“Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot” — Chapter 42

Jason McGathey
6 min readMay 21, 2021
Healthy hippie bulk foods

Though Craig Willis was able to successfully deflect Pierre’s attempts at forcing him to work weekends, he is nonetheless cajoled into driving up to Palmyra and helping that grocery department, for one full day, at time and a half. He returns to Southside the following Monday, flopping into Edgar’s “therapy patient” chair to relate his findings.

“Man, I think out of everybody working in that store, Trudy…your mom…and Shelly…those are the only three in the building who aren’t on drugs!” Craig tells him, shaking his head at the continued insanity vortex this store represents.

But even Southside has found itself in a relative state of upheaval recently. With Pierre effectively offloaded to become someone else’s problem, the search for a new assistant manager had begun, and didn’t take very long.

Vince Brancatto is an old Italian guy with whom half the store has already worked. In Edgar’s office one afternoon, Valerie’s giving him the lowdown on some of this history. She of course is a former employee of the long since shuttered local health food operation, Frilly’s. So is Vince.

“He seems to have chilled out quite a bit since then,” she explains.

And this would be an understatement — from whatever baseline you’re talking about. Edgar doesn’t need to know the starting point, because it’s impossible for an individual to be any less chill. Stoic does not even begin to describe the dude, who moves very slowly, but walks around with a serious expression pretty much non-stop.

Well, this is bound to represent an improvement over Pierre, if nothing else. And Vince seems like a pleasant enough fellow if by some miracle you do catch him speaking. Although Edgar is kind of wondering about the tipping point for hiring a bunch of Frilly’s retreads. After all, this is a place that went out of business, and they’ve brought aboard untold people now in mostly the same role. Valerie was working in vitamins there, but she’s a rare exception. All of the survivors seem to be on the same page in declaring the owner an idiot, that this was the problem there, though, so maybe the HSM will fare alright with this concept.

Elsewhere, following the “black mold” debacle and Jordan’s desertion of his post, they’ve struggled filling hours in bulk. This means that Russian Robert has been pitching in at Southside an awful lot, a win-win for him but a lose-lose for the stores. Either he’s getting paid time and a half, for putting in extra hours here, or he’s simply working less at Liberty as a result. But let it be said, he is certainly competent at his job — if a little on the shady side — and provides tremendous comedic relief. He does at least have a capable backup over at Liberty, Marita, which is something lacking here at Southside. In fact analyzed from one angle, it seems to make no sense that you would have two strong bulk people at Liberty but less than that here; but then again, you could easily make the case that they are a team that’s working, and they have exactly what they need over there, that there’s no reason to bust that up just because Southside is making do with less.

By its very nature, really, any interaction with Robert is bound to be hysterical. Edgar is showing up to begin his workday, walking back toward the time clock, and Robert’s already at it, in the department with the two part timers who actually work bulk here. He’s at one end of the aisle, those two at the other end, with Edgar walking through the crossfire and cracking up as he does so.

“Ay! Peanut Crunch, no Brittle!” Robert shouts.

“Huh?” Both part timers say, though he is of course loud as hell.

“Peanut Crunch! No Brittle!”

Oh, what it must be like to work for this guy! Some of it is language barrier related, like the amusing manner in which he begins many a sentence asking, you want I should…? which is like a classic Russian interpretation of English. But much of it transcends all language, in that he would plainly represent a continual fountain of comedy regardless of the situation.

Also, he does kind of work for the guy, technically speaking. He keeps Edgar hopping on a frequent basis, with all sorts of projects. Most of them are legitimate, some not so much. He likes to have a brand new wave of price tags printed out before every inventory, and this isn’t a bad idea, if he’s requesting this and is fine with hanging them. However, he also seems to regard Edgar (though far alone in this regard, true) as the Official Handler of Anything Remotely Important. Like for example the time he finds bugs in his adzuki beans over in his bins at Liberty, predating his stint helping out over here. For some reason his first inkling is to dial Edgar’s extension with this information.

“Tell me…you have adzuki bean?”


“Check for bug adzuki bean I have bugs, is problem man adzuki bean bug.”

“I’m sorry…I don’t understand. Could you speak a little slower?”


Though Arnie is now merchandising bulk as well, and presumably also has his hands full with Robert, they’ve at least hired a full-time truck driver, Melissa. Edgar isn’t sure about the lineage here but apparently she’s the daughter of whoever was doing Duane’s job before him, and there’s talk about how Duane “owes” him a favor, whatever that means. But this not only frees Arnie up some, from driving to get fresh produce every morning, but is also just about indispensable now that they’ve added a fourth location.

Melissa’s a quite butch, muscle-toned blonde, and looks like she could probably beat up most males working here, Edgar included. So the physical demands should be nothing to her. Logistically, though, she is going to have her hands full, as they’re still shipping deli product from Southside to Palmyra and vice versa on just about a daily basis, and now Palmyra is supplying grab-and-go type offerings for Walnut as well, to stock their tiny cold case.

In a somewhat related move, they’ve also decided to finally outfit Liberty with a four foot hot case. That store has received a smattering of cold deli goods from Southside throughout, too, and will now get some warm ones also. Yet despite or maybe because of all this product flying around, though just barely squeaking out a profit for quite some time now, the deli numbers company-wide are nowhere near the 35% margin that this department is expected to pull. Flying directly in the face of such chest-thumping and exaggerated importance from certain individuals, there is actually talk about shutting down the meat cutting operation, and going with prepackaged product only, because this sub-department remains a poor performer, numbers-wise, at Palmyra and Southside both.

Even so, Edgar is taken aback to arrive at 8am one morning, outside his locked office door, and find Christie standing there, waiting on him. Duane’s not here yet, and there might not even be anyone over in the department managers’ office, either, but she’s whispering anyway about how she wants to sit down and see what they can possibly do to get these numbers up. As it turns out, Edgar had months ago latched onto what seemed like a great if strange looking idea, but never mentioned it to anyone, because he knows it’s going to sound a little weird. He was thinking that the timing would have to be right to avoid being dismissed outright. And maybe this moment has arrived.