Hal hated his job at the liquor store in Snarlesville. The hours were bad and the pay poor. The only consolation was he could take home a bottle or two under his coat from time to time – if he sneaked them from the room at the back away from the CCTV cameras.
He did the night shift which meant there was usually only himself and a junior clerk (on even a worst salary than he). The store was in an upscale strip mall and truth to tell at weekends he sold more merlot than Bud. During the summer trade was good right up to closing time at eleven. He liked it to be busy, it helped the time pass. He had a small television set behind the counter so he could watch his game shows when things got slow.
It could’ve been worst. He was in a suburb far from the inner city; there were no shootings in this territory. No one tried to hold-up the store. Drug dealing was unheard of. It was a peaceful community. The Church was big thereabouts and mainly the kids were good. They didn’t give him much trouble, except when they did.
There was a bunch of them who hung out at the strip mall. There wasn’t much else to do but it was better than being at home. Naturally, they saw the liquor store as a challenge. You had to be twenty-one to buy booze. Kids were the same all over; they just had to get their hands on it. Fake IDs were everywhere. Why did they bother, Hal thought. A cute twenty-one-year-old might pass himself off as eighteen, but not the other way round. It didn’t stop them trying. When they did, Hal sent them away with a curse in their ears.
The Church got worked up over it. Drink, the Devil and the rest of it. Pastors preached to their congregations about the evil of alcohol. It made Hal smile, but he wouldn’t let on what he knew; a liquor store was a little like a confessional sometimes. He didn’t have much schooling, he didn’t know the meaning of the word “hypocrisy”.
One day he was visited at the store by a group of women in hats. At least they’d left their tambourines at home. They had more sense than to try to get him to close down the liquor store, there wasn’t another one for miles. But, they wailed, “Save Our Children!” They meant, of course, don’t sell to their kids.
Hal was a man of God himself. He always trod the straight and narrow (except when he was in the back room of the store). It was no deal to him, the store did pretty well and it didn’t need the kids’ business. Besides, he was on a salary, so why should he care?
Not long after the small community was rocked by scandal. Well, “rocked” and “scandal” might be stretching it a bit, but it was a tiny town. One evening just after school closed for the summer a bunch of kids got hold of some booze and partied on down in the woods. There were some mighty sore behinds by the time the fathers put their paddles back in their woodsheds. Nobody blamed Hal; it wasn’t his fault, the booze hadn’t come from him. Turned out the kids snuck it out of the liquor cabinets in their homes. No wonder the dads were so mad.
After the spankings there were the groundings and the curfews. It became like a mini police state. Booze was definitely off limits. Another batch of womenfolk paid Hal a visit. They brought family photos of their kids. “If they turn up at the store, call us,” they demanded. They had a list of phone numbers a half-mile long to keep behind the counter.
“No,” he said, no way was he going to run around after these dames. “You want to catch them you be here any Friday evening about eight. That’s when they come.” He muttered under his breath and turned back to Family Fortunes on the small screen.
They spread the word! Armistead down at the Church got to hear about it. He had no kids of his own; he’d never married. How could he with what he earned? Not that he ever found a girl. That worried him sometimes, he thought people gossiped about him. Forty-five years old and not married. You know how folks talk.
Armistead wanted to help; it was the Lord’s work! On Friday the following week, he took his car to the mall and parked up. It wasn’t busy and he got close enough so he could see the entrance to the liquor store. He was on a mission. There were souls to save. No drop of liquor had ever passed his lips, Praise The Lord! He thought of the fathers and their paddles. Spare the rod, spoil the child! Halleluiah! He sat and waited.
Tommy was driving out on the freeway and did he need to take a leak, and how. If he didn’t take drastic action he would wet his snug sport shorts. He spotted a sign up ahead: Snarlesville – his salvation! Minutes later he pulled his battered pick-up in a strip mall where there was gas station with a restroom. He made it just in time. When he finished he checked himself out in the mirror. He liked what he saw. His torso was a temple; it ought to be he spent hours in the gym. His tailored sport shorts and t-shirts emphasised the contours of his body. His fair hair and blue eyes were complemented by his unblemished skin. He ran his tongue over his dry lips, “Some girl is going to be very happy tonight,” he told himself.
He was walking across the parking lot when he spotted the liquor store. He checked the pocket in his shirt; he had his wallet. Might as well get a six-pack for later. He made toward the store. Tommy was nineteen, a city boy and no stranger to booze. Of course his ID was fake. He knew that and the store clerks back home knew that, but who cared?
About a hundred feet away Armistead was getting very excited. He saw Tommy from behind as he strolled towards the store. He couldn’t see the boy’s face, but that worried him none. No way was he twenty-one. He followed behind. Praise the Lord! There was work to be done.
Tommy took his beer to Hal. He didn’t recognise Tommy either, but he knew a forged ID when he saw one. “No way, this is a fake,” he handed it back. Tommy shrugged his shoulders: you win some, you lose some. He tried to turn to leave but his way was blocked.
“Not so fast, bud, come here.” A strong hand gripped him by the shoulder while another tugged at his hair. In a fair fight he would have pulverised his attacker, but he was caught off guard. And, off balance. Armistead dragged him from the shop and Tommy’s feet scootered across the hot asphalt. “What the fuck!” the teen yelled but the unexpected assault left him breathless. Within seconds Armistead had him at the car. He’d left the door open especially. He sat on the backseat and dragged Tommy so that he fell forward and across his lap. He pinned him down with his left arm and pounded the teen’s tight, round bottom with his right palm.
“Worr… gerroff! Help!” Tommy was stunned. He couldn’t move in the closed space of the car. His nose was pressed against some foul smelling leather. Smack, smack, smack. Armistead spanked Tommy’s rear end with enthusiasm. His palm tingled as it smacked into the teen’s rock hard rear. The kid hollered and wriggled, but he was stuck fast. He was going nowhere.
Yards away a small crowd had gathered. Bored teens snickered and cat-called. Two aged matrons shuffled to the side of the car to get a better view of Tommy’s beautiful buttocks. The more Armistead spanked, the harder his hand hurt: only now did he think to have gotten a paddle from one of those fathers.
Armistead realised he wasn’t having much effect. His hand was hurting more than the boy’s butt. Drastic action was needed. He grabbed at the elasticated waist of Tommy’s shorts, sending the teen in a paroxysm of spasms. He fought and cursed like a trooper. Armistead nearly had the tight cotton shorts over the boy’s buttocks, but he was a strong fighter. The older man would need to lift the boy off his lap and inch or so if he was to bare Tommy’s butt. He released his grip on his back for a second. That was enough, the teen wriggled free of Armistead’s lap, hauled himself to his feet and while tugging his shorts back up to their rightful position he ran to his pick-up with the sounds of jeering voices sending him on his way.
He leapt into the cab, started the engine and sped from the parking lot, vowing never to return to Snarlesville.
Breathlessly, Armistead watched him go. The crowd dispersed and Hal returned to watching Jeopardy.
Picture credit: northernspankingdotcom
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