“The liquor is in the back, in boxes,” drawled Harrison. “Boxes’re labeled. Shelves’re labeled. Just keep everything topped off and that’ll be that.”

Colin looked at the gas station’s dizzying array of intoxicants, which ranged from cheap to cheap but pretentious. “You need a whole temp just for that?” he said.

Harrison squirted his cheekful of dip from one side of his mouth to the other with a sound, and a vision to go with it, that made Colin thoroughly queasy. “You got a family?” he said.

“Of a sort,” Colin said.

“You seeing them this month?”

“Most likely,” Colin said. “Free meal, after all, when you’re living on a temp’s paycheck.”

“Well, it may surprise you, Mr. Evans Jr., but I also got me a family. A big ‘un. And there is nothing on God’s green earth worse than them. Probably even worse for you, seeing as your people have to cook for folks who think gratitude is a kinda flower,” Harrison said. “You know who gets me through it?”

“Your wife?” Colin ventured.

Harrison turned to the shelves, peeling three bottles off and shoving them into Colin’s arms. “Mister Jack Daniels, the Reverend Jim Beam, and His Goddamn Majesty the Crown Royal.”

Colin shifted the bottles uneasily in his arms. “Ah,” he said. “I think I get it.”

“You learn the shapes of those bottles by feel, Mr. Evans Jr., because you’re gonna need it.” Harrison turned away. “Get ready. I’m opening now.”

At the click of the latch, Colin had barely gotten the bottles back on the shelf when the liquor aisle was flooded with people. None of them acknowledged him, not the three mothers, two grandmothers, or the uncle with a shopping basket over each arm. They just shambled over, filled their hands and all other receptacles with wine and whiskey, and shuffled off. Within five minutes, the box wine was already out, to say nothing of the Jack and Jim.

Colin took ten minutes wrestling fresh bottles and boxes out of the back room, and had just begun opening the when a fresh wave hit. The people didn’t even wait for the boxes to open, simply scooping them up and taking them to the register. And there were more behind them.

“I quit,” he whispered, miserably.

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