“Call of Cthulhu,” the man said.
“I don’t want that,” said the boy.
“I bet there are some funny descriptions in there.”
“The kids at school won’t even know what it is.”
“They’d probably identify it as a Metallica song more than anything else.”
“It’s like a squid or an octopus, right?”
“Well, son, it could be described as a lot of things. A squid. An octopus. Michelle Obama,” the man said. He chuckled.
My back was to them. I froze.
“Terrifying things like that. Pretty scary stuff,” the man said. He spoke for my benefit now. I couldn’t see him, but I could feel him talk to the back of my head.
I continued scanning.
After a few minutes, they’d wandered off. In the meantime I’d identified a couple of clearance books about succeeding at comedy. I’d ordered them years ago for a dude who seemed like a bit of a douche. At the time, I wanted to tell him you couldn’t learn that stuff from a book, but what the fuck do I know? I get paid to grit my teeth and listen to people say idiotic shit.
(Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have much love left for the Obamas, but I know why the man said what he said. It’s the principle of the thing.)
I flipped open a book about acting. Jack Nicholson had written the introduction, and he sounded fucking crazy. I skipped forward. There was an interesting passage about some popular actress, who they only referred to as “E.J,” getting yelled at and practically hazed by the acting coach. I skimmed over it quickly. It read like hot hippie bullshit.
I’d considered writing about bad poetry today, so I grabbed a few of the dumber-looking titles and glanced through them. They were all too boring or too sexy or occasionally too brilliant. “Why am I doing this?” I said to myself. I placed them back on the shelves.
I walked to the service desk to get some clearance stickers. Manager X was there telling J.D. about how she’d cured the common cold with essential oils.
“I have to be honest,” he said. “That is some straight-up witchcraft.”
I waited until she walked away to tell J.D. he was a better man than I for listening to her nonsense.
“Dude,” he said.
“I can’t take that shit, man,” I said. “It sets my fucking brain on fire.”