Liam Spencer

Posted on February 6, 2012

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Bulls in the attic

I rolled over in the uncomfortable bed. My back was killing me. Ugh, another day of this shit. It was 10:30 in the morning, and my head hurt worse than usual. I rose and went for the only known cure for the morning blah; coffee. After the pot was set, I went to the bathroom and did my routine. I still felt like shit and faced a whole day of it. I wished I could have fast forwarded to after work, when I’d be home drinking wine and catching up on the days’ news while I waited for Zantha to come over.

There was an opportunity we were exploring. It was a 5,500 sq ft building with storefront, warehouse space, and offices that could be converted to a place to live. All that for much less than an apartment! I had doubts they’d lease it to me. They wanted a business plan and financials. I had neither. Zantha was very optimistic, though, and was coming over to help prepare paperwork. I would be so glad to see her!

After a third cup of coffee, I looked at my cell to see if anyone sent a text. It showed I had missed Zantha’s call. Being awake enough to converse, I eagerly called back, figuring she was bored at her store and wanted to talk. The day was starting well after all.

Her day was going far worse than mine! First, she ran out of coffee at her house, so had none in the morning. She remembered I had left coffee at her store the last time I was there, and so headed to the store early to take her cure for mornings. She arrived to a waterfall in the middle of her store. Upstairs plumbing of the old building had developed a leak. Forty pieces of clothing were soaked. She called the building owner and left a message, then called the maintence guy, who called the plumber. Then she rearranged the store to make room for the new waterfall.
What a day she was having! It was busy for a Tuesday, but few stayed long. The place was a mess. Sales were lost. A couple hours later, the building owner had come in to see the new store design she had just completed. He did not get his voice mail. He stood staring at the waterfall, then left to make more phone calls.

We talked for a good half hour. She was understandably upset, but there was a delighted wackiness to her voice. It was bad, but an adventure. I love that about her. She can take the shittery of life and make it an adventure, so long as it doesn’t take too long to be resolved. We talked and laughed, but had mixed in empathy and frustration in the conversation to keep each other sane. Soon, she went back to thinking of ways around the water and I left for work. The fun was over, for a while, anyway. She’d still be over that night, and more enjoyment was in store.

It turned out more bad luck was to follow. The plumber came, assessed the situation, and left to get pipes and so on. The waterfall continued. Customers came and left quickly. Time rolled on and on. Still no plumber. Hours later, a phone call solved the mystery; his truck broke down. He wouldn’t be back that day. The water for the building would be turned off after closing, but the water would continue to fall all night.

My route was fine, the usual shittery, but nothing too terrible. My back ached, I couldn’t feel my legs, and felt devaststed when filling the gas tank. The usual plight of the underemployed. I counted the hours until I’d have both wine and Zantha, and hope for opportunity. I daydreamt about it all; the storefront would hold Zantha’s second store, which meant more time with her. The apartment built in the office space. The warehouse converted to a playhouse and wine bar. The cheap rent and higher income. Being a business owner again. The return of my old self; ambitious, optimistic, driven, hopeful, not just a low paid employee with dim prospects who depended on coffee and wine to make it through the day.

Toward evening, Zantha sent a text explaining that she had a monster headache and was going to lay down for a while. I knew what that meant; no Zantha tonight. Gone was the adventure she had in her voice earlier. It had taken too long. I couldn’t blame her. What shit to have happen! She lost money from sales, had 40 pieces damaged, and nothing had been resolved. Small business owners don’t have much margin of losing before it becomes a huge deal, and have to strike while sales are available. She had taken a hell of a hit. I found myself wishing I could give a long massage and clear the way for her to sleep sound.

That evening we spoke by phone again, and she told me all about it. Nothing was done about the waterfall all day, and she wondered about the next day. I listened and tried to support her. No help could do anything but ease the stress slightly. It was numbers and frustrations, all external to us. Conditions can be so ruthless. I offered to help at the store in the morning. She accepted. We got off the phone after an hour or so. I had a few more glasses of wine, tried to write poetry, and went to sleep.

The next morning, I woke with a severe backache that overshadowed my aching head. Coffee brewed, bathroom routine done, and ached stretching out of the way, coffee brought focus. It was 8:30. Coffee helped me remember why I was up so early; Zantha. I chugged two more cups while smoking, filled my thermos, and was out the door.

Zantha’s store was rearranged to cater to the demanding water, but she managed to make it look alright. There was a big tub in the middle of the store, filled with last night’s water. Zantha and I slid the tub out to the parking lot and dumped it. We put it back with little water on the floor, and I worked on the carpet with a shopvac. Zantha went about the store trying to make it look as good as possible. It was early, so few people came by anyway.

Shortly, two plumbers came in, needing to get to the attic to work on the pipes. Zantha showed them where to go. They hardly looked like professional plumbers. They looked more like rural farmers, with overalls and dumbed down facial expressions. They had rural, almost southern accents. Thre was a certain drawl to the speaking. I had known guys like that; unruly, clumbsy good old boys who lacked style, consideration, or common sense. Bulls in china shops. I worried for Zantha. Don’t get me wrong. I was and am a dog, but I can be a well behaved dog. They’re bulls. Bulls just destroy.

Having cleaned up as well as could be done, I could have left. There was nothing more I could have done. I stayed around for Zantha, as I worried about the farmer/plumber bulls that were in her attic. Customers were coming in. Zantha flowed magically through the store helping them pick the right looks, the right clothes, the right everything. The bulls in the attic thumped and stuffled voices could be heard, much like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I could see the collision course; the cultured, upscale customers in the store and the bulls in the attic meeting head to head. The bulls had nothing to lose. The customers would leave, offended. The only one who could lose was Zantha. I pondered calling off work to head off the bulls. I was the bullfighter of a woman’s clothing store.

The bulls came and went with pipes and tools, and thumped around in the attic and clanged at their truck. As late morning arrived, more ladies tried things on, and the dressing rooms were rather busy. Many tuned out the waterfall and got in the zone of shopping. Things were going as well as could be.

With everything going on, there was one thing neither I nor Zantha had thought of. While the bulls sounded muffled from the sales floor, they could be heard perfectly from the dressing rooms. It wasn’t an issue early, as few customers ventured in the store, and few had gone into the dressing rooms. Now those rooms were busy.

A woman who had been in the zone for quite a while headed for the dressing room with a pricey sexy outfit . She was an older lady, probably in her early fifties, and conservatively dressed. She walked past sporting a devilish grin and a bright glow about her. It was clear that just the thought of owning such an outfit was making her day. Knowing nothing about womens’ fashion, and not caring about anything except taking clothes off, I was amazed at the effect clothes can have on a person. It gave me an even greater admiration of Zantha and her passions.

The lady was in there quite a while. Then it happened. The bulls in the attic had been coming toward the stairway after taking off the leaking pipes. That put them close to the dressing room and the cash register where Zantha and I were standing.

We over heard one bull say to the other, “Now THEMS some old pipes!”

There were thumps in the dressing room. Shortly, the older lady darted from the dressing room. Her clothes were unkempt, and her shoes barely on. She darted past, redfaced and furious, emabarrassed and hurt. Zantha held her head low, her hands over her face, trying to suppress anger. I held her close and waited for bulls to climb down the ladder. I knew bulls would respond to a bullfighter better than to a classy woman like Zantha, so I offered to talk with them. She went to the other customers. I went to fight the bulls.

“Hey guys, can I speak with you for a moment?”

They glared harsh. Bulls on the ready. “What you want?”

“She has customers here. They can hear you in the dressing room. A lady heard you about old pipes and thought you meant her.”

Laughter erupted. Make a bull laugh, and he’ll do what you want.

“It sounds funny, but it cost Zantha a sale of $250. Would you laugh if you lost $250 in 3 seconds?”

There was no laughing.

“Just please watch what you say, and try to stay away from the dressing room area. You might want to apologize to Zantha too. She’s losing a lot of money with all this.”

The bulls sneared a bit, then went to the truck. Zantha was glowing about another sale. My God, what a woman! What talent, smarts, skill! She rebounds from everything with a glow, with class, with smarts, with beauty. I watched her a while in admiration, doing her thing, smiling and glowing. A Godsend. A miracle. Everything would be just fine with her, despite it all. Waterfalls, disasters, lack of coffee. She’ll always be amazing.

It was time for me to go to work. Back to realities of traffic, killer back aches, headaches, idiot customers, incompetent managers, low pay, dim prospects, hopelessness, and low wages. At least Zantha would be over that night. There was much to look forward to, and much to be happy about. I climbed in my little clown car. I had been the bullfighter, now I was the clown.

The mindless, soulless clown car pulled out of the parking lot, and drove away from the store. The brakes ground at every stop. Sports talk came from the radio. Rain was swept away by wipers. There was no feeling in the legs that operated the pedals. An aching back leaning against the seat. A numbed spirit paired with an empty mind went on autopilot to get the day over with. Cigarette smoke rolled out of the window. A new day was at hand.

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Posted in: Liam Spencer