J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Handle with Care/Mr. Tuesday
He came nearly every Tuesday.
He looked at the same bin of discount records around 5:13PM. The bins were updated every week, but only by a few discs. There was no reason to come every week. And he hardly ever bought anything. But he was always there.
Yolanda could count on that more readily than her paycheck. Her manager (Ron the Rat) paid her under the counter, often trying to grab a handful of her leg when he slid her the money.
If she had gotten paid in sexual advances, she could retire already. But she wasn’t. Instead it was in crumpled, warm bills that had been handled way too many times--stuffed in bras, inside boots, jean pockets that didn’t give an inch.
She was alright with that. The money, like her, had character, could handle a rough squeeze or two and still be just as valuable. At least, she liked to think of it that way. And she liked to think Mr. Tuesday was the same way, though he never scurried around her like Ron the Rat.
No, he treated her even more gently than the records he finally decided to buy, hands touching the least amount of space possible. With the barest touches, he inspected her the way he scrutinized a purchase, soft pressure added from firm hands, held to the light for any imperfections and then cherished for the scratches that time had inevitably made.
“It comes with the territory,” he’d say, a small smile on his face. “It doesn’t make the record worth less...to me,” he’d add on, catching her eye as she carefully placed his finds into a loud, black bag, unable to quite stop the shaking of her hands.
“Yeah, I totally get it,” she’d reply, though she hardly ever knew what he was referring to, really referring to.
But it didn’t matter. Those pockets of time kept her afloat throughout the week, fed her oxygen when the dusty air became too much, when reshuffling records became too tedious. And though Mr. Tuesday never asked for more than a receipt in the bag (not in his hand—he’d lose it), it was enough.
Yeah, their weekly exchange was worth more to her than the possibility of fucking up their vibe by pushing for more. She didn’t date well—Yolanda. There were far too often hot and hard nights, pallid excuses for a lack of commitment and limp resolves to do better. She liked to drive her lovers to drink. Only then did she really feel like they cared.
But Mr. Tuesday … she wanted him to stay just the same for as long as he could.
She’d take his ready smiles and clockwork record addiction (perhaps affliction) anytime.
Especially those days when he made it a point to catch her eye, when he would flip a record around in his hands, his long fingers deft, and whisper, “handle with care.”
“Right,” she’d breathe, leaning on the counter for support, lest she fall to the floor, boneless and weightless and free from…herself.
Always with care.
She could trust him to always handle with care.
J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.