Zombies, Glue-Sniffers, Beer Thieves and Me

Zombies, Glue-Sniffers, Beer Thieves and Me February 16, 2013

Why am I awake? It’s 4 a.m. The only people up at this time of the morning are zombies who got off at the wrong bus stop on their way back to their graveyard and are now just wandering about lost. Also up right now are stalkers. And for sure stalker zombies. And of course people who stalk zombies.

I think that last class is pretty small. Zombies probably don’t get a lot of stalkers. It’d too quickly get boring. “Oh, look,” you’d say if you were stalking a zombie. “There he is. Still. Couldn’t he pick up the pace a little?” But, alas, he couldn’t. Zombies don’t jog. They hate jogging. Because it makes huge parts of them fall off. That’s why zombies shuffle along so slowly. They’re into body cohesiveness.

When I was seventeen years old I worked the graveyard shift at the second most often robbed 7-11 in California. True fact! We strove to be Number One—I’d leave six-packs by the door, stacks of cash on the counter beside the gallon jar of pickled pig feet—but we just couldn’t overtake a 7-11 in San Francisco that was located right next to a bank. (I suppose robbers went, “Okay, we’re gonna rob that bank. Wait! Look! Right next to it! A 7-11! Forget the bank. Let’s rob the 7-11. Less armed guards! Plus they have picked pig feet!” Or maybe they used it as training for robbing the bank. I have no idea.)

The 7-11 where I worked was basically out in the middle of this raggedy vacant lot, right across some abandoned railroad tracks from this ancient plant where they made the kind of ice you buy in bags at grocery stores. The guys who worked at the ice plant used to come into my 7-11 during their break to buy tubes of model airplane glue.

“How nice,” I thought at first. “On their breaks these guys build model airplanes. And they always ask for a little paper bag to carry the glue in. What a surprisingly meticulous group!” But after a while I couldn’t help but notice that they all had shaking hands, half their teeth, and breath that vaporized my eyebrows off.

“Those guys are glue sniffers,” said my boss and owner of the store, Forrest Wang. “Watch them when they’re in the store. They’ll steal stuff. Specially the frozen burritos.”

“Really? The frozen burritos?”

“But that reminds me. We’re almost out of their glue. Order another box tonight.”

That was a weird order to place. It made me a drug dealer. I guess.

When he first hired me Forrest took me behind the front counter of the store. “You’re gonna get robbed here,” he said. He dropped his voice and looked around conspiratorially. “Now down here,” he said, bending to reach into some shelves beneath the cash register, “I keep something I don’t want you to ever use except in an emergency. You hear me? Never.” I sucked in and held my breath. I’d never used a gun before. I’d hardly ever seen a gun before.

“Ah,” he said, feeling around down there, “here it is.” He looked at me intensely. “Remember, tell no one this is here.” I considered bolting out of the store right out of there; I didn’t want anything to do with brandishing firearms at robbers. But instead of a gun Forrest slid out the top half of a baseball bat. Its bottom part was wrapped in duct tape, presumably to prevent splinters.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” I said. “Bunt criminals out the store?”

“You hit ’em with it,” said Forrest.


“Do I look like I’m kidding?” He didn’t. He never did.

As it turned out, though, I actually did use that mini-bat to fight crime. One night a cover model for Meth Head Monthly ran into the store, shot right past me standing behind the counter, flung open a cooler door, grabbed a six-pack of Budweiser, and began his kicking, flailing rush back out the door.

When he ran by me the first time, I said, “Hi, there. Welcome to 7-11.” But I don’t think he heard me. He was too maniacally focused.

When he ran back by me, carrying the beer this time, I said, “Thank you. Come again.”

But then somehow the whole thing just pissed me off.  So I reached under the counter, grabbed the hunk o’ bat, and let it fly just as Mr. Beer Run was reaching for the glass double door out of the place. I didn’t spin it through the air hard enough to kill him or anything; I don’t think I’d have thrown it at all if he didn’t have crazy thick hair beneath a wool cap. But it clonked him on the back of the head pretty good. He wasn’t all that steady on his feet in the first place, and getting whonkered in the back of the head by half a baseball bat didn’t exactly enhance his sense of control. He crashed out of the door and sprawled onto the pavement, beer cans flying everywhere. Without once looking back he got up and stumbled his way into the darkness beyond the lights of the parking lot, one hand clamped to the back of his head.

It was two o’clock in the morning as I stood in the yellow light of the store looking down at the beer cans on the pavement, at my now trusty half-bat on the ground, at the cigarette butts, the oil stains, the crumbling tar of the parking lot. I looked out across the tracks at the dilapidated ice plant. I thought of those guys in there, sniffing glue and gnawing on their frozen burritos. I listened for a moment to the electric humming of our big 7-11 sign. I wondered how I had gotten to where I was, and what in God’s name would ever become of me.

"https://uploads.disquscdn.c...and Clippy cusses them out equally."

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  • Allie

    My husband, who is a bit of a lunatic sometimes, once tackled to the ground a beer robber outside our regular convenience store, and sat on him while the police got there. My mom was furious at him and said, “Didn’t you think about getting hurt?” He said, “No, I just thought about the owner and his family and how hard they work and how much risk they took coming to this country, and how hard you’d have to suck to rob them.” Truth is I think he didn’t think at all, the guy just came running around the corner into him and he acted on instinct. I suppose we should feel sorry for people pathetic enough to steal beer, but I really don’t. I mean, beer is not an essential food group.

  • mike

    Pupils dilated (not from glue, too Skid Row for us) and a 4am run to 7-11. That brings back some memories, except I think was one of the zombies. So, on behalf all of us zombies, I’m sorry about that, John. But you survived and so did I. What an amazing world.

  • boy jesse

    Beer is not an essential food group?! The hell you say!!!!

  • Yeah, glue-sniffing is pretty much the bottom-of-the-barrel, getting-high wise. Those poor guys were a mess. Graveyard-shift, glue-sniffing ice makers. Man, this is a world, isn’t it?

  • I can’t believe how many criminals are caught by sitting on them. Gravity so rocks.

  • lo j

    Ha ha ha!!!

  • Dang! Now that makes me want to try (again) to publish my short story where the hero clonks the robber with a bottle of Colt 45.

    I love the descriptive here! “Breath that vaporized my eyebrows off” hilarious!

  • Susan in NY

    My brother, in his wild, younger days, stole beer from the back of a bar. His buddies all ran away, but my brother decided to take the beer with him while he ran, and so he was caught. I am glad no one hit him in the head with a bat. He was just a stupid kid at the time, out in the Hamptons, underaged and bored.

    Charges were dropped. Now he is an upstanding citizen with a wife and the cutest little girl you have ever seen.

    Some people have to learn their lessons the hard way.

    Susan in NY

  • mike

    We regularly speak of the kids driven to suicide by bullying. What’s harder to get one’s head around is how many adults in our community are committing a slower, less forthright, form of suicide.

    Take the need to escape your demons, the use of “recreational” drugs to do so, then fuel it all by years of systematic abuse* and the resulting self-hate, and its a perfect formula for self-disposal.

    May be worth a blog post sometime.

    * When I speak of “systematic abuse,” I’m not just referring to bad parents, bad churches, and holy and unholy bullies. Every sane person in our community, no matter their age, feels the stinging abuse of Prop 8 and the “protect our children” mantra that is regularly used to thwart equal rights.

  • Anne

    Hilarious. I needed that laugh.

  • Hannah Grace

    I wonder if he died. Junkies aren’t always careful with concussions

  • Yes, I believe I killed the guy.

  • Jill