Chapter 9 Excerpt - Liv picks some low-hanging fruit at the comic shop where Sammy works.
She arrived too early to pick Sammy up from her shift at the comic shop, so she parked and strolled down the avenue for a soda. The days of the week had blurred together for her, now that school was no longer the larger structure of timekeeping in her life. She wondered if this was what older people felt, in their post-college years. Even so, she enjoyed the permeating Sundayness of a late Sunday afternoon, even in the bridge months between Winter and Spring. People had an unhurried gait down the sidewalk, even the people who had places to be, like work. You could tell by the way they had their arms hanging low around their hips, a relaxed swing back and forth, in time to the languid strides of their legs.
The world slowed down on a Sunday, enjoying the last dregs of weekend before the weekday returned to sweep everyone back into the rat race. At a local bodega, she haggled with the shopkeep with her inexact change until he waved her off with the soda.
Church bells caught her attention, from across the block, deep and resonant. She turned to see what they were celebrating, and caught a wedding party spilling out onto the church steps. The couple had just arrived, clambering out of the sleek black car, and climbing up to the church. Several family members intercepted them, haggling for photos like fishmongers at a market. Struggling with her voluminous dress, the bride carefully clicked up the steps in her heels, trying to lift her skirts to avoid tripping.
Impatient, her groom yanked her by the wrist like a small child, telling her to hurry. She tripped gently up the stairs to catch up with him, trying to smile for photos. Her tiny face looked flushed from where Olivia stood, strained with stress. The groom tugged again, not looking at her, as his family yelled and waved for photos.
Something inside of Olivia flared, and she wanted, more than anything else, to call to her, Hey, don’t do that. Catch a cab home. The party ascended into the church and the enormous oak doors closed behind them, walling her off from the next part of this ritual. She looked down at her neglected soda and cracked it open. She relished the syrupy sweetness against her teeth, her palate. It washed down her cringing feeling, a few gulps before she could sweep away the lump in her throat.
She smuggled the rest into the shop, placing the can inside the lining of her military jacket. At the counter, Sammy was engrossed in taking down an action figure for a man wearing an orange hunting hat. It sat askew on his somewhat melon-shaped head. He pulled at his striped scarf nervously, as if to reach over the counter and get it himself.
Olivia slipped into the back aisle and slurped as surreptitiously as she could from the can, while perusing through the dollar comics rack. Superheros stared back at her, their biceps and shoulders rippling, dwarfing their heads. The Incredible Hulk, in his torn shorts, ripped apart New York City train tracks like kindling, while Spiderman leapt out of his way.
“I’m so excited I got the last one,” the man began to say to Sammy, “It’s been my dream to own her.”
She turned to eye the man over comic book racks, watching him lean from foot to foot, looking over the figurine.
“You know they only made four hundred of this run? The quality is so lifelike.”
Sammy busied herself with packaging the store model, “Yeah, it says so here on the box,” she said, her voice far away.
“I couldn’t find this version anywhere on Ebay, y’know? Some people want like a thousand bucks to sell her on the collectors sites.”
“Sheesh,” Sammy said, in a distracted way, trying to make the lid fit.
“Here” he reached out suddenly, pulling the box across the counter, “I’ll do it. You have to be gentle with her.”
The mind reeled. She didn’t know what was more strange, the fact that he required the utmost care with a plastic girl, or how rude he was being to the flesh and blood girl in front of him. She wanted to punt him like a football out of the store.
“Hey miss,” she called out to Sammy, “Where in the DC Section d’you have that Captain America?”
She watched the slow, incredulous arch of the man’s eyebrows. They crested like waves across his forehead. He turned to see where her voice was coming from.
Sammy pursed her lips, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean. Maybe I can point you to the Marvel Section--”
“No, no,” she said loudly, crossing to the counter, “I know for a fact that they recently re-did the whole Captain America series for the New 52,” she eyed the man, and the steady change in color to his face, “To tie in with the movies, you know.”
He couldn’t help himself when he finally blurted, “Lady, you’re committing a cardinal sin here. Captain America is and always will be a Marvel property.”
She thumbed over to the man, “This guy has no idea what he’s talking about.”
He was eggplant purple, suddenly erupting, “Look–I can tell you the exact date they published the first edition of the comic, starting from 1941. I know everything there is to know about Steve Rodgers, William Nasland, Jeffrey Mace.” He was counting on his fingers.
“My man,” She slung her arm around his shoulders, pulling him in, “You’re so great at remembering all of this. What I can’t seem to figure out is why you can’t remember to say please and thank you to my nice cousin here.”
The blood drained from his face as quickly as it had come on. Sammy looked at both of them as Olivia gripped the man’s shoulder menacingly.
“I’m going to buy her now,” he said, handing over the exact change. “Thank you.” He took one last bewildered look at Olivia and then ran out with his figurine, refusing Sammy’s offer of a bag.
Olivia slurped at her soda and watched his scarf flutter in the stiff breeze as he ran across the street, his precious cargo tucked into his stained armpit. From somewhere in the back of her mind, she reminded herself that she was taking out her frustrations on low-hanging fruit.
“You know you’re not supposed to have that in here,” Sammy said, and wrested the soda out of her hand, tucking it behind the counter. “And please do not intimidate my customers while they’re shopping here. We’re in a recession.”
“C’mon Sammy,” she groaned, missing her soda already, “The guy was a nutjob. It was my appointed task to teach him manners.”
“You might want to find some, first,” Sammy retorted. "He's a nice guy."
"Oh please," Olivia burped, trying to clear the bubble of fizz lodged in her throat. “What crawled up your butt today?”