THE DARK KRAFT #4
“The Point of No Returns”
Cameron D. Blackwell
Josh McLaren was proud of how hot he looked in the tuxedo he bought at Jackalope Direct, a thrift shop downtown. They always had the best in fashion for a fraction of the retail price. When one thought of thrift shops, one tended to imagine racks of bland, lifeless clothes that were good for job interviews, but not much else. Jackalope was different, they had a lot of everything, even formal wear. Recognizable brand names and great quality at a fair price. Other thrift stores couldn’t hold a candle to this place. That’s why going there was a no brainer for Josh. He didn’t make a lot of money, but his best friend Jared was getting married and he was the best man. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell that he was going to let Jared down by looking like a scrub. So, he bought the best tuxedo $60 could buy.
The problem was that he couldn’t afford to keep the tuxedo. While he loved it and thought it would be a great idea to hold onto it for future friends who wished him to be present on the day they threw their lives away, his bank account said no. He had rent coming up and he couldn’t spare $60. So he wore the tux at the wedding and made sure he didn’t eat or drink anything that could possibly stain it, which meant drinking or eating nothing at all. He was clumsy. He was thirsty and hungry, but the possibility of being homeless was too real to risk even one bite of food.
He hid the tag well enough to avoid suspicion while at the wedding. Once the wedding was over, he raced home to take it off and iron it. Monday afternoon after his shift at the call center, he drove to Jackalope to return the lovely tux. He opened the glass door and stepped inside the cool purple building. Reggae music was playing over the speakers. It must have been Rasheed’s day to pick the music. He made a mental note not to come on Mondays after today.
He scanned the small floor space for any sign of Rasheed, but he was nowhere to be seen. He supposed that he was in the back room smoking or whatever. He would have to wait, which would have been fine if Bob Marley hadn’t been playing obnoxiously loud at the moment.
He approached the front desk and rang the small metal bell that rested there. After a minute, Rasheed ran up to the desk and greeted him. He asked how he could help like a good customer service soldier.
Josh set the tuxedo onto the counter and patted it lovingly. “I really liked this tuxedo, but unfortunately, the wedding was cancelled and I won’t be needing it.” He made a faux sad face and sighed. “It’s quite a shame.”
Rasheed feigned sadness as he lifted the tux off the counter to examine it. “Do you have the receipt?”
Josh winced as he heard the question he really hoped he wouldn’t have to answer. He had managed to lose the receipt sometime between buying the tuxedo on Thursday to ironing it on Sunday night. He stayed up most of the night looking for it all over the house and the car. It was nowhere to be found. He prayed that he could still get his money back despite its absence.
“I’m sorry, I don’t right now.” Josh gave Rasheed a weak smile. “But the tag is still on there, so you know that it’s from here.”
Rasheed searched the inside of the collar where Jackalope stapled their tags, and sure enough, there it was. He raised an eyebrow and inspected Josh. “There it is.”
Josh chuckled. “There it is.”
Rasheed sighed in anticipation for what was about to come next. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m afraid I can’t accept this as a return without the receipt.”
Josh knew this was an inevitable eventuality, but he couldn’t let on that he expected this. “Oh, really? I mean, I was just in here on Thursday. Becky rang me up. You can check with her. She’ll vouch for me.”
Rasheed shook his head. He stared Josh dead in the eyes and said, “I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Josh looked offended, but Rasheed knew he had to stand his ground. “I’d love to just take your word for it, but I’ve got to follow the return policy.”
“Come on, man! I’ve got to pay rent and I can’t do that if I can’t get a return for this.” Josh hoped to appeal to Rasheed’s compassion. Rent was too damn high, surely Rasheed had similar struggles. He couldn’t be making that much at Jackalope to not experience the ever constant threat of homelessness. He had to understand. “Please.”
Rasheed had heard it all before. His heart ached for him, but he needed to keep his job. “I’m sorry. I can’t take this. If you come back with the receipt, I’d be glad to help you. There’s a seven day return policy. You have until Thursday.”
“Rent is due tomorrow!” Josh almost shouted in panic.
Rasheed winced and shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sorry, man. I don’t know what to tell you.”
“I mean, if I could sell weed, I wouldn’t know what to tell me either,” Josh muttered angrily.
Rasheed raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Let me talk to your manager.” Josh slammed his palm down on the counter, causing the metal bell to chime softly. He didn’t want to have to resort to the Karen Handbook, but he was desperate. “And don’t tell me that you’re the manager. I know better.”
“Do you?” Rasheed slipped away toward the back room to retrieve the manager he desired, glad to be done with Josh.
Josh stood at the desk and planned how he was going to spin this. He needed to be sympathetic, yet assertive. Being a pushover was not going to get his rent paid. He had to tell this guy that he wasn’t going to leave here without his $60 back.
After five minutes, a woman came to the desk. Her name tag read ‘Darryn’. She asked him how she could help him. Josh rolled his eyes at the realization he was going to start from Square One.
“Look, I bought this tux for a wedding, but it didn’t happen, so I need to get my money back.”
Darryn gave him a warm smile and said, “I understand that you do not have the receipt. Is that right?”
Josh sighed in frustration. If she knew what the problem was, why did she ask him what it was? “Yes, that is right, but I was here on Thursday and Becky rang me up. So run to your computer and look it up and give me my money.”
Darryn let a “Hmm” escape before she replied, “As Rasheed informed you, there are no returns without receipts.”
“But the tag…”
“It’s right fucking there!”
“Still, no returns.”
“I’m not leaving here without my money!”
“Bitch, just give me my fucking money!” The words were out before Josh could stop them. He gasped as the realization that he had screwed the pooch hit him. He wasn’t going to get his money back. He was going to be evicted. He was going to be homeless. He stared up at Darryn and watched her process his last request. The wheels were turning, her face retained its professional smile.
“I understand your frustration,” she said. “I believe we can reach a solution. Please follow me.”
“Look, I’m sorry,” Josh said, trying to backpedal as much as he could.
“Please follow me.” Darryn left the desk and led the way toward the back. She did not look back to see if Josh was following her, but he was.
Josh wondered why she wasn’t talking to him anymore. He wanted to apologize again, but her silence told him that she did not want to hear anything he had to say. Maybe she was taking him to meet with her supervisor. It was possible that she didn’t have clearance to approve giving him money. Maybe she was about to tell him that before he called her a bitch.
They reached two large black rubber doors and pushed through them. The back room was a large warehouse space where they received donations and stored them. Rasheed watched the two of them enter. Josh tried to give Rasheed a wave, but he turned his gaze away, leaving Josh feeling snubbed.
Darryn stopped outside a door labeled “Donations”. She opened it to reveal a dark room full of piles of clothes inside. “Wait in here, please.”
“What?” Josh was confused when he saw there was no supervisor inside. “In here?” He stepped inside at Darryn’s silent insistence. “What’s going on?”
Darryn didn’t answer him. She only smiled at him as she began to close the door.
“Wait! You can’t leave me here!” Josh shouted.
It was then that he heard the sound of shuffling behind him. Was someone in there with him? He spun around in time to see something move out of the light from the outside. Then something shuffled toward him. It had his left leg, then his right leg. It was crawling up his body. He gazed down in terror as he saw the clothes were creeping toward him, up him, dragging him into the center of the room. A sad moaning sound filled the room as the clothes consumed him, made him one of them.
“Help me! Get me out of here!” Josh pleaded as a pink polo shirt climbed up his chest. A tie had begun cramming itself down his pants while a bra wrapped itself around his head. “Please!” He fell to his knees. If he had control of his hands, he would have placed them together in a stance consistent with prayer, but they were presently being tied behind his back with sweaters. His pleas to be freed were muffled as a pair of socks found their way into his mouth and down his throat.
As Darryn closed the door, she said, “I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid we don’t do returns.” She smiled as she made her way to the front desk. The tuxedo was still on the counter. She checked to make sure the tag was still attached before she hung it back up on the sales rack.
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