Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Time I Staple-Gunned The Precocious Immigrant

Back in my pitiful wasted youth - before Providence and before New York - I worked for a span of days coeval with the gestation period of a panda in a big-box store in the Watertown Mall. In the hardware and paint department. Lots of muscle-making warehouse labor, during which I learned to pilot greasy yellow pallet jacks like bumper cars and once even crushed one of my toes under a load of drywall panels. More fun yet was messin' around with all those nasty-lookin' and downright dangerous tools that hypocritically pretended to be hardware, but were really the coolest weapons. Box-cutters, for example. I sliced my thumb open once on one of those big Stanley models, and laughed all the way down to the band-aid aisle, gleefully dripping blood for the night crew to mop up. Screwdrivers, too. Power drills and circular saws. One of the best times I had back then was cannibalistically fabricating a product display out of the actual products we intended to display - lumber, glue, paint, drills, hammers, nails, screws and saws. We attacked two-by-fours as though they were Hostel victims and brandished power drills at each other like six-shooters. Yessir, all that, ahem, "hardware" could be fun. However, some of my fellow retail inmates frowned upon the idea of a twenty-one year old just having fun.

There was this kid whose family had emigrated from Soviet Armenia, the aptly named Ara Baboonian. Ara was curly-haired, bespectacled and pudgy, a perfect candidate for nebbishness who had somehow detoured his way into egomania. You see, Ara's Soviet grammar school education was so good he ended up skipping grades in his American high school, graduating at the tender age of fifteen. At that time, he was eighteen and a senior at Northeastern, and he didn't let anyone forget it. Especially some underachieving Irish retard like me. That zitty little feta-cheese ball would taunt me in the break room, at the registers, fuckin' everywhere. Eventually I got fed up. We were both on bagging detail at one of the registers during the Christmas season. Slappin' merchandise into brown paper bags, then folding over the top of each and stapling it with a big nickel-plated staple gun. Ara was taunting me again. "Ellie! Why you so slow, Ellie?" Zunk! Zunk! went my stapler. Zunk! Zunk! I tried to ignore him, but he kept at it. "You be here when you old man, Ellie!" Zunk! Zunk! "Ellie!" Finally, I'd had enough. Without changing my facial expression, or even glancing at Baboonian, my hand seamlessly glided from paper to flesh. I took the fat little heel of Ara's thumb between the silvery pincers of my instrument and went, Zunk! yet again. "AHHHHHH!" shrieked Ara. He glared at me at first with eyes full of concentrated evil. Then he saw what I had done to his thumb. "AHHHHHH!" he shrieked again. I just kept on working. When the register girl gave Ara a dirty look for his beta-man whining, he slunk off to lick his wounds - or at least take out the staple.

I had penetrated the flesh of a fellow human and caused him to bleed - but I was never disciplined for it. I was never called on the carpet by the square-headed big man in the office upstairs, the one who always tried to get us not to vote with the union. Our fancy pants department supervisor, the one with the Tom Selleck mustache and the two inch heels, he never mentioned it either. Nor did anyone else, although I did get a few of those "there's that bad-ass, let's stay away from him" kind of looks that would have served me well in a prison yard. But, fuck, I wasn't going to prison. I wasn't even going to be fired. I got away with it! All violence should be like that, I thought - at least the violence that I personally commit. Hallelujah! HALLELUJAH! The best part of it all was that Ara Baboonian never spoke to me again. At least not directly - although there were a few times during the dog days of the next summer when we peons commandeered the PA system at lunch-time, and threatened each other from afar with our amplified voices. "ELLLLLIEEE!" he would boom, his breathing thick and blustery, the corners of his hornrims knocking against the speaker phone. He sounded almost feral. You could practically hear the foaming of his saliva. "ELLLLLLIEEEE!" And I would answer back, with the smooth, subtle, sinister hiss of "AAAAARRRRAAAA.... AAAARRRRAAAA..."

I never saw Ara Baboonian again, of course - and I don't give a fuck if he's forgotten all about it. I still ain't sorry...

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