Myths of the Neighborhood Store Part 1: Root Beer Massacre
- Myths of the Neighborhood Store Part 1: Root Beer Massacre
I’ve worked in stores all around the city of Porram in my brief life of 40 years. And none of them prepared me for the oddities I’ve seen since my first day on the job at Paul’s Smokes, Eats, And More. Something about this restaurant attracts the strange and unbelievable, and I am talking about something besides the food.
People say every store has weird tales, but this place goes beyond the norm. Odds are, no one has seen what I did this Sunday.
I arrive to work early to help prepare for the huge football crowd arriving in a few hours. The plan is to stock the cooler and some shelves before opening. No big deal. That’s just business as usual in my book. Instead, as I open the back door after disarming the security system, I step into a deep puddle of still-wet, fizzing soda.
My first instinct is to back out of the store and called the cops, but I don’t hear anyone inside, and the alarm has no alerts. So, like the idiot some would call me, I risk it and go in slowly, keeping an ear out for the sound of anyone who might be inside with me. Despite trying to be quiet by going slow, I still made small splashing sounds. They sounded like an old 90s stereo cranked up to me but are normal to anyone else.
At the same time, my inner voice calls me an idiot, lecturing me to turn around and call the cops. But it knows it’s too late since I’ve come so far already. So, I keep walking deeper into the store, splashing through amber puddles as I go. I know most people’s intuition screams at them to turn back by this point. But mine accepts the fact that I won’t. Something in my DNA makes me run toward danger when others run away from it.
As I finally enter the storefront from the back, I see the cause of the flooding–broken root beer bottles from the cooler aisle to the register. The brown glass bottles are in shards. The cans and clear plastic containers are bent in ways that made me think of a car pile-up on the freeway as I look over the destruction before me.
“What in the nine hells happened here?” My voice echoes off the walls as I take in the carnage.
I figure something like this has to be weird, even in this city, so I pull out my phone, snap pictures of the carnage and send them to the store manager and assistant manager. Then before I can put away my cell phone Adam Sandler’s Turkey Song starts to play.
I see my manager’s face as I answer, “This is an unusual thing around here, right Ted?”
“Well, sort of. I mean, weird stuff is always happening there. We’re still not sure why yet,” He replies, stumbling as he tries to be reassuring from the sound of his voice.
“I’ll clean this up and see if the security cameras have any answers. Hopefully, I should have some answers when you get here,” I half mumble, half sigh.
He tries to thank me again still as I hang up, grabbing the mop bucket in one smooth motion. I’m still in shock as I start mopping up the root beer and try to keep all the glasses, cans, and bottles together as much as possible. I swear if someone told me I was dreaming, I might believe them.
The mopping takes me a bit longer than I expect since the rest of the store looks like crap. I finish the cooler aisle and still have the rest of the restaurant to finish, I realize time is running out, so I rush.
I scan the room, satisfied with my work, and look at the clock. I still have at least a half hour until Ted arrives. So, I change the water in the mop bucket, grab the trash from cleaning and take it to the dumpster. Then seeing I still have at least 20 minutes before Ted arrives, I walk to the back office and sit in his chair. It feels like I’m sitting on a cloud.
I take a few minutes to relax before turning to face the security monitors to my right. I set it to rewind right after everyone left the night before. Ted, for whatever reason, had a sound clip of Beavis & Butthead installed as the notification sound for when the footage was ready for review, as it did this morning.
I turn to see what the footage will reveal, and my jaw drops as I watch a little Jack-o’-lantern pop into the store out of thin air. It walks down the cooler aisle and opens the root beer door. Then all I can make out is a hand waving if you call sticks hands, before it got even weirder. The little pumpkin backed up, and the next thing I see is bottles and cans with arms and faces jumping out of the cooler.
“This must be a commercial or a prank or something,” I’m think while I stare in disbelief at the monitor.
Unfortunately, the security system was still mostly old, so there was no audio. The pumpkin, at some point, went poof. Meanwhile, all I can see are the root beer bottles and cans seeming to form tribes. The best I can figure it, they got into some argument about which brand/tribe was the best, between Howler, S &M, and the local brands. I’m not sure what the Chug cans and bottles were thinking when they interjected themselves into it. All I know is it was a big mistake.
They seemed to know it too. The three battling brands froze before making a slow synchronized turn to regard Chug as I do a freshly grilled steak. I’ve had some of each brand in my lifetime, and Chug has been the weakest in terms of bite.
From there, it got ugly, like professional wrestling ugly. Cans and bottles are flying everywhere. Some from the top of chip racks, others charging from the counter the register sits on. Chug tries to defend itself, but it seems to know as well as I did that it’s futile.
Chug attempts to retreat, but the mob overruns it and gives ground. I watch it once again before leaving it set for Ted when he arrives, and I deal with the sound of the animated idiots.
Ted walks in as I finish breaking one of those games you keep advancing in, even when not playing them. I let him have his chair, opting for the higher solid steel bar stool.
I sit back a bit, expecting that what Ted is about to watch will shock anyone in their 60s. Even Ted who looks like he has lived longer and enjoys it. But he doesn’t flinch as we watch the security footage.
Instead, he turns to face me, saying in a serious tone, “I’m sorry you had to deal with him. It’s usually Halloween when he creates mischief in the store. I’m not sure why he’s showing up this year.”
“Wait, you mean this is a regular thing?” I ask, staring at him and waiting to hear that what I think I hear is wrong.
“Sort of. Last year, he hung up all the shredded cheese like streamers. I mean, this is about par for the course, and he has done more serious things in the past,” He replies.
“Should I expect any more incidents like this?” I ask, knowing I’m willingly giving myself over to something out of this world.
Ted seems lost in thought before he replies, “Well, not exactly like this. But expect that if something seems too weird to happen, it might happen here.”
I nod, silently asking myself, “What have I gotten myself into?”
The answer came to me over time, but not today. However, the rest of the morning went off without a hitch. Well, at least for the rest of the day.