Chapter 43:

Mac Calls it Quits

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


“W-Welcome, irasshaimase!”Bookmark here

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“Irasshaimaseeee!”Bookmark here

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The hero’s greeting is a lot more energetic than mine. Well, I guess that’s normal enough for him.Bookmark here

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To be honest, I’m balking a little at the sheer number of people. Since I usually work the graveyard shift, I haven’t seen this many customers in one night, never mind all at once.Bookmark here

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There’s an endless line of people in suits and uniforms — with the odd construction guy wearing a handkerchief around his head — all marching towards the register with boxed lunches or drinks in hand.Bookmark here

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I swear, the line came out of nowhere. But, since it’s Mac’s first day, I’ve got to hold my ground. I can’t let my fear show.Bookmark here

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Seriously, the lines actually get THIS bad?! Where are all these people coming from?!Bookmark here

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“Welcome, irasshaimase!”Bookmark here

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And they just keep coming, without stopping.Bookmark here

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“Mac, here.”Bookmark here

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“Yo, this one’s been warmed up. Chopsticks’re in the bag, too.”Bookmark here

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You’d never guess that Mac only has a few hours of training under his belt, what with how smoothly this is going.Bookmark here

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He’s been effortlessly supportive and hasn’t missed a beat. Huh. I guess he really does have stats worth bragging about.Bookmark here

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“Hey! Can’t you see there’s a line?”Bookmark here

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“Excuse you. I was clearly ahead of you.”Bookmark here

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Great. An argument has broken out down the queue, between a housewife in her forties and another woman in her fifties. I anxiously look on as my heart starts to pound.Bookmark here

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But, with this many people waiting in line, I can’t exactly leave the register to go and diffuse the situation. What should I do?Bookmark here

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The scuffle hasn’t gone unnoticed by the businessman who comes up to the counter, either.Bookmark here

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“Tsk. That old hag’s notorious for trying to cut in. Someone ought to put her in her place, otherwise she’ll walk all over everyone. Well, anyways. Can I get a pack of the 22s?”Bookmark here

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The older man couldn’t be any less impressed by her behavior, and I wonder if I should go deal with that woman once I ring him up. Then again, that’s not really fair to the people who are still waiting patiently in line, is it?Bookmark here

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I mean, it might take awhile to break up that fight. And what happens if I can’t? Then I’d have left people waiting for nothing. My mind is reeling from the pressure. I don’t even notice that I’ve stopped moving, my hand hovering near the racks of tobacco products.Bookmark here

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“Got my smokes yet, kid?”Bookmark here

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“Um! The 22s, right? Coming right up!”Bookmark here

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Oh, hell. They’re only getting louder. What’s the best way to handle this?Bookmark here

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The hero slips out from behind the counter and goes to calmly step in between the two women arguing.Bookmark here

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“You know, anger isn’t a good look on a lady as elegant as you.”Bookmark here

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Mac is all smiles as he takes the woman who tried to cut the line by the hand.Bookmark here

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“So, what might you be purchasing here today?”Bookmark here

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“Well, aren’t you a smooth talker? You must be new here.”Bookmark here

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“That’s right. The name’s Mac. I just started today. Do you come here often, ma’am?”Bookmark here

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“Hm? Oh, sure. I do.”Bookmark here

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With a sly wink to the younger housewife, Mac keeps up a steady stream of conversation as he subtly leads the older woman to the end of the line. He stays back there with her, distracting her with an energetic dialogue.Bookmark here

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Standing behind the register, I breathe a sigh of relief and before long, it’s the housewife who was being harassed’s turn.Bookmark here

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“I’m guessing he just started?”  Bookmark here

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She must mean Mac.Bookmark here

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“Today, actually.”Bookmark here

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“Mm, I thought so. Would you mind thanking him for me? He might be young, but he’s absolutely charming.”Bookmark here

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“Of course. I’ll be sure to pass that along.”Bookmark here

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The housewife gives me a gracious smile that I can’t help but return in kind.Bookmark here

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Eventually, it’s the other woman’s turn.Bookmark here

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She’s in a much better mood, chatting away with Mac like the two of them were old friends.Bookmark here

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“Drop by again sometime, okay?”Bookmark here

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“I believe I will, young man. And, you made your point. Just because living on my own is getting on my nerves, that doesn’t mean I should take it out on other people. I’ll be more mindful of that in the future.”Bookmark here

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The older woman mumbles something like an apology, looking back at Mac multiple times on her way back out through the automatic doors.Bookmark here

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Come to think of it, isn’t my sister writing her midterms today? That would explain why there’s a whole bunch of students here, too. They’re probably letting the kids out earlier than usual.Bookmark here

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As soon as a cluster of high school students starts to approach the till, Mac pipes up with a...Bookmark here

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“Yo, wanna switch? You must be tired of doing nothing but ringing people up.”Bookmark here

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That liar. It’s painfully obvious that he’s only feigning concern so he can chat up those girls.Bookmark here

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And he has the nerve to try and act all coy about it, too.Bookmark here

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...Still, he’s not wrong. Working the till really does wear you down. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to let him take over for a little while.Bookmark here

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I glance over at Yukari. She’s managed to hold down her register all on her own. Man, she’s good. ...Huh? The customer she’s serving right now seems kind of...familiar.  Bookmark here

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This guy’s easily over six feet tall. He’s a beast of a man in a black hoodie, sunglasses and a face mask — and he’s absolutely fawning over Yukari.Bookmark here

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“So, back again?”Bookmark here

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“Oh, um, yeah. I wanted to see you, Yukari, so, uh...”Bookmark here

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Hang on, isn’t that the werewolf?Bookmark here

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Yeesh, he stands out like a sore thumb. ...Hold up. Is Yukari the mystery woman he fell head over heels for?!Bookmark here

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Whoa, nope. Never mind. This really isn’t the time to be getting distracted. Bookmark here

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I’ve got my own set of customers to focus on.Bookmark here

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“I’m guessing you two cuties are high schoolers?”  Bookmark here

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Mac casually calls out to the pair of trendy students as they step up to the register.Bookmark here

“Omigosh, no way! That guy’s way too cool to be from around here!”Bookmark here

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“He’s a total hunk. Hey, should we, like, try and get a picture with him?”Bookmark here

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The girls whisper (loudly) between themselves.Bookmark here

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“A picture? Sure, I wouldn’t mind. But, I can’t believe a couple of adorable girls like you would wanna take one with me. It’s kinda embarrassing.”Bookmark here

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Dude. Are you seriously playing the shy card?Bookmark here

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Mac wraps up the transaction, chatting away with the young ladies long after they’ve paid.Bookmark here

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Ding-a-ling-a-ling...  Bookmark here

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“Hey! You girls know the rules!”Bookmark here

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Another high schooler comes stalking in, her long black hair swaying as she stops near the counter, perching her hands on her hips.  Bookmark here

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Trailing along behind her, wearing the same school uniform, is another girl whose blonde pigtails I remember all too well.Bookmark here

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“Wait, Kumoko?! And you too, Amanojaku?! What are you guys doing here?!”Bookmark here

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Yep. The stern one in the glasses is none other than my sister, Kumoko.Bookmark here

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“While midterms are in session, you’re supposed to be going straight home to study, not slack off! Didn’t they tell you that in homeroom?”Bookmark here

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“Aw, busted.”  Bookmark here

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“What did you expect? The student council’s out patrolling for stragglers like you guys. Stop squandering your free time and get out of here before I have to write you up.”Bookmark here

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Kumoko adjusts her red-rimmed glasses, chiding the two rule-breakers in her usual form.Bookmark here

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“Hey, go easy on them, would you? For my sake. I mean, even you probably drop by convenience stores from time to time, right?”Bookmark here

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Mac gives my sister a conspiratorial wink — and she turns on him, too.Bookmark here

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“I really don’t see how your feelings have anything to do with it. Besides, you do-... Wait, who’s that beside you? ...Haru?! Is that you?! What are you doing here? Don’t you usually work the late shift?”Bookmark here

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Once she spots me, my sister’s face lights up.Bookmark here

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“I’m on the clock — I’ll explain when I get home.”Bookmark here

I whisper a few quick words to Kumoko, who nods in mildly disappointed understanding. Together with the amanojaku, she drags her two schoolmates out of the store.Bookmark here

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“Hey, what’re you guys goin’ on about? Hurry up and do your damn job.”Bookmark here

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Next in line is a guy in his mid-twenties, who practically slams his basket on the counter. Crap. I knew that was too much chatting! And now everyone’s in a bad mood. Panicked, I rush straight into the new transaction.  Bookmark here

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“Sorry about that, sir. I’ll be right with you.”Bookmark here

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I scan through his items with a beep-beep-beep, as the customer impatiently taps his finger on the counter. Yep. He’s pissed.Bookmark here

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And his basket’s crammed with stuff. Since barely anyone shows up while I’m working the graveyard shift — and they hardly buy much — I’m so nervous that I’m stumbling over the prices as I read them out loud.Bookmark here

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“Your purchase comes to two thousand five hundred sixty yen. Would you like this heated up?”Bookmark here

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“...”Bookmark here

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“Um, sir? Can I warm this up for you?”Bookmark here

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“Isn’t it obvious? Who the hell’d eat something like this cold? Dumbass.”Bookmark here

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“...Right, of course. I’m sorry.”Bookmark here

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I’ve just about hit my breaking point. I’m making dumb mistakes, and I can tell that everyone behind this guy is getting annoyed, too. ...I think I might actually start to cry. C’mon man, keep it together.Bookmark here

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“Dude, do convenience store clerks in this realm HAVE to sell things to everyone? Including this jerk-off? ‘Cause I don’t see why we should.”Bookmark here

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...Mac, you ignorant idiot!!!Bookmark here

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“Huh? What’d you say, kid?”Bookmark here

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The irate customer’s tone gets even rougher.Bookmark here

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But, that doesn’t deter Mac.Bookmark here

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“What’s your deal, man? You don’t know Murry, so why’re you acting like a total dick to someone who’s just trying to do his job?”Bookmark here

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“Sir, I am SO sorry about all this!!”Bookmark here

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I slap a hand over the hero’s mouth, to shut him up, before bowing deeply in apology.Bookmark here

“Nah, what’s done is done, so I’ll be talking to your manager. Isn’t the customer supposed to be king? I don’t care if his tag says he’s new — where the hell does he get off acting like that? Seriously, why’d you even hire a cocky jerk like him?”Bookmark here

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“Pft, there’s no way YOU’RE royalty. You’re just some regular-ass dude.”Bookmark here

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Please, Mac, I’m begging you. Shut your mouth before you make things worse.Bookmark here

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I keep my head down low, struggling to keep myself from crying. My manager has enough on his plate without having to clean up my messes.Bookmark here

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“I told you to go get your manager! NOW!!”Bookmark here

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The customer bellows the demand as he crosses his arms, causing our manager to come flying out of the break room.Bookmark here

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“What seems to be the problem?”Bookmark here

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“What the hell’ve you been teaching the newbie? He’s been running his mouth at me, and barely knows a damn thing about customer service.”Bookmark here

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“I’m terribly sorry to hear that, sir. You have my apologies.”Bookmark here

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Seeing my manager have to bow so deeply on my behalf has me blinking back tears.Bookmark here

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“No, it’s...my fault. I could have done better. I’m terribly sorry about that.”Bookmark here

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Watching the two of us apologize makes even the hero reluctantly dip his head down.Bookmark here

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“Huh. Can’t say I’m convinced. So, I shouldn’t have to pay for any of my stuff. The people behind me oughta get theirs for free, too.”Bookmark here

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My breath catches in my throat at his brazen demand. Mac snaps up, about to say...something, but I don’t let him get another word out.Bookmark here

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“I’m afraid...that won’t be possible, sir.”Bookmark here

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“Why the hell not? Isn’t that the obvious solution?”Bookmark here

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“...Good sir, do you mean to say that you have an issue with OUR servant?”Bookmark here

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Clutching a bottle of tomato juice, the vampire storms up to the counter, her long red dress swishing angrily with each step. Her eyes widen with disbelief as she trembles with rage.Bookmark here

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“I’m sayin’ that after such lousy service, free shit is the least I deserve. Got a problem with that?”Bookmark here

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“Demanding to have your entire purchase compensated? That’s outrageous. Are you some kind of shameless beggar? To be fair, while the...clerk...was not as courteous as he ought to have been, he WAS standing up to your poor treatment of his fellow coworker. I should think that’s simple human decency.”Bookmark here

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Dressed in a white T-shirt and long pink skirt is Sister Claire, who pops out of the queue to deliver her verdict.Bookmark here

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“...No way. Claire?! Yo, it’s been ages! I thought you’d never drop by!”Bookmark here

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“Indeed it has, you three-timing hussy. I assure you that I had no desire to see your face again. My presence here today is purely coincidental. It would be a waste of a decent establishment, otherwise.”Bookmark here

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“Aw, c’mon, don’t be like that! I said I was sorry, didn’t I? No one’s THAT heartless!”Bookmark here

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The store fills with chatter, as everyone’s focus is drawn to the ticked off (male) customer.Bookmark here

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Some people have even pulled out their cell phones to record the scene.Bookmark here

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“...What is WITH this place? I swear, I’m never comin’ back here again.”Bookmark here

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Called out on his own poor behavior, the jerk grabs his bag of stuff and books it out of the store.Bookmark here

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“Manager, I really am sorry about...everything.”Bookmark here

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“Don’t worry, Haru. You did the best you could. Go on, you two. Take the rest of the day off. I’ll take over from here.”Bookmark here

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My manager gives me a reassuring pat on the back, his voice soft and soothing.Bookmark here

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“Maaaaan, I wish one of those giant worms from the Infernal Caverns would just like, pop up and swallow me whole.”Bookmark here

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We retreat to the break room, Mac muttering to himself as he flops down onto the couch, burying his face into the pillows.  Bookmark here

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I’m still too stunned to speak, standing in place as I process everything that just happened.Bookmark here

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“...Murry, don’t feel so down, man. You didn’t do anything wrong.”Bookmark here

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Mac hauls himself off the cushions, throwing an arm around my shoulders before he continues.Bookmark here

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“Yeeeah, I don’t think this gig’s for me. ...Seriously, bruh, I was so freaking nervous the whole time. I thought I was gonna bawl my eyes out. But, watching a buddy of mine get chewed out like that for no good reason... I couldn’t let that slide. So, I just blurted out whatever was on my mind. Sorry, man. I’m just not cut out for customer service. I mean, I can’t think straight when I get ticked off.Bookmark here

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“Sure, I get it.”Bookmark here

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He snapped at that customer just for me, huh?Bookmark here

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You know, maybe Mac’s not such a bad guy after all.Bookmark here

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“Sorry about all that. Thanks, Mac.”Bookmark here

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“S’alright, fam. ...Oh, dude! You should give up on this place and be a Viewtuber with me!”Bookmark here

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“Yeah, no.”Bookmark here

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Following my manager’s suggestion, I took off earlier than scheduled.Bookmark here

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I start walking home alone — until I hear the tap-tap-tap of quickly approaching footsteps. I look back to see Ayame standing right behind me.Bookmark here

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“Oh, Haru! ...Hm? Isn’t that your work satchel? Were you on a different shift today?”Bookmark here

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Ayame’s wearing her usual mask, but today’s outfit is a chic suit. Her long hair is tied back in a tight bun, giving her an entirely different kind of vibe.Bookmark here

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“...Ayame? What are you doing here?”Bookmark here

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“I do have a regular office job, you know. On my time off, though, I like to watch over you from the bushes by the convenience store.”Bookmark here

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She says this with such a disarming smile, that I feel like I could cry from relief at having survived the stress of the day.Bookmark here

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“Haru, are you feeling unwell? You seem a little run down. Did something bad happen? You can talk to me about anything. I’ll listen.”Bookmark here

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The evening is calm, the city slowly winding down.Bookmark here

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Ayame’s quiet concern is what finally breaks me, and the tears start to fall.Bookmark here

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“...*sniff*... Sorry, I... *hic*... I can’t... I can’t help it...”Bookmark here

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“H-Haru, are you alright?! What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

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“...I’m... I’m okay. Thanks for asking, Ayame. It’s just... Work today was too much to handle. But, getting to see you is already making me feel better.”Bookmark here

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“...Well, you can tell me about it later, if you’d like. I’ll always take your side. Especially since you constantly give it your all, no matter what kind of customer walks through those doors. I’m certain that everyone you’ve served knows that, too — which is why their paths keep taking them back to your store. I should know, I’m one of those lucky ones.”Bookmark here

The sun sets as we walk home, bathing the path in soft orange light.Bookmark here

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Working in the service industry means striving to give customers the best possible experience. That goes without saying.Bookmark here

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According to our manual, that means rolling with the punches.Bookmark here

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You’ve got to think on your feet, picking the responses that best suit the situation.Bookmark here

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Which is easier said than done, since it’s basically an interaction between two complete strangers. And there’s this kind of power imbalance between cashiers and customers, too.Bookmark here

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It’s a thankless job, but knowing that there are people looking out for me... Well, even having just one person say that they appreciate the work I do gives me the strength to keep going.Bookmark here

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...In the end, Mac quit after that one day.Bookmark here

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And I got to return to my usual graveyard shift.Bookmark here

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I bundle myself up in my comforter, feeling only slightly guilty for having that weight lifted from my shoulders.  Bookmark here

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“...I’ll never make my manager apologize to a customer again.”Bookmark here

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Or so I mumble, as I drift off to sleep. Bookmark here

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