Best Buy

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Babes

*Author’s note: I recently received a request to write to a story about someone’s mom who is raising three children on her own. I couldn’t immediately come up with a storyline for the idea, so I shelved it without replying to the person who sent it. My apologies.

When another idea for a story came to me, I recalled his request, and that brought to mind something from my time on active duty. There was a Marine lance corporal I knew by name and face but didn’t personally know because we didn’t work together. Someone told me he married a woman with five kids, and I started laughing and said, “Bullshit!”

It wasn’t BS. It was true. I saw him leaving work one day, and when he went outside, the woman who came to pick him up got out to let him drive. I saw her for the first time after they kissed and she turned around. When I did, my jaw dropped, because she was a very attractive woman while he was pencil thin with less than perfect teeth.

I assumed free housing, free medical care, and a guaranteed salary played a huge role in it for her as he wasn’t exactly Don Juan. And I’m guessing her being that attractive was what did it for him—the five kids aside. I never asked, so I’m only speculating, but it struck me as one of things that just makes no sense to an outsider—like me.

So I’m combing the request with that memory as well as an experience a friend recently shared with me about a trip to Best Buy when his cat chewed through a fiber optic cable.

******

June, 2014

“Gray. Come in. Sit down, please,” the store manager said. “You’ve been with us for four years now. Two part-time and two full-time. I wouldn’t normally consider making a 20-year old a department manager, but you’re the best associate in the store, and by far the best in the electronics department. And as you know, that’s the heart of this store.”

The younger man only nodded as he was well aware that was true. TVs, stereos, and home theater systems were 70% of the store’s revenue with smart phones and computers right behind.

“So I don’t feel I’m taking a risk by putting you in charge.”

“Wow. Thank you, sir.”

“You’ve earned it. The rap on your generation is you’re lazy and you expect someone to hand you something for nothing. Hell, I’ve fired 15-20 kids your age since you went full time right after finishing high school. But you’re the exception to the rule. Now don’t think I’m unaware that the older associates, and the two of them who’ve been here longer aren’t going to be resentful. You’re smart enough to know that’s gonna be the case. Just also know I’ve got your back, and after you walk out, they’ll be coming in here so I can tell them face to face you’re their boss. Any questions?”

“No. None, sir. But again, thank you.”

“The pay bump is substantial, but you’ll be earning it. Trust me,” the manager told him.

He then stood up and extended his hand, so the new department manager stood up and shook it.

“Knock ’em dead, Gray,” he said with a smile.

As he walked out, his former peers were standing there waiting.

“Don’t feel bad, junior,” a man of about 35 said. “You’ll get your shot.”

“Yeah. One of these days,” Gray told him, knowing he’d be the angriest and most resentful in about two more minutes.

*****

January 2019

Her very pleasant dream about her late husband was rudely interrupted by the sound of her alarm clock.

She opened one eye, saw it was 5:15am, then turned it off. As always, her cat, Friday (so named because she rescued it and brought it home on a Friday a little over a year ago), jumped up in the bed and starting happily meowing.

“Hey, there!” she said as it purred loudly. “We have to get up, you know.”

The cat continued to purr as it rubbed up against her.

“Okay, maybe we can stay in bed for another minute or two. How does that sound?” she told the kitty with a smile knowing it might be the last calm moment of her day.

Blake Kendall was the mother of three little girls; a mother who was now raising them on her own after her husband, Toby, who was only 33, died not long after coming down with pneumonia two years ago.

Unlike the times he’d had colds, the deadly infection came on suddenly and rapidly got worse by the hour. Blake nearly had to drag him to the doctor because he insisted it was just a bad cold or maybe even the flu. She knew the flu killed thousands of people every year, so even if it was ‘just’ the flu, that could also be very serious.

By the time their family doctor saw him, Toby’s fever was 103.5. He was freezing cold one minute and burning up the next. After listening to his lungs the doctor urged them to go straight to the ER, and Toby was too sick to argue.

The doctor at the hospital took x-rays and confirmed what he thought. Toby had pneumonia—in both lungs. It was severe but treatable he’d told them.

They admitted him that evening and started pumping his body full of antibiotics which initially seemed to be working. He even told casino siteleri his wife he was feeling a little better after the first night when she came back to see him. Having three kids, she couldn’t stay with him all night, and once she was sure it wasn’t life threatening, Toby insisted she go home.

“I’ll be fine, honey. These guys are wizards. I’ll be back home in no time, okay? Besides, there’s no reason both of us should be miserable, right?” he said, assuring her he’d be fine.

But the recovery was short-lived as his condition worsened significantly and by 6pm the following day the doctor informed Blake her husband was gravely ill as the infection was out of control and not responding to any combination of drugs. Just twelve hours later Toby feel into a coma.

Blake was able to get a neighbor to watch the girls so she could be with him during his last 36 hours, and she was by his side when he took his final breath.

The doctor told her how sorry he was as well as how unusual it was for someone as healthy as Toby to die from pneumonia. Someone that strong and just 33 shouldn’t have succumbed to the illness. But he’d ‘beaten the odds’, and Blake suddenly found herself planning a funeral while trying to comfort three little girls who couldn’t understand why Daddy wouldn’t be coming home again.

So with three children, there was precious little time for anything but taking care of them and their home. And now Blake was doing it all by herself.

Even so, she gave herself a couple of extra minutes with Friday before throwing the covers off and starting her day; a day that promised to be one more ‘deja vu’ event that looked a lot like every other day since her husband died.

After getting out of bed, Blake was thrilled to have another 30 minutes of peace and quiet as she sipped a cup of coffee. The house was eerily silent and yet the silence was deliciously wonderful. She was sitting in her favorite chair in front of the television which was turned off while Friday ‘made biscuits’ in her lap.

The cat got bored and jumped down. Blake’s eyes were closed so she had no idea where the cat went. And then she heard a sound.

Any sound that wasn’t a child scared her. She hated being so jumpy, but she’d seen too many police dramas on the TV in front of her to pretend nothing bad could ever happen. She sat very still trying to figure out where the noise was coming from and what it might be when the TV screen suddenly came to life.

“What in the world?” she said as some kind of error message appeared. She hadn’t touched the remote, and for a minute or so, it scared her more than the noise.

There was no writing in this warning, though, and that was almost always the case when the cable went out, and that only added to the mystery. What was there was ‘picture’ of a TV, a box of some sort, and a cable. The image on the screen showed the end of the cable going into the box over and over.

“Okay, that’s just…weird,” Blake said as she got up out of her recliner and started looking at the cable box which was clearly on.

Just as she got to it, Friday came out from behind the stand where the cable box, DVD player, and another box for the Samsung TV were located. She set her coffee cup down then knelt down herself and tried to see if a cable was loose. She pulled each ‘male end’ out then plugged it back in for everything she could see but nothing changed.

It was nearly dark in the room with just one small light on, so she walked over and flipped on the lights then looked again.

She checked each of the thick, black cables themselves, and couldn’t see a problem. Then she noticed a very thin, nearly invisible wire she hadn’t noticed. As she followed it to one of the boxes, she realized she’d just pulled the end out and plugged it back in to the Samsung box. And that’s when she noticed a little nick. And below it, another. And then another. And just below the nicks, she discovered the problem. The cable had been chewed through.

“Friday!” she said as she held the ruined cable in her hand.

“Great. Now how much is that going to cost?” she asked herself.

It was different that all of the other cables, and Blake had no idea what it did. What she did know was her TV no longer worked, and after trying the DVD player, hoping that would at least work, she gave up. The DVD player itself was working, but the TV wasn’t.

She always watched her money very carefully, trying to make the life insurance Toby’d taken out on himself after their first child, Emily, was born, would last as long as possible.

As a civil-service employee who worked at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Toby had a $50,000 policy on himself as part of his benefits package. When Emily was born, he suggested getting a private policy for $500,000, and Blake remembered laughing at his foolish idea.

“That’s ridiculous, honey,” she told him. “We’ll just save the money we’d spend on the policy and save it each month.”

In the end, he convinced her to slot oyna let him take out another $50,000 policy which only cost a few bucks a month. Now, some three years later, she couldn’t help but wish she’d listened to him. For only a few more dollars a month, she’d have been set for many years.

As it was, Blake found herself watching her bank account dwindle month after month. Toby had passed away 23 months and two weeks ago, and she was amazed to learn just how quickly $100,000 could disappear no matter how careful she was.

The mortgage ate up most of the money she’d parceled out to spend each month. Beyond that there was a car payment, property taxes, HOA fees, home and vehicle insurance, groceries, utilities, medical bills, school supplies, new clothes for the girls, vet bills, and over time, the money was just draining away.

She’d budgeted $3,500 a month, but there were many times she’d had to take out more to cover some unexpected expense. She thought she might have another three months worth left, but even that was iffy.

Blake rarely bought anything for herself, and she never went out. The closest thing to fun she had was having a girlfriend come over for a few hours once or twice a month for coffee or tea. But even that was hard because, as she learned after Toby’s death, all of their friends had been couples, and once she was single again, it was just…different.

As the bills continued to come in, Blake realized it was time to go back to work. And yet, with three children needing daycare, what job would pay enough to make it worth the time away from home? So every time she’d given any serious thought to finding a job, the daycare issue, along with still having money in the bank, allowed her to ‘punt’ the problem away until next time.

Her thoughts were interrupted when her youngest come into the family room with her blanket in tow.

“Hi, sweetie. How’d you sleep?” she asked her 4-year old, Jenna, as she let go of the cable she’d been holding the entire time she was reminiscing.

“Okay,” she said as she held out her arms to be picked up.

“Oh, come here!” her mom said as she scooped her up. “Are you thirsty?”

“No,” her youngest said. “I just wanna snuggle with you, okay?”

At nine, Emily was way too old to snuggle, and at seven, even Hailee was no longer interested. So as long as her baby still wanted to, Blake took advantage of every opportunity that came her way.

With her little girl in her lap, Blake forgot about the cable until Jenna asked, “Mommy? Can we watch cartoons?”

“Oh, um, the TV isn’t working, honey,” she told her.

“Can we watch a movie?” she asked, knowing the DVD player was different from the television.

“Sorry, sweetie. See the blinking thing on the TV? That means it’s broken.”

“Can you fix it?” she asked in her sleepy voice.

“No, Mommy can’t fix it. Friday chewed up a cable so I have to go buy a new one.”

Satisfied, Jenna snuggled up with her mother, and again, all was right with the world until Emily got up. She was the oldest and the quietest of the three while Hailee, the middle girl, was the talker.

“Hey, sweetie. You hungry?”

Emily nodded and went to the kitchen. She was old enough to get cereal and eat it without any help, and Blake was happy to spend a few more minutes just holding her baby.

That lasted until Hailee came bounding out a few minutes later. Without saying a word, she grabbed the remote, pointed, and ‘fired’.

“It’s not working!” she announced.

“Friday broke it,” Jenna said quietly.

“Mom? What’s wrong with the TV?” Hailee demanded to know.

Her mother patiently explained the reason why, and Hailee set the remote down and headed to the kitchen without saying another word.

“Mom! I can’t reach the juice!” Blake heard her say much too loudly just seconds later.

“And so it begins,” she said as she stood up, set Jenna back in the chair, then went to help daughter number two.

By 8am, all three of them were ready for school, and for now, at least, all three of them went to the same one in Orange Park, Florida. Jenna was in Pre-K and only went half a day, but that gave their mom a few hours to clean the house, do dishes, do laundry, and buy groceries or whatever else needed to be done before she went to pick Jenna up return to school for her two older girls.

Today, she needed to run to Best Buy where Toby’d bought the 54″ Samsung QLED TV just three months before he got sick. It had worked like a champ since the day he brought it home. The picture quality was excellent, and Blake never gave it a second thought. Until today.

The television was wall-mounted, and she couldn’t get behind it to unplug that end of the cable she learned was called a ‘One Connect’ because, well, it was written on the male end she’d unplugged. So instead, she took a photo of it then stopped in at the store on her way home.

Toby loved Best Buy. He was a very nice looking guy so no one suspected he was a really canlı casino siteleri a closet geek. But he was constantly reading anything he could get his hands on about the latest new phone, computer, tablet, smart watch, or anything electronics-related.

Now 36, Blake was still a very attractive woman who tried to find 30 minutes, every other day, to do some kind of aerobics at home. She’d switch the TV to YouTube then find a video to watch, then go through a Zumba routine until she was either out of time or too tired to go on.

That regular activity not only kept her fit, it kept her sane, and it was the one thing in her life she truly looked forward to that she did for herself. It was possible to do a workout without the TV, but it just wasn’t the same. She hated to admit it, but she was probably addicted to the television as it allowed her to escape the drudgery of her daily life. She loved her girls dearly, but without her husband and without a job, she had every right to think of each 24-hour cycle as a kind of Groundhog Day.

At least this today had something different in it, so as she walked into the huge store, she was actually looking forward to interacting with another adult. Even if the adult was only 19 or 20, as most of the ‘kids’ who worked there seemed to be.

Blake hadn’t taken three steps, when a very polite, younger black man said, “Welcome to Best Buy. May I help you?”

Startled, she turned his way and said, “Oh. Yes. Hi, there. I uh, I need a cable.”

He smiled then told her, “You’ve come to the right place!”

She explained what happened, and the look he gave her didn’t bode well.

“I’m pretty sure we don’t carry it, but let me check, okay?”

He keyed the little mic on his collar and she heard him say, “Gray? Yo, do we carry the One Connect cables for the Samsung QLED/OLED TVs?”

There was a pause before he said, “She said her cat chewed it up.”

Another pause then, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Okay. Hold on.”

“The manager of that department says we don’t carry them, but we can order one. If you’re interested, I’ll take you back there, and he can get you taken care of.”

Before he could move, Blake saw another young-looking associate coming her way who was tall and very attractive in spite of his relative youth.

“Gray? This is her.”

“Thanks, Devonte. I’ll walk her back.”

“You got it, man,” he told this Gray person.

“Good morning, ma’am. How are you?” he asked very pleasantly.

“I’m okay, thank you. I was under the impression I was going to be talking to the manager,” Blake said politely.

The younger man smiled and said, “You are.”

Blake didn’t say anything, but she must have made a face because Gray laughed.

“I started working here part-time when I was 16 then full-time after I graduated from high school four years ago. I’ve been running the department for a little about two years now.”

“Sorry. I don’t know why I assumed the manager would be closer to my age,” she told him as they walked.

“I’m a tech junky. I’ve been into this stuff since I was maybe 12 or so. I don’t claim to know everything, but I don’t recall ever being stumped by a customer, so I promise I’ll take good care of you,” he told her very pleasantly.

“I think that’s very admirable. Working your way up like that, I mean,” Blake told him.

“Thank you,” Gray said as he leaned her way then quietly added, “I hope to be running this store one of these days. And with any luck, maybe I’ll be charge of several.”

He realized what he was doing and apologized.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. You’re here for a cable, and I’m saying things I have no business saying. I’m not conceited, I’m just….”

“Ambitious?” Blake offered with a smile. “And I don’t think you’re full of yourself, okay?”

He smiled and thanked her before apologizing again.

Gray was at least six-feet tall, had very dark, very nice-looking hair that was trimmed above his ears, and a charming smile. And once he got behind the counter to start looking up the information needed on his computer screen, Blake noticed matching dimples that made him even more attractive. He wasn’t a large man, but he certainly wasn’t thin or frail, either.

She was thinking he was the probably the kind of guy who had no difficulty with the girls just as he said, “Okay. Here we go. I can have this here for you tomorrow.”

“Oh. That’s…wonderful,” Blake said. She started fishing her credit card out when he told her the price.

“We have it on sale for $235 which is $15 less than it normal so….”

“Wait. That tiny little cable is over $200?” Blake said, astonished by what she’d just heard.

“I’m afraid so,” Gray told her. “It’s fiber optic, and it carries a ton of data through it. It’s the reason your picture quality is so high. Well, that and the aspect ratio of….”

“I’m sorry,” Blake said interrupting him. “I can’t afford that. I’m a single mom with three girls and….”

Gray’s demeanor changed as he quietly said, “I’m the oldest of four, and my mom raised us alone, too. I won’t say I know exactly what you’re going through, but I do understand.”

“Well. Thank you…Gray,” she told him as she put her credit card back.

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