Retail at Christmas time is a special kind of hell. On it’s own retail is hell but when the holidays come around it’s like dropping further down a couple of levels into the pit. The crush of people who can’t put a shirt back on a hanger or pick up the toys their kids have scattered or read the signs listing our holiday hours.
And the questions they ask:
“Do you have this in a medium?” I will burn you where you stand with my laser death ray for not understanding the overly simple ordering of the small, medium, large clothing racks… I mean,*smile*, let me check for you.
“Do you have a dressing room?” I will turn you into an ice sculpture with my ice death ray. No, we force everyone to guess their size and engage in a lengthy buy, return, and buy in different size cycle… I mean, *smile*, it’s right there to the left behind the purses.
It’s not just the customers, it’s also my barely trained coworkers. I spend more time fixing their ‘work’ than I should have to. Who stocks new dresses on the clearance rack? Who puts fifty dollar jackets on the twenty dollar rack? Who can’t tell the difference between a sweater and a t-shirt?
I will turn you all into chunky salsa with my rotating death blades if I have to give another customer a discount due to your incompetent stocking… I mean, *smile*, please make sure you hang the new dresses on the right rack and not on the clearance rack.
Not that I would kill or maim anyone. I’ve hung up my death rays and locked away my powered armor with kung fu grip. I have a simple life with a simple plan: Don’t make waves, just live out your life as an ordinary woman. It’s complicated by two facts: I am– was a super villain and I’m a trans woman.
Death was kind of my shtick. Not that I killed a lot of people it was mainly just a naming theme. Ice death ray, laser death ray, blades of death, spork of death. Ok, so the spork isn’t one of my inventions but a titanium spork is invaluable as an interrogation tool if you’re willing to pop out a few eyeballs. Really anything can be made to sound at least three times as intimidating if you add ‘of death’ to the name. Board game of death, pillow of death, radio of death, straw of death, you get the idea. But that’s all behind me; I’m retired now.
I don’t really need this job. My nest egg from my last “real” job could support me easily. It’s more to get me out of the house regularly and keep me from becoming a shut in cat lady. Why retail? Well there are other jobs that suit my skill set better but I am trying to go straight, in my own way. Staying away from material that could lead to a relapse of villainy is an important part of the plan. So, no tech jobs. I’m not really trained for much else but all you really need to work retail is a pulse. With my intellect I was able to excel at the mundane tasks of the retail environment. My people skills are a work in progress.
As for complication two, well I guess that’s a little easier to relate to for some people. As far as any medical professional knows, I have jumped through their hoops to acquire hormone replacement therapy and presumably to change the gender markers on my ids(I took a slight short cut here and hacked the records).
This is the identity I used to get this job. I could have created my new identity as a cis woman but all you need to do is look at my face and body with its too wide shoulders, masculine brow line, big hands, eh you get the picture. I’m too hard on myself, Julie tells me. She says I pass, not that that should be a measure womanhood one or one’s self-worth, way better than I think I do.
Julie the one and only friend I have in my new life and occasional lover. She’s been the older sister I never had, helping me learn things about living as a woman I didn’t learn growing up, being there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. We met at a trans support group but I had found, stalked and chosen her as my friend weeks before. It sounds calculated and heartless to say I became her friend by stalking her online first but I’m not a people person and I knew I needed some support during those early days. I didn’t randomly chose her and become a person that she would be friends with. I chose her because she would be, is, someone I could be friends with and who would be friends with me as well.
So, I was living truly as myself, I had a best friend and lover, and a crappy job. Maybe not the life I thought I would be living but it was a good life, good enough. Then an old friend walked back into my life.
I recognized him right away. The Doctor of Death. Supervillain names that incorporate death used to be more popular five to ten years ago. They were an easy way to identify yourself as a bad guy without having to hurt anyone. Nowadays with the ‘youtubes and the facetimes’ it’s easier to build a reputation.
But back to The Doctor of Death, who was standing innocently in the queue for the registers in my store. His hair was longer than the last time I had seen him and he had grown mutton chops of all things and was wearing large sunglasses but I recognized his crooked nose and the scar that crossed his lips.
I handed the customer in front of me their change and wished them a happy day. He was standing at the beginning of the queue now. My job was to call him over to my register now but I hesitated. Would he recognize me? I could pretend to not see him and let the other cashier take care of him; she was nearly done with her customer. The choice was taken from as he saw that I was available to help him and walked up to my register.
He set down his items and I began scanning and bagging them. I refrained from trying to push the store credit card hoping to get through the transaction quickly without him recognizing me. I glanced at him and caught him studying my face.
“Hey, do I know you?” he asked.
“No, I don’t think so,” I said tilting my head so my hair fell in front of my face.
“Hmm, you have a brother? I swear you remind me of this guy I used to know,” he pressed.
I gave him a death glare, which in retrospect wasn’t a good idea because it was at that moment that he really recognized me.
“It’s you!” I glared at him again and he lowered his voice, “Fucking S. O. D. Oh my god, I thought you were dead. You pulled that last heist and just vanished. I never took you as a guy who would retire and settle down. And this,” he gestured at my body, “this is like the best disguise ever. *****man himself couldn’t spot you.”
“It’s not a disguise and the name is Melody. Your total is $25.35,” I said.
He pulled out his wallet and started sorting through crumpled bills, “It’s not?” I shook my head, “Lab accident? Magic curse?” Two more head shakes. He handed me two twenties. “Then why are you…” I could see the dots connecting in his head, “Oh… ah… hmm… ok.”
“Ok?” I said while handing him his change and bag.
“Yeah, it’s your life. Um,” he patted a few pockets before pulling out a business card, “Here, this is my latest front. Come by or call and we can talk.”
I took the card, Benjamin Ford, Acupuncturist. “What?”
“Call me,” he said while walking away.
Next issue: Melody and Julie have a talk and then the Scientist of Death and the Doctor of Death have a talk