Dustin slumped miserably in his chair behind the desk at Fred’s Film Factory, his head resting lazily on his hand. Beside him sat his best friend Tim, working diligently on his laptop, burning one of the store’s DVDs. Dustin didn’t particularly enjoy his job at the rental store, perhaps since the vast majority of his work involved sitting behind the desk in this very position until the rare occasion when a customer actually came in and brought a film up to be rented. As it were, there were currently customers, three kids who Dustin knew from school. Lacrosse players, actually. Dustin was contemplating what he had done to deserve this job, wondering if anybody else had a job quite this sucky. No, his definitely sucked the most. That is, until she came in.
She looked to be about twenty, though he didn’t remember her from his early high-school years. Somebody like this he wouldn’t forget. Maybe she went to Saint Michael’s. He quickly sat up as she approached the desk with long, elegant strides, her shoulder-length hair framing the most beautiful face he had ever seen.
“Can you tell me where I can find a good comedy?” she asked, her voice euphonic.
“There…uh…um,” he sputtered. He was blowing it. Shit, he was blowing it.
“In the back, next to the horror films,” offered Tim while reaching over the counter to grab a box of Sour Patch Kids.
“Thank you,” she said, turning on her heel and heading to the rear of the store.
“Smooth moves, kid,” Tim laughed.
Dustin threw a wild backhand at his friend, “Fuck you, Tim.”
Sighing and shaking his head, Dustin slumped down in his chair, allowing his eyes to follow the goddess into the back of the store. Tim was almost unintelligible over his laughter, “No, seriously man, I don’t know how she managed to resist hopping over the counter and taking you right now.”
Dustin gazed over at him, “You know what Tim? I fucking hate you.”
He still couldn’t believe he had blown it. He could see how things could have, no, should have turned out. ‘Why, yes I do, the comedies are,’ he would bring his hand up to point, showing off his rippling biceps and pectorals, ‘right over there.’ ‘Oh my!’ she would exclaim, melting into his arms like so much butter in a microwave. ‘Careful now,’ he’d warn as she grasped his arms, ‘these guns are loaded.’ Smiling, she would pull herself closer, ‘Oh Dustin, promise me one thing – promise me you’ll never let me go again.’ Yep, that’s how things should have gone down.
Snapping back to reality, Dustin did a quick scan of the store. She deserved to have everything right for her movie renting experience, and he was going to do everything he could to make sure that that happened. The lacrosse players were currently in the ‘New Releases’ section. He would have to keep an eye on them. They were shifty.
Oh no! He had lost her. She was nowhere to be seen. She must have slipped out of the store when he was day dreaming. No, that was a stupid idea. She wouldn’t have left without first stopping to say goodbye. They hadn’t even had the chance to exchange phone numbers. How would he contact her?
His heart nearly jumped out of his chest in sheer euphoria as she popped back into view. She was just checking out a movie on the bottom shelf. He laughed now, not out of relief, rather at having ever even considered the possibility of her leaving the store. No, there had been a connection there when she had asked where to find a comedy, and he slyly played hard-to-get. Oh yeah, there was a connection alright.
He could already see how this would all play out. Everything was going according to plan. She would bring the movie up, his goddess-in-a-skirt, and the dance would ensue. ‘Did you find everything you were looking for, ma’am?’ he would ask, flashing his movie-star smile. She would giggle as she looked at him ‘I have now.’ ‘Ah, I see you have selected a hilarious movie about a lovable loser who you can’t help pulling for. Might I also advise you that we have a wide selection of romantic films?’ That would be the line that would secure him a place in her heart. ‘Perhaps you could come help me to…pick one out.’
An empty box of Sour Patch Kids brought him out of his reverie. “Yo Dustin, come back to me buddy,” Tim spat out through the buttered popcorn he was eating. “Quit spacing out, you’re being paid to work damnit,” he said, placing a fresh DVD into his computer before returning to his game of Minesweeper. “Why don’t you try growin’ a pair, and go help her out?”
Dustin stared daggers at him, “Because I…and she…shut up.”
“Excellent retort, but then again my request was pretty outlandish. Imagine that, a clerk helping a customer find a product. Boy is my face red over that little faux pas.”
He hated Tim.
Suddenly it dawned on him; he was horribly unprepared aesthetically to partake in any sweeping-off-of-feet. He went to work as quickly yet unobtrusively as possible. First his hair had to be taken care of. He wasn’t sure what his best look was, or how he was going to achieve said look without the aid of any actual hair-care products, but he decided his current style of rolled-out-of-bed was not going to cut it. Bringing his hands to his head, he quickly brought all his hair forward, before doing his best to create a perfect part down the center. Perfect, just like a big shot CEO would wear his hair. This was sure to work.
One task down, one to go. He looked down at his uniform. He considered polishing his shoes quickly, before realizing it is rather difficult to polish tennis shoes. Tennis shoes with several holes. At least the socks poking out were white…ish. He had apparently missed several belt loops in his haste to get out of the house on time, though at the time he considered that a fair trade for the extra seven seconds of sleep. And the shirt, oh the shirt. He had been given two Fred’s Film Factory shirts when he got the job, though one had been destroyed while hanging out with Tim after work in a bigwheel related accident. As for the shirt he still had, it wasn’t doing so well. The front was spattered with coffee stains and bleach spills, a true urban camouflage. A large hole was haphazardly sewn shut under his left arm, and the back was far from properly tucked in.
Maybe he could spin some story about how the shirt got the way it was. Something nice and heroic. He was walking through the woods one day, frolicking with the cute forest animals as he so often does, when he heard the scream. He barreled through the woods with his almost super-human speed into a small clearing, in the center of which was a small campsite. Not just any campsite though, a campsite of orphans and nuns, and they were being terrorized by a heinous beast. While he cannot properly describe the evil he saw before him, he could best relate it to a part-bear, part-ninja. That spat bleach and coffee. It was a tumultuous battle, he had narrowly avoided the beast’s sharp claws several times, and its sword had nearly caught him in the side, but in the end he emerged, his shirt in tatters over his well-toned upper body, victorious, and a savior to the orphan/nun communities. It was a story that fit together so well she would have to believe it.
Overhead the speaker system crackled to life. “Paging Dustin Williams. I am going to need Dustin Williams to come back here to earth, with the rest of us. Thank you.”
The goddess was laughing.
He really hated Tim.
He wasn’t sure how long she had been in the store, or how long he had been watching out for her, and he still couldn’t decide if he wanted her to pick something soon so she would come to him, or ponder a bit longer, giving him a few more precious minutes in her presence. He was deeply considering that very question when the lacrosse punks stepped out of line.
The three came up behind her when she was perusing the store’s vast collection of Paulie Shore films, and she shrieked when one gave her a less than friendly pinch. He was across the table and down the aisle even before he knew what was happening. His fist struck the offender squarely in the jaw. Turning in a flash he drove his knee into the groin of the nearest punk. He turned to face the third, but not in time. The jock, the tallest of the group, seized his right arm, then his left. He was helpless as the group’s leader approached him, pulling out his lacrosse stick from behind his back.
Dustin looked around frantically. The one was still on the ground, he reasoned that one’s testicles currently resided somewhere in the vicinity of his lungs. That was good. His girl had found her way safely into the next aisle, also good. She was not to be harmed. Tim was lazily making his way around the counter. “No, Tim. Stay behind the desk, I’ll handle them.” Tim shrugged and returned to his computer. That was smooth. That would earn him some valor points, though if he didn’t act quickly it was going to cost him some teeth.
He saw the stick swing back, now was the time. He slammed his heel onto his captor’s toe. His grip lightened up, just a little, but enough. Dustin dipped down and to the left, and the stick struck the goliath in the sternum. He crumbled like the class nerd upon a face-to-face introduced to Mr. Dodgeball. Acting quick, Dustin grabbed the stick, snatching it from the leader’s hands.
“Now, the way I see it, we have two options,” he said, slapping the metal shaft against his hand menacingly. “One, you get your friends, get out of this store, and leave this lovely lady alone. Two, I beat you ‘til your grandparents can feel it.”
The jock grabbed at his friends’ shirts, dragging them to their feet, and the three kids scrambled out of the store.
“Sorry about them,” Dustin said to the girl, offering her a hand, gently pulling her to her feet. “We attract all types. Only thing that keeps me coming to work, to meet those beasts,” he brought her hand to his mouth, kissing it, “is meeting the occasional beauty.”
She looked at him, with those big blue eyes. “You truly are my knight in shining armor,” she cooed, pulling herself into his arms. “I only have one question.”
He smiled at her, “for you, anything.”
“Do you have the new Adam Sandler movie?”
He sat up quickly. “What…uh…what was that?”
“The new Adam Sandler movie. Do you have it?”
He looked around. The lacrosse players had left at some point. “Uh, yeah,” he said reaching under the desk and grabbing a copy. “Somebody just returned it an hour ago.”
She took the DVD, and handed him the five dollar rental fee. “Great. Thanks a lot…Dustin,” she said with a smile, before gliding out the front door.
He sighed deeply, before leaning back in the chair, interlocking his fingers behind his head. “Hey Tim,” he said beaming, “you see that?” Tim didn’t turn around; Solitaire was a timed game after all. “She knew my name, Tim.”
Tim shook his head slowly. “You’re wearing a nametag, jackass.”
“She knew my name.”