Excerpt from “Country Corner: Germ Warfare” — Based on the real-life humorous experiences at a neighborhood store in bustling Silicon Valley. Country Corner serves as an oasis, a respite in the often-stormy atmosphere of high-pressure academics and business.
The sun is trying to set on a clear day. It seems like rush hour for pedestrians that stand waiting to cross the bustling two-lane street. It is almost like a freeway. Walkers wait, and wait, for a safe clearing to cross the street toward the local convenience store.
In Silicon Valley, it is normal for everyone to be in a hurry to his or her next stop. Everyone appears to have the mindset that whatever they are doing is the most important, time-critical thing in the entire world.
This locale is more than a convenience store. It is a congenial gathering place.
Trucks and cars of all sizes hurry to get to their destination. Amazingly, drivers rarely use their horns. It is the sound of the exhaust systems that pollute the air. All one has to do is hush and listen for the noisy traffic.
All of a sudden, traffic comes to a screeching halt. The scream of six disc braking systems could wake up all the sleeping babies and stay at home deadbeat moms.
Like a cosmic event, heavy road use only strikes in these parts four afternoons a week and also every weekday morning between 7:30 and 8:45. There is a line of vehicles now solidly stopped nose to rear for six blocks surpassing the distance walked to the Las Lomitas Elementary School ahead north of the corner. Yet one can hear the honk of a solitary distant horn.
The young couple with a baby stroller and white scruffy terrier finally gets their chance to cross the street in the marked crosswalk to Country Corner. Suddenly, a moped sped up passing by directly in front of them.
Happenings aren’t so rushed inside the store. Country Corner is a spot to enjoy others’ company, relax and cool the jets, and grab something good.
A diminutive, middle-aged blond Beverly asks the man behind the cashier’s counter, “Mike, do you have any flowers?”
Mike, who’s practically a spitting image of actor Robert DeNiro, replied slowly and soft-spoken, “The only flour we have is the baking kind.”
Howard, an Armani-suited customer who sometimes hangs out for more than an hour at the store, quickly added, “Say, someone was saying that the Corner has baked kosher sesame bars.”
Giving Howard a wry look, Mike popped back, “Yes, one for a buck or two for only two dollars.”
Then there are a bunch of odd-sounds coming from the direction of the front door. A few customers walk in the store; Katerina storms in pulled by her dogs German Shepard Wilma and Australian Shepard Zero. Wilma is a splendid dog with a long well-groomed coat of black, brown, and gray hair. In contrast, Zero doesn’t look like he has had a comb brushed through his fur for weeks and weeks.
A stunning 30-something redhead standing near the register looks to be demanding attention. She is hugging groceries with both arms loaded.
Mike notes her body language and asks with sarcasm, yet politely, “Hello Daisy, where have you been? Please Howard, get out of Daisy’s personal space and make some room on the counter so she can set her goodies down.”
In the background, between the entrance and the ice cream freezer, Wilma and Zero continue making ruckus and get more restless.
“Ruff, Yowl, Ruff, Howl, Troat, Ruff, Ruff, Yawp, Ruff, Arf, Arf”
note: Picture of the dogs at rest… they are not all bad.
“Wilma, chill out!” Katerina commands.
It is obvious to everyone watching that Zero, not dear old Wilma, is the dog causing issues. He is performing circles like chasing his tail on the floor, hopping up and down on Wilma, and beginning to growl at Howard.
In a seductive voice, Daisy asks, “Mike, can you help me find something?”
Mike, feeling too lazy to break up the dogs, help out Howard, or taking a dozen steps to help the customer out, blurts out so he can be clearly heard, “Sure, the T.P. is down Aisle 4.”
Mike has had Katerina’s undivided attention and she laughs at Mike’s teasing of the other woman. Daisy acts as if she finds no humor in Mike’s ribbing. Yet she replies cutely, “No I was looking for something else. Like chicken maybe.”
“The chicken lips are back in the refrigerator,” flips Mike who is determined to get Daisy to smile, giggle, or laugh. Katerina thinks of her as a woman not known for her intelligence. Mike recites a familiar inside joke that Howard always gets a rise at,
When the laughing subsides, a very tall young adult with long hair hanging to the back of his shoulder blades captures Katerina’s attention.
“Jo Jo, why are you crying?” After gingerly asking as if she really deeply cares, Katerina scolds him. “There is no crying at the Country Corner.”
Country Corner is a very happy place. If Disneyland is the happiest place in the world, it is a fact that no one in this neighborhood voted. To hear a grown adult balling openly in public around these parts is unheard of.
“Mike won’t give me donuts,” cries Jo Jo.
In an instant Mike snapped, “You can look but don’t touch. Put it back!”
A frail, kindly senior neighbor is standing in front of the ice cream freezer and next to the tall hippie-looking crybaby. Old Ramona cocks her head, looks him in the eyes, and adds, “Jo, Jo, Jo, Jo there is no crying inside the Corner.”
Mike buts in, “Put it back! Don’t even think about it.”
Laughter is like applause for Mike. Everyone erupts into hearty chuckles and guffaws. Mike makes odd facial expressions that create outrageously funny feelings and reactions, thus the laughter outrage continues louder.
Jo Jo is known around here as ‘The Tall One.’ His lengthy body is so large that his longhaired head barely misses colliding with the top of the entry doorframe.
Buck, the bearded neighbor who is always seen walking with his brindled French bulldog, pops his head into the shop.
“Awe, sheeeeeeeez . . . What am I doing here? I’ve got to get going,” Buck moans and groans.
A distinct humming melody of opera music gets louder. It is Sissy who is singing her way into the store. Sissy is a portly, wealthy-dressed middle-aged woman with loads of jewelry hanging around her neck.
“Did you hear who got the flu?” Sissy asks even though she knows the answer. “Poindexter!” she announces.
Zero and Wilma are barking again.
“Sounds like the dogs don’t like the word ‘flu,’” guesses Howard.
The dogs keep making noise until Katerina takes them out front for a spell.
Sissy checks the two canisters of brewed coffee that have been emptied and asks, “Mike, mind if I make more great coffee?”
“Rosa! Coffee! Sure Sissy, go back for it.”
“The H1N1 flu got a hold on Poindexter,” reports Sissy as she splits to the rear of the deli where coffee is brewed.
One of the local “Home Boys” comes in the store looking over the display of Swisher Sweets used to roll marijuana joints. He bumps fists in a cordial greeting with Jo Jo. Without a word, the young man grabs two and hands Mike a large handful of coins.
Mike reacts with a slow tone of voice, “What you gonna’ do?”
There is more than a moment of silence and Mike spots Zeke standing idly next to the potato chip display. Mike gives Zeke a blank stare.
Zeke asks in a begging way, “I did not make it in for lunch. Is it true that after 6 p.m. it is a self-service deli?”
Mike’s retort is, “Zeke, what are you going to do?”
“I was waiting around to get your shop’s weekly wine and spirits order and could use a deli sandwich, too,” whines Zeke.
“Tomorrow. Check with Bob in the morning,” informs Mike.
Mona, a scantily-dressed gal in her 20s asks Daisy who still has not checked out, and Katerina, who is still trying to settle down her two dogs, blurts out, “Hey Katerina and Daisy, you want to hear about the new Super Bowl cocktails?”
Katerina giggles, “Sure, I’m game.”
“I’ll go back and bring a bag of freshly bagged frozen diamond ice,” yaps Jo Jo.
“Imagine for Colt fans: Big Blue cream soda and orange-flavored Vodka with Florida orange and mint garnish; stirred not shaken,” reports Mona.
Daisy acts enthused, “I’ll try one on Super Bowl Sunday but it sounds like a once in a lifetime cocktail. You know, a mix I’ll try but never ever drink it again.”
Zeke on his way out the front door remarks, “I’ve got some cocktail ideas.”
Mike has just about had it with Zeke getting in the way of business during this busy time of day and declares, “Zeke, see you tomorrow. Bye-bye.”
“Daisy, that will be 22 dollars, 7 and a half cents,” jokes Mike.
“Thanks Mike. Keep the change,” smiles Daisy.
“Always a pleasure. Thank you. Come again,” beams Mike.
“Jo Jo, now that you are done crying. Who do you like? LeBron or Kobe?” as Mike tries to change the subject.
Jo Jo claims, “LeBron without a doubt.”
“Think about it,” reverberates Mike.
The women lead a break into to song, “Big Girls don’t Cry.” Katerina and the dogs dance around Jo Jo. The men join in the singing, which needles Jo Jo to no end.
Groucho interjects his two-cents, “I know, Kobe! I think Stephan Curry is going to be a grrreat one.”
Katerina is more interested in drinking parties than pro basketball and becomes a sports fan when it involves booze. Her attention quickly switches from Mike to the women around the front of the store.
“Mona, what Super Bowl drink do you think would be good for us Saints fans?” quizzes Katerina.
Mona boast her idea, “Don’t you like Red Bull or Rock Star? Use it ice-cold over shaved ice with a generous amount of Agave Tequila.”
Mike adds, “Sounds dangerous.”
Groucho, eager to change his answer to Mike’s previous question blurts, “I know, LeBron.”
A dude dressed up in Indianapolis Colts hat and shirt, Boz, arrives at the checkout counter with two six packs asserts, “Kobe is definitely better.”
“Here comes Dudley. Let him settle this score,” suggests Jo Jo who fist bumps Dudley.
Boz grabs Dudley’s attention by waving two six-packs of beer and greets his friend, “Dudley, hey dude, what’s the score?”
Dudley, not noticing the women in the store, hollers, ”Boz, you and Homer are favored this Friday and Saturday nights to score with the broads.”
There is laughter among the men with some embarrassment with the odd looks received from Daisy, Ramona, Mona, Sissy, and Katerina.
In an awkward moment, Mike offers a fist bump and delivers, “Wassup, Dudley?”
“I figure out that they got the fix in. The boys from New Orleans are going to run up the store this weekend.” Dudley buzzes back.
There is a combination of genuine and awkward laughter in the room.
“Did you see all the pearls on her? “ remarks Boz to his buddy.
“Naw, all I could see was that outfit she was wearing,” rejoins Dudley.
Just as pretty Daisy leaves, the men’s eyes and heads track her every step into the parking lot. Two men are now blocking their view of the scenery. Neighbors Ike and his brother Abe walk through the front entrance.
Mike greets the latest customer following Abraham’s every step, “Ike, what are you going to do?”
“I’m trying one of my brother Abraham’s electronic cigarettes,” Ike answers.
Abraham turns to see what is on one of the televisions that are always on.
“Oh, cool. You are watching the Suns and the Warriors,” Abe notes.
Mike murmurs, “How you doing Abe? Who you like, Abraham?”
Abraham responds, “The Suns’ Nash, Stoudemire, and Hill are too much for Don Nelson’s Warriors. That Old Dukie grad Grant Hill is not over the hill yet and may never retire.”
“You astronomers may know that 83 Earths could fit inside Uranus,” Ike contributes to the conversation. Laughter fills the room.
Shy Mike sees that a woman is staring at him and says, “Katerina, who you like?”
With a smile Katerina speaks up, “I like you at power forward.”
That remark elicits more laughter from the group. Many are still laughing about Ike’s Uranus and Earth joke.
Jo Jo, who thinks he is the local authority on the NBA articulates, “Power forward? What do you like about the Magic’s Superman Dwight Howard?”
Mike wonders, “What do you think? Groucho?”
“I know who’s best. LeBron,” babbles Dudley.
“Groucho, make up your mind,” Katerina extorts.
A short and stocky, barefoot, unshaven man strolls in — headed left and right yet somehow still walking straight — the front door like he owns the place. Samson is his name. He attempts to fist bump The Tall One and misses the mark. His arrival comes at a time when those congregated at the front of the store are experiencing an unusually high amount of angst, tension, contention, and annoyance.
99% of the time the shop atmosphere is nothing but positive, jollies, fun adventures, silly songs, nothing-but-good-news chatter, and general store business humor and good times. Right now it is just the opposite.
Samson is clueless on his bad timing and he coolly requests, “Mike, you will give me a short-dog, please.”
“What are you going to do?” enquires Mike in a tongue-in-check matter as he unconsciously sets a small bottle of Kessler’s on the counter.
Samson gabs the half-pint of whiskey and calmly directs Mike to, as they refer to making a store charge in these parts, “Just put it on the book.”
“What are you talking about?!?” Mike appeals,” Come on Samson. Show me some greenbacks.”
A sense of awkward laughter bounces around of the walls before Samson generates the courage to make a statement of one-upsmanship with the storekeeper. Before that can happen, Zero sprints across the room and grabs Samson’s left leg. Zero shakes it very vigorously.
Samson forgets his focus of what Mike has asked and is becoming terrified that Zero is humping his leg while he is trying to leave the store to drink his half pint.
“How do I get this dog off my leg?” Samson cries out.
Laughter continues as Samson hobbles one-legged out of the building with Zero demonstrating his love making skills.
Benny speaks up amid the laughter, “I’ll take a pack of lights.”
Mike points out with a wry smile, “The light bulbs are down aisle 5.”
“Ah, we mean Marlboro and Camel Lights.”
“How old (are you)?
“What year (were you born)?
“(Do you have an) I.D.?”
“Where did I put mine?”
“What, your name is Poindexter?”
Laughter enthuses as patrons recall that Poindexter is one of the locals who have succumbed to the dreaded H1N1 Flu epidemic that is sweeping the nation and the world.
The check out line is getting longer and Mike is eager to get customers out of the crowded storefront. He reassures the 18 year-old cigarette buyer, “”Ok, chill-lax. (That will be) $13.00. Here you go.”
Jo Jo, still drying his eyes, asked, “Zeke, you see any cold Red Bull or cold Rock Star?”
Zeke sheepishly answers, “Naw, I only know where the alcohol is.
“You still here?” Mike scolds Zeke.
In his next breath, Mike who is a man of few words, reminds Jo Jo, “Don’t touch it! Johnny, don’t even think about it. Put it back!”
Chapter 2 DAYBREAK AT THE OASIS
Nadia who looks much younger than the co-owner next to her is about five foot seven and resembles Julia Roberts notices a customer helping himself to a cup of coffee and greets him, “Hi, Hawk! How is everything and your family?
Dr. Hawkeye who is wearing very thick eyeglasses tries to put a positive spin on current events, “So far we’re doing a good job avoiding this flu epidemic.”
Bob offers a handshake and chimes in, “Hello, how are you Doctor! What do you know?”
“I read that research has revealed that diarrhea is hereditary,” Dr. Hawkeye speaks in a matter of fact manner as he exchanges a fist bump for a handshake.
Nadia suggests, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”
Her husband Bob, standing about five foot five with wire-rimmed glasses and a bright shiny balded head is puzzled, “What?!?”
Hawk waits a moment to reply, “Diarrhea runs in your jeans.”
“Diarrhea runs in your genes, you don’t say.”
The men laugh. Hawk spills a bit of his coffee.
Nadia rushes away declaring, “Oh, I have heard enough. I’m going back to work in the deli.”
The men continue to laugh.
Coffee is the focal point of mornings at Country Corner. Neighbors know that the quality of java here exceeds what they might get down the street at Starbuck’s. Each day, patrons can select from Fog Lifter, Jet Fuel, or a house blend drip brewed coffee.
The fact that Dr. Hawkeye has spilled and spoiled the valued coffee makes little difference. It was a good joke and a great laugh. Dropping some of the gold-standard coffee on a floor that Nadia keeps pristine adds to the humor of the moment.
Pete pops into the store headed for the coffee urns. “How ‘ya doing? How ‘ya doing?”
He gives Bob and Hawk a fist bump. This custom was recently invented here at Country Corner as a friendly way of not spreading germs. The H1N1 viral outbreak motivated neighbors into coming up with a way to replace handshaking.
Pete is one of about a dozen water department employees that spend extended breaks at the deli. If anyone kept track, he would clock into Country Corner at least three times a day. Pete notices and knows the doctor’s business and relates a medical science factoid.
“I recently read that scientists have discovered what is wrong with the brain. On the left side, there is nothing right, and on the right side of the brain, there is nothing left.”
Laughter resumes in a matter of a brief moment.
Hawk has a sense of humor that often catches Bob off-guard. Bob is puzzled by what he sees next in anticipation of another G-rated joke. Hawk gestures that he is ready to have Bob ring up his charges as four eggs are placed on the counter.
“Doctor, are you going to eat all those hard-boiled eggs?” announces Bob.
With a straight face Dr. Hawkeye states, “A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.”
After allowing more good-natured laughter, Hawk adds, “Our hens are on vacation today so we must buy our eggs here.”
In an effort to not just change the subject but obtain free medical advice, Bob inquires, “I am almost envious. I received the results of my blood test last week. I have to cut back on my egg consumption.”
“I drive so fast and dangerous that I do not worry about counting my cholesterol,” chuckles Dr. Hawkeye.
In the back of the shop, there is no such laughter behind the deli.
Carmen, a young woman who resembles the movie stars Rosie Perez and Marisa Tomei hollers, “Bob, Bob, that varmint got into the early morning bread delivery again!”
“Every day this week the squirrels have vandalized the break delivery left on the back dock. I like Buck’s idea to put a scarecrow out there. Bob, we’ve got to do something about them.”
Nadia interrupts, “Carmen, have you finished slicing up the honey turkey yet.”
“That turkey (date) I was with last night, I wish I could slice into pieces. He was dressed up as some queer parrot and was so rude. He kept belching and passing gas at the dinner table. It was gross. He didn’t excuse himself. The whole meal was destroyed!” complained Carmen.
From the front of the store Bob streams in a customary way to his wife, “Nadia, more coffee!
Another regular who spends every weekday morning of his county public works job he can squander for a coffee break, Julio remarks to Bob and Pete, “You know, don’t you, that when everything is coming your way, your know you are in the wrong lane.
The men’s laughter is interrupted.
“Bob, Bob, are you going to put some rat poison out back tonight?” Carmen screams.
Bob chides, “Wait, Carmen wait just a minute. What are you saying?”
Bob clearly knows what Carmen said but finds now as a time to throw fuel on Carmen’s anger. The customers standing at the front of the store are old friends and find her comments amusing.
“We’ve got rats, birds, raccoons, or squirrels eating up the morning bread delivery!”
Bob jokes, “Don’t worry. It is OK. Just throw the crumbs away and don’t slice up any of the raccoons.”
In the mist of the merriment, a local successful stockbroker Charlie stops in for his daily dose of Fog Lifter coffee. He is with his 4th grade daughter on her way to school. Beatrice looks forward to these times as Bob always welcomes them and urges her to select a donut from the alluring display on the counter.
Bob barks back to the deli, “Carmen, is Beatrice’s lunch ready?”
Without prompting, Nadia delivers a freshly made deli sandwich in a paper bag with chips and a juice drink with her right hand and a pot of brewed Fog Lifter on her right.
“Thank you, Nadia. Have you heard about this kid that was mailing a Bible to a friend? He was asked at the post office if there was anything fragile, perishable, or breakable inside the package. The kid responded that the Ten Commandments were breakable,” Charlie explains.
Amid the laughter, Julio chorts, “Don’t you know that God answers knee-mail?”
“What’s His e-mail address? Asks Pete.
Keeping with the stream of religious jokes, Dr. Hawkeye adds, “You know, to B-1 is the best vitamin for a believer.”
With one funny line getting more reaction than the previous line, Bob smiles, “Don’t you think that since we were created with two ears and one mouth that God wants us to listen twice as hard?”
Charlie speaks up, “Doing God’s work may not pay much money but his retirement plan is out of this world!”
“God bless. See you,” Dr. Hawkeye with the coke-bottle thick eyeglasses laughs.
“Thank you, Hawk. Have a nice day,” is Bob’s immediate reply.
Samson walks barefoot into the store and nearly bumps into Dr. Hawkeye as he leaves. Samson has his usual side-to-side trot into the store. Knowing full well that the doctor has a visual disability he asks pardon for getting in his way. It is not unusual in the morning after he gets his daughter safely to elementary school to find Samson either loaded, stoned, or completely hung-over.
Always polite and respectful Bob greets him, “Samson! How are you?”
Samson slowly answers honestly, “Oh, I could use a good laugh this morning. It is not easy being a single parent. I feel miserable.”
“I’ve got a loaf of bread. Thanks Bob, I’ve got to get back to the preschool,” barks Betty as she raises the bread over her shoulder and heads quickly out of the store and across the street.
Bob wants to tell another joke before Beatrice and Charlie leave and uses Samson as his foil. “Hey, Samson, do you know who the best comedian in the Bible was?
“Uh, you got me,” Samson stumbles, “No, I cannot think of one. I don’t read that much.”
Bob cheerfully reveals, “It was Samson. Yes, Samson had to be the best comedian because he brought the house down.”
Obviously in great physical and emotional pain Samson whines, “Oh, funny. Now can I have my usual and go back to bed?”
Bob knows full well that what the customer wants to buy is not the best thing for their health. On the other hand, he understands the stress and grief that Samson and as well as many other patrons are going through. He is one to never call out a friend’s disability or frailties in public. Reluctantly, he slips a half-pint into a sack.
“Here you go. Go at it easy and get some sound sleep to get over the flu, Lord have mercy,” as if Bob prays over the liquor hoping for the best sincerely like a priest might pray over the blood of Christ.
“At a boy, Bob. Thanks,” says a most appreciative Samson. He knows Bob is helping him save face in front of Samson’s neighbors. Both he and Bob know that he does not have the H1N1 flu but it gives Samson an alibi to go home and drink himself to sleep.
A sound like heard when the 49ers offensive line tries to block a group of rushing Raider defensive linemen. Samson leaves and collides with Mo as he enters the store.
Mo is Country Corner’s handsome, six-foot-three, deli man of Greek heritage. All he has to do is glance at the wall clock behind the counter to elicit this comment from Bob, “Mo, where have you been?”
Mo sheepishly retorts,” I had to stop and pick up one of my dad’s cars.”
In an effort to help Mo out of a jam by diverting Bob’s imminent scolding for being late to work, Pete throws out a question, “Mo, what do you young guys think? Do you think it is true than men can wear shorts no matter what their legs look like?”
“Oh, you are talking about ugly legs on a woman or a man! Ewww, that is gross!” frowns Mo.
Pete replies, “You mean fat people should not wear shorts.”
The next person coming into the deli is Abbott. Abbott is built like a man who eats far more than spending time exercising. The men involved in Mo’s conversation are having a hard time not laughing out loud. Why, because Abbott walks in wearing shorts.
Bob breaks the ice while restraining his giggle, “Oh, uh, hello Abbott (wearing shorts). How are you?”
Before Abbott has time to answer Bob, Mo asks, “Is it pretty chilly today? Don’t you think Abbott?”
Abbott casually responds, “Naw, it’s all good. How are you, Oscar?”
“Oscar,” while looking directly at Mo, “Go see if you can help Nadia and Carmen in the back, please.”
Bob cannot let insulting comments continue and turns his attention to a young high schooler who has a load of deli items. He speaks loud enough so that Abbott can hear.
“Have you noticed whenever you dial a wrong number, you never get a busy signal?”
Running late for driving herself to school in a BMW, Dolly, who is accustomed to word play with Bob, asks, “Why was the number 6 afraid of 7?” After three seconds of a pregnant pause, she solves the riddle, “Because 7 ate 9.”
“Thank you Miss Dolly. Have a wonderful day,” wishes Bob.
Julio, who likens himself to the role as the Floor Manager, asks, “What is with all the housekeeping and scrubbing Buck is doing behind the store, Bob?”
Buck has been quietly maintaining the backyard sinks, dock, and garbage areas in a germ-free condition. Country Corner should be the last place in the world to acquire the dreaded H1N1 virus. The world fear of the epidemic plays daily on CNN and Fox News. The two televisions posted at the front of the store and the one TV back in the deli report about the new cases of flu being acquired across the country.
Buck, along with his trusty service dog Teddy, are determined not to allow environmental conditions here to allow any virus or bacteria to live.
“There aren’t any contagions living around here. No one is going to acquire a food-borne illness at Country Corner. Julio, don’t be concerned. Just leave Buck alone and let him do his thing,” explains Bob trying to reassure his Floor Manager.
Floor Manager is a ceremonial title given to a regular customer who hangs out and helps with crowd control and making sure there is enough coffee on display readily available for consumption. Julio takes the role seriously and expects to know about everything going on at the store. He is much like a control freak. Besides, he has a history of being critical of Buck.
“Stay out of his way. He knows what he is doing. After all, he has a Masters degree in Public Health and Safety,” orders Bob.
Abbott recognizes the tension in the air and attempts to clear the air with a joke, “What does a music composer do after he passes away?”
“I suppose he decomposes,” smartly answers Julio in an attempt to trump the conversation.
Poindexter interjects, “Oh man, all this laughter is splitting my gut. But my flu aches and pains went away for a couple minutes.”
“What are you doing out of bed? With the swine flu, you need all the sleep you can get, Poindexter,” counsels Bob.
“I’m sick. I’m sick of staying in bed.”
One of the Las Lomita Elementary School teachers hurries up to the checkout counter. Stella offers a riddle, “Do you know why the silly boy ate his homework?”
“Dunno, Stella,” comes back Bob.
“The student ate it because he heard his teacher say that it was a piece of cake,” counters Stella.
Bob encourages her by saying, “Oh that is wonderful. You have given your kids a great sense of humor.”
Julio adds, “Be easy on your teachers today with your funny pranks.”
A loud feminine voice echoes from the deli throughout the store, “Hey, Bob! You should know something: Don’t take life so seriously. Nobody ever gets out alive anyway.” It is Nadia teasing her hunny.
Chapter 3 – The Conundrum
It has been a long day. It is the end of a long workweek for many. Country Corner is open seven days a week. Friday night is typically a fright night for neighbors to come in for liquor and party goods. It is also a good, safe spot for the ‘home boys’ to hang out.
On one television the local San Jose Sharks and the despised Los Angeles Kings are playing hockey and on the other screen LeBron James, the Miami Heat, and the Los Angeles Lakers basketball game is on.
Jo Jo is picking up some donuts and candy. Perhaps he can get away with something tonight.
“Don’t touch that!” Mike barks followed by laughter.
Peevishly, Jo Jo states, “I can handle this stuff.”
Before Mike can verbalize his disapproval a familiar customer struts in and he says, “How’s it going, Pedro?”
“Good evening Mike,” pipes Pedro fist bumping Mike. He is dressed in polyester from the ‘80s disco era and is followed by a chick with way too much cosmetic make-up, a tight sleeveless blouse, boots, and hot pants.
Lisa, who could use lessons from a cosmetologist looks over the large display of pints and short dogs and asks, “Mike, what time are you closing tonight?”
“Nine-oh-nine and a half,” broadcasts Mike.
Pedro and the Tall One exchange fist bumps. This is actually a handshake that started here at Country Corner. It was invented about a month ago to prevent the spread of germs. In the interest of not contributing to the growth of H1N1, patrons no longer rub palms and shake fingers to greet one another and reach agreements.
Pedro requests, “Good, I’ll take three tonight. Thank you, Mike.”
“Always a pleasure, Pedro. Have a good night.” Following a moment of silence, Mike looks toward what The Tall One is up to.
“Don’t even think of that! Put it back!“
Everyone in the store except the Tall One is laughing. It brings smiles to the faces of more folks arriving into the deli.
Directly to Jo Jo, “What are you thinking?” Mike questions.
Feeling The Tall One’s public embarrassment Oscar remarks, “Excuse me, I need to pick out a few groceries.”
Samson, barefoot and feeling no pain what so ever, announces, “What game are you guys watching? I got a bundle on this game.”
This comment is funny because Samson said it.
Most of the familiar crowd assembled here this evening knows that Samson drinks too much, is usually not to be taken seriously, and doesn’t follow sports, let alone ever bet a buck on games.
There are neighbors who live in one house with six developmentally disabled adults. One man is a savant when it comes to numbers. Benji’s recall and calculation of anything numerical is amazing. Knowing what day of the week a person was born is just one of his skills. Bowling happens to be his favorite participative sport and it involves 300 numbers.
Benji asks one of his frequent questions, “What is the highest score you have ever bowled?”
Gottlieb, who never has met Benji and unlike the others in the room he has no idea where this guy is coming from, answers, “What are you talking about?”
Trying to protect Benji’s sensitive feelings, Mike begs Gottlieb, “Be nice.”
Assuming that someone has insulted Benji, Roscoe pointedly says, “Go get some fresh air, Gottlieb! You might get lost.”
In a big voice Jo Jo cheers, “Let’s go Sharks! Ah choo, Ah choo. Ah choo!”
“You are sneezing on the floor,” remarks Benji.
“Oh sheet, the Tall One is getting the flu. Stay away from me. Benji, step back from Jo Jo.” Roscoe continues his verbal tirade, “You are going to kill somebody. Spreading the flu is murder!”
Sherlock, one of the ‘home boys’ pops his head in the store and states, “Hey dudes, the Miami Heat are on TNT playing in The Forum. It may be a preview of this year’s NBA Finals.”
Robin adds, “Do you know why some think basketball is a messy and gross sport? Because of all the dribbling all over the floor.”
Dear sweet Beverly arrives and looks seriously into the shopkeeper’s eyes. “Mike, do you have any flowers?”
Ha, ha, chuckle, chortle, cackle, yuk-yuk, guffaw, he-haw, and laughter to split one’s sides.
Chapter 4 – What The?
There are some days that drive a control freak crazy. Today is one of those days when random events turn out weird.
Tension and stress aggravate the emotions of the Silicon Valley working population. The artificial time on their hands are extremely rushed. At one end of the burning candle are those fathers and mothers in the office more than 40 hours a week and the heterogeneous workforce includes those new millionaire who had cashed in their startup stock and purchased luxury homes and expensive cars.
At Country Corner, Bob’s family treats the poor, working man, single parent, and wealthy folks with utmost respect and appreciation for their repeat business. Customers are always greeted in their native language, offered help, become satisfied shoppers, and respected.
An imported limo silently veers off the traffic along Alameda de las Pulgas. Joe’s white Bentley cruises into to the front lot. Acting unlike a fellow whose NBA team, the Warriors, is worth a fortune greets local folks with a genuine ‘how-dee-do.’
Country Corner is a respite from the rat race continuing five and a half feet outside the deli doors.
“Good Morning, Joe. How are you?” Bob cheerfully, pleasantly, and sincerely asks.
“Very good, thank you. How are you doing?”
“Everything is fine, thank you. How may we help you?”
“Bob, I bought my wife a Bentley model like the one I drive, only it is burgundy red with a beige rag top. I am looking for those hanging air fresheners. Don’t you just fine the new card smell repulsive? Anyway, do you have some hanging fuzzy dice or those fragrant cardboard trees?” relates Joe.
“Yes we do. The selection is across the aisle upon the ice cream freezer. Go see what they stink like?” chides Bob.
There is a vibration inside the store with a sound like a stampeding herd of Billy goats. Running around aisle 3 to the cashier’s spot is a 25-pound, one-foot high, short, stocky, black and brindled French bulldog.
“Teddy!” Bob’s voice incites the Frenchy to turn and run down and back in aisle 2.
With perfect timing, Bob grabs Teddy’s rear quarters, screams “Teddy!” and releases him as the dog runs back and forth again. Then the bulldog pauses, stares, and waits for Bob’s next move. Customers have seen Bob and Teddy chase each other around the store; sometimes their act goes on for five minutes.
It usually takes Teddy and Bob several minutes to cool down. Teddy cowers to the floor panting excessively. His tongue is vacillating at an unprecedented rate.
After catching his breath, Bob heads back to check out customers. The atmosphere inside is quiet and the news can be heard on a television.
‘In today’s news:
Over 1,200 Russians died during their recent heat wave. Unsupervised children and drinking vodka were the main reasons there were so many deaths.
Back in the United States, Donald Trump reveals that the plan for the new World Trade Center is frightening. He asked a group of fellow New Yorkers, “Why on earth are they constructing it on the very same spot has the old targeted towers?”
In Southern California, an ice cream shop billboard is getting unwelcome attention. The printed message along the freeway is: Ice Cream Ahead – Scream for Ice Cream Until Your Parents Stop.
And government research has revealed that birthdays are good for people. Results show that people with more birthdays have a longer life span.’
Setting of this story: 2010. Picture with Teddy the French Bulldog.
Chapter 5 – Time to Go
Everyone operates with a biological clock and people tend to break it. Hurriedness has become a habit in the environs around and including Country Corner.
A sense of urgency normally begets action. Folks are scared of getting sick.
Since the break of day, Buck has been outside with Teddy doing an industrial cleaning of the back product handling area of the store. With every kind of household cleaner in the world he is breaking his back to guarantee that no virus will ever live around here.
The dock area has been swept, hosed, degreased, unpolluted, sun-dried, scrubbed, bleached, sterilized, reconditioned, purified, unpolluted, decontaminated, disinfected, reorganized, debugged, hygienized, and every known bug, germ, vector, virus, bacterium, and cootie pulverized.
By the time Bob arrives to open the store at 6:45 a.m. things look immaculate.
“Good morning, hey Teddy! What is up?” greets Bob.
“I’d dry clean the whole place if it was possible. If as Benjamin Franklin said ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ we must be at the godhead and at the brink of heaven.” Remarks Buck taking a step back to survey and visualize all the work that has been done.
“Teddy, it looks like you scared away the squirrels this morning. Those little monsters did not break into this morning’s bread delivery.” Bob joyfully remarks as he pets Teddy.
“Let’s get the coffee going,” pronounces Bob.
Today’s setting a spring day in 2010. Many H1N1 cases have resulted in death. The fear of the Swine Flu Virus is spreading faster than the disease itself.
It is both the fear and reality that motivates Buck’s good works. He feels it is his back yard to take care of. It is not for publication or open discussion at the store that Teddy and Buck are spending their nights sleeping upstairs above the soda storage room. The loft has been made into a charming area where only three people have visited and officially nobody – no one – knows they have been living there for four months.
Above the shelves of pints and halves of spirits there is a CNN newscast blaring on the TV:
There were ten Swine Flu deaths in the United States last year out of 1,214 reported cases. The World Health Organization reports that over 14,000 died during 2009, with 879 dead in Mexico alone.
“How ‘ya doing, how ‘ya doing?” Pete cheerfully asks galloping through the entryway.
“Alive, still alive. How are you?” Julio responds.
“I’m fine and how is traffic?” begs Bob for a frank answer.
“It is fairly regular. Shitty once a day you know,” reports Pete. “May I grab some Alka-Seltzer?”
“Why you asking? Does Alka-Seltzer work for you?” is Bob’s retort.
“(I) Ate the wife’s cooking last night and I have not been the same,” moans Pete. “It must have been the chicken.”
Julio inquires, “Does she still cook pickles?”
“Thanks Julio, now I am really feeling sick,” groans Pete.
“Is she still burning your Pop Tarts?” Julio teases.
“Excuse me, I must go behind Door #1,” is heard as Pete rushes to the rear of the deli.
‘Door Number One’ is the name given to the only restroom in the store. Anyone can use it. Men or women; employees and customers; deliverymen and people passing by; and is a very popular door destination during the lunch hour.
Dewey hops through the front door and exclaims, “Bob, there are some Hari Krishna and aesthetic Jews on the corners out front.”
“Good morning Dewey. What in the world are you talking about?” puzzled and surprised is Bob.
“Julio, go talk to those religious zealots. They are screwing up the morning traffic flow big time!” Dewey relates to his supervisor Julio.
Sure enough Bob checks it out and a third religious preacher is on the far corner waving his bible and reciting some of the Ten Commandments. From each corner is a different and distinct religious mantra. There are the Jews, Hindus, and now a Christian on three of the four corners. Cars, buses, and trucks slowly pass by gawking at the unusual scene.
Next two Buddhist priests take up their prayer beads on the last remaining corner. Not to be outdone by the aesthetic Jews, they raise their duo choir of voices.
Several motorists begin honking.
It is a crazy scene.
Noise is coming from all four corners. Each group is competing for the attention of passers by.
= = =
Country Corner is in a wood frame building that was constructed in 1893. It still stands today. The store has survived two major earthquakes – 1906 and 1989 – and a recent head on collision with a car driven by a teenager, Headley. One evening he slid into the front fence and a corner of the store. No one was hurt during the crash but Headley’s parents smacked his butt when he came home.
On their lot adjacent to the side street is a structure that was originally an icehouse. Next to it – on the south side – is a two story wood structure that was probably raised up during the 1990s. Dry storage is now maintained in both structures along the back of the property. Upstairs is where Teddy and Buck have been ‘hiding out.’ It is one of the only secrets unknown to the many patrons of Country Corner. Even the nosy neighbor along Monterey Avenue has no idea.
Max’s Scout Services & Communications of the Americas
for musement only
Character’s names / Ideal Actress or Actor to Play the Part:
BOB / Patron, the Owner, Mike’s brother / Danny DeVito, Bob Newhart; Joe Pesci
NADIA / Bob’s wife / Julia Roberts
MIKE / Night Manager / Nadia’s brother in law / Robert DiNiro
Motto on the T-Shirt of the best delicatessen in the San Francisco Bay Area: Cheese is extra.