It’s My First Time Working Late Nights at a Convenience Store, and If I Keep Getting Demon Lords, Kappa and Other Oddballs as Customers, I’m Giving My Two-Weeks’ Notice
Tonight’s my forty-first late-night stint at the store.
“Welcome, irasshaima-... Aha.”
In walks a slightly chubby guy wearing a headband with a peach motif, and a pouch at his side that’s got to be filled with kibi dango, or some other snack. He uses his middle finger to push his glasses up along his nose as he enters the store. One look, and I know exactly who this guy is.
About time you showed up, Momotaro.
...But where’s the dog, monkey and pheasant?
Anyways, now that we’re into July, even the middle of the night offers no escape from the heat and humidity. I see Momotaro breathe a sigh of relief when the store’s air-conditioned breeze hits him, as his eyes dart left and right.
He’s looking for something, that much I can tell.
He does one circuit of the store, then another, before finally coming up to the counter.
“Uh... Um... ‘Scuze me, sir... If you don’t mind my a-asking... Where’re the r-r-raffle tickets?”
He’s mumbling and stuttering so much that I can barely make out the question — but I do at least catch the word “raffle.”
“The raffle...? Oh, that one. With the anime prizes, right?”
“...Y-Yeah! That’s the one! Uh, this month it’s... Um, it’s all Mahou Shoujo Puri-puri Harumi-chan. A-And what’s more...s-she’s in her m-mizugi. O-Or so I heard... Ehehe...”
Momotaro giggles nervously, an expectant grin spreading across his face.
“Well, if that’s what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.”
I pull out a small-ish figure of a bikini-clad young woman, placing it on the countertop. My manager had warned me earlier to keep it hidden, since he didn’t want the neighborhood’s seniors to “shame us for having such scandalous material on display.”
“Oooh! Harumi-chan, my lovely waifu... I’ve been dying to see you... Ehehe...”
Momotaro picks up the box the statue’s still packaged in, appreciating the er, craftsmanship from every possible angle.
“Okay, so... I’ll take all the tickets you’ve got.”
“ALL of them?!”
“...Yu-huh. Don’t worry, I can pay for it.”
“...That’s fine, I was just shocked that we’re going to be sold out right on the first day.”
It’s win-win. Momotaro gets what he requested, and my manager won’t have to worry about offending the sensibilities of our older clientele.
“Well, lucky you.”
I smile back, but just as I’m about to start ringing him up...
The animal trio appear. And boy, do they look pissed.
They come storming in, as a unified front.
“Hey, ass-wipe. What the hell d’you think you’re doing here?”
Holy crap, that monkey just spoke.
Well, it’s not like I haven’t had full-on conversations with a booze hound. Talking animals really shouldn’t come as a surprise.
“Momo! You stop this, right now! All these raffles, the online shopping, the in-app purchases...! You don’t have a job, but you’re spending money like it grows on trees!”
The white shiba inu pleads with him, in tears.
This time, it’s a lot less jarring when the rest of the party pipes up.
“To put it bluntly... Eat shit and die.”
The pheasant gives him a withering glare.
Whoa, even Mac’s party wasn’t this aggressively antagonistic.
“S-Shut up! You’re not the boss of me! None of you are! What’re you even doing out here, anyways?!”
Momotaro suddenly grows a spine, snapping back at the others with all the indignant rage of an overgrown man-child.
“To stop you from making another stupid decision, what else? We’re not just going to sit back and let you waste any more money on this useless bimbo. ...No thanks to you, our food budget’s vanished into thin air. Can’t you see how much you’re upsetting Shibako?”
The monkey lays out the problem in a low, gravelly voice as Momotaro tightens his hold on the bathing suit beauty, resting his chin on the lid of the box.
Whoa, whoa. Hold up. This guy’s been blowing the money they’ve set aside for the essentials on frivolous purchases? Yeah, that’s just wrong.
“...Saruo, it’s fine. I don’t mind having even less to eat at mealtimes. But Momo, honey, I’m worried about you. I know you’ve been busy selling the kibi dango your grandmother sends you — they’re your trademark, after all — but sales have been so slow, lately...”
The shiba inu’s motherly tone reveals another unexpected layer to this situation.
Wait, so that’s the household’s main source of income? He’s just re-selling traditional snacks that he didn’t even have to make himself?
...And did that adorable shiba say “even less to eat”? How much kibble has she already cut back on?
“I’ll say this in a way that you can understand. If you don’t go home right the hell now, I’ll peck the shit out of that useless lump you call a brain.”
Man, that’s a gruesome mental image.
...I get the feeling that the pheasant wouldn’t stop there, either.
“I don’t wanna! I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks! I even made sure to go shopping in the middle of the night, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with anyone! I promised Harumi-chan that I’d come pick her up! I can’t just break my yakusoku!”
Momotaro twists away from the intervening trio, still clutching the raffle prize.
“What good’s that thing going to do you, huh? Or are you blind to the fact that we’re completely broke because you keep wasting every cent we have?!”
Saruo’s severe questioning only pushes Momotaro over the edge.
“It’s not a waste! Harumi-chan’s my tenshi! My angel! My goddess! Cost means nothing when it comes to my waifu! All that matters is that we love each other!!”
“Now, now. Calm down, honey. We’re not saying that you can’t have any hobbies. But we ARE concerned that you’re heading down the road to financial ruin.”
“Lay off, you old hag! You’re not my real mom!”
“What’d you say?! You treat Shibako with some respect, young man!”
Wow, this is all playing out just like the messy family dramas that you see on TV.
“Look, I’ll make this brief. Shibako’s putting herself through hell trying to balance the books, eating like a bird, all because you’re too busy playing make-believe with those damn pieces of plastic. You’re lower than dirt, you scum-sucking bastard. You’re not even worth the air you breathe.”
Uh, I think that was a few lines too long to be brief, but I’m not about to tell him that.
Especially not with that murderous aura of his. Seriously, I think we’re on the verge of our first actual convenience store fatality.
“None of you understand my kimochi! I tried to get a job, but I keep bombing the interviews! No one cares that I can put ‘ogre slayer’ on my resume! Back in the day, the whole country called me a hero, but now I can’t even get a foot in the door! We’re living in a cruel world, you know!”
Momotaro is crying now, his face scrunching up each time he sniffles.
Yeah, I hear you, dude. This world isn’t always kind. Still...
“Let me be blunt, then. If people won’t hire you, then you take a good, long look at yourself, figure out what the hell your problem is, then FIX IT. Even someone with your head full of bird seed should be able to manage at least that much.”
The pheasant continues to hammer his point home with the same sharply honed frankness.
“Why bother? All I have left to live for is my beloved Harumi-chan! Oooh, my lovely loli dream girl... You won’t ever let me down, will you?”
“But, you’re not alone, Momo! You still have us! We’ll always be with you — just like when all went ogre-exterminating together! Come now, leave those cartoons of yours behind and live with your friends in the real world.”
Shibako’s eyes are still shimmering with tears as she fights to keep her voice level.
“...Noooo, you’re not my tomodachiiiii! I know you just think I’m a useless baka! My TRUE friends wouldn’t be so hard on me! I just wanna be freeee! Uwaaaaaaah!”
The fully grown man breaks down into a sobbing fit, slumping down onto the floor with the anime figure still in his arms.
“Oh, for the love of... Don’t collapse there, you’re just being a nuisance. ...Sorry, sir. We’ll have him out of your hair soon enough.”
Saruo quickly glances over at me, his voice softening in apology.
For all that Momotaro’s put them through, they still love him. That’s why they’re so focused on getting him to change his irresponsible ways.
Even I can see that.
Still, I don’t know that they’re taking his depression seriously enough. It sounds like he’s really been struggling to fit into (modern) society, so it’s no surprise that he’s taking solace in more forgiving 2D fantasies.
“Come on, Momo. Let’s go home. When we get back, we’ll open up a can of peaches, and you can have the biggest serving.”
There’s a long stretch of silence before Momotaro finally replies.
“...Yeah, I guess. I’m sorry, I was wrong. You’ve been looking out for me all this time, but I’ve only been thinking about myself. Thanks for sticking with me, for supporting me, even though I’m the worst. ...I love you guys.”
He pushes his glasses back up along his nose with a smile, seemingly moved by everyone’s words.
“...Sheesh, you’re still as much of a pain in the ass as you’ve always been.”
“Momo, honey...? Did that work? Did we finally get through to you? Oh, let’s all hurry up and go home together!”
“Well. Like I said the first time...your options are either that or death.”
“Ow! Hey, Kijimatsu, that hurt! Attacking from behind’s not fair! C’mon, I said I was sorry...!”
The pheasant jabs Momotaro in the back of the head with his beak, herding him towards the automatic doors as he whines all the way. But, when he passes near my register...
“Alright, I get it! I’m going!”
Momostaro suddenly cries out, stopping dead in his tracks.
“Look, I just wanna ask the teiin-san something real quick, okay? ...Do you guys have this in stock? I saw it online.”
Momotaro pulls his cell phone out from his pocket, and starts typing something out. He flips the screen around so that I can see it. It reads:
“I’m already plotting my escape. Watch over my kawaii Harumi-chan until then.”
I gulp, not entirely sure what to say to that.
“So, uh, thanks. I’d say ‘sayonara,’ but, um, I won’t be seeing you again, so... Heh heh...”
“Of course you’re not! Because you won’t be spending money on crap like this anymore!”
The group makes their way out of the store, Saruo scolding Momotaro all the while.
I’ll never forget the look of pure determination he shoots at me as he heads out the door. He’ll be back.
That earlier change of heart was all just an act. He’s definitely not going to be turning over any new leaves any time soon. ...I do feel sorry for his animal companions, though. So, I’m kind of hoping that the figure gets sold before he manages to make a break for it. Resting my chin in my hands, I stare at the scantily clad statue that’s been left on the counter, appreciating the, uh...craftsmanship. Yeah. That.