Half Penny

500 Word Noir Project

Suggestions: Trader Joe’s, A Strictly Platonic Friendship, A Penny Board

Word Count: 584…Why didn’t I make this a 600 word noir project?

“Franchises in our county are still bearing the brunt of the Great Recession,” Woke Joe explains why none of us full-timers are getting a raise, “But we’re all family here. Anything you need, you just let me know.”

The shift starts. Retirees shuffle in to Trader Joe’s out of the California sun.

D’Vaughna leans over my register and mutters, “You smell that?”

I nod.

We watch Captain Woke Joe glide by on his penny board. We call the manager ‘Captain’ here. It’s the same at all Trader Joe’s. 

Something about our store is different. It’s not just that our manager tools around on a plastic skateboard.

“Talk to ‘Rina,” D’Vaughna advises.

 

 I knew D’Vaughna and I were going to be friends. She was in her sixties, thin and black. I was nineteen, fat and white. What mattered was that we both smelled the bullshit coming off Woke Joe. 

I was stocking frozen peas. Woke Joe was giving D’Vaughna her first-day-on-the-job tour.

Joe went, “What came first, D’Vaughna? The frozen peas or the ennui? Ennui is French for boredrom.”

D’Vaughna shot me a look over her leopard print glasses. When Joe turned his back, she mimed jacking off. 

 

I find Irina pouring papaya juice samples. 

Irina hands me a sample. 

I drink it. 

She pours me another.

“So?” She says.

“You think we’re all family here?” I ask.

“No,” Irina says, “Crew member. Co-worker. No family. I like you, Dani, but no family.”

She hits me with another shot of papaya juice.

“You’re not getting a raise either?” I say.

Irina snorts, “Look at books tonight.”

I raise my eyebrows.

Irina leans over the sample cabana and whispers, “His password…SexyPolishAss69.”

 

I ring the bell for backup during the commuter rush.

D’Vaughna flies to her register, “Gotchu, girl.”

“You used to do payroll and accounting and stuff right?” I drop breezily over my shoulder.

“ Everything under the sun! Payroll, accounting, fast food, insurance, beet farmin-”

I interrupt, “You could tell if something was fishy, though?”

“I could smell a trout in a frozen man’s back pocket!”

Everyone laughs.

“What does that mean?” a customer crows.

When I look over my shoulder again and make eye contact with D’Vaughna, we know exactly what it means.

 

At closing, Irina calls, “Captain Joe? I am wondering of the display window…You give me opinion?”

Woke Joe whizzes to the front of the store.

D’Vaughna and I move.

The Captain’s cabin is unlocked. I play lookout. D’Vaughna rushes over to Joe’s computer.

“Oh! Uhn-uhn!

“Hurry, D’Vaughna!”

Joe’s grimace rolls closer.

“Dani?”

I stick my foot out and stop the penny board. Joe stumbles off.

Joe looks up, shocked.

I step on one end of the dinky board. I grip the other end. I’m heavy. I’m strong.

Woke Joe cries, “No…!”

 I snap the board in half.

D’Vaughna emerges from Joe’s office. She freezes.

Joe gasps, “You two…are fired!”

 

D’Vaughna and I walk to the end of the parking lot together.

She sticks her hands down the back of her pants. She pulls out paper, folded in half.

“Evidence. That couple second shock when you snapped his board?” D’Vaughna says, “Just enough time for me to hit ‘print.’ Gonna make copies. Mail it out.”

“Good,” I say.

“I go that way.”

“And I go the other.”

“Well, D’Vaughna…” I start.

“Guess it’s goodbye forever, huh?” She says.

Our eyes meet.

“It’s been real, Dani.”

“It’s been real.”

Our eyes drop. We go our seperate ways into the sunset smog.

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