Midget truck drivers didn’t show up in Chigger Hollow every day. In fact, there weren’t any midgets at all in Chigger Hollow, so when one did show up it was momentous.
The semi pulled into the parking lot of the Chat ‘n’ Chew convenience store about 4:30 in the afternoon. Norma Rae started a fresh pot of coffee. Usually truck drivers could be counted on to buy a couple of cups, even if it was late in the afternoon. Hearing the water begin to drip through the grounds of the Biff Brand coffee, she perched herself back on the duct-taped vinyl stool behind the counter and went back to her True Confessions magazine.
Out of the corner of her eye Norma Rae noticed a woman coming into the store. The woman was followed by a child. Norma Rae didn’t take much notice because the State Trooper from up at Possum Grape had told her in casual conversation that women and children don’t tend to be convenience store robbers. Men were the ones to watch out for, and if a man came in alone, followed by another man, and neither one parked where she could get a description of the car or the license in case of their quick getaway after a robbery, she should take special notice and ease the handle of the shotgun close to the edge of the shelf underneath the counter.
Popping the top on another Coke Zero Norma Rae turned the page in her True Confessions. “I Was a Teenage Pasta Wrestler” looked to be an interesting article. The picture of a pretty girl with a pouty mouth, who looked for all the world like Rhonda Sue Ellis, the valedictorian of Chigger Hollow’s Class of 1995, just with blonde hair, was inset on top of a black and white photo of two women completely covered in ragu and grappling with each other to the cheers of abnormally handsome young men who hung on the perimeter of the wrestling ring.
The woman came to the counter with a large cup of coffee and a package of chewing tobacco. Without looking up, Norma Rae scanned the two items. “Four eighty-seven,” she said, holding her hand out and sneaking another look at the black and white photo. Was the woman on the left wearing a top? Was that a mushroom in the spaghetti sauce or were her nipples hard from the excitement of the contest? She took the five dollar bill from the customer and handed her a dime and three pennies. Norma Rae was well into the first paragraph of the article when someone cleared his throat.
She looked up. She didn’t remember seeing anyone come in after the woman, and she had been alone in the store. She peered over the display of breath mints and beef jerky but didn’t see anyone. She went back to True Confessions.
This time a cough made her look up. No one was standing at the pay counter, which stood as high as her ample chest when she wasn’t sitting on her stool. Norma Rae remembered everything Danny Kitchens, the State Trooper from Possum Grape, had told her and she eased the butt of the shotgun toward the edge of the shelf below the counter.
“Hello?” she asked uncertainly.
“How much for two drumsticks and half a dozen biscuits?” a man’s voice asked. Norma Rae jumped.
“Drumsticks are eighty-five cents each and biscuits are five for two dollars,” she said. It must be a short guy, because he was apparently hidden behind the tall display of Slim Jims. She moved off her stool and peered around the display. She didn’t see anyone.
“I want six biscuits, not five,” the voice said.
“Six biscuits are, um…” Norma Rae cursed herself for forgetting where the calculator was kept. She was terrible at math.
“Are they the same price whether I buy five or if I buy, say, three?” The voice seemed to be getting impatient, but Norma Rae still couldn’t figure out where its owner was standing.
“Well, no,” she replied, her tone conveying her obvious opinion of such a dumb question. “Five biscuits are two dollars. Three biscuits are less than that.”
“So are three biscuits a dollar twenty?”
“How should I know?” she snapped. She stood on the foot rest rung of her stool and leaned out over the counter, hitting her head on the cigarette display above the cash register. “Damn!”
A cup of coffee appeared at the check out counter. Norma Rae leaned out again. This time she ducked. The voice belonged to the kid. No, to the midget. The kid was a midget.
“I’ll have to ring it up to get you a total,” she said, staring at the man. Despite his stature he was the most perfect specimen of virility Norma Rae had ever seen. Muscular arms reached up to slide a package of Mentos onto the counter next to the coffee. The arms were attached to a wide chest bulging with well-chiseled pectorals, which were clad in a tight navy blue t-shirt.
Norma Rae could not help but let out a breath of amazement. “Oh, wow,” she said eloquently, her eyes wide with awe.
“What, you’ve never seen a dwarf before?” the man asked. His eyes had narrowed and his lips curled into the manliest sneer Norma Rae had seen since Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” video on MTV.
“No! Oh! I mean, I’m just surprised is all,” she managed to babble.
“Are you going to let me buy chicken and biscuits?” the Perfect Specimen demanded.
“Oh! Yeah! Um, do you want spicy or traditional southern?”
“Southern. And I want six biscuits.”
“Do you want any mashed potatoes or turnip greens with it? Bessie Maydar makes the greens and they are to die for. She mixes in just a little mustard greens and some hot sauce while they’re cooking and they come out good enough to make you feel born again without ever going to church.” Norma Rae knew she was babbling but she couldn’t stop. Now why did she tell this Perfect Specimen of Virility Bessie’s secret ingredients? Bessie had sworn her to secrecy on the back porch while they were each into their fifth margarita one night. And “born again?” Where the hell did that come from? Norma Rae was Seventh Day Adventist, and except for the occasional cuss word she was true to her faith.
“How much?” Evidently this Perfect Specimen of Virility was on a budget.
“Ninety nine cents.”
“Not a dollar?”
Norma Rae shook her head. The power of speech was rapidly exiting her brain the longer she gazed on his biceps.
“My name’s Norma Rae,” she said. Then she realized that not only had the Perfect Specimen of Virility not asked, but that he seemed surprised that she would even share the information.
“I’m Willy,” he said.
“So do you want the greens?”
“Okay, fine. Two drumsticks, six biscuits, and a side order of greens,” said Willy the Perfect Specimen of Virility.
“That’s five forty five,” said Norma Rae after punching the order into the cash register.
Willy gave her a ten dollar bill. She gave him change.
“Are you going to get my food?” Willy finally asked, and Norma Rae realized that she was still leaning across the counter staring at him.
“Oh, god!” she exclaimed, hopping down from the stool. Now she was really embarrassed. She had taken the Lord’s name in vain in front of the Perfect Specimen of Virility and she was acting like a dummy. Shit! She hurried to put the chicken and greens in a Styrofoam container, and put six biscuits in a small paper bag. She climbed back up on her stool and leaned out to hand the container and the bag across the counter and down to those wonderful waiting arms, which she could imagine wrapped around her in a bear hug so tight it would make her groan.
“Can I get anything else for you?” She asked hopefully.
“Nope.” Willy reached for the coffee and Mentos, arranged his load, and headed for the door.
“Wait!” cried Norma Rae.
The Perfect Specimen turned around.
“Come back soon,” she murmured weakly.
Willy the Perfect Specimen nodded solemnly and went out the door. Norma Rae didn’t even realize she had failed to charge him for the coffee and Mentos.
to be continued….