For the last stream we tried an exercise we’d never done before: Abbey wrote a story, and then I edited it.
Since Abbey isn’t a very experienced writer, we decided to have her write about one of her most embarrassing life experiences — something that would get the writing juices flowing more easily. Abbey gave three to pick from, and chat voted for “the worst customer ever at Barnes and Noble.”
I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much from Abbey, but her first draft was pretty darn good. It had a bit of fat to trim and some transitions to add, but the emotion and vividness were all there. I was very impressed and didn’t have to do much editing at all!
Here’s what our final draft ended up as:
I had just finished the final drag on my tenth cigarette for the day. One of the perks of working retail are the smoke breaks.
I was three hours into my nine hour shift at Books ‘n Nooks. Another six hours lay ahead of me of shuffling my feet, dusting off spotless keyboards, and babysitting customers. As I headed back to the register, I decided to seize the few precious moments of the manager not hounding me to upsell to order a latte at the cafe. Getting my nicotine fix was one thing, but I needed caffeine to give the ying to its yang. I would not survive my shift without it.
“Excuse me, I want to return this,” came a soft voice from the registers.
Fuck. Customer. My hopes for a sneaky hit of caffeine had been dashed. I plastered a fake smile over my face, barely masking the disappointment and anger boiling beneath the surface.
As I made my way behind the register, the customer reached into a plastic Books n’ Nooks bag and pulled out what appeared to be a pink foam-brick cat toy, well-used with scratches and chunks missing. Behind her, a girl that looked to be her teenage daughter stood cowering.
“Here!” she barked, taking me by surprise as she slammed the foam brick onto the counter.
Oh boy. As if her “I need to speak to your manager” haircut didn’t tip me off, the fact that she was attempting to return a used cat toy to a bookstore told me that this was not going to be a pleasant transaction.
I gently picked up the brick and pretended to examine it. “Ma’am, do you have any pets?”
“NO!” she shrieked, her multiple chins rattling as the word erupted out of her mouth.
I stared at her like a deer in headlights. “Alright then. Uh, do you have a receipt for the item?”
“NO!” she bellowed like a beached whale. “JUST GIVE ME MY FUCKING REFUND!”
Oh. My. God. I wasn’t nearly drugged up or paid enough to put up with this. I picked up the register phone, and called down my manager Cathy for reinforcements. When I hung up, the woman glared at me with her doughy arms crossed.
“I’ll see what I can do ma’am,” I said, “but my manager will be here-”
“Look, child,” she said. “I don’t have all the fucking time in the world! Give me my fucking money back, or I’ll call the fucking police!”
Be my guest, I thought to myself. I wouldn’t be the one dragged away in cuffs….
Thankfully, Cathy had arrived. She smiled at the customer and took over at the register as I nonchalantly slipped off to the side.
“Hello ma’am,” Cathy said genially. “What seems to be the-”
“LOOK, I DONT NEED YOU HERE!” the woman screamed. “GIVE ME MY FUCKING MONEY!”
At this point, the woman’s daughter covered her face and left the store. I felt bad for her. If I was forced to go anywhere with this witch, I’d have done the same.
“I understand,” Cathy said, somehow staying calm. “As there is no receipt, let me look up this item’s SKU in the-”
Before she could finish, the woman tossed the plastic bag at Cathy. It softly smacked her in the face and billowed to the ground. As it fell away, Cathy’s grit teeth and twitching eyes became visible.
“You know what?” she seethed to the woman. She reached under the register and grabbed a gift card. “Here’s a $19.99 store credit. Have a nice day, ma’am.”
The woman snatched it out of her hand. “JESUS CHRIST! TOOK YOU FUCKS LONG ENOUGH TO GIVE ME MY MONEY!”
The woman waddled hastily out the door. Cathy and I sighed with relief. She reached under the register and took out another gift card.
“Here,” she said, “Take this and get yourself a treat.”
She handed me a five-dollar Books ‘n Nooks gift card. Just enough for my caffeine fix and some chocolate.
Maybe the next six hours weren’t going to be so bad after all.
I legitimately love this story. Aside from the R-rated language, it conveys the feeling of working retail perfectly, from the first line to the last. Anyone who has worked in a store before can relate, and anyone who hasn’t can still feel exactly what the author is trying to convey.
Huge props to Abbey for writing such an easy-to-edit story! Here’s to hoping that we get her to write about more of her embarrassing life adventures in the future.
After that we did a writing prompt and chat voted for this one submitted by fenskept1: “After an unfortunate typo in hell, the anti-Chris has been unleashed upon the world.”
At first I let Abbey write this one, since she was on a roll from her story earlier. But unfortunately the direction she took the story in made less and less sense with each sentence, and the chat and I had to step in to salvage it.
But I’m glad we did, because the story we came up with is pretty funny. I absolutely adore the twist ending.
If you want to join us and help write a story by trolling in chat, or share your own writing for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-10:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
Hope to see you next time, friend!
Scott Wilson is the author of the novel Metl: The ANGEL Weapon, forthcoming November 2018.
Featured image: QuickMeme