job.
And just yesterday, the young, energetic blonde with
savings, ready to own something (his girlfriend aside),
with his queries and interrogations–“What is your favorite
flavor? And how do you like working here? And which is
the most popular items in the store? And which machines
are your favorite?”–may be, perhaps, looks like, and so if
he really does want to buy the store, what then?
This job, a helping hand and gift after a bad life trip and fall,
a stop on recovery’s road, for which I thank cousins and sweets
and sweet cousins, father and son, and daughters,
and all who seek comfort in colorful swirls and turrets,
gems and decor, sugar coated and sugar free, reward and
punishment for all those bodies small, square, squat, thin,
lanky, lean, old, young and in between that have passed
through and paved my practiced presence, order, patience
and humility these last couple years, sometimes failing at all
or some, sometimes succeeding at all, some or none.
These sentimental seeds I sprinkle like rainbow and chocolate
on a quiet Thursday night’s spurring these
final thoughts, final words and future memories.