Verna worked as a cashier at Savemoores Supermarket for 45 years. When she began her cashiering career, the store was a tiny convenience store. Today it’s a 75,000 square foot behemoth. It had three cashier lanes in 1974, and now it had thirty-one.
On her last day, she worked her regular shift; 7 am – 3 pm. The bakery left a cake in the break room, along with a few balloons that had to stay in the store. Butch Moore hired her when she was 17. Butchie died in the nineties. His son, a fellah, named Danny Moore, runs the store now. Both men were class ‘A’ assholes, as Verna will tell anyone who listens.
Butchie was an aggressive guy and pressed her to go on a date when she was still a teenager. She shot him down every time, and so began a 45-year grudge. Not once was Verna the employee of the month; skipped over 500 times. Eventually, she aged out of the creepy advances of Butchie and his son but the grudge continued
So Verna stopped trying to be a model employee. She was a daydreamer, always took an extra minute on her smoke breaks at the delivery dock, and had a tough time adapting to technology.
She’s generally positioned on lane 8, directly across from the employee of the month poster. Those faces on the employee of the month board staring her down all day every day. The names changed, but the I-got-a-$50-gift-card-at-the-store-I-work-in smile never did.
Last day. Eight hours. Five smoke breaks. Four bathroom breaks and maybe three dozen big orders left to come through her lane. Her regulars piled one after another. Some she had weekly conversations with for 40 years. They knew her better than her co-workers, who treated her like she was being put out to pasture. You don’t want to end up like old Verna. It was a mistake to spend 45 years at a supermarket.
When it was time for her final smoke break, she turned off the light at her lane and walked through the store, grabbing a pack of Oreos and a Coke heading out the back door. She always paid for them, but not today.
Outside by the loading dock, she was greeted by Walt, the janitor loading cardboard boxes to a large compactor. “When your shift is finished, I’ll officially be the oldest employee.”
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” Verna says with her basic sarcastic tone. She has her cookies and Coke before her cigarette.
Walt goes back into the store, leaving Verna alone. She sits on the steps of the dock listening to the birds, but only momentarily, as Danny Moore joins her.
“Verna, I know it’s your last day and all, but you didn’t pay for those goodies,” He says.
“Are you gonna fire me?” Verna asks, taking an extra-long drag. “For my goodies?”
Danny takes out his wallet from his back pocket and tries to hand her a five-dollar bill. “I’ll cover your snacks for you..”
“No, thanks. I don’t-” Before Verna can finish her insult, the ground beneath their feet shakes. She thinks earthquake and walks away from the building. Danny remains on the steps. It’s clear after the first ten seconds of rumbling it’s no earthquake. A massive hole opens swallowing part of the parking lot.
There’s a moment of quiet before a bus-sized two-headed snake leaps out of the dark void. One head grabs Danny in its mouth, lifting him off the ground. The other head does the same to Verna, lifting her into the air. Verna takes her lit cigarette and puts it out in the alien snake’s eye. It instantly releases its grip on Verna, while the other head tightens its bite on Danny who shouts in pain.
“I’ll save you, you weasily sonuvabitch,” she calls out, running to the trash compactor. The snake recovers quickly, pursuing Verna. She runs behind the compactor waiting for it to put its head into the machine.
“Come after me, you dump reptile,” Verna yells, and the hungry snake puts its empty mouthed-head into the compactor. Verna switches the machine on, and it instantly whirls to life, smashing down on the creature’s head, killing it.
The other head falls to the ground with Danny still in its mouth. With Verna’s help, they pry open the mouth, and Danny is freed.
“You okay, Mr. Moore?” Verna asks lighting another cigarette to replace the one she used to blind the snake.
“Yeah,” Danny answers, checking his body for wounds. “I’m lifting the embargo and making you employee of the month.”
Verna taking the most prolonged drag possible while staring off at the sky, and says, “I don’t want your fucking award,”
“Excuse me?” Danny says.
“You heard me,
“Ma’am. Excuse me,” Danny says with a different voice. A female voice. “Excuse me. I’m in a hurry.”
When Verna looks down at him. His face is different too. He’s a woman with a kid and a snake tattoo like the one they killed right below her neck.
They aren’t outside. Verna standing at lane eight. The woman wants to buy marshmallows and a can of soup.
“Must have been daydreaming,” Verna apologizes then turns off her light. “This lane is closed.”
She lights up a cigarette in the store. It dangles from her mouth as she saunters over to the employee of the month poster. Verna rips the poster from the wall and tosses it into the garbage as the doors open to leave the building for the last time.