She cannot manipulate time. Tracey was running late again. She brushed her thick bangs off her forehead. He won’t like this, she thought. He is always early, even sets his watch a day ahead.
“C’mon, jeez.” She hit her steering wheel. It seemed as though she was stopped by every single red light. And they were lasting longer than usual before they turned green.
Finally she pulled into the parking lot, swerving to avoid the potholes. She bit her lower lip. The skin, flaky and peeling from the vacation she’d recently spent in Sedona felt tender, bumpy. And she felt weird, showing up, after so much time had passed.
She got out of the car, closing her scarf in the door. “Goddamnit,” she said, fixing the situation. Before she closed the door again, she felt for car keys in her coat pocket.
“I’m not going to have that kind of bullshit happen,” she muttered.
She knocked on the warehouse door. The speaker lit up.
“Who is it?” The voice sounded suspicious.
“It’s Tracey, Cecil. Sorry, I’m late.”
There was a loud buzzer and she pushed open the door. The warehouse was dark, overhead lights off. The door slammed shut behind her, there was a heaviness in the air. It smelled like car grease. And popcorn. And she’d forgotten which direction to go.
“Cecil?” Her voice echoed. Her eyes adjusted to the darkened room. She held back a sneeze. There was so much dust, her main allergy.
She looked in the direction of his voice, somewhere behind the floor display. She walked slowly toward it. The first thing she saw was Cecil’s curly black hair, it looked absurd to her, pulled into a ponytail like Fabio, and she stifled a laugh.
“Hey man, long time, no see,” Cecil said. He held out his hand and they shook.
She noticed he wasn’t smiling. “I moved away for a few years.”
“Oh yeah?” He turned and walked away. “I heard that.”
She scrambled to keep up. His office was near the back of the building, down a long corridor. They walked past all the sales department’s offices. When they got into his office, he closed the door. Shoved the contents of stuff from his guest chair onto the floor: graphs, color templates, binders all plopped into a heap.
“Have a seat,” he motioned. He sat behind his desk, also disheveled. He leaned back in his swivel chair, clasping his hands behind his head.
“Thanks,” Tracey said. She tried not to stare at the visible pit stains.
“You’re a little late,” he said.
“I know,” she winced. “Sorry.” Had she already apologized? She thought so.
“I can’t have you coming so close to opening time, Tracey. Just too much risk.”
“Yes, ever since they found that guy in the quarry last fall. Cops have been crawling all over this neighborhood. Asking questions.”
Tracey pretended she had no clue. “What guy?” Though her mother had sent her weekly articles cut from the Courier that mentioned anyone from Tracey’s class.
“Some vagrant. Probably got wasted fell into the water. Drowned, poor sucker. But you know how cops are.” He smiled a sinister grin. Opened some drawers of his desk.
“So, how much do you want?”
“How much have you got?”
“Just depends on the price. What you can afford? It’s all top quality shit.”
Tracey stalled. Was this necessary? She’d tried to quit, didn’t even notice when she lived in New York City. But now that she was back, it’s what everybody talked about.
“Tracey? You have to decide. My first appointment is at 8.”
She glanced at her watch. “Oh, wow. And how much for a dozen?”
“They’re 3.50 a box. 42.00 a dozen.”
“No discount for larger orders?”
He shook his head no. Looked at the clock on the wall.
She paused. “Okay, then I’ll take a dozen of the Thin Mints.”
“Hang on. A dozen Do-Si-Do’s, a dozen Samoas and a dozen Tagalongs.”
“Great, and I ought to tell you, they have this new one, “Thank you Berry Much.”
Tracey laughed, counting her twenty dollar bills. “What ingredients?”
“Creamy white fudge chips, cranberries.” Cecil placed her order into a paper bag. “That’ll be 168.”
Tracey handed him the bills. “Oh, I can’t get those.”
“Why not? They’re incredible.” He handed her change and her cookies.
“I’m allergic to cranberries.”