28)   Saturday, the Twentieth, 6:30 AM – “The Morning After…”


At half past six on Saturday morning, a slight, pinkish glow to the east over the Anacostia and University of Maryland auguring a smoky sunrise, Giga-Plex stock handlers… a giga-gumbo of Mexican nationals, American brothers of the pipe and bottle and college and high school students like Craig Synch… worked Mark Tenison’s freebie list.  Red-haired Jerry Eames, from the network, bounced up and down in the cold, waiting his turn.  Ray Wilson was holding the list and Jerry was pissed.

          “C’mon boy,” the telecaster whined, “Mark-down Mark promised a Haier… at least!”

          “Got you down for a Tungwa ’38, man,” Ray disagreed.

          “Impossible!  That’s Mongolian, a box of shit…” Jerry coughed, “I’m supposed to bring a crew back this afternoon, and it’s up to me what, and what not, they shoot!”

          “Your call.”  And then Ray motioned to Craig Synch.  “Go find Mark, I ain’t up to this.  Pablo… break out a dishwasher for…”

          Another short, crooked journalist pushed Eames aside…

          “Cahill.  Rob Cahill… Annapolis Times…”

          “Mister Cahill,” Ray checked Mark’s list.  “You get a Whirlpool…”

          “Mark promised a Frigidaire…”

          Ray cast him the fisheye, jerking a thumb back to the store.  “I got a guy bringin’ the boss out, you still wanna go for a Frij?  How much good is press in Annapolis gonna do… most of those people would go to the Plex in Baltimore… how’s about you shake them down…”

          “But you’re all part of the Giga-Plex team…” Cahill agreed, “…fine!”  Craig was on his way back, out of breath as Ray shook his head at the perfidious Fifth Estate, “…a Whirlpool…”

          “He’s coming.  Whew… whatta start to the day,” Craig blew off steamy breath as a dull, pink crescent peeked over the horizon, “how’d you get stuck with this duty?  I mean… bein’ on commission an’ all, you even getting’ paid?”

          “God works in mysterious ways,” Ray said, with a tight smile.  Gotta do right by the boss.  And here he comes…”

          Jerry Eames was all over Tenison like a stray dog attacking a trashcan, pointing and gesticulating…

          “You want a Haier?” Mark finally said.

          “Changed my mind,” Jerry set his jaw.  “A Dominator…”

          You fuckin crazy?”

          “I’m worth it!” Jerry challenged the manager to disagree.  “Slow newsday, Saturday… I can get Big Sonny three whole minutes on the six and a recap at eleven… long as his models have big boobs,” the redhead winked, “seeing as how there ain’t none of those MeToo feminists around.  Our tape editor’s a sucker for big boobs and everywhere that Sonny goes, big boobs are sure to follow…”

          “Yeah, well you ain’t getting’ a Dominator…” Mark told him.

          “Then you ain’t getting’ a crew…”

          Tenison spat to the frozen concrete below the loading dock.   “Samsung, fifty-two LCD, two thousand pixels… take it or leave it.”

          “Sony…”   the redhead held out…

          “You guarantee three minutes at six?” Mark propositioned…

          The telejournalist backed off.  “Well, you know… if a bridge collapses or they catch those guys behind two thirty-nine…” he explained, weakly.

          “I pay for performance,” Mark said, looking at his watch.  “Three minutes at six, you get a Sony fifty-two… get a repeat at eleven and I upgrade to plasma,” he sweetened the pot.  Jerry Eames looked up at the sky, then nodded.  “We’re open to midnight all weekend.  Come back Sunday morning…”

       “Saturday midnight!” Jerry pressed…

“All right, tonight after the news…” Mark sighed, “we’ll be open late tonight.  But the spot better be good, and be sure to have Sonny himself in the picture; if I’m not watching, someone down in Waco will be.  Come back round here at half past twelve…”

          Jerry Eames plodded back to his Takoma, vaguely distracted, and Mark disappeared back into the bowels of the Giga-Plex before any more hagglers could detain him.  Ray watched him pass the office, employees’ room and toilets, headed towards the displays, probably seeking quality time with the Dominator floor model before the doors opened… it had arrived late, last night, after he’d gone home.  (Tonight, he’d be pulling a double shift.)  When the manager had gone, Ray whistled… and a couple of kids in sports jersey hoodies drove up in an old F-150.

          “Thompson and Lollar, Howard Defender…” Ray read aloud from his list (for the benefit of Craig, still hanging around, and some of those Mexicans who often knew more English than they let on).  Lemme see… Kungwa forties, two in all, and one for the office.”  Craig seems about to say something, so Ray explained… “It’s the black college press… you know, mines being terrible things to waste… get moving…”

          Craig turned back towards the stockroom with a handtruck, then passed it and stepped out onto the floor, knowing that their paper wouldn’t be out until Monday, at the earliest, and wondering if he should ask Mark.  The corridors of the Mall were still dark – there was a space between the 007 emporium and restrooms where he could see the pet shop across the way.  Unlike Giga-Plex, it had only a sort of chainlink rampart covering its plateglass window, behind which dozens of the newfangled fluorescent rats and mice, rage of the Christmas season, but now unsold and marked down, scurried and pressed noses against their glass cage.  Somewhere behind them, one of the petshop monkeys screeched.  Craig turned away and looked far off, he saw Honey Keissler and Vicki shooting shit by the registers.  “Fuck it,” he decided and wheeled the handtruck back to the stockroom to fill Ray’s order – figuring that something wasn’t right, but that it wasn’t any of his business and, besides, snitches get stitches.

Just another good German, doing another good job.


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