Tank N Tummy Vol. 1: Along Came Aaron

1.
Dominic rang up the man’s coffee, newspaper, and chicken salad sandwich. “$6.67,” he said.

The man gave Dominic a five and two ones. Dominic made the transaction and gave the man his change. “You should get a real job.”

“What?”

“Just some advice. Get a real job,” the man said again.

“This is a real job and why would you say that to someone? Just to be a jerk? Do you go up to kids selling lemonade or Girl Scouts selling cookies and tell them to get a real job?”

“If they were still doing it into their 20s then, yeah,” the man shrugged and walked away.

“We have a new employee,” Ryan said and came over with a tall guy with big hair. “His name is Aaron and he still has a soul.”

“Well, he can help that man tomorrow and he’ll take care of that,” Dominic said. “How you doing, Aaron?”

“Good. I’m a little nervous.”

“Well, don’t be. This job is worthless and soon you won’t give one damn about these people getting their coffee, giant meat sticks or powdered donuts,” Dominic sighed.

“We can hear you, you know,” a customer said from one of the aisles.

“I know,” Dominic answered sarcastically.

“Dominic isn’t a morning person,” Ryan said. “Or an afternoon person or an evening person…”

“Or even a person,” he smiled.

“How long have you two worked here?” Aaron asked.

“Since we were in high school so we’ve been here a few years,” Dominic said. “Remember when we were first hired?”




“You’re hired,” said the owner and manager of the Tank N Tummy, Rajesh Nunjiar. “I want to thank you both for coming down on such short notice. Can you come in tomorrow to do paperwork and we can kind of show you the ropes?”

The boys had big smiles on their faces. “Absolutely,” Ryan said.

“Do we get health insurance?” Dominic asked.

“Unfortunately, you don’t get health insurance but if you get sick or injured and have to miss some days, we do try to wait a while before firing you and hiring someone else,” Rajesh said.

“We’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Nunjiar,” Ryan said and shook Rajesh’s hand.




“And we’ve been here ever since,” Dominic clapped Ryan on the back.

“How long have you two known each other? You seem close,” Aaron asked.

“We met one night in Reno,” Dominic began. “Ryan was drunk, passed out bent over the bed with a series of guys just railing him and he happened to wake up right before I…”

“Why?” Ryan interrupted. “Why do always tell that story?”

“I just like messing with you,” Dominic clapped Ryan on the back again.

Aaron chuckled. “So you didn’t meet in Reno? That story is made up?”

“Ha!” Dominic exclaimed. “We met in Kindergarten. Ryan was drunk, passed out bent over the Lego bucket with a series of guys just railing him…”

“Stop!” Ryan shouted.




“...And that’s when I just banged that chick. I didn’t care,” Ryan was sitting on a bench under a tree during recess. The kids who were in the resource room were also out and the sixth grade kid with the buggy eyes and the walker had glommed onto Ryan, who hadn’t made friends yet, and was talking about sex. “Are you circumcised?”

Ryan looked at the sixth grader. “What?”

“Hey,” Dominic walked up to Ryan with one of those red rubber balls. “You want to come play some kick ball with us? I promise we won’t ask you if you’re circumcised.”

“Yeah, sure,” Ryan happily agreed and got up to go with Dominic.

“You’ll be back,” the sixth grader shouted.

The kickball game was cut short, of course, by recess being over. Since they were in the back field, all the kids ran across the playground to get into line. As they approached the line, Ryan suddenly stopped and threw up. “Dominic, will you take Ryan to the restroom?” the teacher asked.

“Sure,” Dominic said and helped lead Ryan to the restroom. They go into the restroom that was right across from the kindergarten room and Ryan rinses out his mouth.

“I think I just overdid it playing kickball,” he said.

“Probably. It may also be because of Amos,” Dominic said.

Ryan laughed. “Thanks for getting me away from him.”

“I honestly don’t know why he’s allowed around the younger kids.”

The two returned to the kindergarten room. The other kids were off in their stations. This week, Dominic and Ryan were in the playhouse which Dominic loved. The two went over to the house where another boy and a girl were.

“Ooh, two more boys,” the girl said. “Hi, I’m MaryJane. I’ll be the wife. Take off your pants,” she happily ordered.




“Damn, we were cute,” Ryan said. “And that’s how we met.”

“We should probably get to work,” Dominic said. “There’s a line forming,” Dominic pointed, noticing about a dozen people standing in a line waiting for someone to start doing their job.




2.
Dominic was behind the counter with Aaron and Ryan. Dominic was reading a magazine while Aaron was playing on his phone. Ryan wasn’t doing anything but watching his friends. He suddenly yelled “Oh my God, I’m so bored. I’m going to kill myself!” and slammed his head onto the counter.

“Do it outside in the dumpster,” Dominic said. “I just realized something. Aaron’s worked here for a month.”

“He has,” Ryan lifted his head.

“And?” Aaron was confused.

“Remember how young he was?”

“They grow up so fast.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“We have a new employee,” Ryan said and came over with a tall guy with big hair. “His name is Aaron and he still has a soul.”

“Well, he can help that man tomorrow and he’ll take care of it,” Dominic said. “How you doing, Aaron?”

“Good. I’m a little nervous.”

“Well, don’t be. This job is worthless and soon you won’t give one damn about these people getting their coffee, giant meat sticks, or powdered donuts,” Dominic sighed.

“We can hear you, you know,” a customer said from one of the aisles.

“I know,” Dominic answered sarcastically.

“We were all so young,” Dominic put his arm around Aaron.

“It was a terrible day,” Aaron said. “That guy said we were single-handedly responsible for the heart disease and obesity problem in the country.”

“Pfft,” Ryan scoffed. “That was nothing.”

“We had fifty protesters here,” Aaron reminded.

A man had paid for his coffee and stood just off to the side, sipping it. The next customer came up with a pre-made sandwich, a large soda, and a couple of candy bars. “Why are you paying this guy to kill you?”

“What?”

“Would you pay someone to kill you because that’s what you’re doing buying that garbage.”

“I’ve seen this movie,” Dominic said and winked at whoever is reading this. “Sir, can you please leave? I’m not going to let you rile up the customers.”

“So you’re going to silence me. You refuse to face the truth that you are single-handedly responsible for the rise in heart disease and obesity in this country,” the man shouted.

“You know there’s a McDonald’s about a mile and a half that way, right?” Dominic pointed in one direction. “And another two miles that way,” he pointed in the opposite direction. “You could probably also complain about half the food manufacturers in the grocery store.”

“And then he started throwing broccoli at us,” Aaron said.

“I don’t think that was any worse than that guy in the helmet running head first into the cooler glass, breaking it,” Ryan said.

“That is why he wears a helmet, Ryan, so he doesn’t hurt himself when he runs head first into stuff,” Dominic said. “Ooh, how about that woman caught having sex in the bathroom?”

“Eh, that happens whenever MaryJane stops by,” Ryan said.

“But this was with a dog.”

“True,” Ryan stroked his chin and nodded.

“At least no one died,” Aaron smiled.

“I prefer it when people die. We get to close the store for a bit,” Dominic said.

Dominic went back to his magazine and Ryan continued leaning against the counter. A customer came in a went to the fountain drinks.

“Do...Do a lot of people die?” Aaron asked.

“You’d be amazed,” Dominic answered.




3.
“Ryan not coming to the company picnic?” Aaron asked as he and Dominic entered the park.

“Someone had to stay behind at the station,” Dominic responded. “Besides, he’s not a fan of the company picnic. Bad things always happen to him. Last year this guy sexually assaulted him.”

“What? Really?”

“Yeah. He claimed he tripped and was trying to grab something to break his fall.”

“Seems reasonable,” Aaron shrugged.

“This doesn’t break your fall,” Dominic pointed at his crotch.

“Oh.”

“And the year before that a spider bit him and he nearly lost his left thumb and the year before that he got food poisoning.”

“I’d stop coming, too.”

“Yep. Ryan would rather get poisoned, bit, and molested at work.”




At the Tank N Tummy, Ryan was the only one in the store except for another man who was in a tan trenchcoat, matching fedora, and sunglasses. The man kept glancing at Ryan at the counter. Ryan kept looking at him too but just to make sure he didn’t steal.

The man came up to the counter and put down a small bottle of chocolate milk, a Hershey’s candy bar, and a couple of Slim Jims. Ryan rang up the man’s purchases. “Ryan Conrad? Are you aware of...the Snowcrash?”

Snowcrash? Ryan side-eyed the man. “No. $6.89, please.”

“Come with me. You need to learn about...the Snowcrash.”

“I can’t. I’m the only one here. I can’t leave my post.”

“You can either stay here and betray your country and species or come with me and help with something bigger than all of us,” the man said.

“I’ll stay here. You’re thing sounds hard and possibly dangerous.”

“You don’t want to become a hero to millions?”

“Sounds like a lot of pressure, man,” Ryan sighed.

“”I’ll change your mind, Ryan Conrad. I will be back to tell you about...the Snowcrash.”

“Sounds great. Looking forward to it,” Ryan smiled and waved.




Back at the picnic, the different stores were competing in a volleyball game. Currently playing was the Kasold store and the East 23rd store. Most of the employees at the East 23rd Street store were preppy frat boys who wore polos and khakis. Of the four stores--five if you count the Countryside location--East 23rd was Dominic’s next to least favorite location. His least favorite was the South Iowa Street store.

South Iowa was an abomination of a store, employees were a hodge podge of the worst the city had to offer. Rednecks and townies who felt they were the best thing ever. Dominic just wanted to beat them but he had to beat East 23rd and 15th first.

Dominic slammed the ball down in the game-winning spike. “Yeah! Suck it, 23rd Street!” The frat boys from East 23rd sneered at Dominic. One of them gave him the finger. “Aw, poor loser babies,” Dominic whined and faked cried.

“Are you feeling okay, Dominic?” Aaron asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just kickin’ butt and takin’ names.”

“I’ve just never seen you so...competitive.”

“I want to take down the South Iowa store,” Dominic said.

“Why?”

“‘Cause they’re dicks. They think they’re so hot and they’re so not.”

“Why do they think they’re hot?”

“Because they are the most profitable Tank N Tummy in the city and it’s only because everyone in the city drives by it at some point during the week. And they don’t even deserve that recognition. They don’t treat the customer, their store isn’t as clean, and the employees don’t even treat themselves with respect.”

“Since when did you become the Pope of the Tank N Tummy?”

“They’re just a bunch of townies and rednecks.”

“Aren’t you a townie?”

“Irrelevant. I need to hydrate.”




Back at the Tank N Tummy, the phone behind the counter rang. Ryan picked it up and answered. “Tank N Tummy - Northland. How can I help you?”

A steam ship horn sounded. “You’ve been selected to be a part of a very important mission helping you’re government,” a prerecorded voice began talking. “The Snowcrash is…”

“No,” Ryan said and started to put the phone down.

“Wait. Wait. Don’t hang up,” the man from earlier began talking. “What would it take to get you to learn about...the Snowcrash?”

“You might stop saying ‘Snowcrash’ in that weird way,” Ryan said. “But even then...no.”

“No, wait. All of humanity depends on you…” the man shouted as Ryan hung up the phone.

“Don’t we give our military hundreds of billions of dollars to deal with this stuff?” Ryan asked himself.

A woman came in and began browsing the shelves. She spent several minutes in the store but came up to the counter with only a box of condoms.”

“Anything else?” Ryan asked as he rang her up.

“Do you know anyone I could use these with?” the woman asked, flashing her eyes at Ryan.

“Sorry. The other guy I usually work with could’ve helped you with that.

“I was thinking, maybe, you could,” she smiled and puffed her chest out. “Think you could spare a few minutes?”

“I do,” Ryan gave the woman bedroom eyes. “Wait. Have you ever heard of...the Snowcrash?”

“No, of course not. What’s that?” the woman giggled.

“I knew it. Get out of here and take your condoms of lies with you,” Ryan huffed.

“We need you, Ryan Conrad,” the woman said, nearly pleading. “I am offering myself to you right now and giving you a promise of many other women you can have sexual congress with after...the Snowcrash.”

“Pass,” Ryan said. The woman grabbed the condoms, huffed, and stormed off leaving the store. “Nice try, mysterious government agent. Nice try.”




It was time for Kasold versus South Iowa in the volleyball tournament. “Angela, what are you doing sitting here? It’s time for our game against South Iowa,” Dominic asked one of the morning employees, an older, heavyset woman.

“It’s hot out here,” she complained.

“You wanted to be a part of the team, Angela, so be a part of the team,” Dominic growled.

“I don’t have to take this. I quit,” Angela folded her arms and turned away.

“You can’t quit now. We’re so close to beating the South Iowa store.”

“Who cares? It’s not like we get anything for doing that.”

“The self-satisfaction of being better than them should be enough of a reward,” Dominic said.

“Hey, Kasold,” someone from South Iowa snarked. “You ready?”

“Fine. Don’t play,” Dominic snarled at Angela. “We need one more for our team,” he shouted to the other Kasold employees but no one moved.

“If you don’t have the players then you forfeit,” the South Iowa employee said.

“Come on,” Dominic begged. “We just need one more player.” Still no one moved.

“Looks like you forfeit.”

“You’ll all live to regret this,” Dominic threatened.

“Come on, Dominic,” Aaron took his friend’s arm. “Let’s go.”




Dominic and Aaron went to the Tank N Tummy. Ryan was still behind the counter. “Hey, Ryan. How was everything today?” Aaron asked.

“Just a normal day. How was the picnic?”

“As terrible as it is every year,” Dominic answered.  ▩




By Brian Hall
Copyright © 2018 Tauy Creek.
Originally published in Tank N Tummy #1-3.

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