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First pages

Chapter 1

It has been eerily quiet for the last minute for Zora and me, but that is more than destined to change. The hairs on the back of my neck prick with anticipation—it tickles—and I smile briefly, but then return to my grimacing demeanor.

The calm always precedes the storm, and the quieter the calm, the wilder the storm. After a minute of tranquility, the flurry of people races toward us.

Each person carries a different burden, past history, and new threat, but I am the final guardian. No one leaves this realm without my approval. No one.

I glance left to ensure Zora sees the development, and she does, of course. This is one of the most impressive onslaughts witnessed today. Lesser men and women would cower with such a momentous tide hurtling toward them, threatening to sweep up and swallow all those in its path—but not us. We are both ready to absorb the charge. In fact, I laugh in the face of this challenge. Literally, I am laughing out loud, causing some of the on-comers to stare in confusion.

Some ask why we are in such a dangerous line of work, with so many menacing circumstances to face every day. For us, it is all a matter of duty. It is a matter of purpose, of sacrifice, of everything. It is our lives’ purpose to make sure no one exits without our permission, and we continue to put our lives on the line and in harm’s way to ensure our duty is upheld. We are the final gatekeepers. We are the last line of defense. No assailants pass us successfully. Not under our watch.

We are receipt-checkers at Mesford Mart, the greatest supermarket in the world (in my opinion), and it is officially “Go Time.” It is officially our time to uphold the pristine and increasingly flawless tradition of receipt-checkers of Mesford Mart.

The family-owned business built its reputation on being unquestionably reliable when it came to offering affordable, high-quality, American-made products while delivering otherworldly customer service, and it is our job to uphold its values.

I refuse to move my eyes from the incoming surge as my hand creeps down into my pocket, and I grab my final strip of bacon for the day to ensure I finish strong. After devouring the strip, I immediately wipe my fingers of any remaining bacon grease.

At my 3 o’clock, a woman and man approach with a cartload of (allegedly) purchased goods. They’re regulars, Lisa and Randy Redford. Lisa usually shops at Mesford Mart on Wednesdays at noon, right after her yoga class, and Randy joins her on Sunday afternoon after church. Rarely do their kids come along. Visits on Friday evening are pretty uncommon for the Redfords, so perhaps a special event is planned.

Previously witnessed cases of delinquency at Mesford Mart: zero. Before we even make eye contact, I scan their cart to see eight products: 48 AA eggs, pack of 8 sticks of butter, a couple pounds of chocolate chips, 4 pounds of flour, a gallon of vegetable oil, baking soda, brown sugar, and a large double vat of peanut butter. With these quantities, they certainly must be planning for a bake sale.

I eyeball the receipt, which is in Lisa's hand, and crosscheck with the aforementioned intel.

The receipt looks to be 7.4 inches tall, which means she paid for 8 items, calculated by a simple algorithm:

.4 inches for blank header space;

2.2 inches for Mesford Mart standard header text listing store title, location, date, and logline;

2.0 inches for items purchased with price (each item line was .25 inches tall, meaning Mrs. Redford had indeed paid for 8 items);

2.0 inches for the closing footer requesting a survey and for thanking the customer for shopping with Mesford Mart;

.8 inches for blank footer space.


Don’t be thrown off by my thorough explanation. The scanning process all happens in a split second. I had Zora time me, and my average pre-scan time came out to .65 seconds for small shopping trips (10 items or less), 1.12 seconds for orders up to 25 items, and 1.89 seconds for purchases of over 25 items.

Randy and Lisa both offer me warm smiles.

“Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Redford, out late on a Friday night?” I ask as I grab the receipt from Lisa that she is offering without hesitation or unwillingness. After a brief glance it is confirmed: 8 items. “Mmm, so you’ll be baking some of your famous peanut butter chocolate cookies this evening?” I turn to Randy, “Lucky you.”

“I wish,” Randy joked. “She’s not going to be letting me anywhere near those cookies.”

“That’s right,” Lisa chortles. “Our church is having a bake sale this weekend, so I’ll be baking a couple hundred this weekend to help out. I’ll bring some over if I have any extra.”

“Mmm, don’t lie to me now, Mrs. Redford. We both know those cookies are going to sell like hotcakes—better than hotcakes,” I tease. Mrs. Redford had generously left me with some of her baked goods previously, and they were absolutely delicious. “And I’m sure in the event that there are any left over, your family will gladly finish them off. I know Randy will.” I look to Randy with a knowing smile.

“Oh Grant, you are so kind,” Mrs. Redford blushes. “We’re all trying to eat a bit healthier, limit our sweets and junk food, right Randy?”

“Of course,” Randy’s response has no wind in its sails.

“Plus, I’m supposed to be eating better for this one.” Lisa rubs her pregnant belly.

I reach into my homemade holster (essentially a leather pouch hanging off my right hip, with a divider to allow four slots for my four highlighter pens) and, without looking, select and uncap my navy-colored ergonomic highlighter. I sign the Redford’s receipt with a smiley sun, one of my signature sign-offs. I draw the sun in a perfect circle, with the sun’s smile taking up exactly half of the sun. Six perfectly straight rays are drawn around the sun, all of equal length and spacing at the 60 degree marks.

I hand the approved receipt back to Mrs. Redford, and let them go with a smile and good wishes for a successful bake sale.

Immediately, I pivot back to face the next customer. There is quite a line forming—abouteight customers deep for both Zora and I—so there is absolutely no time to spare.

My next customer is Mick Winston, another regular, picking up his some of his usual groceries to get his family through the week. Another routine encounter. As I check off Mick's cart and receipt, I see a shopper speed down the middle of the two formed lines. A teenager, probably about 16 or 17, and more than likely annoying. I’ve never seen his face before, I’m sure of it. I never forget the face of a customer. After 22 years working every shift imaginable, I’ve seen millions of faces, and I remember them all, because it adheres to Mesford Mart’s company handbook to give excellent customer service:


Section 3.1: Customer Service

Give excellent customer service.


The kid continues to barrel down the center, and there’s no way even a teenager could be that oblivious to the two neatly formed lines on either side.

For a half second, I devote all my attention back to Mr. Winston so I can sign off his receipt and wish him well.

Then I immediately focus on the boy as he and his cart full of unhealthy snacks continue to accelerate, while not making eye-contact or even looking in the vicinity of Zora or myself. Red flag #1. Lack of eye contact is a problem with his generation in general, but cannot be discounted. Teens rarely come here alone anyway, except to scam the free samples. He looks nervous. Red flag #2. He has his headphones in and is clearly trying to ignore me as he charges through the middle, equidistant from Zora and me. Red flag #3. His receipt is scrunched up in his hand like a stress ball, offering partial relief that he has paid for at least some of his items.

Zora is busy helping a customer, so I sidestep in front of the approaching teenager.

“Son,” I call, but he starts to walk faster and tries to swerve his cart around me. Red flag #4.

“Excuse me,” I say as he passes by. I reach my left arm around, place my palm on the front of the cart, and bring it to a halt. The kid is jolted by the sudden stop, and glares at me. “Excuse me, I need to see your receipt.”
He looks at me with a blank expression, clearly not able to hear me. I motion for him to remove his headphones. Goodness, I fear for the human race if this is an indication of what is to come.

“Huh?” he says, obviously annoyed with me for forcing him to interact with another human. “I paid for everything, okay? You don’t need to check me off.” The boy speaks in a rushed tone. He's hiding something.

“Sorry to interrupt your head music, son, I need to check your receipt.”

“Oh, fine, whatever.” I detect minute quivers in his arm and voice as he hands over the receipt. Red flag #5. I don't even need to check to know this young man’s intentions, but everyone, even punks, deserve the benefit of the doubt. He has a cart full of goods, and a receipt that looks long enough to the untrained eye, but I know his motive.

“You find everything you need today?”

“Uh yeah, can I go please? I’m in a bit of a hurry.” The kid really wants this interaction to be over, now. He keeps looking out to the parking lot. Perhaps a friend is waiting for him.

“Oh sure, sure. Let me just check to make sure everything is here. You on your way to a party?”

“No, my family’s having dinner in fifteen minutes, and my mom will ground me if I’m not home on time,” the kid says unconvincingly.

“Oh no, we wouldn’t want that,” I say. Yeah right, I think. There’s no way this kid is worried about eating dinner at home. His cart is full with chips, soda, red cups, ping pong balls, and other assorted junk food. Plus, no teens ever eat with their families on Friday night. He may well be heading home, but if anything, it's to throw a party while his parents are out. As much as I am enjoying this, the store's closing in two minutes and I have to wrap up the interrogation and kill off the rest of the line. I strip the strategically placed box of seven-layer dip on top of the cart to reveal a mini keg of beer and a couple handles of cheap hard alcohol hidden in a fortress of nutrient-free junk food.

The boy is reduced to a deer in the headlights. Busted.

I feign surprise as I recheck his receipt. I caught him red-handed, but I still want to give the kid a way out. “Oh, wait, this must be a mistake, I don’t see these alcohol purchases on your receipt.”

“I mean, I paid for those already.”

“I’m sure you did, let me just motion over the store manager, if you could just hand over your ID.”

“Oh, no wait, I must have forgotten to pay for those. Ha ha, silly me,” the kid says, now also feigning surprise. “I’ll go back and pay for those now.” He looks more skittish than he must have been at his first high school dance.

I smirk as the kid retreats back to the cash registers in defeat.

“Good find, Grant,” Zora says over her shoulder as she checks off another regular shopper.

“Is it just me or are the kids getting dumber?”

“I’d like to think we’re getting smarter.”

“Well I know that’s not the case.” We both laugh. Zora has a point though: we carry 51 years of experience between the two of us. Seven years after starting the job herself, Zora trained me as her prodigy. She taught me everything there is to know about the position.

It’s an honor to have Zora right across the gate from me. Her eternal calm, her instantaneous decision-making skills, her impeccable customer service, and most importantly, her mentorship. She welcomed me with open arms at this job and taught me everything I needed to know. I may have a small apartment, but working at Mesford Mart by Zora’s side is my real home. When I walked in through the doors 22 years ago with no discernable skills, Mr. Earl Mesford III told me I’d be a great receipt-checker, and that he believed in me.

Zora Lee and I proceed to handle each remaining customer with precision. Zora wraps up before me, only because she didn’t have to bust a teenager for stealing alcohol. Even now that her hair has completely turned to gray and her eyes are assisted by thick-lensed glasses, Zora is as sharp as ever.

I hear the clatter of footsteps approaching—one last customer. The staccato click of her black stiletto heels stabbing the ground beneath her gives her identity away. Despite Zora being completely unencumbered by customers, this one will insist on waiting in my line.

Ravina Petrovian is one of our most dedicated customers we have. A habitual weekly, if not bi-weekly, shopper. A lawyer who’s made millions, but still shops amidst the decidedly lower to lower-middle class patrons of Mesford Mart. In my ten or so years helping Ravina, she has never ceased to be… interesting. “Hi Grant, how the hell are you doing tonight?” Ravina purrs, taking a sip from a plastic cup half-filled with some green liquid, while poking me in the nipple with her free hand. Another one of her health drinks. I can smell the pressed vegetables. How could you pay for something that unpleasant when you could just eat bacon?

“Ravina, good to see you. Receipt please.” After all of our interactions, I still maintain a level of unease around her.

“Alright, Mr. Grant,” Ravina concedes as she flashes her surgically enhanced smile. “I’ll give you a receipt in exchange for you handing over that cute toosh of yours.” Accompanying her usual greeting, Ravina helps herself to a handful of my left butt cheek, more forcefully than usual. Ever since her divorce three years ago, she has become increasingly physical with me, and I am unsure how to handle these situations. The employee handbook stresses the importance of always giving the customer excellent customer service, and that the customer is always right. I have combed through it several times, and reread it once a quarter, but it never addresses the correct line of action to take when an employee’s buttocks is grabbed repeatedly by a customer.

“Oh hey Ravina, your grasp gets harder and harder as the years go by.” She must be working out more. At first I used to flinch, but I don’t react anymore. I’m like a donkey at a petting zoo.

“Oh sorry doll. Seems like you’re getting a little soft, too. But if you want me to stop helping myself to a serving of Grant, you’re going to have to sue me.” Ravina verbalizes the threat with her hand still firmly grasping my rear end. In one jerking movement, she reels me in, to where my lips are millimeters apart from hers. “And I’ll take everything you got, so don’t even try.” Ravina says with a stone cold stare. Then, catching her own intensity, she chuckles, bathing me in her glamorous smile. After two decades on detecting the truthfulness of customers, I am certain that Ravina is telling no lie. Although she started off as a software engineer developing computer programs, she’s made a fortune out of won workers' compensation settlements, dealing with wrongful termination, and sexual harassment, for both clients and herself. Rumor has it that she won a lawsuit against a former company of hers for a million dollars because her male boss smiled at her—once.

Still in the heat of the moment, the tension right now could be cut with a knife.

“Oh I’m just joshing with ‘ya, Grant.” She releases me and we simultaneously exhale.

She hands over her receipt and observes as I comb over her receipt. Although her actions are borderline inappropriate, there is nothing suspicious regarding her payment history. She’s paid for everything she has ever bought from our store. “Oh come on Grant, I’ve been shopping here ten years, when will you trust me enough to know I won’t steal anything?” Ravina playfully tugs on my sleeve.

“You know the rules, I trust you, but I can’t give anyone special treatment.”

“I know, I’m just yanking your chain.”

“I know, Ravina.”

“Oh,” Ravina contests, pulling her hand away from my arm. “I meant it in the old miners’ term: ‘Don’t yank my chain.’”

“I know. I’m familiar with the term, Rav—”

“Not as in, you know, yanking your chain,” Ravina directs her eyes to my crotch. Even my privates can sense the intensity of her prolonged glare.

I blush. “Ravina! I never assumed—”

“Oh how embarrassing, I’m so sorry you thought I was making a pass at you,” Ravina blushes, something I've never seen her do before. I am perplexed as to how this statement, among everything else she’s ever done, constitutes being over the line.

“Oh no need, Ravina. I never—”

In an action so fast I can’t process what’s happening until afterward, Ravina snatches the collar of my Mesford Mart polo shirt, and tugs me against her and to the side. She leans in to whisper in my ear, “But if you wanted me to yank your chain, I would in a heartbeat.”

In every interaction with Ravina, there’s a shifting balance between fear, friendship, and more fear. Frozen, I can’t even manage a breath or a syllable. Just like the stupid teen shoplifter minutes earlier, it takes me a few seconds to reanimate.

Trying desperately to return to normal, I finally avert my eyes from my crotch to her receipt. Everything looks fine, her normal health items: kale, carrots, tofu, vegan cupcakes, and vegetable juice. Health food is not Mesford Mart’s specialty, and Ravina would be much better suited to go elsewhere for those purchases. In a recent survey, 63% of our shoppers answered that kale was a small town in Spain, and was indeed pronounced cah-YAY.

“You’re really starting to let yourself go Mrs. Ravina.” I joke. Nothing Ravina hasn’t heard from me before.

“Oh, you're always my harshest critic.” Ravina lightly punches my shoulder. “Remember don’t call me Mrs. anymore, its Ms. now. For three years it’s been Ms. Well, no reason for prefixes anyway, just Ravina.”

“Yes, of course, sorry about that.” I’ve long been transfixed by Ravina. She’s her own breed. In a town where everyone seems to stay the same, Ravina’s always sporting the latest fashions or hairstyle. I’ve heard some of the other ladies I work with talk about her, how she needs to start dressing her age. It makes me wonder how a town, so fond of tradition and the status quo, could be found attractive to an ever-shifting personality like her.

Her increasingly forward advances to me can be challenging at times, but I can always safely decline, because the right course of action is solidly stated in section 5.31B of the employee handbook regarding dating customers:

Do not date customers

My eyes catch a double order of kale on the receipt. She usually only gets one. Upon double checking her cart, it’s clear she has been double-charged. In any other instance I would have identified this issue immediately, but at the end of the day with this customer, it only reaches my attention now. I must maintain focus all the way through to the end.

“Ravina, I’m sorry, but it looks like the cashier must have accidentally double-swiped your head of kale. Just go back to the cashier and they will take care of you.”

“Wow Grant, you look over my receipts more closely than the IRS guy that audited me last tax season.” Ravina leans in with a cupped hand, “And he was a Jew.”

At this point in our customer-employee relationship, I am immune to the various offensive things said by Ravina. “Oh you’re welcome, but I’m no hero.”

“I didn’t call you a hero.”

With no comeback, I’m never good at deviating from the script. I simply smile as Ravina waits several tense seconds for the response that doesn't come, and walks away.

“Not bad Grant,” Zora says. “You caught a perp and a double charge as two of your last customers. Not bad at all.”

“Yep, saving our customers from accidental charges is just as important and catching delinquents.”

“I know. But I live for catching the perps.”

After Ravina passes back through with her corrected receipt, Zora and I go to punch out for the night. In the employee break room in the back of the store, every employee is gathered around the communal television. Probably a football game or something. But no, it turns out they are watching the local news.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Zora inquires.

“We just got acquired by NEW!” chime Derek and Regina, two of the younger cashiers.

I eye the TV screen to see the news anchor vocalize those very sentiments. Across the bottom of the screen runs the headline BREAKING NEWS: MESFORD MART PURCHASED BY NEW.

“NEW?” I'm unfamiliar with the acronym.

“You know, N-E-W, Not Evil Worldwide Corporation, this is so awesome!” Graciella exudes. Graciella, the sample-giver, is perhaps the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most beautiful woman I’ve ever worked with. Her genuine excitement makes me genuinely excited. The coworkers around her seem comparably pleased with the news, too.

“Oh, I think I’ve heard of them,” I lie, if only to appease Graciella. “What are they doing right now, again?” I ask with a casual coolness.

“Uh it’s more like what isn’t NEW doing right now. NEW is just the coolest tech company in the world,” Derek snidely remarks as he scratches the outside of his nose with his index finger. “They are the largest online retailer of all time. You can buy anything on NEW.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right,” I say, as if Derek merely confirmed something I already knew very well. In fact, this is all new to my ears. No pun intended. Given Derek’s summary on NEW, the news doesn’t quite make sense to me.

“Sorry, one more question,” I begin, while all the employees look back at me, wondering when I’ll shut up. I didn’t intend everyone to turn around. A dozen sets of eyes on me. “You said NEW is an online retailer. Why would they be interested in us? We don’t even have a website.”

The group ponders my question, but we're interrupted by Hector on the overhead speaker system. His normally subdued tone is higher-pitched and choppy. “ALL EMPLOYEES PLEASE SIT DOWN IN THE EMPLOYEE BREAK ROOM FOR A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT.”

Chapter 2

All of the three dozen employees either working the evening shift or the graveyard shift excitedly broke their huddle around the screen to sit in the rows of dilapidated chairs behind them. Except for Grant and Zora, virtually everyone was staring down at their devices, typing something. The company hadn’t been bought, Grant convinced himself. All this was just a baseless tabloid story, like those medical reports that claim bacon to be extremely unhealthy.

When all thirty or so employees were seated, the lights suddenly dimmed, and the dilapidated TV screen changed channels to a feed of Earl Mesford III at his home, owner of Mesford Mart and grandson of the founder, Earl Sr.

Grant smiled seeing Earl III’s face, reassured that nothing would change. Now in his seventies, Earl III appeared to shrivel ever so slightly in his patented suspenders and plaid shirt combination. Earl used to be on the floor seven days a week, but as his health declined and age increased, he started coming in four days instead of seven, and worked eight hours a day instead of 14. Still Earl remained a very visible owner of the store.

He hadn’t been in for the past three days, the first time such had occurred.

“Hello everyone,” Earl started.

“Hi Earl,” the employees replied enthusiastically, not everyone was yet fully aware that it was a pre-taped recording, despite the brilliant sunlight behind Earl, and the fact that it was currently 10 pm.

“It sure is sunny still over where he lives. How long does it take him to drive over here if it’s still sunny over there?” Zora whispered into Grant’s ear, cautious not to interrupt Earl.

“I called this meeting today,” Earl continued, “to address the rumors circulating about a possible acquisition of Mesford Mart.”

The term rumors reassured Grant, for it was often a euphemism for lies. Tell them, Earl. Tell all of them this isn’t true.

“Word is it that Mesford Mart was in talks with Not Evil Worldwide, or NEW as many call it.” Hollers from the younger crowd. “And I wanted to just tell you all that these rumors are true. And as of this afternoon, a sale has been completed.”

“Not Evil Worldwide now fully and completely owns Mesford Mart. I just wanted to thank all of you for all of your hard work over the years,” Earl paused, fighting to continue. “Mesford Mart has been in the family for over a hundred years, and it will be hard for our family to remove ourselves from such an incredible company. But rest assured, you are all in wonderful hands with NEW, perhaps the greatest American company running today. It is hard to leave, but I can’t imagine leaving the company in better hands than NEW. I look forward to watching Mesford Mart continue to grow, even if that is just as a shopper. Farewell great employees, I wish you all the best and you have nothing to fear.”

With that closing note, the screen popped off and the lights repowered. Grant sat still, struggling to process it all. How? When? Why? His heart sank. The hearts of the other more senior employees must have done so too. Not so for the younger employees, who were busily tapping away on their smartphones.

Then the lights dimmed even further, and Mesford Mart’s crummy overhead speakers, with a quality comparable to a walkie-talkie, cut into “Beautiful Day” by U2. The crew hushed, utterly surprised.

A spritely Asian man jumped out of the corner, strode to the middle of the floor and stopped in front of the TV, all the while playing a frenetic rendition of air guitar. The song finally concluded, and the spritely man was met with an ovation. The employees at Mesford Mart were impressed. No one had ever entered to their own intro music before.

“My name is Han. I’m the new manager of Mesford Mart. Hello everybody!” The man was about five and a half feet tall and slight, with a wrinkleless face, and spiked black hair. Even before noticing any physical attributes, Grant saw that Han brimmed with youthful energy that couldn’t be counterfeited or forged.

“Hello Han,” everyone responded.

“Great,” Zora quipped. “More American business going to the Chinese.”

The crowd waited for twenty seconds as Han frantically typed on his smartphone. Finally, as if woken by a hypnotist, he looked up and returned to his speech. “I’m Han Lee, your new branch manager, and I am frickin’ hashtag excited about two things in the entire world: playing hangman, which is the best game in the whole world; and being here with you guys right now,” Han said, pumping his fists.

Grant had no idea what a hashtag was, but based on the fact that the younger employees responded with overwhelming support to his declaration, Grant knew he wanted nothing to do with it. He listened to the chatter around him and realized they were excited about the new “cool” boss, with his stylishly spiked hair, thick-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans, form-fitting name-brand polo shirt, and shiny white sneakers that Grant practically needed sunglasses just to look at. Quite a sharp contrast from Earl’s suspenders, bald head, and raggedly old clothes.

“How’s everyone doing tonight?” Han had a weird way of speaking while not breaking his smile, and it was starting to freak Grant out.

Cheers were heard throughout the room.

“Awesome, glad to hear it. Just a little about me, I’m Han Lee, I’ve been with hashtag N-E-W ever since I graduated from hashtag Harvard, yes you heard me right, the Harvard University, so a good six weeks or so. And I am pumped to be here.”

“Whoa, six weeks after graduating and he’s already running a new branch? He is so amazing,” Regina muttered loudly enough for Grant to hear.

“I know, he’s like the next Steve Jobs,” Derek replied.

“I have a question for you, Han,” Zora stated aloud.

“Yes, please. Hashtag go ahead,” Han said, obviously eager to hear the question.

“With all due respect, what qualifies you to run a supermarket?”

“Wow, incredible question Zora. Hashtag thank you so much for asking that.” Han responded as if Zora had just given him a brand new car. “First of all, I went to Harvard University for my MBA, which qualifies me to do anything. Also, oh yes, I happened to be born in one—a supermarket. Can you say, ‘Clean up on aisle five?’”

Many laughed, including Han, but Zora wasn’t satisfied.

“But outside of being born in a supermarket, do you have any, you know, work experience?”

The group waited, once again, for Han to finish typing on his phone. “Well what I lack in actual existing experience, I make up in killer new ideas that I learned from Harvard, which is where I graduated from, if I didn’t already mention. At NEW, we’re all about breaking up tired, outdated practices and replacing them with NEW’s youthful, innovative approach. Here at NEW, we appreciate youthful thinking. We’re a relatively young company ourselves, and it’s our youthful exuberance that allows us to dominant previously steadfast industries. Let me ask you something, do you want a manager that is entrenched in out-of-date managerial best practices, or a manager who is approaching this industry with a fresh mind and learning as he goes? Hashtag who’d you rather?” More laughs and cheers.

“Hashtag we love you,” shouted Regina.

“I mean, I couldn’t use out-of-date managerial practices if I tried,” Han continued, “because I don’t even know what they are.”

More cheering.

“I mean, I don’t know a single thing about grocery stores, so let’s go down this path together.”

The younger employees cheered and chanted “Han! Han! Han!”

“I don’t mean to come off as rude, but is anyone concerned that the new boss has zero experience?” Zora appealed to the rest of the employees. “And just because people like me might not qualify in your book as ‘youthful’ doesn’t mean that we don’t have great ideas, too.”

“Whoa, Zora, I’ll have to stop you right there. Amazing follow up question, by the way. When we say ‘youthful thinking,’ we aren’t referring to anyone’s age. Let’s make that clear right now. We are talking about youthful ideas, challenging the old traditions and norms, which yes, anyone is capable of. Secondly, while yes, I am the manager of the Mesford Mart; I am not your boss. What we realized at NEW is people just don’t like bosses. So we asked ourselves, ‘Hashtag why bother?’ You are the real boss.” Han’s eyes panned across the crowd.

“Me?” Graciella asked. “I’m the boss?”

“No,” Donkus, the meat man stood defiantly. “He was looking at me. I am the boss.”

“No, no, no. Although I love the initiative from all of you. All of you are your own bosses.”

More hollering and cheering. Zora and Grant sat quietly, still unsatisfied. Han wasn’t going to answer their tough questions, and the rest of the workforce was plenty fine with that.

“And then all of your bosses report to me.” No one really processed this.

“Now, I know it is the end of all of your shifts, but there’s just a few more things to go over. First, I just wanted to play a video of our visionary CEO welcoming you to the NEW team.”

The screen blipped on, and the employees were greeted by a stern-faced blonde woman, probably in her mid-forties, who gave the impression that she wasn’t one to be messed with. Even from the TV screen, she commanded the room with ease.

“Hello, I’m Delilah Senton, and I’d like to welcome you to the NEW family. At NEW, we strive to be the go-to solution for any consumer needs. We want to be the most affordable, we want to be the widest ranging, and we want to be the best at satisfying shopper needs. Now, we feel like we are close, but we are not there yet, that’s why we need your help to team up with us to ensure the consumer has the best experience possible. Now I’ll pass it back to our representative with you.”

“Wow, that is amazing, it’s like she is speaking directly to us!” marveled Regina. “I feel so cool.”

“Not so fast,” Zora chimed, “she didn’t even mention our names.”

“Oh yes,” Han cut in. “That’s our standard recording, we buy a lot of companies, and our CEO herself realized the redundancy in it all. So brilliant. There’s not a half-second to her day that is wasted. She is so on point.”


About me

Warren's passion is writing about social, economic, and cultural issues affecting the world today. Warren incorporates his past and current experience working for companies in technology, entertainment, and non-profit sectors to provide a fresh perspective on current issues in the world today. Warren currently resides in Orange County, California, where he serves as a product manager for a start-up mobile analytics company. You can read more free stories and poetry at

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
As a member of the tech startup community, I wanted to explore both the benefits as well as the unseen consequences and hidden agendas that technology brings to a world that is advancing faster than ever before.
Q. Why do you write?
My passion is writing about major social, cultural, and economic news stories and issues affecting the world today. My dream as a writer is to inform, entertain, and positively impact others in any capacity.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
Readers can learn more about my other creative works at or email me directly at Any questions or comments are always appreciated.

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The Legend Of Mama Mojo And...
Tales Of People Living Life To The Fullest.
Let go a piece of your heart.
Love Is All
Will she ever escape from this nightmare?