Everything is Name Brand

by Andrew Ervin

Kenneth’s pissed because it’s my last day at the Dollar Barn and on Monday he has to train somebody new. I’m up at the register and my brother’s in the back shoplifting chemicals he can huff. Kenneth is following him around the store but hasn’t caught him yet.

I pick up the phone and hit the intercom button. “Price check,” my voice booms through the store. Everything is a dollar.

Kenneth comes up to the front. He’s Norwegian and says all kinds of crazy shit. He calls the freezer a “ice-closet.” The ceiling lights are “sun-boxes.” Behind him, Tony opens a bottle of bleach and inhales the fumes deep into his nose. His face goes all red. He stands on his feet for a second like he has to concentrate so he doesn’t fall over.

I show Kenneth the baby shoes someone decided they didn’t want. “Price check on the booties,” I say.

“Tell your brother to evacuate or I will phone the police.”

Tony is showering himself with dishwashing crystals. He gets disability and doesn’t have to work anymore. Blue snow covers his clothes and the linoleum at his feet. He used to work down at the B.A.C. Local and says he can still get me a apprenticeship. They’ll teach me how to be a bricklayer and I won’t feel like I’m being exploited.

The whole Dollar Barn now smells like bleach. Kenneth goes running back to where Tony is ice-skating and eating a cold chicken patty from the freezer section. It looks like a tan hockey puck. I pick up the phone. “Price check on the barbeque sauce.” The signs all say EVERYTHING IS ONE DOLLAR and EVERYTHING IS NAME BRAND. Something crashes.

If not bricklaying, I’ll learn to do marble or tile and if something bad happens I won’t have to work anymore either. I’m good with my hands and can build all kinds of shit. I want to own my own business.

A second crash comes from the back and Tony walks up with a plastic knitting needle sticking out the side of his neck. The needle is a inch or two in. I pull it out and the blood squirts in a arc onto the counter. I put a chicken patty against the hole to stop the bleeding. “Hold this against it,” I say.

With his other hand Tony is squirting Windex in his mouth like it will help his bad breath. He goes outside. There’s a hospital a couple blocks away, but he’s so fucked up I’m not sure he can find it. And it’s kind of hot today so the chicken won’t stay frozen for long. I should go with him, but I still need my last paycheck.

Kenneth is panicking. He goes to call the police or a ambulance or something but the intercom is still on. The whole store hears him say, “I stabbed the boy with a sweater-nail.”

I take the phone from his hand. “Clean up in aisle one,” I say. Cleanup is my responsibility. That’s another reason I don’t want to work for someone else my whole life. There’s blood all over the baby shoes. I turn off the light above my register and go get the mop and bucket. I definitely want to be my own boss.

Andrew Ervin is the author of Extraordinary Renditions.

What have been the NAME BRANDS that have defined you in some way? I have this strange aversion to brand names. In Extraordinary Renditions, a character cuts all the logos out of his clothes and I frequently feel like doing the same thing. That said, I love my Phillies hat, my vintage Raleigh 5-speed, my Toyota ECHO. My favorite shirt is a 25-year-old Ralph Lauren oxford that has absorbed every manner of bodily fluid and looks like a blue rag tied to hanger.

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