The Dairy Mart Chronicles: A Plunge into Antarctica (or A Plunge into Hell)

There’s not much that a good match of Rock, Paper, Scissors can’t solve.

It’s a quiet weeknight at North Central West Virginia’s favorite one stop shop.  Jimmy and I, both wearing the trademark dull purple polo shirt and black jeans that acknowledge to the world that we are proud Dairy Mart store employees, stand alone as the setting sun gleams through the window highlighting the scratches and the stains on the brown tile floor of The Dairy Mart.  We are engaged in a heated battle of Rock, Paper, Scissors, a strategy based game not unlike Risk, the popular game of world domination.  Jimmy is up one – zip in a match to three.  I threw paper and he threw scissors in the previous throw.

One, two, three… shoot!  I throw rock… and he throws scissors.  Boom!  1-1.

After two more throws, Jimbo goes down in flames.  My come from behind victory is one that will be remembered for all time.  Or until the end of the day.

“Three in a row, baby!”

Looks like Jimmy gets to stock the walk-in freezer.

There aren’t many terrible duties in the Dairy Mart.  However, one of the worst jobs in this one stop shop is to stock the walk-in freezer.  It’s about 400 degrees below zero in there and can turn a half gallon of ice cream into a solid brick in about 2.3 seconds.  Or less.

“Dammit!” Jimmy shouts, smiling that pearly white smile.  Jimmy is a beautiful man with a smile the ladies enjoy.  His teeth are too straight.  And too white.  And he has a face that can grow a full beard in about half a day, depending on the way the light reflects off his teeth onto his face.  Seriously… it takes me about a week to get Jimbo’s five o’clock shadow

But at least this bare face doesn’t have to venture into Antarctica and face the threat of a frost bitten nose in order to stock the Haagan Daaz shelf.  Jimmy has already disappeared to don the blizzard attire required to venture into the frozen tundra.  And I am headed to the register, when a couple of kids walk into the store.

Looking out the window, I notice that there isn’t a car in the parking lot.  And checking the three cameras aimed at the side and back of the store tells me there is no car on either side of the store.


The kids wander around the store.  One of them seems to be keeping an eye on me.  They walk by the freezer, where I see Jimmy’s pearly whites giving me a smile over the Ben and Jerry’s shelf.  He looks like he belongs in Roald Amundsen’s South Pole expedition.  After giving me a thumbs up, he goes to work stocking the Klondike Bars.  What I wouldn’t do for a Klondike bar right about now.

Pressing the button to the freezer intercom…  “Get back to work, Jimbo…  If you freeze in there, I’m sure as hell not coming in to drag out your cold, dead body.”  Seriously.  That’s no joke.  I’ll leave him behind.

The kids walk by the Hostess display and through the candy aisle.  One stops to pick up a Three Musketeers.  Personally, I would have gone for a Snickers.  Those babies really satisfy…

The other one gives the Stromboli case a wanting look.  Go ahead, kid.  That lone Stromboli has been roasting in there for the last five hours.  It’s about half the size it was an hour ago.  It’d be a pleasure to sell that baked good item to you.

They are wandering aimlessly, and nervously, around the store.

I get on the intercom again.  “Jimbo,” I whisper.  “You see those two dudes walking around the store?  Keep an eye on them.”

“10-4!”  The intercom bellows across the empty store.  Clearly we have not been trained in the art of covert surveillance.  And as I look back to the freezer, Jimmy isn’t paying these guys a second glance.  But he is stocking the shit out of the freezer.  It must be extra cold in there today.

The inconspicuous future convicts pause, suspiciously, in front of the beer cooler.  That must be their end game.  They want to buy beer.  Which ain’t gonna happen.  I have more hair on my face than they do.  So they must be about 15 years old.

The kid with the Three Musketeers is headed towards the front of the store.  My hope is that he is going to grab the dried up Stromboli.  Sadly, however, he passes by the once hydrated baked good item.  I prepare to tell the baby faced alcoholics, in no uncertain terms, that there stands a larger chance of me dragging a frozen Jimbo out of the freezer than them leaving the store with a single drop of alcohol on their person, and that, personally, I would have gone with the Snickers over the Three Musketeers.  The peanuts, caramel, and that wavy chocolate on top really make for a tasty treat.

As I am using my inner monologue to chastise this child on his candy bar choice, the other clandestine child has made his way to the outer aisle, fairly close to the door of our fair market place.

The kid has a case of Bud Light held tight against his chest.

And the other one is clutching his Three Musketeers.

Both are poor choices…  If you are going to try and buy a beer, at least choose a good one…

As a matter of fact, I could go for a Yuengling right about now.

There is a pregnant pause that envelopes the store.  I look at the kids.  They look at me.  Not a word is spoken.

Fleetingly I wonder if they purposefully chose to dress like the Wu Tang Clan today.

Without a word, and suddenly, the kid clutching the beer bolts out the door while the one clutching the Three Musketeers pauses, as if surprised that his buddy actually went through with their diabolical scheme.  Then he bolts out the door even faster than his cohort.

“Jimmy!  We’ve got a runner!” I yell into the intercom.

I jump up and slide gracefully across the stainless steel counter that separates the stage from the audience.

Or I jump onto the counter intending to slide gracefully to the other side, knocking every scratch off lottery ticket to the floor, along with anything else, save the cash registers, that resides on the counter, nearly landing face first on the brown tile of The Dairy Mart.

Picking myself up off the floor, and stepping on some Swisher Sweets knocked to the floor in my graceful slide across the counter, I spare a glance to see Jimbo’s back as he, oblivious to the outside world, continues to stock the tundra.  I make a quick mental note to lock the door from the outside the next time he goes into the freezer.

Plunging into the July heat, wearing a purple shirt and black jeans, the humidity makes me miss a step.  The teenage duo are running as fast as they can.  The kid with the Three Musketeers is quickly overtaking the kid with the Bud Light.

Man… it is HOT!  And black jeans really aren’t the best choice of attire for cardio in 95 degree heat.  Taking a moment, I pause a second to briefly take in the irony that Jimmy is in Antarctica while I just plunged into Hell.

It’s all just part of the gig…

The thieves are halfway across the parking lot at this point; I am trailing close behind.  The kid with the Bud Light drops the case.  He bends down, grabbing at the cans now laying on the hot asphalt parking lot.

Actually, it’s hard to fault these kids.  It is a hot day.  And a cold beer on a hot day is pretty fantastic.

He turns around and sees me barreling down on him.  With the purple shirt, black jeans, and sweat pouring down my face, I must have been a rather intimidating sight.

He is only able to snag one beer before he runs off into the hot Summer evening.  Stopping at the 23 other beers laying on the hot asphalt of the parking lot, I straddle my prize like an alpha male,

“AND DON’T COME BACK!”  Good try, fellas… Go try that at 7-Eleven.  You may just get away with some Bud Light.  And a pretty rockin’ Slurpee.  But you aren’t getting away with that shit at The Dairy Mart.  Not now.  Not today.

Repacking the beer into the broken case takes a couple of minutes.  I’m pitted out… and my pants are sticking to my crotch.  But my prize is 23 Bud Lights.

As I Walk back into the store with the broken case of beer under my arm, a shirt that now has wet spots spreading from my armpits to my nipples, and black jeans that feel rather damp and gross, Jimmy is just walking out of the stock room, his stocking complete.  He looks at me with an even smile.

“Done!” he proudly proclaims. “Hey… I couldn’t understand a word you said.  Did you need something out here?”


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