Vol. 1, Issue #23 Dec. 8th - Dec. 21st, 2006

The Plan to Overtake Christmas from the Bastard Corporate Scum
By: G. Smith
Illustrations By: Josh Reynolds

Eddie looked at his watch. Where the hell is that idiot? Corbin was an hour late. There was only a little more than an hour left of Eddie’s shift.

Corbin was standing outside in the cold, watching his breath, and listening to the man clang the bell. He had been standing there for almost five whole minutes shivering in Eddie’s borrowed jacket, thumbing two Sacagawea dollars he had found in the pocket. He watched a man walk right passed the bell ringer. Then, another. Then, a woman. Corbin blew heat into an ungloved fist, walked over, dropped one gold coin in the red bucket, and found his way into the warm hectic mob of shoppers.

Corbin found a cart and fished the list out of the back pocket of his dirty jeans. Corbin loved the holidays. He wasn’t like Eddie. Eddie was a scrooge, sure enough. Eddie would view this crowd as an angry faced group of self-centered hypocrites, words that Corbin didn’t really understand. To Eddie, the holiday season was bullshit. All of these people fussing and fighting in the name of Christ and family.

Corbin didn’t see it that way. Christmas lights made him smile. Santa made him laugh. Candy canes made him hungry. It was the excitement, the building anticipation; the closer it came towards the end of a year, towards the beginning of something new, that’s what he liked most. Like Eddie, Corbin did feel the loneliness. Corbin could see it in everyone’s eyes, too. Maybe that’s why Christmas was at the end of the year. Maybe loneliness had always been at the end of the year, and that’s the whole reason for the holidays. He had Eddie this year. Eddie had him. Corbin knew to count his blessings. Mamma had been gone now for a while. Eddie said that this would be a hard year. He kept saying it over and over, not necessarily to Corbin or to anyone else that might have happened to be around, and not necessarily at a volume that was meant for anyone to even hear him, but Corbin heard him say it. Corbin didn’t really understand what Eddie meant, but Corbin missed Mamma, he knew that having her gone was hard on him and on Eddie. But Eddie had come up with a plan. The plan was rather simple, ingenious to Eddie. Eddie was proud of his plan. Eddie was smart when it came to plans. Corbin wasn’t smart. Corbin wasn’t dumb either, despite what Eddie said. Corbin might be a little slow, but Eddie could be a real jerk.

Corbin rolled forward leaning on his forearms looking at his list. The list looked incredibly long. Corbin rolled down the main aisle peering over and around shoppers, searching down the long row of checkout lanes. He looked for Eddie, but didn’t see him. That’s when the blips caught him. He had never really noticed the blips before. Not like this at all. They came from everywhere, from even clear down at the other end of the store, dozens of them, hundreds, maybe millions, the electronic blips of the cashiers scanning barcodes. The blips bombarded, overwhelmed Corbin to the point where not only could he not stop himself from smiling, but laughter bubbled up and broke through. This is what Eddie had told him about. Corbin rolled laughing down the main aisle amidst the blips and the madness.

“There’s so much goddamn noise in that place I can’t even hear myself think.” Eddie was the thinker. Eddie came home from his second night at the store all in a bad mood. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke right into Corbin’s face while he was playing the Xbox. Corbin died on the screen and handed the controller to Eddie. “All this damn blipping. Coming from everywhere. Every time you ring something up, pass it over the scanner. Every time anyone rings anything up: blip, blip. My trainer said I’d get used to it, but I told her the minute I get used to this goddamn job is the minute I should kill myself or something. Who the hell wants to work here long enough to get used to it?”

Eddie tried to like his job, he really tried. But, it wasn’t until two weeks later, when Eddie had to work the morning after Thanksgiving that all hope was lost. It was in mid-shift chaos that he came up with the plan.

The list was complete. Certain CD’s, DVD’s, power tools, a few electronics. Eddie said don’t deviate from the list. Don’t get selfish Corbin. We can do this but I need you to get exactly what’s on this list. If you get excited and want to get a new Xbox game, don’t. They watch that stuff. Just get what’s on the list. If you want to add a book or something, that’s not too big, just pick one thing. But replace something that’s on the list. This is our Christmas Corbin, our Christmas. Don’t fill the cart too full. Corbin said he understood. Corbin would get the items on the list and come find Eddie. Eddie would pretend to scan the items. Nobody would notice the lack of blips because all of the other blips. Eddie would bag up the items and Corbin would be home free. Eddie and Corbin would have a good Christmas after all.

Eddie kept looking at his watch, scanning items as if he were some mindless drone. He hoped Corbin wouldn’t screw this up. He was exhausted and tired of dealing with people. Earlier in the shift, he had told the floor manager he would work through his break. Maybe Corbin would come early. Eddie’s back hurt, his feet hurt, and like every shift since his second shift, his head hurt. The only thing that kept him going was today was payday. Eddie had come in early to pick up his check. He took his two-hundred, twenty-three dollar, and forty-six cent paycheck over to Central Bank’s convenient in-store location and asked the young girl if she would, “cash this bullshit paycheck” for him. She didn’t answer him when he asked her if she thought the store screwed people over, though, she did tell him to have a nice day.

He spent two bucks in the snack bar for a Pepsi and stale nachos when his floor manager came by and asked him if he could come on a little earlier today. How could he have said no?

But it was the thought of buying a sack that carried him through. How long had it been since he had been able to buy one of his own? All the damn bills just keep piling up. The minute he was gaining ground, a cutoff notice would be taped and blowing on the door. He would have a flat tire. The pipes would freeze and burst; the whole house would flood. The last year had been shit. He was glad to see it come to an end. Corbin’s glue-huffing mother O.D.ing on pills, or booze or whatever it had been, brought the doom and gloom into Eddie’s life. Corbin was too stupid to take care of himself, even if he had been taking care of himself when his mother was alive. It had been almost a year now. Eddie tried hard not to think of everything, but the thoughts would creep upon him. The money in his pocket would take care of everything. He had finally caught up with the bills, and this check might actually be a free one. He imagined Jackson portioning him out some sticky green weed.

“Where ya been old buddy,” Jackson would say. “Been missin ya.” Eddie would roll the first one up one handed just to show off. Maybe he would buy a pack of blunts on the way to Jackson’s. Maybe he would just wait altogether, until he was home, with Corbin lost on the Xbox. He’d sit back on the couch and load himself a bowl. He’d pack it tight. He’d spark his lighter and let the whole world change colors around him.

Eddie caught Corbin out of the corner of his eye. His heart raced. Eddie saw that Corbin’s cart was empty and Corbin was looking at the list. Corbin looked up and looked over and finally found Eddie. He could hardly contain himself. Corbin smiled and waved the list at Eddie. Eddie’s eyes got wide. He frowned and waved him away.

Corbin had never seen Eddie at work. Corbin rolled on, yet looked back and watched Eddie. He listened as blips came from his lane. Eddie was a grown up now, even if he did play Xbox. Corbin looked down at the list. This is a great plan. Good ‘ol Eddie, you could always count on him to liven things up.

Corbin had no problems getting his shopping started. He found his way around the store pretty well. He placed the DVDs in the cart. He found the power tools. He looked at the Xbox games in the glass case. He watched a man with keys unlock the case and then lock the case for whoever wanted a game. Corbin wanted a game so bad, but he knew what Eddie had told him. Eddie went to aisle with the books instead.

He rolled to the aisle where the books were. It was a mess. Books were in the middle of the aisle. Books on the shelves were cluttered and in disarray. Corbin couldn’t find anything that he wanted. Corbin began to feel crowded as more last minute shoppers crammed in. Corbin started to feel sad. There was nothing on Eddie’s list for Corbin. There were no books Corbin wanted. He wanted this to be a good Christmas like Eddie had promised him. Eddie said not to be selfish, but Corbin didn’t know what to do. Corbin knew then, that it wasn’t stuff that made Christmas, not DVD’s and power tools and books. Warmth came over Corbin and he knew what to do.

Corbin put the list back in the back pocket of his dirty jeans and rolled the cart to the grocery section of the store. He went down each aisle one by one until he found the turkeys. He put the biggest one he could find in the shopping cart. This would be a great Christmas. This wasn’t being selfish at all. Corbin went after the largest ham he could find. What else did they need? Stuffing. Cranberry sauce. Corn. After a few more items, the cart was getting too full. Corbin would have to put some things back to make room. Corbin returned the DVDs to where he had got them, but they didn’t make much room. He returned one of the smaller stereos. That had made a little more room. Corbin decided that if they were going to have a large Christmas dinner that he would have to return all of the items on the list. Why have a Christmas dinner if it can’t be complete? Corbin returned to the grocery side of the store and filled the cart. He bought two types of rolls. Three different pies. A cake. When he had filled the cart to the limit, he rolled almost as fast as he could to Eddie’s lane.

Eddie was relieved to see Corbin. And then he noticed the shopping cart was full of groceries. Eddie’s face turned bright red. Corbin’s smile was ear to ear. Eddie couldn’t believe the stupidity of Corbin. He hated Corbin at that moment. Eddie hated Corbin, hated Corbin’s junkie mother. Eddie hated his own father for ever dating such a woman with so many problems. Eddie hated Santa Claus and Jesus Christ, and Jews and Kwanzaa, and hypocrites and everything about being an adult and all of the lies that he was nurtured on.

He would show stupid Corbin. He would ring this all in and then Corbin would see how stupid he was after all. Corbin would see how he ruined their plan, Christmas, Eddie’s life and everyone’s life. He could already see Corbin’s smile fade right off his stupid face when he asked him for the money.

Corbin stood there smiling ear to ear and fire burned in Eddie’s eyes. Eddie pulled Corbin’s cart forward grabbed the turkey. Eddie scanned the turkey as if the force in which he scanned it would create some monstrous blip that would knock Corbin to the floor. $32.50. The ham came next with just as much if not more force. $27.99 Corbin just stood, smile unwavering. Blip after blip came from Eddie’s anger and the scanner, but Corbin’s smile didn’t give the slightest. Corbin stood happy and proud and unselfish.

Eddie’s eyebrows lowered as he blipped the last item. The total appeared on the screen. Eddie turned the screen so Corbin could read it. Eddie stared deep into Corbin’s eyes as he told him the cost, “That’ll be two hundred, twenty two dollars, and forty six cents, sir.”

Corbin reached into the pocket of Eddie’s borrowed jacket. He placed a single gold dollar on the counter. Still smiling Corbin turned, picked up the sacked groceries and loaded them in the cart.

Eddie stood stunned, his jaw opened slack. He watched Corbin load everything, and roll away, forearms resting on the cart. Corbin was still smiling. Eddie reached down into his pocket, fished out the rest of his paycheck, and opened the cash register drawer.

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