Mark Finn has submitted the third chapter to the Con-Dorks’ book, One in a Million.
NOTE: If you are not up to date on the story, the first two novels have been run in their entirety at revolutionsf.com.
The Transformation of Lawrence Croft: http://www.revolutionsf.com/article.php?id=1827
Chance of a Lifetime: http://www.revolutionsf.com/fiction2/condorks2/condorks2_00.html
One in a Million – Chapter 3
New Comics Day
D.J. McGuiness’ world revolved around Wednesday. As the manager of Comix Comix Comix, one of San Francisco’s more complete, if not quality, comic shops, he structured his entire week around what the rest of the world called Hump Day. For the comic book readers of America, Wednesday was New Comic Day.
Technically, the new comics came in on Tuesday, which was always a work late day for him and his staff. They just couldn’t be sold to customers until Wednesday. That made the Tuesday night prep even more important.
Fifteen to twenty (or sometimes more) boxes of new comics had to be received, counted and checked against the invoice, and then each title had to be broken into two stacks: what went out on the shelves for anyone to walk in and grab, and what went back into customers’ subscription files. This is what the staff quietly referred to as No Man’s Land. With very few exceptions, comic book buyers across the board had eyes roughly five times larger than their wallets. And so when the new Batman hardcover graphic novel just “showed up,” even though it had been advertised for months and teased for weeks online, Little Johnny, who specifically requested that he wants “ALL BATMAN COMICS” saved for him, would see it there amid the other comics in his file he had yet to purchase, make a sucking sound through his suddenly clenched teeth, and say, “Maybe next week.”
The new Batman graphic novel would then languish for four to six weeks until Little Johnny got a windfall, or came up with a clever way to slip the book back in amongst the rest of the store stock, thus messing up the cycle counts and driving everyone mad. This is the same customer who, if you missed a title with the appearance of Batman in it, would loudly and vociferously freak out at the counter because his collection was almost “ruined by ineptitude.”
That was Wednesday, not just at Comix Cubed, but at most other comic shops in the country. Despite the troublesome customers, it was always a day filled with promise, optimism, high spirits as everyone’s favorite titles showed up, and of course, cash. Wednesday was the day that paid for Monday and Tuesday (and sometimes Thursday). And Wednesday was the one time of the week when D.J. liked to work the front counter. He was ideally positioned to talk to every customer about the week’s haul; to recommend titles they’d missed; to give (or get) insight into key issues; to subtly and magically work over the subscriptions to try and Jedi Mind Trick the regulars into buying one additional title, or letting go of that issue they’ve been waffling on for the past month so he could sell it to someone else. On Wednesy, D.J. was the Puppet Master.
This particular week was all the more exceptional for reasons that had nothing to do with the Green Guy and Count Creeper Cross-Over. Justin Tripp, the owner of Comix Cubed, was letting D.J. borrow the store’s van on Friday night, because he was closing on his new apartment. He would be moving his comics and other oddball collectibles from the back room of the store and into his new place in the Tenderloin on Friday, and then Saturday and Sunday would be spent moving in. To his own apartment. His first new place of his very own.
It was all he could think about.
His counter skills were nil. No up sales, no suggestions, not even snarky commentary on the newest issue of The Sub-Divisional Man, written by Stanley Weissman. He was a wreak, and everyone sensed it.
Finally, Elaine, one of the three regular workers on Wednesday, approached him at the counter. “Hey, why don’t you go to lunch? Larry and the guys are here.”
“Huh?” D.J. looked at the clock. “But it’s ten minutes to one.”
“You’re the boss. I won’t tell if you won’t.” She slipped around the counter, the only person who could really do so with D.J. behind the register. She was as skinny as he was stocky, a wood elf to his dwarf. “I got this. Go eat and get yourself together.”
“Fine, whatever,” D.J. said, but he was secretly grateful. “Hey guys? Lunch?”
“But it’s not…” Larry said.
“We’re going early,” said D.J.
“Cool beans,” said Burt.
“Let’s go,” said Turk.
Every Wednesday, the guys walked two blocks down to a sandwich shop that was run by an affable Greek man named Albie. He made gyros, heroes, and falafel, as well as thick, hearty soups and salads the size of a tetherball. None of which mattered to the four of them. They all ordered the same thing, without fail, every Wednesday. Albie knew all of their names and their orders and said “My Friend” after every sentence. It was nice; one of those things that the guys came to rely on as a touchstone, as part of their safety net. There were few problems that could withstand the excitement of New Comic Day coupled with Albie’s gyro and a hearty “Here you go, My Friend!”
Despite all of the goodwill and positive energy, the atmosphere was strained. Turk had made the last social faux pas, and so was obligated by the Rules of Manhood to either (a) open with an apology, or (b) simply stay quiet and keep his head down until the rest of the group acknowledged him without rancor. For the record, option B was Turk’s go-to solution.
D.J. decided to open. “So, good news: Justin’s letting me borrow the van, so I can move my stuff out of the back of the store.”
“When do you get to move in?” asked Burt.
“This weekend,” D.J. said, smiling. “Finally. Casa de Deej is about to commence.”
“Justin let you off on a Saturday?” Larry said. “I’m impressed.”
“When do I ever ask for time off? He fuckin’ owes me,” said D.J.
“No argument there,” said Larry. “Well, congrats, man. It’s been a long time coming.”
“I’ll say,” D.J. nodded. “And that brings me to point number two: can any of you guys help me with the moving?”
“Heck yeah,” said Larry. “I’ll bring my van and we can do two loads at once. Save a crapload of time.”
“Awesome,” D.J. said, his face alight with relief. “Thanks, Lar.”
He turned to Burt and Turk, who were navigating their class schedules and homework assignments. “Guys? Pizza and beer is on me.”
Turk said, “Oh, well, you should have started with that, Deej. For pizza and beer, we’ll do just about anything.”
“Except drive to Arizona,” said Burt.
“And get thrown in jail for digging holes in a field,” added Turk.
Everyone laughed. Turk smiled. All was forgiven, at least, for now.
Larry tried to make his next question as light as possible. “I could maybe see if Holly and her friends want to help out,” he said.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Burt said, trying to match Larry’s casual tone.
“Yeah, okay,” said D.J. “Having hot chicks around can’t possibly hurt, since we’ll be lifting boxes and flexing and shit.”
No one was looking at Turk, and so they were very surprised when he said, just as lightly as the rest of them, “Hey, do you think Rhonda will be there?”
“I’ll talk to Holly,” said Larry. “See if we can’t make it happen.”
“Very cool,” said the Turk, as he leaned back in his chair. “Very cool.”
Burt glanced at Larry, but he was already quizzing D.J. about the latest issue of October Force. Burt looked at Fred “The Turk” Terkington for a long beat, wondering why he was being so nonchalant about the appearance of the Sisters, led by Larry’s girlfriend. Then he chalked it up to Turk simply wanting to not make any more waves after his embarrassing blow-up on Monday and joined in the conversation.