Excerpt: Kisses For Tati by Jay Fingers #K4T

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova, photo by Jay Tong

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a short story entitled Kisses for Tati (formerly known as The Drums) for a couple years now. I don’t know why it’s taken so long for me to finish this particular piece, especially when I’m able to see the story so very clearly in my mind.

In any case, I feel I should share something with you guys, and since I’ve made some progress on Kisses for Tati, I’ve decided that’s what I’m gonna share. For those who don’t know, Kisses for Tati is about Tati (natch), a socially awkward young woman who meets the man of her dreams but whose hopes of happiness are threatened by her domineering older sister.

Check out the excerpt below:

A week later, Tati was at work, manning one of the registers at Mal’s Supermarket. Situated in a good sized, graffiti-tagged space on the shoulder of a red brick apartment building a few blocks from Tati’s house, and bearing a hand painted, and rust tainted sign boasting the establishment’s name, Mal’s was practically the only grocery store that served the community, so the residents had no choice but to deal with Mal’s rancid meats, rotting produce, exorbitant prices, and mostly rude personnel.

Having worked at Mal’s for close to six years, Tati had grown content with her job. It didn’t require much from her—she usually clocked in at seven a.m., met with the store manager, counted cash for her register’s drawer, then headed out to her usual station, a special checkout counter behind which drugstore items like deodorant sticks and toothpaste were kept. While there was steady customer traffic throughout the day, the store was never overwhelmingly busy. The level of stress Tati had to contend with at work was ridiculously low.

Another perk of the job was that management did not require the staff to wear uniforms of any kind, not even those logo embroidered aprons or brightly colored polystyrene nametags usually worn by cashiers at major grocery chains. So when she arrived at the store that morning, Tati had on jeans and a fitted pink t-shirt with the Jazmin bathroom tissue logo on it.

Eleven o’clock was the beginning of the lunch rush, and though the store became a bit busier than usual, Tati didn’t feel it was too much to handle. Besides, she was getting off in a few hours, at three p.m., and that’s when the real rush would begin. The store would become swamped with customers coming straight from work, wanting to pick up provisions for the night’s dinner or the following day’s cookout. Very few times had Tati been asked to work after her shift was over; those times she had, she’d witnessed some truly nasty confrontations between her co-workers and the shoppers, with some even exploding into physical violence. That mostly happened on holiday weekends, when everyone’s emotions were on the cusp of the boiling over.

Thankfully, today was not a holiday Friday.

She picked up the first item that the next customer set on the counter and ran it over the scanner. Its price didn’t register on the screen, so Tati tried scanning it again. Still nothing. She picked up her checkout counter’s telephone and said into the receiver, “Simon, I need a price check at register one.” She repeated herself before hanging up the phone and then apologized to the waiting customer. “It’ll take just a minute,” Tati said. “Someone’s going to see how much this is.”

The people standing in line groaned in annoyance.

Tati shrugged. There was nothing she could do. She scanned the remaining items and when Simon, the assistant manager, arrived, attempting to dislodge a stringy piece of meat caught between his teeth with his tongue, Tati showed him the offending item: a canister of Reduco Diet Nutritional Drink mix.

“Be right back,” Simon said and he disappeared into the store.

Tati shrugged again and looked around. Her register’s location gave her a particularly good vantage of the store’s entrance and exit as well as the other three checkout lanes. The first two lanes were busy, so she wasn’t surprised when the third lane’s light illuminated to signal it was now open.

“Taking customers on register three,” Tati’s co-worker Shawanda called out in a loud, guttural Brownsville twang. Her massive, pendulous breasts seemed to reverberate with every movement she made.

Customers hurried over to Shawanda’s lane, most of them Tati’s. Oh she’s gonna hate me for this, Tati thought. But two remained in her line: the woman waiting on Simon to return with the price of the can of Reduco Diet Nutritional Drink mix, and Roy Marble.

When Tati finally noticed Roy, he flashed a radiant smile at her.

She smiled back at him.

Tati didn’t know Roy Marble personally, but she did know a few things about him. She knew that about two weeks ago he started coming into the store and going back to the deli counter. He ordered the same sandwich each time—turkey breast on rye with lettuce, tomato, and low-fat Swiss cheese—and typically paired it with a fruit salad and bottle of Fiji Water. He always, always, stood in her line, no matter how long and slow it was, no matter that the other registers were open and available. And he always paid with cash, except for that one time he used his debit card and she caught a glimpse of his name. Roy Marble. For some reason, Tati liked that name.

Roy was a brother that was in good shape. He had a build like a professional tennis player, nice shoulders, and strong hands. Tati supposed Roy worked in construction in some capacity, as his standard uniform was that of a t-shirt and carpenter jeans stained with signs of labor. This always puzzled her, though, because she couldn’t think of any place in the neighborhood that was under construction or renovation.

Simon returned, telling Tati the price of the drink mix. The customer huffed and said, “Forget it.” Tati charged the customer for the remainder of the items, and then placed them in two plastic bags before sending the customer on her way.

“She didn’t even buy it,” Roy said as he walked up, indicating the Reduco canister.

“Oh,” said Tati. “No.” She giggled.

As she scanned the turkey-on-rye sandwich she became acutely aware that Roy was staring at her. It made her more than a little nervous.

“Can I ask you something?”

Tati looked up at him. “Sure.”

“What’s your name?”

Tati touched her chest. “My name?”

“You’re the only one I’m talking to.” Roy gave her a teasing smile.

“Why would you want to know my name?” Tati asked as she scanned the bottled water.

“I’ve wanted to know your name for a while now,” said Roy. “You don’t wear a nametag and it’s never on the receipt.”

She regarded him, curious. There was something warm about him, his voice, his vibe. Sure, he was eye candy before, but now she felt there was more to this Roy Marble and she liked it. “Tati,” she said. “Tatiana.”

“Tatiana,” he said. “I like that. It’s pretty.”

She thanked him, and then told him his total. He gave her a twenty, and as Tati handed Roy his change and receipt, he said, “I like you, Tatiana, I’d like to get to know you. Would you like to go out with me?”

Thoughts? All opinions, feedback, and trash talk are welcome. Hit me up in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova, photo by Jay Tong
Used under the Creative Commons License CC BY-ND 3.0 (Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported)


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