Drinking Water (short story)

*This is an excerpt from the short story “Drinking Water”. If you would like to read the entire story, you can find it here in my collection “Reejecttion”:

The only thing he really liked about the man was his name—Lake Finnegan. For some reason, James associated the name with something out of a classic novel or a movie or something. The first time he heard the name mentioned by one of the baggers at the Stop n’ Shop he thought the person was talking about someone else. One of the other baggers had said to him, “Hey, don’t let guys like Lake Finnegan get to you.” James’s first thought was that Lake was one of the mean war vets he was constantly meeting. Then one day another of his fellow baggers, Sampson, said to him as he was wiping down the cash registers, “Man that wrinkled racist motherfucker told me to go get him some dog food. He was yelling at me from his beat up old car like it was last century. Fuck that Finnegan dude.”

Later he would see Lake drive up in his old rusted Cadillac and know exactly who Sampson was talking about. The old man, his many wrinkles, wearing oversized clothes, and sunglasses, looked like hate incarnate. He found Lake one day just lounging around near the front of the store openly gawking at one of the female customers. If it had been any other store, Lake would have been banned. But good ol’ Stop n’ Shop needed Lake and his smoking habit.

Since James started at the Stop n’ Shop as a bagger, as far as he could count, two female clerks and a female bagger had quit. It was hard to know exactly why someone quit, but James thought that Lake’s creepiness must have figured into their decisions somehow. With his leathery skin and slouching gate, he would hang out in front of the supermarket and chain smoke Marlboros. Sampson claimed that Lake knew exactly when the female employees went out on their breaks, knew exactly where they would likely smoke their cigarettes, and then used his eyes to harass them.

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