An excerpt from our new novel, this time showcasing the sweeter and slightly more comedic side of the saga of Michelle Donovan and the Underborne. Offset from the darker part of our tale, enjoy how awkward it is when one not of this world decides to go grocery shopping…
A bell jingled merrily and Michelle jumped at the suddenness. A middle aged man looked up wearily behind the sales counter, from behind a magazine, disinterest plastered on his sullen face. He nodded and went back to his undoubtedly engrossing read. Michelle nodded back, picked up a hand basket and began to peruse the aisles.
She barely focused on the multicolored packages before her, gaudy displays hawking cholesterol, trans fat and preservatives. But screw it, she didn’t care right now. She’d take a greasy deep fried donut if it provided her what little comfort it would deliver from the nights events. She felt herself tearing up again as she absent mindlessly selected chips and crackers from the shelves. Her best friend was gone, her passion upended. Her father’s life work twisted into something foul and toxic. Why wouldn’t she deny herself something unhealthy and altogether comforting?
The bell rang again. The clerk looked up again, this time with widened eyes and sudden interest. He had kept an eye on the hot girl with the short dark hair purely because, well, he found her the most pleasant thing on this most unholy of graveyard shifts. He knew he’d be keeping an eye on this new patron due to his own considerable interest in not being shot to death.
The new guy was of a slender build, clad in faded jeans and a goofy looking red windbreaker that had to have been a few sizes too small. The ski mask was an immediate red flag as was the weird bulge behind the guy’s head. Was that a new place for crooks to stash their guns? Behind their heads? Was that a new thing?!
The guy in the ski mask nodded and the clerk licked his lips nervously, returned to his magazine. The guy walked up to the girl and the clerk prayed that this wouldn’t be the night he had been dreading since picking up a late night shift at a gas station convenience store.
Michelle closed a drink cooler after adding a couple of energy drinks and several bottles of water. She gasped in alarm at the form next to her. Quite a familiar sight now, but no less bizarre as the mask clad J.D Leeds closed the cooler behind her and immediately opened a bottle of cranberry juice. He lifted his mask revealing his scarred chin and lipless mouth and took a swig. He closed the cap with a satisfied sigh and lowered the mask before adding a second bottle to Michelle’s increasingly full hand basket.
“I told you to wait outside,” she whispered harshly.
J.D shrugged yet again, an action that was beginning to annoy her. “I got bored,” he stated matter-of-factly.
He brushed past her to a small display on an aisle end cap. The top of the display was decorated with a foreboding cardboard shelf talker displaying a dark forest landscape. Uncharacteristically cheery lettering on the display proclaimed and ushered patrons to “Bring Home you own Version of the Pine Barren’s Most Famous Resident!”
Below this, several shelves lined with the most garish and hokey of tourist kitsch. J.D knew he had to have it. He selected one and displayed it proudly to Michelle. She scoffed yet smirked at the bauble in his claws. A plastic, stereotyped totem of the Jersey Devil wiggled before her. Shoddy craftsmanship of a hoofed beast with a comically exaggerated devil face complete with twirl-worthy goatee and pointed horns. The silly little thing bobbled and shook idiotically on exposed springs as J.D wiggled it for her benefit.
“I think I need this,” he said. She looked into his eyes, being unable to read his face behind the mask and realized he wasn’t quite smiling. She didn’t know how to take it, so she simply nodded and added it to her trove.
She approached the register as J.D jiggled more of the bobbleheads behind her. The clerk looked up again and set aside the magazine, peering at the pair with newly detached disinterest.
Michelle smiled and began to pile out her purchases. The man behind the counter began to silently ring up the edibles, keeping an eye on the man in the mask. He still continued to flick the display of bobbleheads, seemingly transfixed on their wiggling movements.
“You with that guy?” the clerk asked. “He doing alright?”
Wiggle, wiggle. Bobble bobble….
“Yeah, he’s fine,” Michelle smile. “That’s just my cousin uh, James.”
J.D perked up at the mention of the name and paced over to the counter. The clerk bristled nervously.
“What’s with the mask, pal?”
Michelle thought quick. “Bad onset of adult acne. He’s a bit sensitive, had a bad bout when he was a kid, thought he was past it. Y’know?”
“Riiight. Uh, pimple cream down the center aisle there, by the toothpaste,” the clerk pointed.
J.D looked at Michelle. “Should I?”
“N-No, James. We’re good. We’ll use that home remedy. Remember, the one you left in the van?”
J.D shrugged, Michelle rolled her eyes. The clerk rang her up and returned her change. Michelle smiled again, headed outside and motioned for J.D to follow.
J.D held up a very exposed and noticeable claw, signaling for one minute. The clerk stiffened as J.D leaned forward, menacingly. Just as suddenly, he withdrew and thrust a bag of Yum-Yuns into the man’s face.
“You should know, it bugs me you’re still selling these. I don’t care for them. They are not the bomb.”
He chucked the bag behind him to the floor with callous casualness, took a swig of cranberry juice and sauntered out, cradling his bobblehead toy.
The clerk sighed and returned to his Better Homes and Gardens. Damn, man, the graveyard shift…..