Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Tank N Tummy #22

There was a light, wet snow on the ground as Dominic headed to work at the Tank N Tummy. When he got there, Ryan was finishing shoveling the sidewalk and parking lot and was sprinkling de-icer everywhere. The little bits of sodium chloride crunched beneath Dominic’s shoes. “Hey, Ryan,” Dominic sighed.

“You okay? You seem out of it.”

“I think there must be something wrong with me. I’m just not in the holiday spirit. I usually like Christmas but not this year,” Dominic said. The two of them went into the store. Aaron was behind the counter. Ryan tossed the bag of ice melt behind the counter and he and Dominic continued walking toward the dairy case. “Maybe I’m just depressed this Christmas. I’m getting tired of giving and getting presents. I don’t know. The days aren’t as long anymore. It gets dark sooner.”

“Have you put up your Christmas tree?” Ryan asked. “I put mine up a week ago. I’ve felt better ever since.”

“It’s just a small tabletop one. I put it up but I’m still not happy,” Dominic said.

“Oh my God, it’s the Christmas season,” Aaron said. “It’s been such a rough year; can we just ignore all the famine and pestilence for a bit. Let’s just focus on Christmas.”

Dominic went behind the counter while Ryan swept up the mess they and the customers brought in from the outside. They worked in silence for a bit, Ryan still cleaning and Aaron and Dominic checking out customers. MaryJane came into the store, “’Sup, sluts?” she greeted everyone in her usual manner and went over to the soda fountains. She got her daily fifty-two ounces and went up to the counter. “What’s wrong, Dominic?”

“He’s sad,” Ryan said.

“Sad? How can you be sad? It’s Christmas!” MaryJane whooped.

Dominic just stared at her.

“Maybe you should put up your Christmas tree,” MaryJane suggested.

“Already did.”

“Have you given or received any Christmas cards?” MaryJane suggested. “Getting Christmas cards in the mail usually cheers me up.”

“No, I haven’t,” Dominic sighed.

“Maybe you just need to do something Christmas-y. How about you ask Harvey if you can direct the Tank N Tummy Christmas talent show?”

“How do you know about the talent show?” Ryan asked.

“How do you know Harvey is looking for a director for it?” Dominic asked.

MaryJane went silent then pshawed and waved her hand at them. “It’s an annual tradition. Remember, you asked me to join you three years ago when you performed Jingle Bells dressed as trains?”

“I’m gonna need to see a picture of that,” Aaron raised his hand.

“Directing the talent show might be a good idea. I’m doing a one-man skit about Santa Claus similar to the 2000-year-old man,” Ryan said. “I think it’ll be good.”

“I guess I could ask about it,” Dominic shrugged. “It might cheer me up a little.”

“There you go! Problem solved,” Ryan said.

“I will mention you personally in my suicide note,” Dominic groaned.

Later that day, Dominic was walking down the street on his way to where the talent show was going to be held. It hard started to snow and there was a bit of a nip in the wind. “Excuse me, mister,” a little walked up to him. Will you help me write a letter to Santa Claus?” she held a piece of paper and pencil up to Dominic.

“What? I don’t have much time. I’m supposed to get down to All-Stars Adult Club to help direct my job’s talent show,” Dominic explained.

The girl shoved the pencil and paper into Dominic’s hands. “You write it and I’ll tell you what I want to say.”

“Okay. Go ahead,” Dominic rolled his eyes.

“Dear Santa Claus. How have you been? Did you have a nice summer? How is your wife? How are your reindeer? I have been extra good this year so I have a long list of presents that I want.”

“Oh, brother,” Dominic sighed.

“Please note the size and color of each item and send as many as possible. If it is too much of a hassle, make it easy on yourself. Just send money. How about twenties and fifties?”

“Twenties and fifties? Augh!” Dominic threw up the paper and pencil and ran away.

“All I want is what’s coming to me. All I want is my fair share,” the girl said.

Every year for the talent show, Harvey rented out a strip club he liked to frequent. There was always a buffet and every employee from the five Tank N Tummies around town were there either as an audience or participants. Dominic walked into the club and heard a piano playing. His fellow employees were either seated at tables or up on-stage dancing to the music. No one really seemed able to dance. Someone was doing a Frankenstein monster move, another was just flailing their arms and head side to side, and a couple seemed to be doing some sort of Godzilla stomp. MaryJane spotted Dominic and stopped dancing.

“Alright! Quiet, quiet, quiet. Our director is here,” she said and flourished her hands toward Dominic. Only a couple people clapped.

“It’s good seeing you all here. I’ve never directed anything before but I guess I’ll just hear what your talent is and then figure out a place to put it. I guess we can all go backstage and you can all kind of audition for me and I’ll make a schedule. The important thing is that we entertain the people out there. I will be right in front of the stage giving you signals. Like, stage left or stage right. If I put the palms of my hands close together, shorten your act. If I pinch my fingers and make a straight line, it means draw out your act. I want this to be a fun night and I hope you agree with me, right?” As Dominic was talking, the music had started back up and one-by-one the people started to dance again. “I said ‘Right?’”

The employees continue dancing, ignoring Dominic. “Sorry, Dominic. This is a tough group to keep focused,” MaryJane said as twisted her body and threw up a fist with each move.

“All right, all right! Stop the music! Everybody get backstage!” Dominic ordered and within a few minutes, everyone was backstage. “Okay, divide up into what you are going to do. Singing and dancing in one line, skits in another, and miscellaneous in another.”

Everyone split up as best as possible and Dominic called up the first person. “Hi, I’m Summer from the East 16th Street location. I’m going to do the Evolution of Dance,” Summer began wagging her legs and gyrating her hips like Elvis.

“Cool. Can’t wait to see it with music.”

“I don’t use music. It distracts me,” Summer said.

“O…kay,” Dominic sighed. “Ryan, what are you doing again?”

“Something like the 2000-year-old man only the 2000-year-old man is Santa Claus,” he explained. “I moved to the North Pole before it was cool. Get it? It’s a commentary on the continents shifting and…”

“Yeah, that’s great, Ryan. Next,” a woman stepped forward. “Hey, Alice. What are you going to do?”

“I am going to be juggling to ‘If the Devil Danced In Empty Pockets’ by Joe Diffie. It’s something I’ve been working on the last two years. In between all my cross-stitching, of course.”

“Of course.”

“I will be performing the classic show tune ‘Steam Heat’ from the stage play and film ‘The Pajama Game’,” MaryJane stepped forward toward Dominic. “While I’m singing, I will be wearing a body suit of balloons that I will be popping with a cigarette.”

“You don’t even work for Tank N Tummy. What are you even doing here?” Dominic asked.

“I explained my routine to Harvey and he seemed excited about it. ‘It is a strip club,’” MaryJane mimicked Harvey’s strange accent. “His words.” Dominic sighed again. “Next.”

“I’m Leonard, from the Perry Street location. I’m going to do my taekwondo black belt routine,” Leonard was a tall man with long hair and a long beard and a deep, monotone voice. Giyaaah-hah!” he screamed while making an attack move toward Dominic.

“Thank you, Leonard,” Dominic said. “Next.”

Leonard walked by Ryan and looked at him. “Hi. Do you know when you are going to die?”

“No…” Ryan replied.

“’Cuz I do,” Leonard walked off.

“I’m Dennis from the Iowa Street location. I’m going to do a comedy routine that has jokes and impressions,” Dennis explained.

“Cool. Can I hear one?”

“Sure. Give me a second…” Dennis turned around for a second then turned back around. His thumbs were pulling back his eyes and he jutted his top teeth out. “Herro! I’m Dong! I’m so happy to be heel,” he said.

“You’re fired,” Dominic said.

“You can’t fire me,” Dennis said.

“I can fire you from the talent show. Your talent tonight is being part of the audience. Before we move to the next talent, does anyone have a Christmas themed talent? So far we have karate, juggling to country music, and a striptease. The only thing remotely Christmas or holiday related is Ryan’s Santa Claus skit and it’s going to be terrible. There aren’t even any decorations up,” Dominic pointed out.

“Yes, there is. The banner out there that says ‘Christmas Talent Show’,” Ryan said.

“The letters are in black Times New Roman and spread across twelve pieces of paper taped together. There’s not even a tree.”

“That’s it, Dominic,” MaryJane said. “Why don’t you go out and find a Christmas tree? There’s a Christmas tree lot a few blocks away. Just get a nice tree we could put in the corner of the stage. We’ll see if we can find some lights or something. Ryan, go with him.”

Dominic and Ryan left the strip club and began walking to the Christmas tree lot. The lot had numerous trees about Ryan’s height and some taller. “What kind of tree should we get?”

“I don’t have any money so let’s find out,” Dominic walked over to the man smoking behind the counter of a beat-up booth. A sign above the man read ‘Christmas trees for sale’ and on the booth it read ‘The tree man is in’ with ‘in’ being a piece of paper you could turn around. “What kind of tree can I get for…thirteen seventy-four?”

“Well, not much. Most trees start at $25 but I suppose I’ll let you have that tree over there for $13,” the man pointed to a short and sad tree with weak branches and very sparse needles. It was held standing by wires connected to boards of wood.

“That’s a pretty pathetic tree. I’ll give you $7,” Dominic said.


“The Christmas spirit is so heartwarming,” Ryan rolled his eyes.

“Do you have any money so we can buy a better tree?”


“Then shut up. Besides, this isn’t a bad little tree. It just needs a little love. Besides, like all these other trees, it’ll be dead soon anyway.”

“So heartwarming.”

“Boy, are you a blockhead,” a woman said when Dominic and Ryan returned with the tree.

“That’s rude. I don’t even know who you are,” Dominic said.

“Nelina. I work at the Perry Street location.”

“She’s why I am the way I am,” Leonard interjected.

“Okay. This was all I could afford. I only had $13 and nobody gave me any money for a better one,” Dominic explained. “Besides, it’s not a bad tree.”

“You’ve been dumb before, but this time you really did it.”

“Okay, Nelina. Again, we don’t know each other.”

“Do you want me to tell you what Christmas is all about?” Ryan asked.

“No. No, Ryan. I know what Christmas is all about. And this isn’t it. I’m going home. I’m going to take this little tree home and put some decorations on it.” Dominic arrived home at his apartment, carrying his tree. He fumbled for his keys and a trill come from his feet. He looked down and saw a cat sitting and looking up at him. “Hey, Cat-Cat. What are you doing out here?” He sat the tree and picked Cat-Cat up. He went to the end of the hallway and knocked on the door to the apartment Cat-Cat belonged to. No one answered and he knocked louder.

“He moved out,” a neighbor said, walking up to her apartment door across the hall.

“He moved out? When?”

“About a week ago.”

“He left his cat here just to wander the apartment building?”

“I guess so. Sorry, Cat-Cat,” she scratched his head and he purred louder.

“Well, I guess you can stay with me. Everyone deserves a warm place for Christmas. Come on, Cat-Cat, let’s get inside.” Dominic unlocked his door, picked the tree back up and went inside.  ▩