One of my more recently completed short stories, aptly titled “The Cashier,” is now on Amazon as an eBook – this merits an explanation, does it not? Explanations to questions such as “what is this short story about?” and “is it worth the $0.99?” and even more rude questions like “and I care because…?”
So I thought I’d share a few things about it. “The Cashier” materialized into existence as I sat on my couch in my dorm room, a blank Google Doc open on my laptop, my brain on high speed due to the energy drink I’d recently ingested. Never underestimate the power of a good energy drink over your creative juices. The only thing you should be estimating, for that matter, is the ingredient label. Make sure it’s healthy, not sweetened with sucralose, or even cane sugar, but rather a natural blend of something like stevia, monk fruit extract, and the like.
That is neither here nor there.
All that to say, I stared at my blank screen and searched for context to begin my first sentence. Given that this was a spontaneous short story, I had not formulated a detailed outline, character study, or plot arch. Usually, in these scenarios, I start a random sentence and let that decide the direction the rest of the story is headed. This was no different.
Preview it here:
I used to bus tables at a restaurant before college, so I decided to write about a character who worked at a pizza place. Instead of bussing tables, of course, he would be selling pizzas at his cash register. The common theme here was “customer service,” which I decided I would write about. So I began:
Hi, my name’s Remmy, and I watch people. I spend every day watching people. That includes the weekends, in case you were wondering. I live by my paycheck watching people form lines inside the dull environment of the food parlour, deciphering their expressions, their code of conduct, the lines of their personalities protruding from their otherwise impassive human figure.
As I wrote I more fully realized “Remmy’s” cynical and dry narration. His positioning in the restaurant was key, as he was able to observe and interact with hundreds of people each day. This was a natural catalyst for social commentary.
The people flood in the doors at lunch break. They fly in like a flock of birds. They hum in like a cloud of bees. They crawl in like a colony of ants. To the unpracticed eye, they are little more than ants, little more than a flock of similarities, a tangible metaphor of oneness.
He was in charge of transactions, so it became an economic commentary as well.
They expected to be satisfied. In this way, the company is the real thief. The company operates by handing people the pile of empty calories with a smile, implying a variety of untruths. The customers are loyal, and they consume these untruths like they do their pizza. They smile back and give generously, according to the contract.
He read people’s minds based on their behavior. So there were psychological studies.
This girl unwittingly teaches me the meaning of a “blank smile,” and then leaves with her friend. How can a face smile and yet be blank? How can the lack of emotion sustain the appearance of emotion?
As I wrote, I developed more of his character’s want: to leave his place of work, seeing it as a meaningless and oppressive environment for him and for the unwitting customers. But he has no volition, no “spark” to bring motive to his purposeless life until the “girl” character appears. *gasp* *faint*
During this span of time, I realized that I was writing a humorous commentary on capitalism – buying and selling, but mainly from the perspective of the corporation side of the transaction process.
(What does this short story say about capitalism? Well, maybe you should read it to decide for yourself).
In this short writing project, I experimented with descriptions and style, a rather blunt, matter-of-fact way of stating things in a unique and often bizarre sort of way.
He’s wearing a business suit with matching pants, the formal suit jacket and all that. He has a purple and green tie that is an inch too short and clashes frighteningly with his buttons. I will not disclose the specific color of these buttons to spare the reader further trauma. In any case, the man in the clashing tie and buttons pays in cash. Go boil your head, I certainly don’t say out loud. It is fortunate I did not say this out loud. And it is fortunate that the man did not hear me, in any case. Sometimes my loud thoughts distract people. Not this man. Nothing on Earth would distract him except for the two most dangerous things on Earth: his phone, which will likely cause another pedestrian casualty, and his pizza, a considerable and consistent dosage of which will indubitably cause a lethal heart attack by age forty five. This man is probably forty three. I say a quick prayer; partially for the man; mainly for his buttons: they are quite beautiful on their own, and have been harshly paired with that horrible tie. Fortunately I do not say this prayer out loud. Fortunately the man does not hear me. Already assume as much? Please don’t assume anything.
Anyhow, without disclosing too much of the actual story, I hope I interested you enough to check it out for yourself. When you’re done reading, let me know how much you loved it by leaving a reallly realllly nice review. If you thought it was horrendous maybe just…message me privately or something.