“Um, this afternoon, expect cloudy skies and some light rain. Highs in the 60s and 70s, a little lower in the higher elevations and in the eastern part of the state. Tonight, um, rain throughout the state. Temperatures in the 50s and lower 60s.
“Tomorrow, rain, heavy at times with isolated downpours expected. Flash flooding possible in the low-lying areas. Temperatures in the 60s.
“Coming up, Snap Judgement. You’re listening to WVPB.”
Rose cracked open another energy drink and fought the urge to scream and cry while rampaging through the store, tearing down displays and hurling cans of motor oil through the storefront window.
Greg wasn’t coming in. Three hours ago, he’d gone out to cut his front yard before getting ready for work. There’d been so much rain lately, he just hadn’t gotten around to it, his wife, Ginny, told Rose.
It was still muddy. Their house was on the side of a hill. He slipped, tripped and the mower followed him down into the ditch by the road. The blade caught Greg’s right foot, cut through his tennis shoe and dug into the flesh, stopping after it hit bone.
“There was blood everywhere and I had to get the dogs off of him,” Ginny told Rose over the phone. “I got him to the hospital. They got the bleeding stopped, but we just got the x-ray back. No breaks, but they’ve still got to stitch him up.”
Greg, who was in quite a bit of pain, asked Ginny to call for him.
Rose could hear him grunting in the background, could hear the eerie echo-chamber of the hospital waiting room. She sighed and asked, “Do you think they’ll have him stitched up and able to come in later to close?”
Ginny was quiet for a moment.
“I don’t know, Rose,” Ginny told her. “He looks kind of pale. He lost some blood and I don’t know how good he’s going to be after they send him home.”
“Why don’t we take a wait-and-see,” Rose said. “I know this is a mess, but we’re short-handed right now.”
“I don’t know, Rose… Could you maybe call Craig or Kelly?”
Rose ignored that and said, “Well, I hope he feels better. Let me know when you get home and all.”
She’d hung up and called Matt.
“We have a problem,” she said before he had a second to get a word in. “Greg is out. He half cut his foot off with a lawnmower. There’s nobody coming in to relieve me.”
Silence on the other end.
“You have to come back,” she said.
“Margie,” Matt said slowly. “We’re in the middle of a very important meeting here and then we’re supposed to take a tour. That’s going to be another couple of hours.
“At best, you’re looking at around six hours before we even get back to Charleston and that’s if we hoof it.”
“You could leave now,” she said, her voice rising. “You could come home and close your store, let your very pregnant manager who has already put in 60 plus hours for this pay period go home.”
“I know this is tough,” Matt said. “But Margie has her heart set on staying. They’re really nice people. They fed us a good lunch, real food and not just boxed lunches from Subway.”
Gritting her teeth, Rose said, “It. Is. A. Time. Share. They. Want. You. To. Buy. One.”
“Well, I don’t know if we’ll end up doing that, but so far, what I’m hearing is very compelling –and we got to stay in a unit last night. It was very comfortable.”
“Either you come home or I’m locking up and going home,” Rose said.
“You can’t do that,” he said. “That store needs to stay open.”
“That store needs to have somebody to work it,” she replied. “Right now, it appears to only have me, and I want to go home, Matt.”
Matt was quiet for a moment.
“Fine, close early,” he said. “But I need you to stay until nine.”
He wanted her to stay until midnight. The store didn’t see a lot of traffic with people buying gas or snacks, but there were always a couple of people in back, pumping quarters in the half-dozen poker machines Matt had in the back room.
“No,” Rose said. “I’ll stay until seven –and if I have to open in the morning, you need to be here to relieve me by noon. Otherwise, I’m locking up and going home at lunch.”
Matt sighed. “Margie isn’t going to like that. We were going to sleep in and go out someplace special for brunch and probably stop at Tamarack on the way back.”
“Noon, Matt. I will close the store at noon, before the church crowd lets out. I’ll turn off the pumps and lock the door.”
That would be a mess. There were four churches just on this road. They always had a big crowd come through Sunday afternoon.
“This feels like you’re holding me hostage,” her boss complained. “We’re going to have a talk about this when I get back.”
“I look forward to it,” she said, menacingly. “Be here tomorrow at noon.”
Rose hung up and sat fuming for nearly an hour before Ryan pulled up in his beat-up Ford, came strolling in, all smiles and pepperoni breath.
“Hey, I thought you got off at two,” he said.
“Not today,” she said. “Matt and Margie are in Tennessee until morning and Greg cut his foot on his lawnmower. He’s at the hospital getting checked out. What are you doing here? Don’t you got a store to manage?”
Ryan was briefly taken aback by the hostility, but only briefly. The smile only flickered for half a second.
“I’m sorry you’re having a bad day,” he said. “I know how you feel. They make you manager. You take it for the pay and the authority, but it’s just a lot more work and hassle, am I right?”
Rose glared at him, like he was some kind of over-sized insect. She’d taken the promotion because it looked better on a resume. The money was garbage, except for more hours. Matt provided no benefits and she had only marginal authority over anyone else who worked there.
Ryan plowed through.
“Yeah, I got a store to manage. I’m there until close tonight,” he said. “Lunch was over, which wasn’t much today, and I just took a break. When you work around pizza all the time, you just want to get away from it for a while, you know?”
She nodded. That, Rose understood.
“Yeah, I get sick of microwave burritos, Doritos and Slim Jims. I wish Matt had put in a sandwich shop or something here,” she said.
He grabbed a bag of unsalted peanuts and dropped them on the counter. Then, he looked up.
“Hey, you know, if you wanted a pizza, I could get you one,” he said and laughed, like it was the most obvious thing, but he’d somehow forgotten. “Whatever you want. I’ll have my people make it up and I’ll bring it back over, whenever you say.”
Rose’s first thought was “this guy’s a scumbag. I know he is. I just don’t know why I know that.”
Her second thought was “pizza sounds really good.”
“Fine,” she said. “Bring it over around 5 –let me have pepperoni, ham, beef and sausage –also bacon if you’ve got it.”
The Pizza Hut manager laughed, “A carnivore special. Yeah, a meat lover’s pizza. I can do that. I like that one, too.” He paid for his peanuts and said, “I’ll bring it over at 5, along with a couple of drinks.” He took his purchase and his change, then added, “It will be just like a little date.”
Rose wanted to tell him, “the hell it was,” but Ryan was already out the door.
She felt like her day had somehow gotten worse. She’d gone from having to open a store, to opening and closing a store. Now, she had a date with a creep who had the same name as that guy on “American Idol.”
“Well, at least there will be pizza,” she said and watched him speed off toward the bridge and his little fiefdom on the other side of the river.