The first circle: I take product from the back of the shelf and move it to the front of the shelf, then I take the product that was in the front and move it to the back. This is called "Product Rotation," and yes there is a half-hour instructional video on the subject that each employee must watch before performing this duty. In all fairness it's actually a little more complicated than that. While I'm moving all of this product around, I have to make sure that the oldest dates find their way to the front. The reasons for this should be obvious to everyone.
The second circle: I take product from the truck and put it in the freezer, then I take product from the freezer and put it on the shelf, then I take product from the shelf and put it in the trash. This is called "Reclaiming Product." You guessed it: another half- hour video. The basic idea is we throw away all the food that has passed its "sell-by date" and return the box to the manufacturer for partial credit. Normal people call this "waste."
I'm in the middle of the first circle, and it's late. That's when they come, when it's late and there's no one else around. As I open the first door to the Hot Pockets section, and glance down to the Stouffer's meals at the end of the aisle, about a million miles away, I see the first one through the corner of my eye, backing out of my line of sight, and the second one's always whispering, and I can't quite make out what's its saying over the din of the humming fans and the ever present elevator-quality music. You know what I mean; it's impossible to clearly see or hear wraiths in a super market. Just try it sometime.
And the music, don't even get me started. When I'm in the back it's not so bad because the hum of the coolers drowns most of it out, but on the floor it's like being in an air-conditioned hell. The same set of songs with the same commercials recycles every five hours, kind of like everything else around here. Think of this as the third circle. On nights like this I pray for Chris Isaak to come on the speakers. You know that song he does, actually I suppose it's the video that I really like, you know with the half naked girl, I love that song.
So now with bad music and humming fans and the second wraith whispering things I can't hear in my ear and the first wraith skittering like a spider just out of site, I turn around and see a vampire and a slightly hung-over bounty hunter walk into my store, and right up my aisle. And then at this, the greatest moment of the night, that Chris Isaak song comes on over the loudspeaker, and all of my prayers are answered at once.
* * *
"You are one piss poor excuse for a vampire, you know."
Bishop turned around in the middle of the frozen food isle to stare at the deacon.
"I mean, I've been hanging out with you since that chainsaw incident, and I haven't seen you suck anyone's blood yet."
The clerk at the far end of the isle shut the door to the Hot Pockets section and walked over to the pair. "Can I help you guys with something?"
Bishop looked at the clerk and smiled, revealing his glistening fangs. The clerk was totally unfazed. "That's pretty cool. We've got a special on Birdseye frozen vegetables if you're interested. Or if you want, I could show you my portal to hell."
The deacon was obviously confused. "Your portal to what."
"Come on, I'll show you. You see there's these two wraiths that keep following me around and sometimes if you look in here you can see one of them."
The deacon trailed behind reluctantly as Bishop followed the clerk towards the meat department. "This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
The clerk stopped in front of the meat cooler. "Here it is."
Bishop looked around for a few seconds. "This is a meat locker."
"Yeah. Open it and take a look."
Bishop opened the door and looked inside at the impassive darkness. Two yellow eyes stared back at him. Bishop dove out of the way as a lion pounced on the spot he had been standing.
The clerk inched away as the lion ran down the canned food isle chasing the scent of fresh shoppers. "Wow! That almost never happens."
Bishop joined the deacon, who was leaning on the isle 5 end-cap display of Pringles potato chips and Heinz ketchup. The deacon pulled his shotgun from his coat as Bishop readied his sword.
"I don't suppose you've ever hunted a lion before, huh Deke?"
"Never even seen one. You?"
"I saw 'The Ghost and the Darkness' a few times."
"Do you hear that?"
"Yeah, It's Chris Isaak."
"No, I mean that breathing sound."
The lion jumped down from the top of the shelf slashing wildly. The deacon rolled to his left and fired blowing apart several boxes of potato flakes. The lion spun around to face Bishop just in time to have its head fall on the floor and roll towards the Spam. Bishop picked up a roll of Brawny paper towels and wiped off his sword.
Bishop walked back over to the clerk, "Who are you?"
"Alex Pope. My friends call me Rex."
Bishop grinned. "It's like I said, it's all about chess and the Catholic Church."
Rex returned the smile. "I guess I'm your final piece in this puzzle of yours."
The deacon seemed to be looking for something. "Dude, where is your alcohol?"