Chapter 3:

And the week went on. That night, Marlene announced the arrival of a black-and-white tom kitten and, of course, let Penny name it. After several failed attempts to change her mind, Penny settled on the name 'Buttercup'. Why she would name boy kitten Buttercup still eludes my thoughts, but whatever.

Second, Buttercup slept with me. I guess I can understand, a little kitten being groped, squeezed, and mauled by an elusive Penny Moore could be a bit startling. But when the little kitten is so scared by her ungodly snoring and practically suffocates you in the night, it's harder to relax.

One morning, Marlene woke me up by grabbing my forearm and hoisting me out of bed like a sail on a ship, to which I almost screamed. She looked into my eyes and smiled. "First day on the job, dear." She sang in her cocky voice. Buttercup meowed from his spot on the pillow next to mine and looked up with bright green eyes.

The Black was downtown, a fair-sized for a convenient store brick building with a glass door and long glass window, displaying ads for various foods, sodas, and cigarettes. There were green and white awnings lining the front and sides of the building. Next door was a small Wi-Fi coffee shop, and that was somehow to whole lot. It was surrounded by living grass and a small parking lot hot enough to fry an egg.

It was some after 10 am, still too early for me to be up, when we arrived at the Black. My sister had her hair teased up higher than Lady Liberty's torch and her giant golden hoops reflected what sun could actually manage its way through her tower-like hair. Even though I was the frumpy one; dingy grey gym shirt and cream-colored shorts with ratty old tennis shoes and unkempt hair, I felt embarrassed about walking in with Miss-High-And-Mighty.

The bells jingled as my sister and I came in. The first thing I noticed was the sudden blast of frigid air that cooled down my skin. I sighed. The second thing was the boy at the counter. Not the creepy and awkward smiling man, but someone from my school. He had shaggy red-orange hair that reached just the bottom of his neck and brown eyes. He was nonchalantly tossing a red apple up and down and watching something on a portable DVD player, from which I heard the words 'I'm on fire!' followed by deranged laughing.

He looked up and confirmed his identity. This was Kurt Fallon, a German-American kid with a heavy and implacable accent. Nobody could guess where it came from, whether it was a full accent or just a dialect, but it was fun to hear him talk anyway. "Heads up, Moore!"

My sister dove to the ground, bludgeoned the side of my face with her hair, and allowed the red apple to make a clear hit to my nose. I caught it as it made its descent to the ground and hurled it right back at Kurt. He caught it with one hand, squeezed it hard enough to break the skin, and drank the juice that seeped out. "Throwin' things at'cha sure gives me an appetite." He grinned. My sister adjusted her hair once she was properly situated on her feet and gave a weak, hopeless smile. "I presume you know Georgia. She'll be working here for the summer. Maybe longer."

I looked at her with a new burning sense of hatred but was ignored, as usual. Kurt nodded. "I'll handle it from here, Ms. Moore-ski. She'll fit right in here at Black's." Marlene gave him a curt nod and turned to me. She mouthed Don't screw up. Before exiting the store and hurrying to her shining silver car.

I sighed reluctantly and turned to Kurt, who'd gone back to watching his movie. "What do I do now?" I asked, crossing my arms. He looked around and grabbed the handle of a broom, sliding it off his side of the counter. "Sweep." I stared at the broom and back to Kurt. "Aren't you gonna teach me how to use the cash register?" He groaned and clicked the pause button on the DVD player before beckoning me with his fingers.

He tapped a few buttons quickly and jammed his thumb down. "Open." Then he slammed it shut. "Closed. No questions? Good. Sweep."

I sighed and picked up the broom. An old, wooden push broom. I stood in the aisles and swept until my hands felt like I'd been holding buses in each over a cliff filled with school children. Like some sort of Spiderman. Spidermaid. I liked that name. Just before I could bust out an awesome rap about Spidermaid and her daring adventures in the 'chips and other unhealthy snacks' aisle, someone's hand clamped down on my shoulder.

"Go home." Kurt jostled my shoulder out of the socket, so I ripped my hand up at his face. The guy was practically emotionless and ninja-like, bending out of the way and somehow managing to slip through my legs and look up at me. "I'm a trained martial arts professional, Moore. I'm so bad ass I wear a cup to bed."

And another triumph for my good friend Kurt Fallon. I stepped outside and left the broom by the door. That's when they bumped into me.

An old, tall, very masculine man looked down at me with squinted eyes. He was wearing a long, bright orange jersey with a messy number '1.0' on it. Next to him was a girl younger than I was but older than Eric with dreadfully bushy dark hair and blood-shot eyes. Oh, and there was also the smiling clerk.. I looked up at the tall man.

"And how was Ms. Moore's first day of employment?" Ted Black asked me. I shrugged. "Fine. All I did was sweep though." Mr. Black looked forward and tapped his Walkman a few times. "That's cool, honey. Oh, I'd like you to meet my daughter, Marilyn."

Marilyn Black was adopted. She was also reaching a level of high that has only been achieved by Marlene's hair. But right now she looked pretty normal, except for the bloodshot eyes and deep, huge black circles like craters under her eyes. She snorted like Marlene and turned her head. Then the smiling guy moved forward. "And I'm Calvin. You can call me Mr. Cal, though, and I'm your new boss! I was just out and about today, you know, sweating it off."

He was wearing a wrinkled grey jumpsuit and they did have huge dark patches all along them, but his hefty weight still remained. I nodded and thankfully I saw my Mother's car pull in. I bid them goodbye and almost shoved my Mother back into the car.

I looked at her while I buckled and slammed the door. "Drive." I said firmly, grabbing the dashboard. "Drive as far away as possible." My mother murmured something along the lines of 'Why me?' before we pulled away and back to our house.