Elvis, Anyone? - Issue #3
by Ice Princess Deluxe

Well, this last week was the week from hell for me at work. The last day of school came and went, the first day of summer vacation rolled jubilantly around. Jubilantly for the kiddos that actually attended school that is. Not me. No, I get to pick up after the little ten, thirteen, and even eighteen year olds that come in the store, camping out at the graphic novel section or in the New Age section, leaving both places in total disarray. I had just finished cleaning them too. Then they move on over to the relationship section and I wonder how come copies of the Kama Sutra are jammed in with the cookbooks. Hmm. They were looking at Chef Emeril・s newest book. Riiiiight. Then of course there・s the voids and returns that come from said teenagers that either don・t have enough money to pay after I ring up their thirty dollar purchase because they were too busy giggling over the cover of Entertainment Weekly to actually pay attention to the price tags.

But I digress. Suffice to say that it was not a good week, especially when all the toddlers that came in with their mommies decided to throw noisy temper tantrums. Ice was not having a good time at work.

That・s when Pete walks in and turns my frown upside down. Well, that・s not his real name, but he reminds me of Colossus enough that I・ll call him Pete here.

Like his namesake, Pete stands at a pretty tall height, somewhere around six foot two if not a little bit taller. He・s got this darker than dark black hair cut short and piercing blue eyes. One smile from him is enough to show off the little dimple on his cheek and his pearly whites. He・s the type of guy you・d be proud to bring home to Momma. If he wasn・t already so in love with his girlfriend, I・d leap at the opportunity to get him on a date. As it is, he・s one of my regular customers and we have a pretty good book consultant/book buyer relationship.

He comes walking in amidst the heathen children screaming and knocking down Tom Clancy・s hardcover book we・re selling on the bargain rack, the stressed out mothers nearly pulling their hair out in exasperation to their children・s behavior and making apologies left and right, and the little teenagers that have stopped giggling over Tom Cruise and have started giggling over Pete. He rolls his eyes at me over their heads and earns a tiny smile. Tiny is all I can muster in the chaos.

I look him over and yes, before you say anything, I know he・s taken. I can look at a picture in an art gallery that piques my interest without buying it. I can give a handsome guy a once over without it meaning anything overtly sexual either. That day it looks like he decided to come out of his place and grab a lungful of fresh air. He・s an artist by trade, just like Colossus had a flair for the fine arts, and he shows it proudly. His plain white tank top is speckled with bright turquoise paint which remarkably matches the unbuttoned Hawaiian style shirt he has over it and there・s flecks of yellow on his forearms where it looks like he missed a spot washing up. The faded khaki shorts hit him at mid thigh, which look great on him since he・s obviously one to work out in the gym. Sandals cover his feet, but I was betting he was wishing he had on tennis shoes when the nearest little urchin ran into him, dropping her lollypop on his toes. She looked up at the big gentle giant and let out a wail loud enough to alert Old Navy shoppers from across the way. Her mother gave Pete a dirty look, then carted her sniffling daughter out of the store. They had spent over an hour asking questions and pestering me and look what they did. They didn・t buy a single thing. Hrumph.

"Bad day?・ he asks. Pete, King of Understatement. I give him a Kleenex and he wipes off his now sticky toe and throws the tissue in the trash bin outside in the mall proper. He comes back in and the teenagers swoon as he gives a brilliant smile and leans over the counter. ・Don・t answer that,・ he tells me, holding up a finger. He says that he・s going to go to his usual spot and I call after him wishing him good luck. He laughs good naturedly at me, shouldering his battered knapsack. The art section had been overflowed by boys under the age of sixteen staring at Boris Vallejo・s books. I don・t get it. They only have a bunch of pictures of half naked women in them painted in almost if not exactly photo realistic detail and posed in provocative stances. Nothing to gape at. Sure.

The general chaos ends ten minutes later seeing as the movies across the street from the mall opened their gates for the newest flick. Tired mothers are carting their now sleeping charges, the little ones exhausted by their mess making and screaming contests. Ever so slowly the store begins to empty and quiet reigns supreme once again.

Of course, with the people gone, that leaves the mess to be cleaned up. I・m in the middle of shelving a bunch of romance novels that got dumped on the floor when I see Pete sitting in the aisle of the art section. For a guy as tall as he is, it・s almost unbelievable that he can compact his long legs to fit in the narrow aisle and still be comfortable. He・s doing it though. Don・t know how, seeing as I・m a shortie at five foot five inches, but he・s doing it. He・s also got his sketchbook in his lap and he・s making broad gesture studies on the paper.

Now his sketchbook can never be said to come from this store, so we know he didn・t pluck one from the shelf and start doodling on the spot. No, his sketchbook makes me envious looking at my own pristine one that usually sits all nice and pretty at home on my desk at a ninety degree angle parallel to my nicely sharpened pencil set and hardly used white vinyl eraser and brand new kneaded eraser that hasn・t been kneaded at all. Ice, Queen of Overstatement. Sarcasm aside, I haven・t had the time to work in my sketchbook as much as I・ve wanted. He makes me sick sometimes, the green envy hitting me seeing how beaten up that thing is. I think it started out as having a green cover, but now it・s got so many dents and stains from paint or varnish or whatever he uses that I can・t tell anymore. The thing is full to bursting with cutouts and magazine clippings, along with single sheets of paper jammed in the binding. Pete・s made a habit of coming in and being the silent observer. He・ll pick a spot in the store, sit where nobody can see him or where nobody really needs to be, and just draw what he sees. He lets me look at them sometimes. He・s made me have better hair days than I know I have. I see him every now and then at the college library doing the same thing, quietly sketching the patrons or making studies of the bookshelves, whatever catches his fancy.

I finish shelving the romance section long enough to try and straighten up the antique section which is right next to the art section. Pete glances up at me and lets me see the little cartoon he was doodling. There・s a stylized woman in a dress button down shirt and black slacks standing behind the counter, a frazzled look on her face underneath the oversized spectacles she has on. Her long hair is in a disarray, sticking out on all sides of her head and escaping from the neat knot in the back of her head. I laugh at him and playfully kick his shin.

・Just for that, I shouldn・t show you the books I set aside for you,・ I tease. I・m not even wearing my glasses today. I don・t want to point that out to him though, he・s got the whole ・frazzled book saleslady・ look going so well there. He knows I・m pulling his leg and laughs with me. Just goes to show that some people can get me out of a seriously black and nasty mood. He unfolds himself and stands up, once again I・m resigned to craning my neck to look up at him. He sticks his sketchbook back in his bag and follows me to where I stick the latest murder mystery in his hands. We stand around and talk, the whole mall suddenly quiet as the majority of the folks meander over to the movie theater. He pays for his book and waves goodbye, saying that he・ll see me next week. I wave back and sigh after him. Hey, he・s cute, okay?

Then my quiet moment is shattered by another little heathen screaming at the top of his lungs and begging his mother to buy him a ・choo choo book・. Then he proceeds to stomp his feet and I hear a muffled thunk as yet another book display gets knocked over.

Reason number two I don・t want to have kids.